Network: NBC, airs Tuesday nights
Original Telecast: June 7, 2011

There are two things I’m taking away from THE VOICE as it enters into its first live show of Season 1 and the first part of the Quarter-Finals.

1) All four coaches are afraid to give any kind of constructive criticism to the contestants, just like the current incarnation of AMERICAN IDOL. They’re all about praising the contestants and giving them encouragement, even when they royally screwed up. Granted, it’s not enjoyable to see someone who is being given an opportunity like this to be ripped a new one all the time, but when you’re off-key or the song isn’t quite right, the judges should at least be a little more honest.

That said, I’m finding Aguilera to be incredibly annoying on the show. She tries so hard to show how tough she is with the boys, but when she tries to take them down a peg, it sounds amateurish and completely inappropriate. At one point she was talking about how Levine wet his pants? Huh? And then she did a whole Kara DioGuardi move with Patrick Thomas saying she wanted him to take off his pants. What does that have to do with his performance? Really? If Cee-Lo, Levine or Shelton told one of the girl contestants they wanted to see them without their top on, they would be crucified for that move. Then, to add insult to injury, she wouldn’t shut up during this Thomas riff and started talking about the homoerotic vibes both Shelton and Levine had for Thomas. Is this really necessary. She thinks she’s funny and cool, but she’s not. She’s out-of-line and I’m surprised people aren’t calling her out on it.

2) NBC is going to royally mess up a really good thing with THE VOICE by employing its LAST COMIC STANDING schedule of elimination. Essentially, it spends weeks and weeks of auditions and non-live eliminations, and then it crams in official eliminations from the audience in a three-week time span (that means half the contestants that performed on last night’s show will be gone next week). No growth. No journey. Pretty much one big moment in front of a live TV audience and you’re either in or you’re out. I HATE it and it needs to change next season. Screw the Battle rounds, let’s get to the live competitions.

The show kicked off with the four coaches (Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee-Lo Green and Adam Levine) doing a medley of Queen songs. This was not their finest moment and did not live up the amazing “Crazy” performance on the first show of the season. Aside from Levine’s wicked guitar solo, their voices didn’t mesh well when they harmonized and the conclusion to the performance was about as bad as some of those IDOL group medleys. Ack!

That said, having watched AMERICAN IDOL for many seasons, I did find the first part of the Quarter-Finals to be very entertaining on THE VOICE. Maybe it’s the mix of older performers, semi-pros and newbies that added to a very unique mix – not to mention the selection of songs that weren’t your typical IDOL crap.

As for the performances, the Quarter-Finals are split into two halves. This week, the four remaining Aguilera and Shelton contestants perform first, with two getting voted off next week (one will be a coach save, the other will be the audience save).

Let’s start off with Team Christina and I’ll be a little more honest than the judges were.

TEAM CHRISTINA contestants

Song: “Blow” by Ke$ha
This young singer has a lot of moxie, a great look and is still very rough around the edges. She did an excellent job though and gave an outstanding performance even when she seemed to struggling to add all those dance moves in with the somewhat strange rhythms of the songs. She has pipes though, but this might not have been the best song to show them off.
Grade: B-

Song: “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge
I have to say, there is something magnetic about this woman. With her tattoos and shaved head, you’re not quite sure what to make of her at first. Then she gets on stage and starts singing and performing and you can’t take your eyes off of her. She is by far the most unique person in this competition, and even though this song definitely stayed true to the original, it was the gravity and weight she brought to the performance that made it stand out. This is the kind of person THE VOICE is made for – shining the light on a diamond in the rough who has the potential to win it all (and even if she doesn’t, get enough attention to make it on her own and doing things her own way).
Grade: B+

Song: “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie
I was shocked last week when Elise was passed through over the far more talented Cherie Oakley, but I can see what Aguilera sees in her. She has a pre-packaged look that would fit well within pop radio and the girl can sing. Unfortunately, much like last week, her pitch was all over the place and many times she couldn’t control her voice. She was trying so hard to do diva-like moments with her vocals, she lost sight of just singing the song. When she just sang, she sounded awesome, when she over-compensated, it was a mess. The potential is there though, and Elise is one of the reasons why THE VOICE’s abbreviated elimination rounds suck. Give her two or three more performances and she could earn a spot in the top. Right now, she’s just getting her feet wet and is rough around the edges.
Grade: C

