The Voice recap: What does 'chops' mean?
In the final round of blind auditions, a rock duo competes with a soul singer and a "Jack of all genres," while Christina teaches Blake the meaning of a new word
Hello, and welcome to the Vocal Olympics. Or, as Blake called it, “that treadmill of vocal chords you’ll be runnin’ on.” Tonight, the competition was so cutthroat, not even a self-described “triple threat” like the beat-boxing, grunge-rocking opera singer Cameron Novack (a.k.a. Novackaine), stood a chance to play for Team America. Though, to be fair, what brave soul would want a beat-boxing, grunge-rocking opera singer to represent this great nation?
Luckily, Christina Aguilera was also playing for the home team, and she never ceased to surprise us. One minute, she’d be slumped way down into her cleavage, half listening to the folks on stage, half contemplating something private, like, What ingredients go into a vodka soda again? The next minute, she was opening her mouth, and letting rip a gale-force voice strong enough to blow-dry all the gel in Carson’s hair. At one point, she barely even let Cee Lo’s singer get offstage without shaming him first! (“I like the way you sang, “They tried to make me go-oh to re-hab,” she told Wade, publicly out-Winehouse-ing him in front of the crowd.) Say what you will about her, but Holy Mother of Snooki, the lady can sing. So tonight, let’s start the breakdown with…
By far, my favorite part of the night was watching Christina and the sweet-pipes Sera Hill perform Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down” as if it were a full-blown, hold-my-diamond-knuckle-rings brawl. Sera busted out a Yeaaaaah. Christina countered with a Yeaah-aaaahh. Then they continued to yeah back and forth until it seemed they’d summoned the power to call Mary J. before them, jazz hands a-fluttering like tiny helicopters around her head. In Sera, Christina had definitely met her match.
All of this was a big relief since Sera admitted, pre-audition, that she’d be very sad if Christina didn’t pick her. “She’s one of my inspirations,” admitted the petite R&B diva, whose fur and sequins combo confirmed that Xtina was a fashion inspiration as well. Luckily, Christina ended up being the only one with a spot left on her team, and after hearing Sera’s smooth, gospel-infused voice hit every single note on that long slide up and down the octave (“My whole. World’s. UP. Side. Dow-own“), the coach’s freshly manicured fist came down hard on the red button.
“I’ve been waiting for something to come along and excite me as much as you did,” Christina enthused. “At the end, I just wanted to grab a mic and get up there and sing it with you.” And then she did go up and sing it with her, beautifully. Because when Christina Aguilera wants something to really excite her, that something had better be Christina Aguilera.
Team Aguilera also lucked out by scoring Glen Hansard of Once. Oh wait, sorry, that’s actually Lee Koch, a California golden boy with a talent for making “good party breads.” Yes, that means he’s a baker, but it was important that he let the coaches know that he’s “a musician who likes to bake,” rather than “a baker who pursues music.”
Having cleared that up, Lee launched into a perfectly nice but kind of forgettable, Ray LaMontagne-style version of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Christina initially seemed unsure of him, but once he started blowing on his harmonica, she pushed her button, knowing that this could be a good symbolic move for a coach whose team didn’t have any instrumentalists yet. “Even though I personally don’t get up on stage and play an instrument, I work with some of the best musicians in the entire world,” she insisted. Besides, she told Lee, “Your voice, it spoke to me.” It sure did. And that speaking sounded a lot like Blake, Adam, and Cee Lo, all of whom were pointing to Christina’s button and whispering, Pushitpushitpushit!
NEXT: If they’re not the best rock band in Rixeyville, VA, at least they’re the only rock band from Rixeyville, VA.
TEAM CEE LO:
Guess which Voice stars got a shout-out from Poison’s Bret Michaels before the show? That would be The Shields Brothers, two rocker siblings who live on a farm with their parents in Rixeyville, VA. Tonight, these two bros were competing for the ultimate prize: winning The Voice, and not having to live on a farm with their parents in Rixeyville, VA. Didn’t this story sound like the plot to a Will Ferrell movie? Even the dialogue was like something from Step Brothers 2. The blonde Shields brother revealed that they practiced in their parents’ garage, which they called “the garagio,” using a faux-Italian accent. And the brunette Shields brother insisted, “We think America needs to be punched in the face with rock ‘n’ roll.”
You’ve gotta give these guys credit: unlike many of the ultra-serious contestants here (cough, Tony Vincent, cough), they have a sense of humor. When the Brothers kicked into Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” they were all dolled up in their finest punk-rock Ken doll gear, right down to their brightly-colored jackets and the scarves in their back pockets. Even their middle-aged father wore a pink jacket backstage. Now that’s solidarity!
Plus, they put a ton of energy into this song. When they sang, “Sweat! Sweat! Sweat!” they sweated, and sweated, and sweated. Blake totally nailed their appeal: “It was chaos listening to it, but that’s what was fun about it.” And yet, even Blake realized that the Shields Brothers were meant for a certain other coach who’s fond of guitar-driven wildness and outrageous fashion. Yes, that would be Cee Lo, who observed, “The world needs some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.” Well, it’s either that, or the world needs a punch in the face.
