Summary: The fifth and final night of the Blind Auditions finds the coaches closing out their teams in style.
** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**
We launch into the final night of the Blind Auditions with nine slots remaining. Somehow, Cee Lo Green seems to have three spots open while the other three judges – Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Christina Aguilera – have two apiece. That seems surprising as Cee Lo has to easily have been the judge who has turned his chair around the most.
One of the overriding themes of the night was the judges seeming to revolt against the basic premise of the Blind Auditions, commenting numerous times that they wished they could’ve seen the person who was singing and that might have influenced their decision. This came to a head at one point when Adam tried to get the rules tossed out so that Cee Lo could take free-styling power singer Cameron Novack after no one turned their chair for him. All of the judges – and the in-studio audience – seemed to be on-board with this until Cee Lo shut it down by saying it would ruin the integrity of the process. It’s a logic with which no one could disagree.
Whitney Myer, Alicia Keys’ “No One”
The family performer – touring with her dad and uncle – kicked off the night well with a compelling version of the Alicia Keys song, doing exactly what’s almost always needed with a great cover – making it unique and one with your own voice. The superb arrangement was met with a natural and comfortable stage presence and voice full of beautiful tone and passion. Adam compared her to Mary J. Blige and it’s hard not to miss some of the similarity. Let’s see if she can consistently inhabit each performance as Mary J. does.
David Dunn, The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”
His voice and song choice did seem in direct conflict with his choice of degree (engineering) and his family background (Texas oil empire). While his voice was lovely and he had a consistent tone, there was a bit too much “shake” throughout and he didn’t push the bigger notes of the song to really sell himself. The crowd was into him but it wasn’t too surprising that none of the judges turned their chairs.
Chosen: No one
The Shields Brothers, Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”
Every competition needs some wildcards simply for the unpredictable fun factor. While not necessarily the most dynamic of singers, the brother farmers – Rory and Tristan – brought a dorky, chaotic fun that perfectly embodies rock ‘n roll. Their energy was infectious and they keyed off one another splendidly, particularly in the blend of their voices. It might be much to say they “punch[ed] America in the face with rock ‘n roll,” but they definitely enlivened the proceedings. Hard to see them winning but they’ll be a riot to watch.
Chosen: Cee Lo
Cheesa, Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy”
A performer who is quite perplexing. She’s quite engaging – and was certainly having fun with Cee Lo – and her deep voice is quite intriguing. The problem is there is not a lot of polish to her voice and while that can certainly work in some singers favor, you have to have a very unique and distinctive voice to pull it off. In the end, Cheesa’s voice doesn’t seem that nuanced to excuse the sliding lack of crispness. She was better in the chorus of the song and hit some great high notes but appears to be a bit too much work.
Chosen: Cee Lo
Preston Shannon, Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”
One thing to love about this competition – and something not only shared but stressed by cousin The X Factor – is the breadth of performers they are able to corral, not just in genre but in age. At 64 and a lifelong musician, it was refreshing to hear Shannon talk about still needing to learn. Still, on stage, while he didn’t have the strongest voice, his entire package – from look to stage presence to ease of place to great guitar work – was something to admire. “The King of Beale Street” gets to do what he loves down in Memphis and, though he wasn’t picked, there is strong comfort in knowing he’s out there.
Chosen: No one
Lex Land, Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
The jazz singer, by way of classical vocal training and a singer-songwriter background, was surprising in just how nervous she got. During her lead-up video clip, she actually had to pause a moment while discussing singing in front of the audience, the cameras and the judges. For someone who had such a background – and I don’t discount nerves that still strike the best of us – it seemed odd just how affected she was. Frankly, I was surprised that anyone turned around for her. Her voice seemed somewhat capable, starting out nice, low, and smooth, but the nervous quality made it hard to distinguish what she could bring to the competition. Adam and Blake both mentioned hearing shades of singers like Adele and Sadé but the whole affair was too muddled to get any clear influences.
Cameron Novack, Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”
The tall, lanky, bleached blonde Novack somehow impressed the judges enough that they were willing to break the rules and let Cee Lo take him even though no one turned around. Honestly, Novack sounded better signing his little opera run in the lobby (or coffee shop) during his sit down with host Carson Daly that introduced him. Though he had a facility to pull rhymes out of the air for his free-styling bits, they were more off-putting than inventive, particularly when he did his big kiss-off at the end of his audition. He has significant power to his voice but it and his personality got lost in the song, a particularly difficult one when trying to keep up with the timing of the fast lyrics. It was also a breathy performance which sapped a lot of the effectiveness, though his little beat box interlude gave it some welcome color.
Chosen: No one
Orlando Napier, John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”
It seemed a bit passé for blues singer Napier to pick a Mayer song, but like Whitney Myer, his interpretation of the song was personal and unique. For someone who avoided the family business – his dad is a singer and tenor sax player – until he was 18, it’s hard not to be impressed by his skill and command on stage considering he’s only 25 now. The piano brought a standout element from other contestants and he backed it up with one of the most assured performances of the competition to date.
Lee Koch, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”
In the same fashion as singing Johnny Cash, Dylan’s work and voice are so distinctive that you have to stretch out into your own avenues to avoid comparison. Or in the case of this California baker, you embrace a voice that is in a similar mold to Dylan’s and throw your all into the song. Koch has a wonderful folksy, craggy voice that will be interesting to see wrap itself around other artists and genres, but he did nice justice to Dylan’s classic. Christina was sold on the harmonica playing at the end, but he had a consistent singer-songwriter vibe throughout.
Wade, Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”
Wow. Just wow. Bold choice in song and one of the best total commands of voice we’ve seen yet. Growing up on ’70s R&B, the influence came in strong during his rendition and gave it a personal flavor to make it stand out. His Motown inflections on the chorus were marvelous and the shift in his ending thoroughly sold his ability. For someone only 18, he has a wonderful future ahead of him.
Chosen: Cee Lo
Adley Stump, Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name”
The outward style and husky speaking voice were a bit deceptive in regard to the nice composure she had performing. She brought power and a healthy tone to the song. The downside is she sounded a bit too similar to Underwood to make her standout. She mentioned she and her sorority sisters singing Christina’s “Lady Maramalade” cover in school and I would bet that she aped Aguilera’s fairly well. In fact, Adam mentioned hearing flashes of Christina’s style in her singing. The point is that she seems like she copies good singers rather than brings her own voice to the proceedings. It remains to be seen if this holds true or if she ends up surprising us.
Beta, “You Make Me Feel”
Aaron Gordon, Ne-Yo’s “So Sick”
Lana Lowe, Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”
With the other three judges completing their teams, it was left to Christina to choose from a parade of singers, including these three who didn’t make the mark.
Sera Hill, Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down”
Speaking of Mary J., this young hotel front desk clerk absolutely nails a performance of one of the R&B songstress’ tunes. Soulful and consistent, Hill brings a yummy strength and playfulness to her voice that brought Christina to her feet to perform with her. Not only was this a personal indulgence on Hill’s part but it was actually kind of a shrewd move because it showed how well she could work with her soon-to-be coach and how well she can harmonize and vocally dance with others. Christina’s power is still awing, but Hill held her own and made her own smart choices in how to make her voice standout. Astounding end to the night and the auditions.
And so the auditions are brought to a close. While it was a treat to see such a variety of artists, it’s relieving that we can finally move on to the competition portion of the program. Bring on the Battle Rounds