Song: “When Love Takes Over” by David Guetta
Again, a very diva-like song that Davis sings well, but she really didn’t bring much else to it. She’s a fine performer, and she’s certainly earned her place both on IDOL and here, but there are better performers in this competition and I’m not sure she’s going to go all the way. Plus, she’s already an established performer and people know who she is, which may mean she may be passed over for some of the newcomers in the mix.
Grade: C-

TEAM BLAKE contestants

Song: “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon
The father of six shows off his rock star status by taking on this classic Kings of Leon and track and he delivers. The song is arranged a little differently (always a good sign) and it helped him shine individually as a performer. He also kick-starts the song by playing his guitar and then loses it to get all rock-god on the audience. I really like this guy and he delivered something we hadn’t seen before. He’s always been in between country and rock and as Shelton said on the show, rock is definitely the direction he should stick to after this performance.
Grade: B+

Song: “Heartless” by Kanye West
Dia clearly was the winner tonight in terms of taking a song and making it own. Just sitting at the piano and giving her own unique take on West’s tune, really showcased what a powerful and original singer she is. There’s a Fiona Apple/Tori Amos/Kate Bush vibe to her, and she knows who she is and what works for her. This was a ballsy choice, but it paid off. The key to these singing competitions are to pick songs you can make your own, instead of aping the original artist. By doing what she did here, Frampton really set herself apart from the pack and she’ll definitely be around next week.
Grade: A-

Song: “Price Tag” – Jessie J.
I’m a huge fan of Xenia, and I know the judges loved what she did here, but I need to be honest – it was the wrong song for her (or maybe the wrong arrangement). Anyone who has seen Jessie J. perform this, knows how aggressive and strong she is with her performance. Xenia, like Dia, is a more introspective performer. She’s also very young and just learning how to deal with the big venue THE VOICE affords. So while her voice did fit with the song, it was her hesitant performance (and the awkward choreography) that made her pale in comparison to Jessie J. and the other performers on the show tonight. I would have preferred her to do this song a capella, instead of with the backing dancers and the dance moves. I think she has big things in store for her, but the power of Xenia is in her voice, not in the choreography (look at how Dia excelled by simply sitting at the piano). I hate to criticize Xenia, because I love her voice so much, but again, this is why THE VOICE needs to give their contestants more time to grow into their pop star role. They need more weeks to shine and get comfortable with the stage. Look at Haley Reinhart on AMERICAN IDOL – she really came into her own after two or three live performances. Imagine what Xenia could do if she was afforded a couple more live shows to really dig in and find out what kind of artist she is.
Grade: C

“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack
He’s the country guy and he sang the song for his sister. He got America’s votes right there. I like the guy and he sang the song well, but there were far better performances this night. However, as IDOL proved with country crooners Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina making it to the final two, it’s clear America loves country singers, so I would bet he’ll be back again for Blake’s final two.
Grade: B

In addition to the solo songs, both Shelton and Aguilera did a group-sing with their contestants. Aguilera did “Lady Marmalade” with her girls and it showcased everyone in whole other light. It was here that sealed the deal for me on McClellen as the real deal. She owned this song and stole the spotlight from the others.

Shelton and his group did the Maroon 5 cover “This Love” which was a nice ode to Levine. Instead of coming out on stage first, Shelton let his contestants take the lead on the song, and it brought out more personality from everyone involved. And when Shelton finally took centerstage, their voices melded perfectly. In fact, these five sounded better than the coaches did during their Queen debacle at the beginning of the show.

So who will make it? From Team Christina it will be Beverly McClellen and Raquel Castro. From Team Blake it’s Dia Frampton and Jared Blake.Quar

Click below for a gallery of photos from this episode

Click on Link: AX’s THE VOICE Season 1 review of  LIVE SHOW, QUARTER-FINALS 2

Click on Link: AX’s THE VOICE Season 1 review of BATTLES, PART 4


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