Team Cee Lo wrapped up its final slots with one promising contestant and one who was…er, a little less solid. There was WADE (a.k.a. Wade Brown from season 10 of American Idol), who knocked out an effortlessly soulful version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” by imitating everyone from Al Green to Stevie Wonder, switching registers and inflections so easily that Cee Lo called his performance: “a Stax version of a Motown-inspired Amy Winehouse song.” And then there was Cheesa (pronounced Chess-uh), the Hawaiian siren who wailed Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” in such a low register, you didn’t have to wonder what she’d sound like if she were one. Though she wasn’t stellar, Cheesa hedged her bets by flirting with Cee Lo a little, which was kind of uncomfortable for us. But he still called her for his team. “This is a platform unparalleled,” he told her. “You could go on from here to be whatever you want to be.” And if she wanted to be Mrs. Cee Lo, well, he didn’t seem to mind.
NEXT: Never, ever interrupt your haaaah-ahhhh, says Blake
Why did Lex Land suffer from so much stage fright? The Austin-based singer-songwriter (whose parents apparently named after Prince’s “Alexa de Paris“) has already toured with Paolo Nutini, written songs that were featured on Castle, Private Practice, and One Tree Hill, and appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly. But her voice was still very shaky and nervous during her rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a song that’s gotten a bit of a resurgence since Adele and Bon Iver covered it last year. (Why do contestants keep covering Adele songs, which are almost impossible to sing? Note to you hyper-ambitious millennials out there: it’s good to have dreams, but you have to low-ball them enough so that you can actually achieve them.)
Christina even made a little “eek!” face when Lex tried to hit the high notes. And Cee Lo confessed that, “There were times when pitch was a problem for you.” But Blake was immediately drawn in by that “sultry, sexy thing” that happened with her voice in the lower register, a sound made “all the guys and girls go huh-ahhhh.” So why’d he push his button so long after Adam? “Because I wasn’t finished with my huh-ahhhh,” insisted Blake. “Everybody knows you never interrupt your huh-ahhhh, ever.” Enjoying this little Waiting to Exhale moment, Lex went with Blake.
Far better than Lex was Adley Stump, a country-singing sorority sister with an ultra-strength voice and an even stronger headband that looked like it was designed to hold her brains in place. She showed up with her mom, who said she always knew her daughter was a catch because, “When I was potty-training her at the age of 2, she sang her A-B-C’s for Skittles.” (Adley listened in with an expression that said, Mooooom! So embarrassing!) As for Adley, she was excited to share the stage with Christina because, when she was in college, “We would all dance to ‘Lady Marmalade,’ and like, totally get up on the tables and rock out to that.” (Somewhere, Adley’s mom was listening with an expression that said, Adley! So embarassing!)
Bellowing out Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” with a near-yodel, Adley totally earned her Skittles. Both Christina and Blake choose her, and their showdown was rough. Christina: “Your power blew me away. You have chops, you have really good chops.” Blake: “What does chops mean?” Christina: “See? You don’t know because you don’t have any.” Ouch! Even Cee Lo’s cat has shorter claws.
Though, ultimately, Blake got the best revenge: Adley chose him, and Christina had to play nice. “Don’t worry,” she purred. “We’re still gonna go fishing.” Maybe. But that fish hook’s gonna be jammed in her mouth.
NEXT: Team Levine and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Ego of Novackine
For his final two slots, Adam chose two singers who often performed with their families. Orlando Napier joined his father’s band after learning to sing in jail. (A bar fight landed him there.) In fact, according to his dad, he was so talented that he ended up fronting the whole group. “It’s a thrill to see him do the thing that I used to do, and doing it better than me,” said his dad, very generously. Now, Orlando wants to keep competing on The Voice so that he can get his father to play sax on the show. And his pleasant, piano-anchored take on John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” suggested that he might survive long enough to make that happen. Adam praised his “impeccable timing.” Then again, he also admitted, “Nobody else picked you but me.”
I’m still not quite sure what to make of Whitney Myer, with her hippie hair and biker jacket and ’80s-MTV-star earrings and vintage-Hollywood-glam ball gown. As one of my EW colleagues said, “It looks like four stylists divided her up into quadrants and did their thing.” And the fact that she plays with her father and uncle in a band she described as “pop-soul-funk” only made things more confusing. Still, one thing’s for sure: the lady can sing the hell out of an Alicia Keys song. And that’s exactly what she did to “No One,” cooing and growling and oh-oh-OH-oh-OH-ing until every single judge turned around.
When it came time to argue over Whitney, Reverend Christina Aguilera really got down and preached the Gospel of Xtina, slamming her fist and testifying that she would love and nurture and protect and lay down and die for this girl. But Adam needed just a few calm words to bring Whitney over to his side: “You can win this whole thing…And I promise you that I can do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Why didn’t Whitney pick Christina, who can match her vocal runs, or Cee Lo, who might be the only guy on stage who truly understands what “pop-soul-funk” means? Even Carson was confused. Why Adam? he asked her backstage. “I mean,” Whitney clarified, “he said, ‘You can win this.'” Yep. Forget nurturing and supporting. Winning wins every time.
And speaking of winning, I’m putting my money on Adley, Sera, and Whitney tonight. What about you? Please discuss your favorites in the comments. I’m waiting for the first brave soul who will stand up and be counted: which one of you will admit that, before the eliminations, you were Team Novakaine?