The Voice Battles Over Reality-Show Staples


The Voice is now a month or so in. It’s a massive hit. It’s the show NBC’s putting on after the Super Bowl. It’s out of American Idol‘s shadow. And it’s a week away from becoming a live show and really launching into its season. It has arrived. So someone should really say something about Christina Aguilera’s boobs at this point, right? Because goddamn she is proud of those things. They’re a constant distracting presence on this show, always barely concealed by whatever she’s wearing, always threatening to bust loose and run amok. If nothing else, they’re a reason to keep watching once the show goes live next week.

The best reason to keep watching, though, is still the show itself, because it’s a fun and inventive and just generally pretty good reality show that knows how to get the best out of its participants. This week was the last of the totally absorbing battle weeks, and I’ll miss them.

The coaches didn’t have super-difficult battle picks to make this week, since each of them only had two singers left. Adam Levine ended up with husky country guy Jeff Jenkins (who looks exactly like a too-affectionate Sunday school teacher) and flame-haired, severe-faced Casey Desmond, and they had to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” together. One of the real pleasures of this show is hearing the coaches sing a few bars of these songs while they’re trying to tell the contestants how to do it. Like Adam Levine? That guy is such an awesome singer! I guess I knew this, but the inarguable suckitude of Maroon 5 made it pretty easy to ignore. “Sun Go Down” turned out to be a pretty awesome choice, since it’s a reality-show mainstay that somehow always sounds good when people showily belt it and also because it exists at some perfect stylistic midpoint between country and glammy dancepop. They both tore into the song with gusto, and they seemed pretty evenly matched to me; I might have to give Casey the edge simply because Jeff has the distracting habit of pronouncing “sun” as “swuuuuurn.” It was not, however, a huge surprise when Jeff won, since he’s been heavily featured in ads for the show.

On Blake Shelton’s team, Sara Oromchi and non-warrior princess Xenia went up against each other to sing another reality-show staple, the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You.” I don’t remember either of those singers from the auditions, but the auditions feel like they’re a million years away at this point. The buildup to the performance wasn’t great; one admitted to being too shy, and the other busted up crying when Blake said something nice about her. And both of them were, as a duo, an absolute fucking mess–clenched and nervous, missing notes all over the place. In its reality-show incarnation, “I’ll Stand By You” is a song that exists to showcase massive wailing, and neither of them cut loose on the chorus. Xenia won, but I’m not expecting her to do much during the live shows.

For country backup singer Cheri Oakley and white-soul caterwauler Lily Elise, Xtina picked a song with its own sort of reality-show pedigree: Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” The performance was an interesting little style-clash, with Cheri’s thick, gnarled twang facing off against Lily’s every-note-is-big hurricane attack. They both did everything they could with their respective styles, but I like Cheri’s interpretation better, at least partly because she did not have the weird idea to wear a hood, attached to her belt but not to any sort of hoodie, on her head the whole time. Lily was not quite so smart, and I spent at least part of the performance trying to imagine weather conditions that would’ve made that particular fashion disaster even the tiniest bit pragmatic. Xtina still picked Lily. Whatever.

Finally, on Cee Lo’s team, quasi-Suicide Girl Emily Valentine went up against hat-country guy Curtis Grimes, with both of them singing Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”. During the run-up to the performance, we got a whole lot of Emily drooling all over Curtis, and it was sort of weird. There was also a lot of talk about how the two of them would need to live the lyrics of the song, falling in and out of love with each other in the space of two minutes. But it might’ve made more sense if they both focused on singing better than the other one, since neither one was exactly a powerhouse. Grimes pretty much outright sucks, and Valentine only shows flashes of force. The whole show, we got teasers of a big shocking ending, and it turned out to be them kissing at the end. Whoo. (Blake: “Cee Lo probably told you to duet, not do it.” Whatever, I laughed.) Curtis ended up getting through, and I don’t expect him to last long.