The Voice recap: And Then There Were Two
All four finalists proved that they deserve to win during Season One's last performance show -- but the competition has really become a two-horse race
My goodness, how the time has flewn! It seems like only yesterday we were watching Christina, Blake, Cee Lo, and Adam press those comically big red buttons to make their comically big red Star Trek chairs turn around for the very first time. But somehow, ten weeks have passed since The Voice premiered — and just a few hours from now, we’ll learn who has won the first season of The Most Exciting Singing Competition On TV.™ What’s more, in what may be a reality TV first, I think the vast majority of Voice viewers would agree that they’ll be pretty happy no matter who gets the title. Dia, Beverly, Javier, and Vicci are all both talented and deserving; it seems likely that all four of them will come out of this show with record deals. No matter what happens, then, tomorrow’s finale should be satisfying.
Before we can speculate about the results, of course, we have to talk about everyone’s final performances. In tonight’s episode, each contestant sang both an original song — written, alas, by third-party songwriters rather than the show’s mentors or contestants — and a duet with his or her coach. Only iTunes sales of the original song, though, will count toward a vocalist’s vote total… which is good news for the two contestants whose originals worked, and bad news for the two contestants who shined in their duets but didn’t make a great impression with their originals. But which of the finalists fall into which camp? Let’s find out together!
Our two-hour odyssey began with a performance by the coaches that was, according to Carson, thrown together “just a few hours” before taping. After the host noted that Xtina and co. wanted to acknowledge the stress their contestants were under and a familiar riff began to play, we all knew what was coming: a cover of “Ice, Ice, Baby.” Or, you know, Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” It’s actually a good thing C-town warned us this song was a last-minute addition to tonight’s lineup, because man, the number was… not good. Blame a combination of more crappy sound mixing (for the first time ever on this show, the backing band was actually too quiet), tempo problems, and seeming confusion over who was supposed to be singing when.
Thankfully, the memory of that faulty “Pressure” was wiped away when the finalists emerged. Everyone was clad in black and white — everyone, that is, except Dia, who chose to stand out in a floor-length red dress. Foreshadowing? There was banter; there was Carson reminding us that this wasn’t his first time at the rodeo (“It’s so loud in here. It’s like TRL 10 years ago,” he quipped. Who else would watch a show in which Carson and Christina just reminisced about the golden age of TRL?); there was, mercifully, one of our final trips to the V Room. That place must have “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here” emblazoned above its gates. Alison Haislip seemed to realize that her Fame Timer was rapidly approaching 14:59, so she tried to compensate by being even more irritating than usual.
NEXT: And then the show actually started
Finally, Javier took the stage to perform his original song, “Stitch by Stitch.” Since reality singing show originals not called “A Moment Like This” have a tendency to defy the laws of physics by simultaneously sucking and blowing, my expectations for the tune itself — rather than Javier’s performance — weren’t too high. But “Stitch by Stitch” is a perfectly good pop song — it’s catchy enough to be a viable hit, but melodically interesting enough that it doesn’t just sound like a weak imitation of similar songs. And Javier sang it perfectly, keeping his runs in check throughout the majority of the performance and indulging himself more at the end, when it really counted. The coaches all agreed that the song suited Javier completely, though Christina delivered her comments in such a flat way that it was difficult to gauge how she really felt about it. Maybe she was just miffed that this time, the hat stayed on.
Dia’s duet with Blake came next. The pair elected to dress like the Blues Brothers’ lost siblings as they crooned a symbolic song: Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Dia’s not afraid anymore, gosh-dangit! To be fair, the anime-eyed darling really does seem a lot more confident onstage now than she was in the early days of the show; then again, that could just be because these days, she doesn’t have to deal with Serabee (remember her?) scream-singing in her face.
Vicci‘s original song, “Afraid to Sleep,” was produced by Butch Walker, a man who’s worked with artists like Pink and Dashboard Confessional — the latter of whom were once a “guilty pleasure” of Vicci’s, she told us. Oh, Vicci, you just got a million times more relatable! Did you, too, once yearn for someone to kiss you like they meant it? Ahem. Anyway. “Afraid to Sleep” wasn’t as good a fit for Vicci as “Stitch by Stitch” was for Javier. For one thing, Vicci’s song had a weird, dated quality that doesn’t really mesh with her contemporary vocals — it sounded like a Bonnie Tyler b-side. For another, “Stitch”‘s lyrics weren’t exactly Sondheim, but they were better than “Never realized how much I was in love with you/’Til you started sleeping with someone new.” And finally — hm. I just Googled those words to make sure I had them right, and discovered that “Afraid to Sleep” was apparently once recorded by Dido. (Her version has the same lyrics, but doesn’t sound quite so ’80s.) So what, exactly, were the requirements for these “original songs”?
Let’s think about that tomorrow. The coaches all professed their love for Vicci when she was done, as is their wont. Cee Lo and his amazing/ridiculous crimson and black Andre Leon Talley robes told his girl that he believes in her both as a person and as a personality. And in the end, that’ll probably mean more than the fact that Vicci was saddled with a not-so-new new song.
