Well ladies and gentlemen, we now find ourselves knee-deep in these head-to-head battle rounds and the teams are filling up. Now, I usually pride myself on being able to recognize a good thing when I see/hear it, and more over, being able to predict the coaches’ choices about who will make it onto the live shows. But last night either my celebradar was on the fritz or there were some seriously unfortunate choices made, whether for demographic purposes or just because the coaches are hearing something completely different from what I’m hearing. Either way, I found myself in disagreement with the panel more often than not as I watched last night’s battle round unfold.
Geoff “Wait, I’m not Blind?!” McBride vs. Sera “I Sang with Xtina” Hill singing “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin for Team Xtina
Not only do I have a soft spot for Aretha Franklin, but this song happens to be a personal favorite of mine, and what better duo to do it justice than this one? Ok, maybe Jesse Campbell/Anthony Evans would’ve been better. But these two did a pretty killer job. I remember not being all that impressed with Geoff’s original audition, thinking it sounded like a pretty standard karaoke version of a Stevie Wonder song, but good LAWD them some surrious pipes. He went to town on some of those notes, and watching Xtina and Lionel Richie literally get knocked backward from the blast radius was almost reason enough for me to be in Geoff’s corner. But we mustn’t forget Sera, who so inspired Xtina with her audition that the Countess of Cleavage just had to get up on stage and remind everyone that, as talented as these people think they are, there is only ONE Xtina. I think these two were very evenly matched, and both “sang the crap outta that song,” as Blake so adorably put it. But I think Geoff was doomed from the start. Xtina already has a soulful R&B tenor on her team and his name is Jesse Campbell. Geoff and Jesse are ultimately too similar, and no matter how awesome he may have sounded, this battle was going to Sera from the word go. During the actual performance, I thought Geoff was pretty phenomenal overall, perhaps taking a few too many liberties with the melody and muddying it. Sera took some risks; some paid off and some didn’t. But like I said, Sera was going to be the champion of this battle no matter what. And since what I say is blogospel, thus it shall be done.
Champion: Sera Hill!
Charlotte “Disintegrating Jaw” Sometimes vs. Lex “…” Lands singing “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People for Team Blake
Well, considering I LOATHED Lex Lands’ original audition and thought Charlotte was pretty badass, this was a pretty clear choice for me as well. What I really don’t appreciate is how intensely they slate one contestant to be the “underdog,” building the entire pre-battle segment around their journey only so they can slash their dreams for the biggest effect. But that’s showbiz I suppose! I was curious as to how this song would play out as a vocally-based duet, and it wasn’t bad. In terms of stage presence, there was simply no competition. Charlotte looked incredibly at home on stage, whereas Lex looked like she was in a fairly large amount of pain from beginning to end. AND she sounded lame. That “breathy” quality Xtina was talking about actually makes my skin crawl—it’s just not my cup of tea. It sounds unsupported and kitschy. There were a few cool runs in their on Lex’s side, but I think at the end of the day she was trying to cover up vocal weakness with a few tricks that couldn’t quite measure up to Charlotte’s unique, seemingly effortless tone.
Champion: Charlotte Sometimes
Sarah “I R WHAT I R” Golden vs. Juliet “Take a Shower” Simms singing “Stay with Me” by Rod Stewart for Team Cee-Lo
There’s just something so easy, laidback and up-front about Sarah Golden. She’s someone whose record you’d want to buy and then maybe grab coffee or a drink with afterwards to discuss. Her voice comes through easily—there’s no strain because she knows what she’s good but still stretches the harmonies and intricacies of a tune to make it her own. Juliet Simms, on the other hand, is like that chick in the bar doing body shots for attention but then screams and cries about how she gets objectified by men when some drunk college fratstars try to pick her up. Sigh. During the coachings, Cee-Lo kept asserting that this was a good pairing, that Sarah and Juliet were so different that each woman’s voice would come through and that he wasn’t just playing to Juliet’s strengths. LIES. Therefore, it was no surprise that when it came time for the performance, Juliet looked like the star and Sarah the backup singer. I think that if we had to break it down, Juliet might be the better performer but Sarah is by far the superior musician/vocalist and, most importantly, is WAY more likeable. I don’t think many people would pick up the phone and vote for Juliet Simms, and when it comes down to the live show, that is an important factor. I think Cee-Lo was penny wise, dollar foolish with this choice, but c’est la vie.
