'The Blind Auditions: Part 3' offers up disappointing talent, giving Cee Lo more time to stroke his white kitten like a Bond villain plotting world domination.
I don’t know, maybe with three separate singing competitions now on the air America’s well of untapped talent is starting to run dry. At least that’s the way it seemed on the third night of The Voice‘s blind auditions. We all know the show usually saves the best singers for the very end, but tonight there was barely a decent voice at all until the second hour. The judges made some baffling calls as well, picking twelve singers, several of whom were truly mediocre talents, while leaving one unique, arresting singer to a fate of bowling-alley maintenance and food service. Of course, she had the unshakeable albatross of Perez Hilton around her tattooed neck, so I suppose she was doomed to failure going in. We’ll get to my ranking of the singers who made the cut in a minute, but first let’s start with those who found themselves passed over.
WINTER RAE, 26
Her name was Winter Rae, and she had elaborate tattoos running up and down her neck, arms, and cleavage. With her ink and her blue hair, she looked the very definition of a rocker chick. Suddenly it seemed Juliet Simms had a competitor horning in on her gravelly territory. However, Winter, Yuuzhan Vong looks and all, fashioned herself not a rocker, but a soul singer. If Ant and Dec were hosting The Voice, they’d probably look smugly into the camera when she launched into Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” as if to say, “And you thought she was going to go all Joan Jett on us!” It was a pretty arresting cover, to be sure, and Winter was even given moral support backstage by that Louella Parsons of the Blog Era, Perez Hilton. But somehow the judges completely ignored her in favor of at least three far inferior talents. So it’s back to her job as a waitress at L.A. bowling alley Lucky Strike.
ELLEY DUHE, 19
Somehow the teacher father of this teenager agreed to let her drop out of school in her senior year to pursue her music career. Bad call. Though she has a decent singing voice, and a terrific attitude, she, like so many sprightly blondes her age, willingly sacrifices her individuality to pursue Taylor Swift ingenue shtick. Christina definitely thought about pushing her button — like David Lynch’s assistant, Lil, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Christina now communicates almost entirely through contorted facial expressions — but she thought better of it. The fact is, Elley’s falsetto definitely verged on unraveling, but Adam was still so impressed with how she held her final note that he said, “If I could go back in time, I think we’d all press our buttons.” Theoretical time travel is little consolation, though, for nationally televised rejection.
DAVID GRACE, 28
This brawny former Texas A&M football player was more understandably passed over. Though he was good-natured enough to admit that most people who look at him think he’s a security guard or a UFC fighter, his rote rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” seemed ready for both karaoke and American Idol. I love how Blake was playing a chicken game with Adam over whether or not to push his button, but, finally, he opted out. (The psychological dynamics of button pushing on The Voice are fascinating. Once one button has been pushed it seems like the others are that much more likely to also stake their claim because of the fear of missing out on talent to their competition — even if that particular singer didn’t really strike their fancy. Game theorists, take note.) Still, David’s only been singing for three years, so he could still have time to grow. Or have a decent career as a bouncer.
NEXT: Our Ranking of the Nine Most Prominent Singers the Judges Deemed Worthy of Selection
9. ERIN WILLETT, 22, Gaithersburg, MD
Sob Story: Her loving father has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He looked her in the eye and said that he was going to die but that he wanted to see her follow her dream of being a singer.
The Voice: Erin sang “I Want You Back,” clearly sending a hint to the judges. Blake was the only one who picked her, though, and it’s hard to imagine why. I don’t know, maybe he’s a huge Jackson 5 fan. There wasn’t much to her voice other than sheer lung power. Soulful in a Mama Cass-lite sort of way, I suppose, but nothing to leave an impression.
8. JAMES MASSONE, 23, Boston
Sob Story: Tangentially involved in a mass shooting at a Boston recording studio that took the lives of several aspiring rappers.
