The four coaches' personalities start to show as all seven contestants (plus a new one!) duet once more
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
S1 E2
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There are some television shows out there with subject matter that doesn’t quite match up with the title. Cougar Town is not about cougars. The Big Bang Theory has nothing to do with the big bang. And Happy Endings is decidedly not about happy endings. But Duets is not one of those shows. No, Duets is about… duets. And not much else.

Week two of ABC’s awkward turtle of singing competitions may or may not have solidified your decision to tune in or out in future weeks. The lack of personality development of any of the show’s eight contestants is perhaps cause for hesitation before awarding the show a coveted slot on mama’s DVR. An even more egregious lack of joyous banter between coaches Jennifer Nettles, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson and Robin Thicke may sing out a worse fate for the experimental program.

No singers were eliminated last week, and the same goes for this week, so we’ve still got plenty of time before we have to say goodbye to one of the eight amateurs whom — let’s be real — we never really got to care too much about anyway. Don’t most of these singing shows spend oodles of time on their audition process? Duets seems more like a vehicle for the four coaches to shine, with the amateur artists ostensibly competing in the more appropriately named America’s Next Top Backup Singer. Before I spew any more vitriol towards the banality of Thursday’s sophomore episode, let’s go through the night’s standings and remember just how uneventful this evening was (made all the more interesting by my recapping snack of Cheez Its and boxed wine, which has more or less the same amount of personality as Robin Thicke).

1. Meleana Brown and John Legend (Last week: N/A)

Tied for first was Hawaiian Meleana Brown, who replaced last week’s number two performer Johnny Gray due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Meleana immediately stole the show, leaning against Legend’s piano in a sparkling gown and crooning with her coach as if she’d been doing it for years. She seemed immensely comfortable onstage with Legend, much more so than other contestants felt with their coaches. “You know when you’ve got a sandwich with too much onion?” Robin began, launching into some metaphor about mustard proportions and cheese availability, essentially thereby comparing Meleana to a sandwich (on a Hawaiian roll, probs). Kelly, being the voice of reason that she is, simply responded, “What?!” And thus, America learned that Robin is the Drunk Blake Shelton of Duets.

NEXT: The best press John Travolta will get this week1. J Rome and Jennifer Nettles (Last week: 1)

If there’s an early ‘frontrunner’ in the ‘competition,’ it’s J Rome, who may be the only contestant with actual personality. After popping in at 1st place last week, J Rome had to settle for a tie with newcomer Meleana, which is actually perfect considering they had the best performances of the night. Singing “You’re The One That I Want” with J Nettles, J Rome brought all the pizazz of J Travolta, with none of the lawsuits! Rome danced the part with energy, as was necessary to match the bubble gum flair that oozes from Nettles. Unfortunately, he may have confused a lot of viewers with his post-performance assertion. “I am my biggest competition, because there can’t be another me,” he said, to which Quddus professed, “That’s one of the most thoughtful answers I’ve ever heard on a show like this.” Not quite, friend.

3. Bridget Carrington and John Legend (Last week: 6th)

Legend’s other amateur shot up in the ranks this week with a pleasant performance of “I Knew You Were Waiting.” I thought the ranking was a little generous, especially since Bridget nervously looked to Legend far too frequently. The two did blend nicely, though, and a little riff-off at the end of the song refreshed things a bit, most likely earning Bridget her bronze. After the performance, Bridget said she was in for the fight, which Quddus immediately discounted by saying, “I’m not intimidated by that. Out of her? Doesn’t work.” Robin spoke about how Bridget’s dress looked like a bag of Skittles, which makes me entirely too suspicious that Robin Thicke has never actually seen what a bag of Skittles looks like. Thankfully, Quddus says what we’re all thinking (finally!) by directing attention to Robin’s awful green vest-shirt, which made him look like a Hair-era Doug Funnie.