Champion: Juliet Simms!
Whitney “IT Girl” Myer vs. Kim “Tried and True” Yarbrough singing “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige for Team Adam
Now this was an interesting pairing. The segment before the battle wasn’t really indicative of much besides the fact that these two women are different ages. Whitney is 25 and Kim is 51, and both have these exciting, personality-filled voices. There isn’t a lot to say about this performance round, because Kim so obviously took it to church and Whitney was sort of left panting in the dust, but I think this is another interesting scenario of a coach not thinking of the big picture. Let me start by saying I WORSHIP women with voices like Kim Yarbrough. Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, even Xtina—these women were born with the god-given right to BELT and I will forever consider them the standard for true vocal talent. But Kim doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I’ve heard that voice before, and while I love it, I don’t necessarily think it’s moving anything in a new direction. Whitney, on the other hand, is young but interesting. The vocal agility she demonstrated with her original audition is rare, and she’s actually had a ton of performing experience considering her age. She’s cool and likeable and incredibly talented and different. In terms of the competition, Whitney stood a very good chance of getting to the final rounds, whereas Kim, while awesome, doesn’t have that same kind of potential. But based on that specific song, Kim took it home. We’ll see how it all pans out, I suppose!
Champion: Kim Yarbrough!
Lee “I’m a Baker” Koch vs. Lindsey “Where’d Half My Hair Go?” Pavao singing “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana for Team Xtina
Ah yes, the Battle of the Squeaky Hipkidz. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like both of these artists and thought they each brought something pretty cool to the table. Not to mention, this song is an interesting on-the-border-of-bizarre choice by Xtina, which works for these two. Lee was all kindza insecure during the coachings, not being as familiar with the original song as Lindsey, and I wasn’t sure if he’d be as memorable without his guitar/harmonica. But I have to say, I thought Lee KILLED this performance. He was original and present and really laid it all out there. Lindsey was good, too, but her phrasing was weird and her breathing was super funky; like, why ya breathin’ every 5 seconds? Stop it. Sustain a note. Any note. I didn’t think it was possible, but Lee out-weirded Lindsey and I super dug it. But it’s interesting—I’ve been complaining that coaches like Cee-Lo and Adam haven’t been thinking big picture and haven’t necessarily made the smartest overall decisions for their teams. As much as I rag on Xtina, I have to give it to her. Homegirl thinks VERY big picture. All of her choices thus far have made sense to me. No, her pairing of Chris Mann and Monique Benabou didn’t make any sense vocally, but strategically it totally did. She was expendable and there wasn’t really anyone else to pair up with Chris. Sera Hill might not have really been leagues better than Geoff McBride vocally, but she strengthens the team demographically. So I wasn’t surprised she picked Lindsey over Lee because I think Lindsey stands a better chance at winning than Lee would have. As much as it pains me to say it… Xtina’s using those brains. And yes, I’m referring to the ones in her head.
Champion: Lindsey Pavao!
Jamar “Pharrell” Rogers vs. Jamie “Potbelly” Lono singing “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner for Team Cee-Lo
This is like my worst nightmare of a pairing. I was SO behind both of these artists and would have rooted for each one individually in any other scenario. But, alas. Let’s start off by commenting on Cee-Lo’s cranberry onesie. COULD YOU LOOK ANY MORE LIKE A PLUMP PIECE OF PURPLE FRUIT?! I’m done. I think this is another case of a song being selected for one artist, while the other is kind of left playing second fiddle. Jamar knew the second that song was announced that he was about to own poor Jamie. And Jamie, similarly, knew he was about to be violated. I think Jamie worked himself up to the point of no return; once your voice cracks like that in front of professionals, it’s hard to turn the mentality around. And boy did he crack. In front of Cee-Lo, in front of Babyface, in front of America. Sigh. And there’s just something about Jamar’s energy—it’s absolutely infectious. You can’t help but want him to succeed, not only because his story is legitimately admirable, but because he’s incredibly talented. And only Jamar Rogers could get away with saying, “If I win this, it will be a victory for anyone who’s ever overcome anything,” without looking like a total tool. I mean. I still don’t know if I can completely get behind it. But I won’t tear him to pieces over it, either. The battle itself was just a prolonged Jamar moment, and I really did enjoy it, especially when Jamie was contributing light, falsetto harmonies on top. But my favorite moment was when Adam Levine expressed my very sentiments during Jamar’s original audition, about how the other judges were IDIOTS for not turning their chairs around for him. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, that man is a STAR.