The Voice: Singing “Find Your Love,” James clearly surprised the judges, when they turned around, with the fact that he’s white — they said so in as many words. He has a distinct Frank Ocean sound, but his falsetto precipitously lost its intensity. Blake called it when he said, “You waited till the end to fall apart.” In fact, his whole performance had fallen apart by the end, though all of the judges had already picked him except Adam. This Beantown native who works on cahs in the yahd but decided to follow his hahrt ultimately chose Cee Lo to work on his ahrt.
7. SARAH GOLDEN, 29, from Houston, TX
Sob Story: The Voice was playing mighty coy about the appearance of Ms. Golden. Seriously, I thought, what with the way they kept her hidden in the shadows for so long and played clips of her saying that she was “declared not marketable by record companies,” that she was going to be a burn victim or had acid scarring or something. But the reality was that she was a lovely, unvarnished presence, distinctly reminiscent of k.d. lang.
The Voice: If only she had been reminiscent of k.d. lang in sound as well as appearance, and that I think may be more of a clue as to why record companies declared her “not marketable.” Unfortunately, she chose Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I,” one of the more vocally challenging piano-rock anthems in recent memory. One that crescendos from quiet vulnerability (“I’d give anything again to be your baby doll”) to skyscraping anguish on the chorus. It’s a song that demands absolute confidence from a singer. But Golden seemed to retreat from the challenges of “Yoü and I” rather than ascend them. Out of sheer nervousness or lack of polish she came across noticeably breathy. Maybe her inner Gaganess is just waiting for some positive affirmation in order to be released, and Cee Lo seemed to appreciate the particular task of grooming her for his team. Especially when he suggested that she would be “an experiment.”
Key Line: “People are surprised when they hear my singing voice…because it doesn’t match what they see.” Golden’s got to stop worrying about her looks and focus on her voice. That could make this the perfect competition for her.
NEXT: One young man has great expectations. Seriously, his name is out of Great Expectations. 6. KATRINA PARKER, 34, Los Angeles
Sob Story: Aspiring singer who’s confined to a 9-to-5 underwriting job. Take a number. So Carson Daly drove up in a Kia — tellingly, the new pumpkin coach of the 21st century — and hand delivered her invite to her office, in front of her startled coworkers. In 2008 she started getting sick, due to hidden mold in her house, and she was unable to sing for two years.
The Voice: Looking like an American Adele, Katrina shares the tendency of the British phenom to appear and sound older than her age. She had some breath control issues on her version of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” but it was good enough for Cee Lo to flash his Cheshire Cat grin. Still, only Adam ended up picking her.
5. JEFF McBRIDE, 51, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Sob Story: In his former life as a boxer, he tore one of his retinas by taking a thumb to the eye. So now he wears sunglasses at all times.
The Voice: Singing Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” the only thing he really seemed to share with Wonder was the sunglasses. James Brown seemed more his muse, and he served up a fiery, passionate, foot-shufflin’ sonic brew. He got you…and two of the judges, Cee Lo and Christina. But Cee Lo seemed oddly unenthused by McBride, so the Floridian ended up choosing to join Team Xtina, instead. An aside: I loved that odd tug-of-war between Cee Lo and Christina about who was more soulful, with Cee Lo just ending the debate with “Everybody knows you’ve got soul, girl.”
4. PIP, 19, Marietta, GA
Sob Story: With a Dickensian name like Pip, you’d expect an elaborate, four-hanky, Bildungsroman-worthy backstory. But no, other than an unfortunate mononym, and even more unfortunate choice of bowtie-centric couture, Pip’s life seems peachy keen.
The Voice: You’d expect something pretty vanilla from a 19-year-old who chooses to pattern his fashion sense on George Will and Tucker Carlson. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But what he lacked for soulfulness on “House of the Rising Sun,” he made up for with spit-polished technical precision — enough to be the only singer of the night to prompt all four judges to swivel ’round in their chairs. To paraphrase another Dickens hero, “Please, sir, the judges want some more!” Four sales pitches ensued: Blake courted Pip by accusing Christina of being an inattentive coach and sleeping till noon; Adam praised the bowtie; Christina merely batted her bullion-colored lashes; and Cee Lo conserved his energy for more cat-stroking. Pip ended up choosing Adam, and Christina lamented her loss by calling Adam “a salesman,” while she doesn’t “feel the need to be a salesman, per se.” Does that explain the disappointing sales of Bionic?
