Things I'm grateful for:
First off, I'm grateful for Ryan McGee's excellent fill-in recapping last Wednesday when I was Elsewhere.
Second off, I'm grateful that tomorrow night's "Voice" finale is only an hour long. I'm perfectly content to watch two hours of "The Voice" tonight, in the first part of the finale, but two hours tomorrow was gonna be too much...
Let's get down to recapping business...
9:00 p.m. ET The show opens with the Coaches performing together. With Queen. Again. [Technically it's Queen and David Bowie, I get that.] May I point out that the Mentors were unable to sing Freddie Mercury as recently as last month? And guess what? Nothing has changed. It's almost sad watching Adam Levine being destroyed by Mr. Mercury. He's like, "But I can sing HIGH! Why can't I sing this?" At least Blake Shelton gets to sing a baritone arrangement that sounds nothing like Freddie Mercury and therefore can't be ruined. Also harder to emulate than the Mentors seem to think? David Bowie.
9:04 p.m. The contestants will be singing twice apiece tonight: They'll do one song in a duet with their mentor and one original song alone.
9:06 p.m. The Duets are a problem. Why would anybody want to do a duet with Christina Aguilera on a competition show? You know that if you outsing her, she's going to unhinge her jaw and devour you whole.
9:08 p.m. Dia Frampton is giddy about singing an original song. And I'm giddy about Dia. "I'm here to rock-n-roll," says Beverly McClellan. "It's just comin' out of me. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it right," vows Vicci Martinez. "I think we'd all like to win," observes Javier Colon, helpfully.
9:10 p.m. On the Mentor panel, Adam says that they've all learned a lot from this and he's just eager to see somebody win. Cee-Lo Green says that if Vicci wins, she'll be an inspiration to everyone as a woman, as a Latina and as a warrior. "She's more than a voice. She's a true artist, through a through," says Christina Aguilera of Beverly. Blake's happy with the "new focused artist" he's seeing in Dia.
9:12 p.m. Alison Haislip shills for some camera or other. Didn't Carson Daly just interview the Final Four? Why must this be done again? does Alison have new insight? Wait. Pause. Alison Haislip just made a "Highlander" reference. No more making fun of Alison. For a few minutes.
9:16 p.m. Yeah, yeah. The Top 8 Singers are going on tour this summer. The Mentors are not. Because people are really going to pay top dollar to hear Casey Weston and Xenia sing. I'm not sure the organizers quite get that there's a difference between the "Idol" Tour and... this. With "Idol," most of the people touring have been on TV for months by the time they hit the road. Fans have a half-dozen favorite performances for each singer, songs they want to hear reprised. With "The Voice," we heard Casey Weston perform... Three times? Or was it four? The Chair. The Battle. And two live shows? Ditto with Xenia? [Frenchy and Nakia are probably different.] All I'm saying is that this is a tough sell.
9:17 p.m. Javier Colon has his original song up first. It hasn't been adequately explained to me when this song was written and by whom, exactly. They just keep saying it's "original."
Song: "Stitch by Stitch"
My Take: Folks hoping to get something up-tempo from Javier are out of luck, but I don't know why he'd think this was the time to mix things up. It's an over-written song, but it's better than Scotty McCreery's coronation song "I Love You This Big (That's What She Said)." Putting on my Jewel/Kara DioGuardi "Platinum Hit," I'd say that that hook requires a bit more definition. But it's not bad at all. Javier is going to win this show. And Javier deserves to win this show. So any complaints I have might be quibbles. Like I might want to say that Javier is much better when he's sitting and amiably strumming his guitar than he his when he starts wandering around the stage without purpose or direction.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Blake respects Javier as a singer and as a man. Christina says it sounded "nice." Cee-Lo praises Javier for embodying the song and making it sound like it was his. Adam has much love for Adam, so much love that he gets choked up at the end of his string of superlatives.
