HOUSTON - The Voice
So after much rationalizing, philosophizing, justifying and agonizing, I've come to the conclusion that last night's episode of The Voice was just… meh. Because, ya know, they can't all be gems. Nothing was super great, lots of things were super strange, and overall I only saw one or two performances I could maybe classify as memorable. As much as I've enjoyed this season and am glad it was extended from last year, I think it may be overkill at this point. Too many blind audition rounds, too many battle rounds—I think the show could have benefitted from a little editing. Not to mention they could have further concentrated the talent pool with fewer contestants. But no use crying over cracked high notes. Onwards!
Pip "the Vunderkind" vs. Nathan "Yet Another Underdog" Parrett singing "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse for Team Adam
I actually rather enjoyed this performance, but it was also a great song and I just really like Pip. I liked him when I first saw him, I liked him throughout the coaching (which production turned into yet another underdog-gets-some-confidence-but-ultimately-fails story) and I definitely liked him in this battle round. I thought Pip mopped the floor with Nathan, who I never found to be all that great despite Adam's assertions to the contrary. This really wasn't a fair matchup from the start, as Pip has oodles of star power just oozing from every pore and Nathan just seems kind of stiff and weird. It also appears that Nathan has a case of the Steven Tyler's, but in the early years, before Tyler's face got all weird and stretchy but still looked kind of putty-like… See evidence below.
The moral of the story is, it was a clear choice, Pip over Nathan, and Adam Levine made it so. All is right with the world.
Erin "Lesbian Warrior Princess" Martin vs. The Shields "SLAP ME IN THE FACE WITH ROCK!" Brothers singing "What's Love Got to Do With It" by Tina Turner for Team Cee-Lo
When Erin Martin first auditioned, I was skeptical, because I hate it when models/actors/William Shatner decide "I want to try something new. I know! Singing! How hard could it be?" and then they really suck and I'm annoyed. Then she sang "Hey There Delilah" in that strange, kind of throttled sounding voice and I was all like "Ooo, that's cool and interesting. I might be into this." But then this past episode happened, and I came to the realization that it is my duty, as someone who can hear and likes music, to destroy her. From her obnoxious whining during the coaching sessions, to that absurd, costume-y, big-shouldered corset/bikini number that I can only assume was an attempt to distract us from the dying-cat-like screeches that escaped her mouth during the performance, I'm not sure I could hate her any more thoroughly. It was her badittude that first turned me off, and then that bizarre and offensive sequence of noises she called "singing" that sealed the deal. Oh, also, the Shields Brothers were true to form and tried to rock as hard as they could. Bless their weird little hearts. Ultimately, Cee-Lo is a horn-dog freak who'd rather experiment with unpleasant sounds than deal with musicians.
Champion: Erin Martin!
Ashley "Mother Theresa" De La Rosa vs. Jonathas "Usher? Chris Brown?" singing "No Air" by Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown for Team Xtina
This battle was simply underwhelming. NBC didn't show us Ashley De La Rosa's original audition because I'm assuming it wasn't spectacular, and Jonathas was only impressive because he sounded exactly like the hypothetical lovechild of Usher and Chris Brown. Xtina flirted with Jonathas during his coaching, proving that, yes, Xtina can use her "sex appeal" in literally EVERY situation. The actual performance was weak and they both seemed pretty stupid. Ashley completed the song without any obvious errors, but in a competition like this, I'm not sure we can really qualify that as a success. And as for Jonathas, you know things are bad when you're getting outsung by Ashley, the dimmest of dim lights. Matchups like this are infuriating because, in a just world, both Ashley and Jonathas would have gone home and someone like Anthony Evans or Geoff McBride, both of whom were eliminated from Xtina's team during the first two battle rounds, could have taken the spot. But, alas. Life is not fair. And neither is reality television.
Champion: Ashley De La Rosa!
ALyX "What the HELL Is That Name?" vs. Jermaine "Nobody's Back-Up Singer" Paul singing "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" by Billy Ocean for Team Blake
For me, this was an obvious shoe-in, and I find these types of battles simultaneously boring and pleasant; while the performance itself will most likely suck a little, at least I know I'm not going to lose someone I like. See that? Lemonade out of lemons, people. ALyX is another one of those mystery contestants whose original audition we didn't see. It would stand to reason that if the blind audition wasn't good enough to make it onto the show, the battle wouldn't be super competitive. While ALyX was much better than I thought she'd be based on the level of CUH-RAZY she demonstrated during the coaching, she still couldn't hold a candle to a real professional (read: Jermaine), even though his last note was rough. Basically, this was Jermaine's battle to lose. And he didn't. Hooray!
Champion: Jermaine Paul!
Angel "I Already Have a Record Deal" Taylor vs. Katrina "Victims of Mold and Other Fungi Unite!" Parker singing "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis for Team Adam
Coming into this battle, I was sure Angel Taylor would come out on top, leaving Katrina Parker bloody and crying on the floor. But as soon as I heard Katrina sing, it hit me that I had been so distracted by her fungus story that I had forgotten what a good singer she is! Because she's actually amazing. She's weird, to be sure, but in a quirky, likeable sort of way. And she looks NOTHING like she sounds, which, while sometimes unnerving, I find incredibly interesting and enjoyable. Angel, on the other hand, is exactly what you would expect her to be. She's a cool, hot chick with a rough past and a raspy, soulful voice, and she knows what the deal is. I thought it was a much more evenly matched than I had originally anticipated, but once it got going, it became pretty clear that Katrina was KILLING IT, thereby killing Angel. Although I would like to point out that Angel's sound is what Erin Martin is going for but failing at. Juss sayin.
