On the same night that American Idol rumbles on to its inevitable conclusion, it’s pretty great to switch the channel over an hour later and catch one of these zippy, not-too-serious battle-round episodes of The Voice. This show has its problems, and it’s still very early on, but right now it’s just whupping Idol‘s ass across the board. It’s not Breaking Bad or anything, but The Voice makes for some fun reality TV, and it’s showing up right around the time that Idol has just about lost all concept of “fun”–or maybe the frustrating-ass results just make it look that way. Either way, I actually look forward to seeing The Voice, whereas a sense of ambient dread has surrounded my Idol recaps for at least the last few weeks.
On to the actual battles. Christina Aguilera pitted Julia Eason against Raquel Castro to sing “Only Girl in the World,” and the two younger kids looked a lot like each other except that Julia was about three feet taller. I couldn’t remember either of their auditions, but that’s both a problem and a strength for the show at this point; the story becomes the actual performance itself. “Only Girl” is the sort of song that virtually nobody on earth, including Rihanna, can sing live with any sort of authority, and both of these girls had a whole lot of trouble getting up the type of inhuman chorus-wail that the song demands. But Raquel had way, way more stage presence and confidence than Julia, something that registered a lot more because their actual voices were so similar. Raquel made it through, and nobody even looked surprised.
On Blake Shelton’s team, coffeehouse-type chick Dea Frampton and the single-named Serabee, who Carson Daly kept referring to as “the preacher’s daughter,” had to go against each other on “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Dea sang that goddam Colbie Calliat song during auditions, and I remember her annoying me. I don’t remember anything about Serabee’s version of “Son of a Preacher Man,” but I only remember about five auditions, so maybe the problem is me. During rehearsals, Serabee seemed like she was about to scream Dea off the stage, and Dea fretted about stage fright, which is something I hate hearing from my reality-TV characters. Dea cleaned up nicely for the stage, but her voice had none of the snap that the song required. Serabee’s big issue, according to Blake, was her tendency to oversing all over the place, and she definitely did that during the song, but her unhinged white-soul yowling totally steamrolled Dea’s tentative coo; steamrolling is what you have to do during a competition like this. That’s what I thought, anyway, but I guess Blake doesn’t like it when contestants don’t listen to him. He picked Dea.
Next battle: Adam Levine team members Rebecca Loebe and Devon Barley faced off, singing Radiohead’s “Creep”–a song that has “a really cool dark, ominous feeling to it,” according to Levine. During the rehearsals, we got to hear a few seconds of Levine singing a totally credible version of “Creep.” Devon had turned in a deeply douchebaggy version of that one Jason Mraz song during auditions, whereas Rebecca had already showed some ’90s alt-rock pedigree, doing a weird but effective version of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” She also had an advantage because she already knew who Radiohead was. This looked like it would be a bloodbath, and it sort of was, especially since Rebecca had this weird intense air where she seemed like she was stalking Devon while she was singing with him. Funny thing, though: The parts where they harmonized with each other were pretty fucking great, way better than either of their solo bits. Adam picked Devon anyway, so I guess I have to get used to spelling his name like that.
On Cee Lo’s team, the bubbly sister act of Tori and Taylor Thompson had to sing against Kelsey Rey, the girl who humblebragged about how she’s so pretty that nobody ever noticed her voice. The Thompson Twins are a bit irritating, but that’s better than being actively loathsome like Kelsey. The three of them sang Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten,” which is such a great song. Kelsey, shitty attitude and all, was totally polished and in control from jump, and she’s got a strong voice. The Thompsons flopped around a bit and might’ve lost the beat once or twice. Cee Lo still went with the Thompsons, so I guess Kelsey will have to go back to all her drooling YouTube followers.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 25, 2011