4. John Glosson and Jennifer Nettles (Last week: 4th)

John Glosson is an interesting case, and not because he looks unconventional (that mold-breaking reality trope has long since been realized). John just looks utterly bored out of his mind, peering out from his semi-shade glasses with all the excitement of Wilford Brimley at a spelling bee. It didn’t help that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is one of the most overdone songs on singing competitions, save for the rising nuisances in Adele’s classy catalog. Still, John and Jennifer had fun synergy, including some hilariously synced hand gestures (which Robin called out for being feminine and whimsical, not unlike his pompadour). Kelly predicted that John will go far in the competition, while Legend judged the performance to be “Broadway-ish,” in the same vein as Robin’s Skittles faux pas. John is solid, though, and sat pretty at 4th for the second week in a row.

5. Jordan Meredith and Kelly Clarkson (Last week: 7th)

I’m keen to believe in my colleague Annie “DUETSMSTR” Barrett’s theory last week that the other judges voted down Kelly’s amateurs out of quasi-spite, but Jordan Meredith’s performance this week deserved no higher than the ranking it was given. Channelling both Pink and Effie Trinket, she belted out “Misery,” although faltered with a weak ending. It played out more like a dress rehearsal with a bored audience that clapped along only every once in a while. Afterward, Quddus contributed, “Ironically enough, I’m not feeling any misery right now.” Legend thought that Jordan used Kelly as a crutch, which was painfully apparent and the most spot-on comment by Legend all evening.

NEXT: “Holy bottom three, Batman!” #ThingsRobinWouldHaveSaid

6. Alexis Foster and Robin (Last week: 3rd)

Alexis may have performed last, but you must have been blind not to notice her sitting with pursed lips behind Robin the entire night in the “Superstar Lounge.” (An aside: in college, we called the 24-hour Burger King the “BK Lounge,” so take that gross misuse of the word “lounge” however you choose. Truthfully, the Duets “Superstar Lounge” makes The Voice‘s “Sprint Lounge” look like the Burj Khalifa.) Alexis’s singing wasn’t the problem with her performance, though. No, I blame Robin for only picking songs that can relegate his amateur to singing background for him. The ever-wise Kelly totally called that out, too, saying the presentation felt disconnected and “it didn’t feel like a duet.” Yes! That’s the girl I voted for 10 years ago! If Kelly can continue calling out the rest of the coaches’ shenanigans, then we may have a show here after all.

7. Jason Farol and Kelly Clarkson (Last week: 8th)

Tough cookies for Jason Farol, the perennially unconfident amateur who continues to be completely upstaged by Kelly. Poor kid. Luckily, Jason got a chance to shine when he hit a wonderful solo in the middle of “Whenever You Call,” but due to the Official Bell Curve of Awkward Singing Competition Performances, the ending was as lackluster as the beginning. Save for the brief moment of excellence, Jason was critiqued by Legend: “It seems so much that you’re looking to her for approval.” Good. “It’s almost like the umbilical cord is attached.” Gross.

8. Olivia Chisholm and Robin (Last week: 5th)

If anyone deserved America’s sympathy last night (not that we get to vote or anything), it was Olivia, who suffered through a parade of Robin-isms like “You and I obviously have a sensual attraction” and “Did you do your homework!?” This was during Robin’s pre-recorded lecture about how life as a Thicke was difficult because Olivia only had one song to learn, but Robin had three. Three! “I can mess up and get away with it,” Robin promised, but the night’s catharsis came when Robin actually forgot the lyrics to a song that essentially repeated the phrase “Where Is The Love” over and over again (pointed out once again by Common Sense MVP Kelly Clarkson). From the opening notes of the entire song, though, there was no way it was going to be good, and not one but two mid-performance head tilts from Jennifer Nettles all but proved that it was as bad in the studio as it was on television. Olivia was pitchy, some synth instrument in the background was tortured, and a smattering of applause gave viewers an illuminating definition of what “smattering” means.

Are you hooked on Duets, or are you ready to cut the line and let it plummet to the bottom of the ocean? Are there any contestants that you’re loving so far, or are you just as unenthusiastic about the group as I am?

Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, and Robin Thicke sing with unknowns
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes
  • Bruce Paltrow