9:28 p.m. Dia Frampton and Blake Shelton are going to duet on "I Won't Back Down." [Tom Petty's all over the news today.] Blake is rhapsodic that Dia has helped him rediscover his joy. Dia cries talking about how much Blake has helped her. Awwww
PERFORMER: Dia Frampton (with Blake Shelton)
Song: "Won't Back Down"
My Take: I like the suites-and-sunglasses theme that Dia and Blake have decided goes well with the strange gears spinning on the screen in the background. It's not really the best of song choices for Dia's voice. She's great when she's harmonizing with Blake, but when she gets a verse to herself, it's much too low. And is that the guitar that Blake gave Dia (and Xenia) in Cincinnati last week? This is an adorable performance. It's around two-thirds of the way through that I finally have my epiphany: Dia Frampton *is* Ramona Flowers. I mean, I thought Mary Elizabeth Winstead was fantastic in the "Scott Pilgrim" movie, but Dia Frampton *is* Ramona Flowers. She's a talented, living, breathing animated character. Now that I've realized this, I'm even happier with her and even sadder that Javier Colon is both inevitably going to win and deserves to win.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say:Nothing.
9:37 p.m. Vicci has "an epic song... and it builds" for her original song. Cee-Lo says that we will come to view this song as an extension of Vicci.
Song:"Afraid to Sleep"
My Take: Vicci's got the "Phantom of the Opera" sea of swirling fog wicking around her angles. This must be why she's wearing cargo pants. Don't wanna get your cuffs foggy! Wait. They're just regular ol' leather pants. This song isn't nearly as good as Javier Colon's original, nor as flawlessly tailored for her voice as that song was tailored for Javier's voice. Because she sang a Florence and the Machine song last week, somebody got the impression that Vicci has a strong low voice. This is not the case. She gets totally lost and swallowed up on the verses when she's forced to go low. When she gets to wail, she definitely shouts up a storm. She definitely gets into the spirit of the song, doing her capoeira-dancing around the foggy stage. But surely somebody will point out how thin and uncertain her voice was on both the highest and the lowest notes? Don't get me wrong, Vicci has a very big voice, but she doesn't quite have the range to sing this song. Not many people do.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Adam loves watching the contestants as spectators, which he thinks is unique to this show. "You're a powerful little thing," Adam adds. "I can't say she's been in my pants," Blake cracks, referring to news that Adam bought Adam a pair of pants. "You're a dynamic performer... like I said last time," says Christina, who only has one set of available praise in her repertoire. [Side note: Carson, when you refer to this as "her original song," that's very strongly implying that it's... you know... *her* original song. It's not. Apparently.] Cee-Lo just hopes Vicci's as proud of him as he is of her.
9:50 p.m. We now pause tonight's finale performances to watch Pitbull and Ne-Yo perform. If this is how "The Voice" attempts to distinguish itself from "American Idol," they're doing it wrong. Hey look, my colleague Melinda has an interview with Pitbull right here. Dang. Them's some raunchy dancers Pitbull's thrusting on.
9:58 p.m. Christina Aguilera thought of all of the possible duets in the history of the world and the greatest song she could think of was... "Beautiful." Beverly is honored and speechless. Brace yourself for some bellowing.
PERFORMER: Beverly McClellan (and Christina Aguilera)
My Take: It's an interestingly restrained arrangement. Beverly's on her guitar. Christina's on her chair nodding politely. Beverly sounds great, but when she sings "I am beautiful" and then does that ridorkuous thing where she raises her hand and wiggles her fingers as if... I don't know what. Solution? Close my eyes. This show *is* called "The Voice," after all. And when my eyes are closed, this is a growly, powerful, melodic duet. And as fun as Dia and Blake's duet was, this is a vastly better duet/vocal-showcase. See? You think I can't be objective? I totally can. It's almost astoundingly restrained on Christina Aguilera's part. Yes, she chose to sing one of her own songs with her mentee, but she really did let Beverly be the one to carry the song.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: No judging, silly.
10:09 p.m. Ohhh. We're only voting on the original song. Wow. Credit to Blake Shelton for actually saying the name of the two people who wrote Dia's original song. I wasn't typing fast enough to get the names. But I heard them. Anyway... Ramona Flowers time!
PERFORMER: Dia "Ramona Flowers" Frampton
Song: "Investing Shadows"
My Take: This is pretty much a perfect song for Dia and her piano. It's breathy and twee and marvelously Ramona Flowers-ish. It even opens up a bit on the chorus. Dia has a bigger voice than she's gotten to show in her few performances this season. The song itself relies a bit too heavily on head-voice driven transitions. Even I get sick of the gimmick by the end. But that's a writing problem, not a Dia problem.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: "Really lovely, Dia," Christina says, before re-instigating a conflict with Blake. Thanks for killing the momentum of the praise, Christina. Cee-Lo predicts the song will be atop the iTunes charts. Adam didn't like the dancers behind Dia in silhouette. There's a lot of cattiness coming from the opposing judges. I think Dia got hosed on the level of compliments that the judges have over-bestowed on anybody all season long because Christina wanted to make an inexact comparison. Dancers behind a shadowbox aren't the same as practically dropping a pack of dancers atop a nervous teenage girl the way the Christina did. I get that she's bitter, but still...
