Things are heating up on The Voice in its second week of battle, for real. Diva duels, style rivals, and a whole lot of weird-ass song selections made this week much more compelling television than the relatively tame first week. Nearly all of the sing-offs were close, and most of the contestants were pretty damn good, with the coaches and Carson Daly constantly going back to the “Wow, what a tough decision! Isn’t this an awesome show that we have all these good-ass singers???” theme. To be fair, if any episode of the show this season justified it, it was this one. Here are ten things that happened:
1. Things picked up where they left off last week. If you recall, Week One may not have been the strongest of Voice episodes, but it did end with a bang, with soul (or soulful, at least) singers Jesse Campbell and Anthony Evans going tit-for-tat on a higher-and-higher rendition of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” Week two began with another duel of heavy hitters, with 51-year-old Geoff McBride facing off against hotel employee (this does NOT qualify as a backstory, The Voice) Sera Hill on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” It was a brilliant duet, to the point where Cee Lo green pointed out that the two “work well, like a group or something,” but ultimately, Hill’s youth and pop-friendly image may have won out in the too-close-to-call battle. “Clearly they can both sing the crap out of this song,” commented Blake Shelton. Indeed.
2. Return of the Flying Saucer Hat.
Love it. Still loses out to Lionel Richie’s bossest scarf for best Voice coach accessory, but would probably make for a better Halloween costume in seven and a half months.
3. Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” happened. We were all about the “Kicks” here at Popdust last year—still are—but lordy, if there was one hit pop song last year not meant to be sung in an elimination duel on a music competition show, it was probably Foster’s. Pity poor Charlotte Sometimes and Lex Land, though to the credit of the two vocalists, they still made a game duel out of it, Charlotte trying to turn it into a sassy Regina Spektor song and Lex trying to find the sultry Norah Jones quality in the school-shooting anthem. I’d say Lex was better—more interesting, certainly—but I wasn’t hugely surprised when Blake ended up going with the more marketable Charlotte. Shame, as Lex was one of the few really striking voices the show had found, and just seemed to be finding her stride.
4. The butch folk singer got set up for a fall. Not like Sarah Golden, a perfectly fine but unspectacular folky rock singer, had much of a chance of going too far in the competition—even if she wasn’t so pop-unattractive, she just didn’t have the panache do go all the way in this. Still, it was unfortunate that she had to go up against super-cuter rocker Juliet Simms on a song directly in her wheelhouse, The Faces’ “Stay With Me.” Sarah did an impressive job holding her own for most the song, but by the end of the song, she was basically doing backing vocals for Juliet. The coaches gave Sarah her due after, allowing her to depart with dignity, but the choice to advance was obvious. Seemed a little unfair.
5. Whitney Myer got taken out by the Terminator of soul music. Before her duel with 51-year-old diva Kim Yarborough, Whitney asked Adam what wisdom he could dispense about how to get the edge on Kim. “You have to make sure. That you DO NOT. Try. To overpower her,” Adam advised. His movie-tagline-worthy endorsement of Kim’s vocal prowess was not overstated—Whitney did fine on Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama,” but she never had a chance against Kim, who so fully inhabited the part that it almost didn’t matter how she sounded (and she sounded pretty good anyway). “The song is about maturity and acceptance and growth, and moving on,” Cee Lo commented after. “It’s fit for a grown woman to sing.” Whitney accurately summed up her disadvantage early on: “Kim and I, we’re both powerhouse singers…but maybe her house is a little bigger than my house.” Sorry, Whit.
6. Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” also happened. Even among Nirvana hits, this was a surprising choice, especially coming from Christina Aguilera, arguably the coach least likely to choose a black-hearted ’90s grunge hit for two of her contestants to go to work on. It made sense for off-beat singer/songwriter Lindsey Pavao, especially in the pretty cool stripped-down arrangement, but folk-rocker Lee Koch seemed to find it puzzling at best—managing a decent performance just the same, one that even got a couple coaches to vote for him (though Cee Lo admitted it was just because he thought Koch reminded him of Jesus.) But it was Lindsay’s performance to lose, and she didn’t blow it, remaining one of the show’s more interesting contestants as she moves to the next round.
7. Blake got it from all sides for not knowing the Nirvana song. “I feel so stupid,” Blake admitted after Lindsay and Lee’s duel. “I don’t know that song, I can’t get in on y’all’s conversation. I have never heard that song before in my life.” This did not go over well with the fellow coaches, to say the least. “WHAT??!?!” yelped an exasperated Adam Levine, burying his head in his chair. “That’s Nirvana, Blake!” chastised Cee Lo. “You’ve got to get out of Oklahoma every once in a while!” Hey Blake, In Utero is available for $5 on Amazon.com. You don’t want to have this happen again when Adam has two of his contestants go in on “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.”
8. The capper was a clunker. For reasons unknown, the show saved the worst for last this time around, as two performers from Team Cee Lo’s “miscellaneous” category—ex-meth addict Jamar Rogers and sandwich-shop worker Jamie Lono—went head-to-head on Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Logical song choice, but Jamie wasn’t up to the task—his voice wasn’t nearly strong enough for the chorus, and the HIV-positive Jamar was able to cruise to the easy victory. “He needs more confidence,” predicted assistant coach Babyface before Jamie’s performance. “And I think that’s going to be a problem.” Maybe it was nerves, but like no other performer last night, it really seemed like Jamie was just a little out of his depth on that one.
9. It all ended in tears. While obviously disappointed in his loss, Jamie was still overcome by emotion at the success of opponent Jamar, who he had grown very close with during their brief stay together on Team Cee Lo. “Of course I’d like to be moving on…but I feel like there’s a reason for me being here, and maybe that was to let Jamar to win,” said Jamie, breaking down into tears. “What an awesome person.” For his part, Jamar said that if he won his duel, it would be “a victory for anyone who’s ever overcome anything.” And boy, are the 80% of the American population that’s never overcome anything gonna be jeaaaalous.
10. The sponsors chilled out for a minute. Yeah, there was the requisite “Hey Miranda, it’s so great to be talking to you over the KIA Uvo infotainment system!” phone call car commercial, but aside from that, the egregious Starbucks and Sprint product placements of the week before were nowhere to be found this time out—there were even coffee cups with the logos turned away from the cameras at one point during a Team Christina rehearsal. Hope for the future with this show.