NEXT: An arm wrestling contest nearly breaks out between Adam and Cee Lo.3. JORDIS UNGA, 29
Sob Story: She’s beautiful, talented, and comes from a loving home environment. What’s there to sob over? Well, maybe her father’s fondness for muumuus.
The Voice: Jordis has pretty much crystalline pipes, but her choice of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” felt a little tired. (He hella old!) Adam immediately announced, “I love this song!” I mean, who doesn’t, Adam? But the Tongan-Swedish singer was still able to impart a little memorability to even this, the 1,338,765th cover “Maybe I’m Amazed” has received, through good, clean sangin’. Everyone turned around except for Adam, and her father launched into his Tongan version of Victor Cruz’ touchdown Salsa.
2. ERIN MARTIN, 27
Sob Story: Models don’t have sob stories.
The Voice: This bouffant-haired, headband-wearing model styles herself “an Egyptian warrior princess,” and chose “Hey There, Delilah” for its presumed Old Testament relevance. Her voice quirkily quivers with an endearing, though meticulously crafted sense of girlishness. When looking at her perform I couldn’t help but think of renowned cultural critic Jeffrey Sconce’s definition of “quirk”: “‘quirk’ is the studied performance of not being like everyone else, which of course only infuriates those who recognize that said quirkiness is precisely a performance that implicitly defines itself against everyone else’s ‘normality’…You don’t get a gig on a network sitcom [or advance to the next round of a singing competition] by being ‘quirky.’ You get it by conforming to a recognizable and thus marketable performance of quirk that will attract those who still stupidly believe in the authenticity of the quirky.” Still, even the growing tiresomeness of that kind of prepackaged, charm-bracelet quirk, not to mention phrases like “adorkable,” is eminently preferable to the melismatic karaoke bombast of wannabe American Idol divas and glee club culture. Hence, I’ll root for Erin Martin to stay on The Voice just long enough to land a guest spot on New Girl, where I’ll never have to worry about seeing her again. Of course, she chose the Godfather of Quirk to be her mentor. “It was fateful that we meet,” Cee Lo said. “She was given to me. I deserve her.”
Key Line: Cee Lo telling this “creature of a woman” that “Quite naturally you belong to me. Don’t you agree?” I assume that’s his go-to pick-up line. Blake looked like he was on the verge of telling Cee Lo to go “forget” himself.
1. CHRIS CAULEY, 27, Atlanta
Sob Story: Cauley’s #1 musical influence, his grandmother, a bluegrass musician, recently died.
The Voice: Far from singing bluegrass, Chris chose to cover “Grenade” and turned in a fairly unique, grainy, certainly more mature take on the Bruno Mars hit. It was easily the most consistently executed performance of the night, imparting real grit to Mars’ gleaming neo-soul grooves. But it was Cauley’s falsetto on the lyric “Jump in front of a train for you…” that finally sold Adam on it. Chris suggested that Adam and Cee Lo arm wrestle for his loyalty, to which Adam later tweeted, “Arm wrestling Cee Lo wouldn’t go well for me. However, I’m pretty sure I could take the cat. It’s on @PurrfecttheCat.” Despite a lack of bicep power, Adam still earned Cauley’s loyalty.
The three other team additions–Nathan Parrett (“The Joker”), Brian Fuente (“Paris Ooh, La La”) and Moses Stone (“Let’s Get It Started”) were breezed over so quickly, it’s hard to render a critical perspective. I’m interested in how Stone is the first MC to make it through on The Voice, yet puzzled why any MC would choose the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started” for his audition.
And so part three of the blind auditions comes to an end. Did you share my relative disappointment? Do you agree that Chris Cauley has the most potential of the lot? And how much longer do you think it will be before Purrfect the Cat has his own swivel chair?