Recap: 'The Voice' - Semifinals Performances
It's time for another week of "The Voice." Semifinals, or something. Woot!
We've already separated a lot of the wheat from the people who can't sing, so maybe "The Voice" is on the verge of becoming truly entertaining again? Or, at the very least, maybe I can be a bit less "acidic" this week.
Click through to find out...
9:00 p.m. ET. "Welcome to 'The Voice.' This is the Semifinals," Carson Daly says, as if we know what that means. We're going to get performances from the entire Top 8, plus Maroon 5 and Blake Shelton 1.
9:02 p.m. But first... RESULTS!
9:03 p.m. Cee-Lo is up first. This is tough for him. How tough? He's wearing dark sunglasses inside to cover his misery. The artist with the most votes is... Vicci Martinez. Fair enough. "I love the world so much," Vicci says.
9:05 p.m. "First of all, America has great taste. Vicci is very, very strong," Cee-Lo says. He points out that he picked a team of oddballs, each one different from the next. "The premise of this show is to get down to the business and I have to make a choice, don't I?" Cee-Lo says before running through each of his contenders. He loves them each just the way they are. But the one he's actually going to keep around is... Nakia. Yeah, that was kinda a no-brainer, wasn't it? Farewell, then, to Curtis Grimes. See you on the next reality show, "American Juniors" winners Tori and Taylor.
9:08 p.m. "I'm so grateful right now," Nakia says.
9:09 p.m. It's Adam's turn now. "I don't wanna do it. This is gonna suck," Adam mewls.
9:09 p.m. We all know America is going to choose Javier, so it doesn't bother me that my Slingbox, located in Chicago, is being interrupted with news of tornados. Stay safe, Chicago!
9:12 p.m. Bah. I return after two minutes of funnel clouds and warnings and Adam has yet to make his announcement, though it does appear that Javier Colon was Saved by America. Shocking. The Mentors must have been told they had like five minutes apiece to babble. Adam is actually going on and on about how they're going to be friends after summer camp.
9:14 p.m. OUCH. Adam says that he came in planning to save Jeff "The Muppet" Jenkins, but he changed his mind. Instead, he picked Casey Weston, which makes only a tiny bit of sense. I mean, it makes sense insofar as Casey hit notes in her performance last week, while The Muppet and Kevin Covais 2.0 may not have hit a single note between them. I just didn't feel like Casey had very much star power.
9:18 p.m. Blake is feeling emotionally attached to Xenia and Dia Frampton and he's nervous for both of them tonight. He calls this the toughest and most satisfying thing he's ever been part of in music.
9:19 p.m. Christina Aguilera promises that her singers will bring it.
PERFORMER NO.1: Frenchie Davis (TEAM CHRISTINA)
Song: "Like a Prayer"
My Take: Christina picked this song for Frenchie and she wants her to make it church-y. Frenchie keeps referring to how this is "new" and "out of her comfort zone." This is her way of saying, "Why does Christina Aguilera hate me?" But Christina's weird choices go beyond just the song. She has Frenchie in a black outfit perched on a white stairway (to heaven?) and surrounded by a dancing chorus in white. What, pray tell, does it all MEAN? There's too much happening and Frenchie is unquestionably distracted. She's missing and stumbling over the lyrics left and right, especially when she's descending the staircase. But the words don't especially matter once Frenchie gets down onto the stage and lets loose. It's almost all flourishes, but she hits some amazing power notes on her final chorus. By the end, it's very impressive and I don't expect anybody to remember the initial verses.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: "That's my soul sister up there throwing down," says Cee-Lo, who thinks Frenchie can do no wrong. I miss some awkward banter for more tornado warnings. I arrive back as Adam says this was better than her first performance. Blake says Frenchie nailed it. Christina raves at Frenchie's lungs.
PERFORMER NO.2:Nakia (TEAM CEE-LO)
Song: "What Do You Want From Me"
My Take: Hmmm... Cee-Lo has assigned Nakia an Adam Lambert song. What an... odd choice. But this just goes and proves what Paula Abdul always taught me: If you can sing, you can sing the phone book. And as Randy Jackson always taught me: Nakia is in it to win it! With his white suit and the elaborate light show, Nakia is a bit Las Vegas-y, but Adam Lambert is also a bit Las Vegas-y and I can see how Nakia would put on a fine show in Las Vegas. Yeah, I said it: This was like being at a Nakia concert! He's confident on the piano and then when he gets up and plays to the audience, he's even better. Go Nakia!
