Rockers steal the show, but two major trends are keeping this season from hitting a high note.
Here’s where we stand after 300 minutes of season six of The Voice: Adam and Usher are both packing seven team members, Shakira’s got six, and Blake’s rocking four. As I wrote yesterday, those 24 contestants probably only include about four worthwhile ones, but tonight’s episode added at least two more names to that worthwhile mix.
Before I get into tonight’s auditioners, I want to quickly discuss two unnerving trends that I’ve noticed so far this season. The first to point out involves the conversations that the coaches have after spinning their chairs, wherein they’re trying to woo potential artists. In truth, while the contestants themselves have been relatively milquetoast this year, the coaches’ banter has been even worse. Their arguing has become almost painstakingly bland.
Really, the problem is that we’ve seen the dynamics before: Blake and Adam bicker, then kiss and make up; Shakira shakes her hips and talks about beating the boys; Usher waits until the end of the song, then turns and says something about waiting for the moment (every single time). Frankly, it already feels a little rote, which is a major danger since we’re so early into the season, so I’m putting it out there now that season seven is going to need a big chair shake-up to keep me watching. With Cee Lo officially not returning, it’s anyone’s guess whether next year’s panel will reprise this year’s foursome, or if Christina will step in again. Dare I suggest two women on the panel at the same time!? (Blasphemy!) A Christina-Shakira dynamic would actually make the show super interesting again, but ho hum, that’s just me.
The other trend I’ve picked up on this year (and some of you have pointed this out in the comments) has to do with the contestants’ pre-taped packages, namely their completely unnecessary sob stories. When I say completely unnecessary, I genuinely mean it. Having divorced parents or not being able to do calculus doesn’t exactly count as a troubled musical past, and it certainly doesn’t seem worthy of the Flowery Sadness Music that underscores each unfortunate recollection of “I broke my collar bone once” or “My ears no longer support hoops.” This is a singing show, so unless the backstory involves music, I don’t need to hear it.
Tonight’s major sob story involved a girl whose doctor found a growth on her retina and made her undergo two brain surgeries to fix it. That’s great and all — power, girl, for surviving brain surgery! — but how does that inform how I should feel about her as a singer? She could be the world’s worst belter. I get it: It’s a compelling story that illuminates this singer’s past and what she’s experienced in her life to get where she is, but it’s manipulative and serves no purpose. It’s not just The Voice’s fault — you can blame the earliest seasons of Idol for perpetuating the Sob Story Audition Package problem. But I’ve already had my fair share of them with almost every singer so far.
Anyway, that’s that. Complaints aside, tonight provided us with some pretty stellar voices to pay attention to this season. We begin Day Four of the blinds with a rocker.
NEXT: The performances! Rockers, baseball players, and a super cool Vietnamese British dude
Megan Ruger, 26, Twin Lakes, WI
Genre: ‘80s rock by way of Patsy Cline
Unnecessary Backstory: “When I was 10 years old I found out my dad wasn’t my biological father.”
Song: “Just Like a Pill” – P!nk
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Megan — typically the judges tend to turn rather quickly for powerful rockers, but Megan’s audition wasn’t frontloaded with a lot of showy high notes. When she did finally hit her upper register, Blake and Usher took notice and swooped in at the last second with double turns. You could tell Usher was obsessed with Megan’s rocker look, but Blake had the edge since Megan lives in Nashville (although, in her pre-tape, she expressed a desire to ditch the city, so Blake would not be the ostensible right choice). Megan asks who likes ‘80s rock more and Blake raises his hand, so unsurprisingly Megan goes for Team Blake.
Potential-o-Meter: 5/10 but she needs more oomph
Morgan Wallen, 20, Knoxville, TN
Day Job: Landscaper
Looks Like: Paul Dano in Malibu
Necessary Backstory: Was offered a record contract but mom turned it down so he could have a normal life
Unnecessary Backstory: Rejected from his baseball scholarship after a torn UCL
Song: “Collide” – Howie Day
I really liked Morgan, who didn’t know how to get into music if not for a show like The Voice. That’s the kind of guy the show needs — pure, wholesome, nicely talented and totally untouched by the music industry thus far. Shakira immediately (and I mean immediately) recognizes the value of Morgan after just a few seconds, and maybe it’s the pleasant rasp that makes Usher eventually spin as well. Morgan’s got great control up high and there’s no shame in his simple runs. A commercial break wasn’t exactly necessary to show Morgan’s eventual decision for Team Usher, but whatever, that’s the world we live in now.
Potential-o-Meter: 6.5/10 if he can be more confident
James Cavern, 26, Sacramento, CA
OMG He’s: British!
Necessary Backstory: Pressure to be a doctor from his parents, who don’t understand his love of music
Song: “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye
Oh man. James was a total surprise in so many ways, and I was so disappointed that nobody turned. To be fair, the song doesn’t elevate great singers — it merely showcases good ones. I’d be interested to hear James sing something else if he came back in the wildcards, which might very well happen since Blake has so few team members so far.
In the interim, Shakira grabs a PR rep named Dani Moz and a single mother named Music Box. NAMED MUSIC BOX. Blake adds a high schooler named Lexi Luca.
Emily B., 33, American Falls, ID
Day Job: “Session singer”
Worked On: Pitch Perfect, The Muppets and Cee Lo’s Christmas album
Necessary or Unncessary (I Can’t Decide) Backstory: Underwent two brain surgeries to fix a rare eye syndrome
Song: “Wicked Game” – Chris Isaak
Emily’s pretty fantastic, and it’s Shakira and Blake who recognize it. Late To The Party Usher is, of course, late to the party, but he also turns. Shakira stands again, because that’s what she does when she really wants somebody. After some awfully boring banter, Emily chooses Team Shakira, but not without a vow from Blake to steal.
Stevie Jo Rosenbaum, 19, Tyler, TX
Parents: Heavy metal band members
Unnecessary Backstory: His sisters made fun of him
Song: “There Goes My Baby” – Usher
So apparently the interesting thing about Stevie Jo is that he isn’t black, which manages to surprise every coach even though plenty of other auditioners don’t look the way their voice might suggest (also, do we need to have a discussion about what races “should” sound like, because it’s season six and that’s kind of ridiculous at this point). Usher turns after Stevie Jo hits a money note, but neither Adam nor Blake bother turning because they assume he’ll go with Team Usher since, after all, it’s his song.
Adam Says: “I was pretty sure that you weren’t a white guy. He sounds like Usher, he looks like Blake.”
Potential-o-Meter: 7.5/10 if Usher doesn’t hate him by next week
Audra McLaughlin, 21, Philadelphia, PA
Not: Audra McDonald
But: Audra McLaughlin
Unnecessary Backstory: “I had a really tough time growing up. I had a learning disability.”
Song: “Angel From Montgomery” – John Prine
Not only does Audra have the greatest singer-songwriter name EVER, but she’s also got a pretty incredible voice to back it up. The entire episode teased Adam looking for “the one,” and since she’s the last contestant, it’s not much of a surprise that Adam turns first (followed by everyone), but Audra eventually pledges her loyalty to Team Blake. She’s got sort of a country spin piled on top of a much stronger pop voice, so it’ll be fun to see which muscle she chooses to flex given her coach.
Thoughts on tonight’s hour-long ep? Do you agree with me about this season’s unfortunate trends? Leave a comment, yo, and I’ll see you next week.