Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Voice Live Elimination #1 Recap

On Tuesday, the first four contestants from the second season of NBC's The Voice were eliminated as the show entered its third segment, the "Live Shows." From here on out until the end of the season, contestants will compete not only for the vote of their respective coaches but for those of the viewing public, who are given the chance to weigh in using several possible methods.

It's raining men for Sera Hill.
In these first two live shows (the second airs next Monday, with results the following night), the six remaining contestants from each team perform one song during a live (for East/Central folks; Pacific and Hawaiian viewers enjoy a tape delay, natch) two-hour episode, and as with American Idol, viewers are invited to call or text unique numbers for each contestant to register their votes. Alternately, viewers can vote on NBC's website or The Voice's Facebook page (supposedly; this method didn't seem to work for me).

There's one more way to vote: picking up a contestant's studio recording of the song he or she performs in the show (recorded earlier, of course) on iTunes (for $1.29 a pop). One wonders who gets the royalties from these purchases - all songs until the final episode are covers, and while each artist's recording is credited to his or her name as the artist, surely NBC owns the material from the show. An interesting change this year, though, is that each artist's recording is categorized according to the appropriate style; for instance, country bumpkin RaeLynn's rowdy cover of "Wake Up Call" was able to appear on iTunes' Country chart, while Jordis Unga's "Alone" apparently topped the Rock chart, according to host Carson Daly. That's a neat addition (last year the studio recordings were lumped into "Pop") that at least shows someone is paying attention.

For the first two live shows, the three team members receiving the most viewer votes are sent to the next round, while the bottom three vote-getters must perform one last time for their coach, who then selects one of them to advance as well. I was surprised to find myself liking this practice, which was probably aided by the coaches for this week's round, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton, making what I felt were the right decisions given the circumstances.

Because five of my top ten were on Team Blake, I knew at least one of them would have to go this week, but I was disappointed when three of them ended up in the lower half, meaning I'd lose two favorites for sure. I was thrilled that Erin Willett was a top vote-getter after her unconventional but exceptional performance of "Living for the City" (the only one I purchased on iTunes), while Jermaine Paul was an unsurprising audience favorite. So, I suppose, was RaeLynn, who breathed fire during her live performance and shone on a team surprisingly devoid of country musicians. After the three in the bottom half performed their last-chance numbers - Naia Kete a bland and somewhat pitchy "If I Were a Boy," Charlotte Sometimes a nerve-riddled "Iris," and Jordis Unga a heart-stopping "Wild Horses" - it was clear who had won her right to continue in the competition, and the judges unanimously agreed. Blake sent a tearful Jordis to the next round, in a decision that recalled how weakly she had won in her Battle Round. If Unga doesn't step up her game the next round, she'll easily be steamrolled by the powerful remainder of her team.

As for Team Christina, the three performers receiving the most votes were no surprise. Heartbreaker Chris Mann's operatic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," plus his pin-up mug, are catnip to many of the show's viewers, while Jesse Campbell has been an undeniable star since the first day of Blind Auditions: his song choice ("What a Wonderful World") may have been dull, but older viewers would likely have enjoyed it enough to purchase it. As for Lindsey Paveo, she may have weaseled her way to the next round by selecting a ridiculously popular song to cover, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." That left hip-hop youngster Moses Stone, R&B diva Sera Hill, and young pop firecracker Ashley de la Rosa, all three of whom gave legitimately impressive final performances (Stone even sang for his). Christina's choice was much more difficult than Blake's, but she commented that she had to go with her instinct, which was apparently the same as my own: de la Rosa, whose enormous improvement over the course of the show has been staggering, and who gave a rousing performance of "Paris (Ooh La La)" to sway her coach, was sent to the next round.

Ashley de la Rosa works the crowd.
So while we lost three of my ten favorites - Kete, Sometimes, and Hill - the first live eliminations weren't the massive disappointment of injustice I'd expected them to be. We also got to see the blossoming of Ashley de la Rosa, an exciting contestant who has impressed me so much that I'll be adding her to my adjusted Top Ten leading into the quarterfinals. Next week Teams Adam and Cee Lo will perform, and I am particularly looking forward to it because I will be in the studio audience on Monday, which should be an interesting experience. I'm of course thrilled to be able to see my top ten picks Mathai, Kim Yarbrough, and Katrina Parker perform, but I'm also grateful for the chance to see Team Cee Lo in the flesh, which will hopefully allow me to appreciate them a bit more than I do thus far. And, of course, I'll report from the scene for you all.
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