The Voice: Cookie-Cutter Cabaret

A bout of bad weather had the storm sirens blaring and the lights in my house flickering in the hours leading up to The Voice last night, but fortune ultimately chose to smile on me, and my viewing experience was only interrupted by the occasional storm warning that obscured half the screen every fifteen minutes. Well, that and the feeling that some battles were unevenly stacked this week.

I can honestly say that I enjoy The Voice and that it’s one of my weekly television highlights, but last night, I don’t know—maybe the shiny is starting to wear off. There was a lot of yelling at the TV and pelting the screen with Chex Mix in my living room, as I found myself disagreeing with Cee Lo, Christina, Adam, and Blake quite often, and I couldn’t help but notice that certain match-ups were weighted in favor of a particular contestant. It seemed like the show was busting out the cookie cutters and disposing of some of the more flavorful personalities to grace the stage.

I also found myself overwhelmingly distracted by three points:

1) I’m still not sure how I feel about Christina Aguilera’s shower-head hat. I keep waiting for it to shoot lasers or something.

2) Speaking of Christina, her poor hair could use some quality time with a good conditioner. I have teased, bleached, straightened, curled, permed, crimped, dyed, and fried my own mop enough to dread haircuts just because of the lecture that usually accompanies them courtesy of wise hairstylists who don’t know how I’m not bald.

3) Where was Purrfect the Cat? WHERE?

Ahem. Moving on.

Team Christina: Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill

For the first battle of the night, Christina teamed up Sera Hill and Geoff McBride to rock out to "Chain of Fools," popularized by Aretha Franklin. It was a fun opening performance. Both McBride and Hill brought a ton of energy, and their harmonies were spot-on. In the rehearsals leading up to the battle, Geoff was cautioned against shying away from emotion, while Sera seemed to excel at it; interestingly, post-battle, Adam commented that Sera’s performance, while excellent, felt like a performance and Geoff seemed to be more in the moment. But in the end, Christina went “with her gut” (I’m seriously going to start tracking how often she goes with her gut) and chose Sera Hill to advance to the next round.

Team Blake: Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land

Charlotte Sometimes has a record deal with Geffen and tours regularly, so as far as I’m concerned, she is already an established musician and I came into this battle more than a little biased against her. Sorry, Charlotte. Blake paired her off with the husky-voiced, retro-styled Lex Land and gave them the Foster the People track "Pumped Up Kicks," which made me flail like the reluctantly hipster dweeb that I am. The rehearsals for their battle were painful to watch because they both faltered. Blake expressed concern that the more subdued Lex would be overshadowed by Charlotte Sometimes’ boisterous personality, and admittedly, I wasn’t wild about her more upbeat take on the mellow song... at first. While Lex Land’s performance was closer to the original style of the song, when held against Charlotte Sometimes’ energy, she just came across as lacking. Furthermore, her tendency to skip from her lowest register to her highest one was not only audibly jarring, but seemed to imply that she lacks a middle register. While I wasn’t thrilled to agree with Blake when he chose Charlotte, I understand why he did so.

Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms vs. Sarah Golden

While the Charlotte Sometimes/Lex Land pairing made me begin to question the rationale behind some of the night's battles, the pairing of Juliet Simms with Sarah Golden and their task of facing off on Rod Stewart’s "Stay with Me" tripped the alarms and set off the sirens. From the jump, this battle felt like it was orchestrated against Sarah Golden, a folk singer who openly acknowledges her non-traditional appearance and the difficulties she often encounters because of it. Meanwhile, rocker Juliet channeled her inner Pat Benatar to fit the ideal hot female rock star image, and perfected her growl (and I admit, it’s a fierce growl) to simply overshadow Sarah through the entire battle. Sarah held her own, but was clearly out of her comfort zone with the song. Cee Lo chose the strongest performer of the battle, Juliet, but I can’t help but wonder how anyone thought that Sarah could be expected to successfully compete against someone who was very much in her element with the song selection.

Team Adam: Kim Yarborough vs. Whitney Myer

Adam paired one of his oldest team members with one of his youngest to perform Mary J. Blige’s "No More Drama" in an interesting dichotomy. Admittedly, when the coaches, judges, and contestants made such a huge deal about the age difference between Whitney Myer and Kim Yarborough, I thought, “Clearly, they are grasping for an angle in this battle, and age won’t matter nearly as much as they claim it will.” While musically, both women performed admirably in their own way, it was interesting to see the difference in attitude between Kim and Whitney. From the get-go, Whitney was so incredibly concerned with finding the magic potion to beat Kim that she honestly looked shocked and confused when Adam and co-coach Robin Thicke gave her pointers to improve her performance. Adam warned her not to try to overpower Kim, but I don’t think she listened. During the battle, Kim was almost serene while Whitney looked, well, a little panic-stricken. Adam ultimately chose Kim to advance in competition.

Team Christina: Lee Koch vs. Lindsey Pavao

Here, we have my own personal outrage of the night. Christina paired folksy baker Lee Koch with self-professed Nirvana fan Lindsey Pavao... and gave them a Nirvana song to perform. Lee fumbled through the rehearsals for "Heart Shaped Box," muddling the lyrics and trying entirely too hard to sound just like Kurt Cobain, which coach Jewel totally called him on. Lee’s discomfort with the musical genre and his unfamiliarity with the song were his weak spots. Lindsey was thrilled to be given the opportunity to cover Cobain, but tended to get “lost in her head,” according to Christina, too caught up in her personal love of the song to concentrate on her performance. At the battle, I felt like Lee’s improvement since rehearsal was obvious. He was awesome, I say. AWESOME. Lindsey was great, but, well, look, Christina Aguilera consistently picks contestants who sing like Christina Aguilera, and it’s boring. Christina fawned over Lindsey’s versatility after choosing her over Lee, which makes me question whether she understands what "versatile" means. To me, taking the guy who auditioned with a Bob Dylan song and confessed to know no Nirvana and making him compete (admirably) with a Nirvana song shows more versatility than taking another trilling diva-in-training and handing her a song by one of her favorite bands.

On a lighter note, the fact that Blake Shelton claimed to not know who Nirvana is made me chuckle.

Team Cee Lo: Jamie Lono vs. Jamar Rogers

As usual, The Voice saved the best battle for last, pairing sandwich-making extraordinaire Jamie Lono with reformed drug addict Jamar Rogers to perform "I Wanna Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. Apparently during the course of rehearsals, Jamar and Jamie became friends, and neither wanted to compete against the another in their first battle. Jamar started kicking ass from the start of rehearsals, while Jamie faltered with his confidence and his high notes. Still, their performance was a thing of beauty. Jamar was definitely the strongest performer and absolutely deserved to be Cee Lo’s choice; however, Christina, of all people, pointed out that the song selection didn’t work in Jamie’s favor at all, which had been my main concern all night long.

I understand that certainly, eventually, the contestants will be forced into performing songs that aren’t in their comfort zones, but it just rubs me the wrong way when choices are made that so blatantly cater to the strengths of one contestant over another.

So while I agreed with a lot of the judges’ decisions last week, this week is a different story. How did your own opinions match up?

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