The Voice has gone live, and now it is obvious that the taped segments of the show actually occurred three years ago, since all the judges now look vastly different then they did in the audition and battle rounds. (Except, of course, for Blake, who was clearly born wearing a sweater vest and a five o' clock shadow.) Anyway, with live action comes live drama and excitement, and last night's episode was probably the tensest and testiest of the season to date. Six more contestants will be eliminated tomorrow night, but for now, let's recap the things of note that occurred without the benefit of tape delay and creative editing.
1. Cee Lo Green wore a terrible wig. Just because none of his contestants were competing doesn't mean that pop star and legendary attention hog Cee Lo Green is gonna let the spotlight be stolen from him. "There's a little something different about you tonight…" commented host Carson Daly, observing the ratty black wig—like the one Tyler, the Creator wears when he wants to look like Rick James—Cee Lo was sporting. "Adam cut his hair off, so I figured I'd grow mine out," Cee Lo explained, briefly shifting attention to Adam Levine's recent buzz. "That actually IS my hair," claimed Adam. Yeah right, Levine—your locks were never that rich and flowing.
2. Christina Aguilera left a bunch of pounds in the Battle Rounds. You see what Betty
Draper Francis did on Mad Men last Sunday? Picture the exact opposite, and that was Christina on The Voice last night. She was almost unrecognizably thin—I don't remember her looking this svelte since at least Back to Basics, and the Snooki comparisons (which were getting dangerously apt this season) are officially no longer applicable. Either that, or tape delay just adds about 20 pounds and she was the judge that always got the worst of it. Either way, looking good, Xtina.
3. More Christina Milian! The Voice's under-utilized Social Media Director showed up live in the flesh and quickly demonstrated why she had been so under-utilized to that point. The conversation she had with first contestant Jermaine Paul after his strained performance of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" basically went like this:
Christina: "So, which contestants are you excited to see tonight?"
Jermaine: "Uh, everyone on my team, and also everyone on Blake's team."
Christina: "Great! Now, everyone at home, be sure to tweet us at @NBCTheVoice, hashtag #NBCTHEVOICE...."
Shows like this make me nostalgic for the stone ages of webboards and chat rooms.
4. The Bromance Continues. Have you guys tried to smush Blake and Adam's names yet to celebrate their new status as a pop power couple? It's harder than it should be. (Bladam? Adake? Shelvine? Ugh.) Anyway, yet another chapter was written in the duo's ongoing Book of Love, with Blake assigning his charge RaeLynn with Maroon 5's "Wake Up Call," recasting it as a country song. (Why he just didn't give her a country song to begin with escapes me, but The Voice's Nashville Embargo continues for another week.) ""There's some kind of weird man-on-man love thing going on," Christina commented after RaeLynn's subpar performance. "I mean, again with the Maroon 5?" You can't fight fate, Xtina. It's only a matter of time for TV's pre-eminent Will-They-or-Won't-They? couple.
5. Moses Stone performed a one-song Kanye West medley. Yeah, they used some of the "ohhhh / eyyyyyy" sounds from "Power" in the backing track, but I can't have been the only one who was disappointed that rapper Moses Stone's supposed Kanye West medley turned out to just be one verse of "Stronger." Meanwhile, his performance caused all sorts of problems for the judges, who are having an understandably hard time assessing Moses compared to the other conventional singers in the competition. "Singing is what this show is about, and I don't know as much about the rapping part," commented Blake, making a fair-enough point. Meanwhile, Adam proposed that he was doing himself a disservice by fronting as an MC, stating his belief that Moses had "a lot more potential as a singer than a rapper." Tough call with this guy—talented, but definitely playing out of position—though I doubt he survives the week to make it much of an ongoing issue.
6. GO AWAY BETTY WHITE. The patron saint of The Voice showed up yet again—live in the flesh, this time, to attempt to bring the yuks. "Are you here to promote your show?" Carson Daly indulged her in the audience, referring to her new anti-young'n NBC reality comedy Off Their Rockers. "No, no, I'm just here to look at Blake Shelton," quipped White. "Anyone who doesn't think he's handsome is...Off Their Rockers!" Nailed it, Bet-Dubs.
7. The two quirky singer/songwriter girls performed some oddly arranged numbers. Lindsey Pavao kind of inverted "Somebody That I Used to Know," ruining the song's dynamics by turning the verses into a more rhythmic "trip-hoppy, dubsteppy" shuffle and stripping the chorus of its tremendous impact in the process. ("I was just missing that kind of POWER that I feel when I hear that chorus," commented Adam after.) Meanwhile, Charlotte Sometimes turned Paramore's "Misery Business" into a weird sort of torch ballad, alternately sounding like Kate Bush, Florence and Cher during the performance. I found both fairly off-putting, though the judges seemed impressed—as were listeners at home, apparently, who made the performances two of the show's three-highest charters on iTunes this week. Heady times for off-beat indie chicks, I suppose.
8. Don't get Blake Shelton started on male strippers. Standards and Practices have themselves a friend on The Voice's coaching panel in Blake, who was none too happy with the preponderance of shritless dudes during Sera Hill's fine Mary J.-esque performance of Drake's "Find Your Love." "I was actually waiting for Christina to start stuffing some ones in some of those guys' pants," he commented, leading Carson to pause and wait for Blake's actual commentary on Sera's performance.
When it became clear that no such commentary was coming, Carson prompted him "Anything else on that? Or are you just stuck on the guys?"
"I don't know that I was stuck on the guys, it's hard to get PAST the male strippers that were on the stage," Blake responded.
"How about Miss Hill's performance of the Drake song?" asked an increasingly agitated Carson.
"Yeah, it was great. She did great! There were male strippers on the stage, for God's sake! What else am I going to say!??! THERE WAS MALE STRIPPERS ON THE STAGE ON THE VOICE!!"
Live television. You gotta love it.
9. Someone performed the seventh or eighth most famous song on Jagged Little Pill. It's always a little amazing to me when people who weren't around for Alanis Morissette's mid-'90s reign of terror acknowledge her as an important recording artist—nothing against Alanis, but the idea of discovering her after the fact is just so weird to me. So to see 17-year-old Ashley De La Rosa hope to make an impression with not just an Alanis track, but an Alanis deep cut—"Right Through You," not one of the six hits off Pill—was jarring, to say the least. But it seemed to work for young Ashley, with Adam calling her the "biggest surprise" of the competition, and meaning it as a compliment.
Come to think of it, as long as we're all cool with Alanis again, I wouldn't mind someone taking a shot at JLP's a capella hidden track "Your House" before season's end. That'd be a strong move, wouldn't it?
10. There were some very good performances. Too much coach bickering and such to focus on for me to give these performances the attention they probably deserve, but quickly: Chris Mann's operatic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Erin Willett's powerhouse rendition of "Living For the City," and Jesse Campbell's masterful "What a Wonderful World" were probably the three best performances of the night. None of the three have the looks or hooks to be obvious pop stars, but as Adam loves pointing out, the show is still called The Voice, and as such, these guys have to be considered the three to beat thusfar. Now watch them all lose out to the singer/songwriter girls and Betty White in tonight's results episode.