NEXT: The truth about Dia
After the commercial break — during which I learned that my local news would include a story about “designer bath salt drugs;” New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of! — the competition paused for a visit from Ne-Yo and Pitbull, who might just be the male Beverly (watch the way he vigorously shakes his head while performing, then tell me I’m wrong). The green lasers that filled the stage at the beginning of their song filled me with hope that we might see a recreation of Jennifer Lopez’s seminal “Waiting for Tonight” video. This, obviously, didn’t happen. Later, Brad Paisley stopped by to give us another interlude; he sang “Don’t Drink the Water,” which documents a man’s struggles with Montezuma’s Revenge. One day, one of these finalists might be invited to interrupt the action during a reality show’s penultimate episode. That’s when they’ll know they’ve made it.
Speaking of Beverly: For their duet, she and Christina sang an acoustic version of Xtina’s own “Beautiful.” Mostly, it was, well, beautiful; these two harmonized better than any of the other coach/contestant pair. The song was also a nice, subtle rebuttal to everyone who’s criticized Beverly’s look for being too aggressive or masculine. The way Bev and Christina arbitrarily slowed things down and sped them up, though, was distracting. After they finished, Carson trotted out Katharine McPhee to remind us that the former American Idol star is going to be singing her own version of “Beautiful” on NBC’s upcoming series Smash, which I predict will be all of our favorite show this time next year.
While watching Dia sing her original, “Inventing Shadows,” my roommate made a comment that may have forever altered my opinion of The Voice‘s frontrunner: “You can’t convince me this isn’t a secret Avril Lavigne song.” On reflection, Dia’s enunciation does seem pretty Avrilian — especially when coupled with the Livejournal angst-filled lyrics of her ditty: “And you stare out the window at the passing cars/And you look at the sky, thank your unlucky stars.” Suddenly, I felt as disillusioned as the subject of “Inventing Shadows.”
Then Dia sang, “Keep on inventing shadows/Where there are none,” just as the camera revealed that the shadows had actually been right behind the singer all along. And just like that, I felt better. Afterwards, Christina rightfully pointed out the irony of Blake including ridiculous silhouetted dancers in a performance mere weeks after ridiculing the ridiculous dancers in Lily Elise’s ill-fated “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” He shot back that he could get away with mimes behind shadowboxes — because he had “an amazing singer like Dia Frampton.” Hm, how do we feel about that explanation? Cee Lo quickly diffused the tension by calling the performance wonderful, as usual, and predicting that it’d be #1 on iTunes. He wasn’t far off; as of this writing, “Inventing Shadows” is #2.
NEXT: That man! That man! Shamon!
Another duet came after the break. This time, Javier and Adam were in the spotlight. They performed a pretty damn fine version of “Man in the Mirror” — or should I say that Javier performed a pretty damn fine version of the Michael Jackson classic, since Adam’s vocals were almost entirely drowned out throughout the performance. At one point, I’m pretty sure they were being backed by a gospel choir, but I may have hallucinated that since gospel choirs have somehow become a dime a dozen on The Voice.
It pains me to say this, but Beverly‘s original, “Lovesick,” was the least successful solo song of the night. Xtina’s shiny-scalped chanteuse did what she could with the material she was given, but the tune itself was kind of tuneless; moments after Bev stopped singing, I couldn’t remember anything about her song besides its repeated chorus of “Lovesick! Lovesick! Sick of — Lovesick!” What was the name of the song, again? Regardless, Beverly won praise for being original, as well as this dubious commendation from Blake: “If music was crack, you would have a serious problem.” Wait, what? Did he mean that Beverly loves music too much, or that her music is like crack? My head hurts.
All was forgiven, though, as soon as Cee Lo and Vicci took the stage to perform the last song of the night — a duet of “Love Is a Battlefield.” The Red Menace’s flair for the theatrical can be hit or miss. In this case, though, it led to an inventive reimagining of an over-covered song that was alternately absurd and inspired. Both singers wore outlandish, color-coded armor (Vicci’s was black; Cee Lo’s, naturally, was scarlet) and roared the song like warriors while two opposing teams of child soldiers cavorted fiercely around them. I couldn’t make this up if I tried, people. It was kind of like what I imagine the Karate Kid remake to be, except multiplied by Battle Royale and maybe this video, and also a color-blocked acid trip. In a word: Fantastic. I only regret that I have but one 10 best/worst performances list to give my country.
And, with that, Season One’s last performance show went out on a high note. The competition is incredibly close, but objectively, I’d have to say that Javier won the night; he sounded phenomenal on both his original song (currently #5 on iTunes) and his duet with Adam. Still, the Dia Machine will be pretty tough to beat — she’s got more fan support than any other finalist, and her songs have consistently sold better than those of her competitors. It seems that neither Vicci nor Beverly can overcome Javier or Dia at this point, especially since neither one sang a particularly memorable original song (or, in Vicci’s case, “original”). So I’m going to go ahead and boldly predict that tomorrow night around 9pm ET, we’ll learn that Dia Frampton has been crowned The Voice‘s first-ever champeen — though Javier could certainly still take the title if he moves enough singles.
Do you agree with my prognosis, or do you think Bev and Vicci shouldn’t be counted out just yet? Overall, what did you think of tonight’s performances? What are you looking forward to seeing tomorrow night? And do you, like Carson, want to hug Cee Lo, but hold back because you’re actually terrified of him?