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Adam didn't know the song, but Nakia forced him to like it, suggesting Nakia probably sang it better than Adam Lambert. "That was freakin' award show type performance," Blake says. "Nakia, you're so entertaining," Christina coos. "My man is gonna be the next big star," Cee-Lo cheers.
PERFORMER NO.3: Dia Frampton (TEAM BLAKE)
Song: "Losing My Religion"
My Take: Tornados cost me the very start of Dia's performance, but as I join in, she's clapping, smiling and looking beyond adorable. I never would have guessed that I'd get over Haley Reinhart so quickly and fall so hard for a new reality TV singer. But I've very much invested in Dia Frampton and I like her REM cover a ton. It's jaunty and quirky and melodic and in terms of pure voice -- the title of the show, allegedly -- she sounds even better than she did on her Kanye remix. She piano-ed up a storm last performance and this week, she's holding down the fort with her guitar. I'm glad that "The Voice" is giving a forum for young women who look like Dia Frampton looks to finally shine.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: "I've seen you grow so much on this show," Christina says, calling Dia the artist who has shown the most growth. Cee-Lo calls Dia "inventive" and adds, "you wowed me." "I thought it was awesome," Adam Levine says. Blake is just glad to know Dia. I also am just glad to know Dia. And I don't actually know Dia.
PERFORMER NO.4: Casey Weston (TEAM ADAM)
Song: "I Will Always Love You"
My Take: Adam's asking Casey to do a version that's somewhere in-between Whitney and Dolly. Casey says that even though she's young, she's been in love once and she'll sing the song thinking of him. Awwww? Apparently thinking of this ex-love makes Casey wanna bleat. The vibrato in the opening verse is really, really aggressively goat-like. When she gets out of the verse, the bleating is smoothed out a bit into some nice, not-Whiteny glory notes. The whole performance is based on Casey's dress billowing in the wind-machine. There's such a powerful gust you'd think she were a hottie entering the BuyMore. Is she singing in slo-mo as well? Lemme just say that this performance, goatiness aside, was many times better than last week. Funny how much better the performances on shows like this get after you start eliminating people eight at a time.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Blake wants to talk about how hot Casey is. Really? I mean... cute, sure. Blake praises Casey for sticking to her own opinions, saying that their back-and-forth led to a "incredible" performance.
10 p.m. We pause this evening of amateur performances for Maroon 5 and their new singer "Moves Like Jagger." Nobody has ever said that Adam Levine isn't a gifted guy when it comes to delivering catchy little pieces of pop-rock. Does this sound just a wee bit like several other catchy little pieces of pop-rock Maroon 5 has delivered previously? Sure.
10:03 p.m. Lest we forget her involvement in this single, Christina Aguila stumbles out on the stage in her pajamas to do some slightly superfluous growling.
10:03 p.m. Did we make it to 10:04 p.m. without Alison Haislip? How?!?
PERFORMER NO. 5: Beverly McClellan (TEAM CHRISTINA)
Song: "The Thrill Is Gone"
My Take: I really, really appreciate Christina for trying to showcase Beverly's softer side here. Beverly starts off totally controlled and subtle on the piano. When she stands up, it ceases to be subtle and Beverly starts doing that thing she does where she raises her arm to let you know that she isn't just singing, she's declaiming emotionally. But, once again, this was a much better performance than she gave in the quarterfinals. She sounds great and you can't instantly say what artist she's mimicking, as you've been able to do on past performances. I spared you, dear readers, the "Varys from 'Game of Thrones'" joke I made on Twitter. That's how pleased I was with Beverly's performance!
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: "I love so much to see you perform," Cee-Lo says, celebrating the number of accomplished musicians on "The Voice." We're low on time, so we're skipping straight to Christina, who isn't paying any attention. "You are one of the reasons I'm so thankful I signed on to do this show," Christina says. The other? Community service hours. I kid!
