The Voice: The Dominance Of Javier, The Rise Of Vicci

Vicci Martinez performs "Dog Days Are Over."
Vicci Martinez performs "Dog Days Are Over."
via Rickey

I wish Game of Thrones was still on. It isn't. But hey, The Voice is still on!

On last week's show, it seemed pretty obvious which four singers would make it through and which ones wouldn't. On Team Cee Lo, for instance, it was absolutely not a surprise that Vicci Martinez would be the one voted through. The only surprise came when Vicci stood up next to the other members of her team and revealed herself to be tiny. She's Peter Dinklage height; if she'd gone home, she would've had to travel to King's Landing to become the new Hand. Probably even Cee Lo is taller. It also wasn't surprising to hear Cee Lo go into phantasmagoric funkateer detail about how much he loves each and every one of the singers on his team, though it was pretty fun. And then, when he picked friend-of-a-friend Nakia as the one guy to stick around, I'd already called it exactly. So, you know, I'm awesome. Good choices, everyone.

(Quick Nakia update: Marc Hogan, my friend and his former showgoing buddy, reports that Nakia does, in fact, have a last name, though I've already forgotten it. The shows, Marc confirms, were probably John Mayer shows, though Nakia was probably going because he was friends with the opening band or some shit.)

Before Carson could announce which singer from Team Adam was safe, a local weatherman cut into the feed to warn me about tornado conditions, which is the sort of thing that happens when you watch network TV in the Midwest. When the show came back, Javier Colon was safe, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion anyway. And after Adam spoke semi-convincingly about how he hates to send anyone home, he threw a bit of a curveball, opting not to save semi-promising country singer Jeff Jenkins and going with the boring-as-fuck Casey Weston instead. Adam and Blake Shelton don't seem to understand that their job here is to help take part in an entertaining show. When the judges pick singers because they feel sorry for them or whatever, the show suffers.

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After that little marathon of results, it was finally time to hear some people sing. Team Christina is, for now, looking like far and away the strongest team, and her charge Frenchie Davis came up first to sing Madonna's "Like a Prayer," presumably under the reasoning that she can act as a one-woman gospel choir. (Instead of a gospel choir, she got a team of dancers in choir robes, which was pretty funny.) Her phrasing of the song sounded a bit off to me, but she's got a real presence about her, a tough-chick hard-eyed intensity that alternately reminds me of Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones. That presence, I think, should be enough to keep her down even when her vocal is just OK, as it was last night.

Next up, Nakia sang Adam Lambert's "What Do You Want From Me," and his presence in the show made me think: All the people who got sent home earlier today had to get songs all ready to go, with video packages and everything. Those must be a real pain in the ass to do that when nobody's ever going to end up watching them. Anyway, Nakia's version was a bar-rock yowler sort of thing, and he started off at a piano, wearing a white suit that made him look like a fat Gibb cousin. Carson used the word "bluesman" in his intro, and that, sadly, seems to be what Nakia's going for. There was a whole lot of forced grit in there. I wasn't especially into it.

Dia Frampton, who it turns out was half of mid-'00s teenage alt-pop duo Meg & Dia, was up next, and yet another thunderstorm warning forced me to miss half of her video package. (They really like to make sure you get the point out here.) The show came back in time for Blake Shelton to praise Dia for being a visionary because she thought to throw some handclaps onto the chorus of "Losing My Religion." Somehow, Dia is the only performer remaining on the show who I like looking at, so this thing really is living up to its all-about-the-music gimmick. Unfortunately, weather conditions caused my cable to fuck up and miss the actual music in Dia's performance. So I'm going to make an educated guess here: She was OK but sort of boring and there was awkward hand-clapping on the chorus. I've seen a lot of singing shows, dude. I can figure this shit out.

 

The cable was mostly back in working order in time for me to hear Casey Weston's "I Will Always Love You," which leaned a bit more toward Dolly than Whitney but which found a pretty nice middle ground between the two. I actually really liked her version; it was tender and sympathetic, well-sung without forcibly blowing the doors off on that final chorus. No Idol contestant would've ever brought that level of restraint to the song.

Levine himself was up next; we got a quick break from the competition so that Maroon 5 could debut a song with the ridiculous title "Moves Like Jagger." It had an extra-cheese white-funk guitar line, and it reminded me of Phoenix in a way that did not remotely endear it to me. I continue to not get this band and to wonder how it feels to be one of the members who never, ever gets recognized. Christina busted in with a guest vocal on the bridge and sounded pretty good. A quick note about Christina: She had her ridiculous extensions in a sort of Kate Pierson beehive tonight, with a pink streak in it, and it looked pretty good. After a few weeks of her looking ass-awful, this was an encouraging development. As a special bonus, Weather Guy busted back in before the show's excruciating Twitter correspondent could talk too much nonsense.

Team Xtina yowler Beverly McClellan's version of B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," which could've been super-cartoonish, actually turned out to be almost restrained, at least in terms of its arrangement. McClellan started out at a piano, accompanied only by a string section. And even when the band kicked in, they mostly stuck to a simmering little groove and let McClellan unleash all her rasped-out runs over the top. Rasped-out runs and clumsy dancing, of course, are what McClellan does; she's awfully good at the former and entertainingly bad at the latter. She remains perfectly likable. Also, Xtina zoned the fuck out when Carson asked her what she thought, so that was fun.

Presumptive winner Javier Colon—who, according to Adam, has been through the music-business wringer already—sang Coldplay's supremely dumb and comforting power ballad "Fix You," and Adam made sure to point out how he shouldn't fuck around with the melody too much. He sang that shit like Babyface, fucking killed it. He is a total powerhouse, and it's a pleasure to watch him on this show. It's been a while since I've seen a reality-show contestant build up a head of steam like this. This performance was notable, too, because we finally got to see him without a hat. And yes, he is bald, and probably not just in the shaven-headed way.

Blake Shelton, it turned out, also had a single to promote. He sang the sturdy, unremarkable chugger "Honeybee" while mostly looking at the people in the front rows of the crowd and not the camera, which made him look weirdly hunchbacked. Dia and Xenia, the two girls on his team, sang the end of the song with him, and it's sort of nice to see all the weird and formless collabs that this show ends up creating. The judges, at least, seem to totally love every last person on the show. There's something to be said for that.

Xenia didn't get much of a chance to chill between performances; she had to come back to sing Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," a song I've never heard of, immediately afterward. In the video package, Blake actually used the phrase "voice of a generation"; he seems to absolutely fucking adore this entirely whatever singer, which is both vaguely sweet and absolutely perplexing. She seemed just as clenched and uncomfortable as ever, and the camera kept showing Blake in the crowd, strenuously clapping along and looking like a stressed-out dad at a little league game. Maybe Blake found out that he's related to Xenia? I don't know what the fuck is going on here.

The final performance on the show represented a pretty smart choice: Vicci Martinez singing Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over." One thing about this show: On every episode, there's at least one completely inspired combination of song and performer. For this one, Vicci had a a gigantic pompadour and a giant pair of drums in front of her, which made for a pretty awesome visual. And Vicci has a titanic voice. This was her first time singing something uptempo, and it translated beautifully. Colon is the show's dominant force, but Vicci remains one of my favorites; I hope she makes it through to the finals.


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