Champion: Jamar Rogers!
So here’s a quick breakdown of the teams thus far:
Team Adam: Tony Lucca and Kim Yarbrough (4 spots remain)
Team Blake: RaeLynn, Jordis Unga and Charlotte Sometimes (3 spots remain)
Team Cee-Lo: Cheesa, Juliet Simms and Jamar Rogers (3 spots remain)
Team Xtina: Jesse Campbell, Chris Mann, Sera Hill and Lindsey Pavao (2 spots remain)
There are stars on each of these teams, but it’s too soon to call anything. Check back in next week to see how the teams continue to stack up!
This episode was ALL about Julia Houston and Michael Swift. They’re kind of the only couple on this show with any actual chemistry, which was the theme of this week’s installment. I love Ivy, but not with Derek. I love Karen (‘s voice), but don’t really get much from her and Boyfriend. I do love Tom and Lawyer Man, but don’t think there’s any actual chemistry between them. Julia and Michael, on the other hand, know how to turn up the heat, so much so that at several moments I found myself sweating (which was either because Julia and Michael are so steamy together or because it’s always 80 degrees in Houston, TX and the humidity alone can cause even the coldest-blooded of humans to sweat profusely from any and every orifice). One of my favorite moments (aside from the obvious scene on the couch) was Julia explaining why she was defenseless to Michael’s advances:
Tom: But your son! Your husband!
Julia: Tom. He SANG to me.
Classic. I, too, would’ve been a puddle on the floor had a man with that voice and that physique serenaded me on the street outside my home. You know. If I didn’t have a son… or a husband… No matter! Despite the writing that makes it difficult for even the best of actors to make some of these scenes believable, I often find myself thanking Debra Messing and her perfectly coifed and colored hair for being my rock in this sea of questionable acting, slow moving plot moments and strangely cast love connections. So… thank you Debra Messing. Even if you are negating all the work parents, teachers and legislators have put into making men understand that no actually does mean no. But who watches these shows for lessons in moral rectitude? Not me! I watch Dawson’s Creek for that.
At the top of the episode, as Ivy is singing to herself in the mirror (like ya do), she starts to squeak on some of her top notes, indicating she might be ::GASP:: losing her voice! Honestly, who wouldn’t lose their voice after belting the way she has, as often as she has, as upside-down as she has. But here’s the problem I actually have with this particular story line. Megan Hilty doesn’t do a good job of faking vocal fatigue. It’s like her voice is TOO strong to feign a flaw. So I found myself just generally annoyed and put-off by her weak attempts at… weakness. Not to mention that music video montage thing was SO random and weird. Also, did anyone else notice that Ivy totally matched her bedding? I giggled at that revelation. Anyways, Ivy goes on Prednisone, a steroid, to ensure she has a voice for the big rehearsal with the investors, especially after a little gentle coaxing from her ever-supportive and kind director/boyfriend. Oh I’m sorry, did I say gentle coaxing? I meant after a thinly veiled threat of being replaced, effectively crushing all of her dreams and aspirations. COOL, DEREK. Also, I have never heard of anyone hallucinating like that on a vocal steroid. Come on, people. Also, is Prednisone a corporate sponsor of Smash? So. Much. Product placement.
But let’s not forget that Karen Cartwright sang at a Bar Mitzvah during this episode. That’s right. I was SO excited to hear Katherine McPhee sing “Havah Negilah” I was plotzing all over the place, my kishkes were all in a knot and I could barely breathe from all the k’velling. Aaaand that’s all the Yiddish I can muster, hope you’re proud, Grandma! And as per usual, Karen reminded us why she’s a star with her rendition of Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” yet another single I will be purchasing on iTunes. Thank goodness she can sing, because that’s really all Katherine McPhee can contribute to this show.
All in all, I’m not quite sure what more I want from this series, but there is definitely something. It’s not musical numbers, we got those and I love ‘em. It’s not good looking people; Derek pretty much has that covered single-handedly… Oh, I know! Better writing. Here’s to hoping!
Check back next week to see if the Smash producers have come to their senses and decided to hire me as their new script writer, thanks for reading and, as always, thanks for watching KPRC Local 2!