Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol Week 8: The Voice

Will We Still Love Them Tomorrow?

This week NBC launched their version of a singing contest that is a direct challenge to what has been a decade-long thrashing from Fox’s talent show juggernaut. In case anyone misses the point of the gauntlet that has been handily thrown down, it is called The Voice.

The challenge appears to be this: how can you have a singing contest on TV that is not based on looks? How can you have a singing contest in which participants are not judged?

Cee-Lo Green dressed down

The Voice gets around these problems with a complex and devious structure that pits the judges against one another, merely using the “contestants” as weapons in their battle to the death! It’s a three-round process. First, the judges must find eight people to be on their team (this is the “blind” part); then they will coach them to some kind of sing-off; then the audience at home gets to vote on something, but I’m not sure what. Either way, it’s a tasty panel of judges who are supposed to bring something different to the coaching table: Maroon 5’s Adam Levine (Pop EMO types?); Christina Aguilera (divas?); Blake Shelton (country singers?); and Cee-Lo Green (more gloriously fabulous divas?).

Christina wearing considerably less make-up and real hair, back in the day

These four are ensconced in high-back twirly chairs which are turned away from the singers. They have a big button they must hit to turn their chair around to see the singer and bid for a chance to have them on their team. The positioning of the chairs is such that the judges can see one another’s reactions at all times, whether the chairs are faced the same way or not. Hustling for team members is encouraged. Blake Shelton is clearly in his element and will gain enormously from the exposure he’s getting from being on a mainstream prime-time show. He’s the alpha male here and they all know it. I never really noticed how weird Cee-Lo’s body is before, possible because he’s always swathed in some outrageous costume. Tiny arms! Adam Levine comes across like a whiny boy, and his comment about hearing the Rascal Flatts song “Bless The Broken Road” — “I’ve never heard that song, but I'm pretty sure no one could sing it as well as you just did” will not have gone down well with the legion of country fans watching courtesy of the big man. (Uh...Gary Le Vox?)

Christina Aguilera is a yappy mother hen with a giant weave that looks like someone flat-ironed one of Marie Antoinette’s more elaborate coiffures and set it upon her miniature head. Then added a good dose of red lippy to complete the Streetwalker look.

Oh what the heck: I'll let them explain it.

This is a show that looks about as staged as a prime-time show can possibly be, but it is entertaining. Which brings us to last night’s American Idol — where everyone had to sing Carole King songs. Girlfriend wrote a shitload of songs.

Here’s a run-down. Now that we’ve reached the last six contestants, let’s also look at who’s in it to win it.

Jacob appeared wearing a very loud suit because now that Paul has left, who else is going to? There is no way Jacob can win, it’s just a case of when he will be leaving, and The Inky Jukebox predicts: TODAY.

Lauren did NOT overcome her performance fear—the backing singers carried her load. She also did not overcome her wardrobe, which has become as predictable as her delivery: earrings the size of satellite receivers paired with a short skirt dress with boots. She, too, has no chance of winning, and hasn’t really been a contender for a long time now. She’s just too young and inexperienced, despite the alleged power of her voice.

Scotty gave his best performance so far, taking it slow, and at last! holding his microphone in one hand. Did you see how he managed that, though? He has clearly been instructed to keep his other hand on his thigh, and the pressure forced all sorts of hokey twitches and looks to come over his face. Scotty’s a top four guy who can sing; he just needs to show some versatility and lose his bad habits.

James truly IS in it to win it, and might yet. The opening bars to his song were fantastic, and he is confident enough as a performer to push his own envelope each and every time. James has big sticky-out ears. The lighting shows them to great advantage; he does not need the earring as a distraction. Ditch it, James.

Casey has been in it to win it from the get-go, and looks like he works hard at it. He delivered another unique performance that cleverly showed him tinkling the ivories with one hand while singing. I’m not sure if he heard Randy’s parting comment about stopping the growling, but I hope so. Casey: NO MORE Grrrowling or Mmmphs!

Haley is as annoying as ever and also has no chance of winning, and cannot get rid of her bad performance habits either. Every song sounds the same, and is accompanied by identical arm swings and head tosses and much-too-short dresses. Wear some pants.

This was also duets week (when hasn’t it been?) so we got to see the same old pairs team up YET AGAIN. Since the producers are clearly enamored of putting actual lovers together, this made for some awkward teamwork. Casey and Haley’s bit actually worked because he makes her better; each is out to best the other and thus raise the bar. Scotty and Lauren denied that anything is going on, so after a highly suggestive interview, they sat (again!) and sang awkwardly. Heck, these kids are only teenagers; of course they are going to be mortified that their dating life is broadcast to all and sundry!  This left James and Jacob, who obviously were not thrilled, and though they gave it their all, it was a mismatched duo, and really: Jacob Lusk singing about going on a date with a girl?

Here’s an idea: pair different folks up! The Inky Jukebox would liked to have seen Casey and Jacob, Haley and Scotty and Lauren and James, for example.

Better yet — let’s pair them with The Voice’s coaches!

  • Jacob needs Adam to iron out the glorious wailing.

  • Lauren needs Christina to kick her in the ass and show her how to be a child star and loosen the fuck up on stage.

  • Scotty needs Cee-Lo to give him some crazy-ass soul funk.

  • James needs Blake to make the transition from young singing buck to serious heartthrob who can deliver ballads.

  • Casey needs Christina to show him how to tame the growl.

  • Haley needs Blake to calm her down and smack the silly out of her when she goes all pageant on his ass (note we did not say “smack her silly”).

Bottom Three: Jacob, Lauren and Scotty. Going home? Jacob.

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