PERFORMER NO.6: Javier Colon (TEAM ADAM)
Song: "Fix You"
My Take: It's a nicely stripped down arrangement of the Coldplay hit, meant mostly to showcase Javier's solid guitar playing and, of course... his voice. There isn't much to say here. I love Dia Frampton. I find Nakia tremendously entertaining. But it's been the case since the very first night: Javier Colon is the only person winning "The Voice." Even when the arrangement becomes too loud and Javier has to shout to be heard, he does it with amazing purity and passion. He's so very good. And he takes off his hat in the end. He's bald. It's very exciting for Carson Daly.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Blake's a fan. Christina's a fan, but she wants to see Javier's soulful side. Cee-Lo's friends with Chris Martin and Gwyneth. Adam interjects, "I'm Cee-Lo and I know celebrities." But everybody's in awe. Adam claims Javier has one of the best voices he's ever heard ever.
10:30 p.m. Casey Weston tells Alison Haislip that she's single now. Then Alison invites stalkers to come harass Casey on the street. Awkward.
10:31 p.m. It's Blake's turn to perform. Carson says that "Honey Bee" is a big hit and listing popular songs is one of the things I trust Carson Daly to do. I don't know the song at all, but I know Blake's a good performer. We wait patiently for two promised guests. Hey! It's Dia Frampton! And that other girl who's on Blake's team. Poor Xenia. So sweet. So awkward. So unable to harmonize. Blake literally pats Xenia on the head during the performance.
PERFORMER NO.7: Xenia (Team Blake)
Song: "The Man Who Can't Be Moved"
My Take: Xenia still holds the stage like this is immersion therapy for her social anxiety disorder, but you know that unique voice the judges keep mentioning? We're treated to a little of it in the beginning, as Xenia begins with an almost-angry sneer. In those opening moments, we get a voice that really doesn't sound anything at all like anybody we've heard on this show or on "Idol" or, for the most part, when you turn on the radio. But instead of becoming more confident as she goes along and really exploding by the end, Xenia basically curls into a ball as she gets further alone, losing enunciation and melody. Girl needs a hug. And she needs to just keep working with this. At 16, she's got endless room to improve. At this point, it's only "potential" (and a young demographic of voters) that would keep her around.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Adam mentions the unique tone to her voice. Christina is baffled by the level of maturity that Xenia's voice has. Cee-Lo says that he enjoys watching Xenia being "quaint." Blake says he's looking forward to hearing Xenia's voice on his radio when he's bakc in Oklahoma.
PERFORMER NO.8: Vicci Martinez (TEAM CEE-LO)
Song: "Dog Days Are Over"
My Take: Nobody criticizes anything on this show anyway, but Vicci makes her performance criticism-proof by dedicating it to her late father. Wow. Vicci's doing percussion. She isn't doing *much* percussion, but she's occasionally hitting those drums in front of her and occasionally banging two white sticks. There are rough notes in the beginning, but by the end, it's very good. Am I gonna say it's as good as the Florence and the Machine original? Of course not. But given how ridiculously difficult and HUGE the song is, it's very respectable Vicci did it as much justice as she does. She's banging on the drums and running around stage and she never loses her voice or the heft of the song.
The Judges Who Aren't Judges Say: Adam, Blake and Christina all agree with varying superlatives. "The future is so bright for you," Cee-Lo says.
10:55 p.m. Huh? So the judges are splitting 100 points between their two singers and that will represent half of the vote total and then American will make the other half of the decision? Once again, "The Voice" is making it up as it goes along.
Bottom Line: Amazing, right? You get rid of the people who can't sing and suddenly this becomes a fun show again. Weird. I'm gonna be absent tomorrow and I'll be leaving recapping duties to the extremely capable Ryan McGee over in the Monkeys as Critics blog. Two of the races seem like no-brainers: Javier is going to deservedly crush Casey Weston and while I may very slightly prefer Nakia, he doesn't have a prayer against Vicci. But the other two pairings? It's a bit of a mystery. Dia is better than Xenia in every way, but Xenia will deservedly get support from young viewers. And good for her! And Frenchie vs. Beverly is too close for me to call. Tonight, I preferred Beverly, but I suspect Frenchie's gonna take it.
But what did you think? Did you enjoy tonight's show? And who do you expect to see advance?