Champion: Katrina Parker!
Gwen "Natalie Maines (from the Dixie Chicks)" Sebastian vs. Erin "Wynonna Judd" Willett singing "We Belong" by Pat Benatar for Team Blake
This was the only pairing of the night where I was rooting for both sides. I liked Gwen's original audition a LOT and thought she did a great job with this song, too. I don't remember being too enthused about Erin's original audition but absolutely LOVED her rendition of "We Belong," where her voice immediately reminded me of a deep pool of dark chocolate, warmed to the point of liquidity but still thick and substantive. The heartbreak of this story is Erin's dad, who we discovered at the blind auditions had pancreatic cancer. Right before Erin was to go on, she heard that her father didn't have long, and in fact might not have had more than 24 hours, left to live. While some might think it was selfish and heartless of Erin to go on with the show instead of going to her father's bedside, I don't think it's that simple. Obviously this choice is an impossible one, and either decision would lead to a lot of pain and probably years of therapy, but I think Erin made the right call. By staying and singing her face off, she honored her father, who wanted what every father wants, for his daughter to live her dream, and seized an opportunity she might never have had again. And while both she and Gwen did a great job, I'm glad Erin won, because if that were me, I'd want to do my daddy proud, too.
Champion: Erin Willett!
Here's a breakdown of the teams thus far:
Team Adam: Pip, Katrina Parker, Tony Lucca and Kim Yarbrough
Team Blake: Erin Willett, Jermaine Paul, Charlotte Sometimes, RaeLynn and Jordis Unga
Team Cee-Lo: Erin Martin, Juliet Simms, Jamar Rogers and Cheesa
Team Xtina: Ashley De La Rosa, Sera Hill, Lindsey Pavao, Chris Mann and Jesse Campbell
Overall, this episode didn't shine with all that much star power, but I'm looking forward to the rounding out of these teams and then, off to the live shows!!
You know what, I like this show. For all the complaining I do about the writing and the questionable acting and the horror that is the actor who plays Leo Frank, I really do like this show. Maybe my faith was restored during one of the phenomenal dialogue exchanges, or perhaps it was the Best Of: Ivy Lynn sequence during the workshop, or maybe it was just seeing Bernadette Peters on my television screen belting her face off of her face on "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy… or maybe it was a combo of all of these moments that solidified my position as a Smash fan.
This episode is entitled "The Workshop," and after all the rehearsing and dancing and crying and belting, this is the (sort of) finished product that Julia, Tom, Derek and Eileen have to show for it. All the big names and deep pockets were invited to watch this rough draft in the hopes that they would be awestruck and impressed enough to invest and fund the show. Bernadette Peters guest stars as Leigh Conroy, Ivy Lynn's tony-winning, Broadway-star mother. It immediately becomes clear that Leigh rather enjoys the spotlight and has zero intention of sharing it with her daughter, which has given Ivy a permanent-runner-up sort of complex. But no time to dwell! Ivy's all hopped up on Prednisone and sleeping pills and she has no self esteem because Derek is an ass and Karen is lurking in every corner and CAN'T A GIRL JUST CATCH A BREAK?! But it's all ok because Ivy took it HOME in the run of the show (or at least, so I thought) and sounded unreal. Sure, she slipped once or twice, but I thought all in all she was a star. Apparently I was the only one, because Derek further hacks away at Ivy's ego and the whole workshop doesn't go over well and the investors are concerned and things just aren't looking great. Well, for everyone but Karen.
Karen is getting contacted by all these super big recording people and Derek loves her and everything just seems to be unicorns and rainbows. Hooray for Karen.
But I thought the real star of this episode was the writing, mostly for Derek Wills and Tom Levitt, who delivered some of the best lines I've heard all season. Here are a few of my favorite moments:
Derek: [on Michael Swift's son coming to visit] "The child thing never ceases to perplex me."
Tom: "That's because you're a reptile."
Derek: "…And then the leading lady got SARS. Remember SARS?"
Ivy: "Who knew your gaydar was so stupid?"
Tom: "My gaydar is not stupid! I do not have stupid gaydar. Ugh."
My hat is off to you, Smash writers, for finally getting it together and delivering some lovely dialogue moments. Bravo.
The other big part of this episode was the rise, climax and denouement of the Julia Houston-Michael Swift relationship. We start the episode with Tom walking in on Julia and Michael hardcore making out like a couple of hormonal teenagers at summer camp, only to find that Ellis has been watching/listening the whole time, like the gross little zit of a human he is. He then runs and tattles to Eileen, who puts him in his place (can I get an AMEN for Eileen?!) but is also now in on the secret. Julia has to leave rehearsal crying when she sees Michael playing with his son and ends their little affair, but Michael is not having it. We reach our climax during the run of the show, when Michael delivers an absolutely goosebump-inducing performance directly to Julia. This is effectively his last performance as Joe DiMaggio as, during the debrief of the workshop, Tom suggests firing Michael in an effort to revamp the show slash save Julia's sanity and marriage. So, peace out Michael Swift. It's been real.
Whew! I think this was probably one of the best episodes of Smash to date—finally, some plot progress! And the musical numbers in this show, like the actual music of them, are outstanding. I now have a Smash Pandora station and I love it. I am cautiously optimistic for the rest of the series, given they keep this momentum going. But ya know, as long as there is belting, I will be watching.
Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for watching KPRC Local 2!
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