10:21 p.m. Time for Adam and Javier to duet on "Man in the Mirror." We've learned nothing from the tragic plight of Jacob Lusk. Just don't tell America that if they don't vote for you, it's because we can't stand to look in the mirror, Javier!
PERFORMER: Javier Colon (and Adam Levine)
Song: "Man in the Mirror"
My Take: No, audience. Stop clapping. You have no rhythm. These are two very talented people doing a very karaoke version of "Man in the Mirror." Javier Colon, who is going to very deservedly win this show, has a suitable voice for a Jacko cover and it's nice the way Adam has also kept himself in a totally complimentary role. But come on... Put some new twist into the performance and the arrangement. Still, Adam and Christina both understood something about these duets that Blake didn't quite get. Blake presumably realized that he and Dia might not have the most complimentary of voices, so he decided to just have a good time. The other two mentors decided to help their singers win (even if the duets aren't literally factored into the votes, they completely factored into audience appreciation that leads to voting).
10:31 p.m. Brad Paisley ushers in a bathroom break.
10:32 p.m. Back in time to see Blake join Brad on stage. Of the show's mentors, Blake is the clear winner.
10:35 p.m. Tell us what's trending Alison Haislip? Oh. Everything.
10:39 p.m. Would this show lose anything without Carson Daly?
10:39 p.m. Beverly's original is called "Lovesick." Or maybe "Love Sick"? Beverly's really excited that the song has "a lot of crescendo."
PERFORMER: Beverly McClellan
My Take: There's definitely a year that this song might have been a hit. That year is not 2011. Again, I have to stop watching Beverly. Part of this is Beverly's fault. There's too much fist-pumping and limb-flailing. But the strobe-lights aren't helping any. In this case, the closed-eye approaches doesn't help. On this song, there's too much screaming and growling and wailing and shouting and the melody is getting lost. I can completely tell why Beverly's energy would play amazingly well in the theater. But in my apartment, it's all too much and I don't know where the song went.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: "You don't have to be on my team to be a favorite of mine," Cee-Lo says. Levine says that what Beverly did "transcends all competition." "If music was crack, you would have a serious problem," Blake says. Did Christina unbutton or lower her shirt because she knew her singer was up and she'd be in the spotlight? She's raving about Beverly's heart and her work ethic, but how am I supposed to be paying attention?
10:52 p.m. Cee-Lo and Vicci are the night's last performance and they're doing "Love is a Battlefield." Then he says Vicci has the potential to be her generation's Pat Benatar. Really? Is she even her generation's Allison Iraheta? They vow that their duet will be "epic" and like nothing we've ever seen before.
PERFORMER: Vicci Martinez (and Cee-Lo)
Song: "Love is a Battlefield"
My Take: Waaaaariors... Come out to plaaaaaaaaay. Or is it "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome"? There are dancing warrior ruffians. Cee-Lo has a big mo-hawk. Vicci has eye-black under one eye. There's a little bit of "Hook." There's a little bit of the "Beat It" video. And there's a bit of "Shark Boy and Lava Girl." People are dancing and flipping everywhere. There's fire spurting in the background. Lights are flashing enough to cause epileptic seizures across America. I don't have a clue if either Vicci or Cee-Lo sang a single note. The visual overload is almost impossible to fully process. By the end, I don't know if I should expect Adam Levine to come on stage clinking bottles on his fingers or for Christina Aguilera to start a florescent food fight or just for my brains to start leaking out of my ears. [And that last little obscene tongue-waggle from Cee-Lo? NBC's just gonna hope and pray nobody from the PTC happened to notice.]
Bottom Line: I think I liked Dia's original more than any of the others. I think I liked Beverly and Christina's duet more than the others. And I think Javier's still going to win the whole thing, though almost no result would completely surprise me.
What'd you think? Who are you rooting for? And who do you think will win?
Everything: The Voice
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