Monday, April 16, 2012

The Voice: Season 2 Quarterfinals / Top 8 Contestants

It's been a busy two weeks for NBC's The Voice, which presented the first round of Live Shows (and Live Eliminations) spread across four remarkably entertaining episodes. Viewers were invited to vote using a plethora of methods for their favorites, and the three members of each team with the most votes were sent on to the quarterfinals. The other three got to sing for their salvation in the Live Elimination shows (note: this is how to make an elimination show, a necessity in our multi-time zone country, actually worth watching rather than a tribute to stalling tactics and advertising dollars) and one more singer, selected by his or her respective coach/judge, was allowed to advance as well.

This means we lost eight contestants, among them Vertigo Shtick Top 10-ers Naia Kete (#9), Kim Yarbrough (#3) and Charlotte Sometimes (#2), but all in all there is a solid group of 16 left who will compete this and next week in the quarterfinals.

And this time, there's a twist!

Just announced by NBC, this and next week's Live Shows will include an "instant elimination." Following the singers' performances on the first night, each judge will give the heave-ho to one of their four remaining team members, leaving three to battle for viewer votes overnight. Then, in the now-redundantly named "Elimination Show," the top vote earner will advance to the semifinals and the other two will undergo the same "last chance song" hunger games ordeal for the judges as in the first round. It actually makes sense; somehow it would seem either strange or repetitive or both to watch six of the same eight performers sing two nights in a row, and it doesn't add to the number of singers whom the judges are given the power to axe, since they essentially sent two contestants apiece home during the opening round.

The bummer of it, really, is that as the season draws to a close, by necessity we'll be seeing some favorites go; there can only be four finalists (which of them wins, let's face it, isn't that important in terms of the television experience). As heartbreaking as it might seem if some of the contestants we love get canned, at some point it'll be hard to suggest a perfect alternative result. But with The Voice hitting its stride in this second season, the contestants have already had enormous exposure and won millions of new fans, and even the folks who peaced out in the Battle Rounds have gotten a healthy career boost. And certainly the sixteen quarterfinalists have (mostly) proven their ability to rally up supporters outside the studio in which The Voice is taped, so at the end of the day there are really no losers from here on out. (Except maybe Erin Martin, the now-ousted former model and vowel-pronunciation avant-gardist, whose public post-elimination statements were both tacky and deluded.)

Realizing we haven't seen the quarterfinal performances yet, here are Vertigo Shtick's picks of which contestants from each team should advance to the semifinals. As an added bonus, I had the opportunity to attend last week's live show in the flesh, so my judgments of Team Adam and Team Cee Lo carry the weight of eyewitness testimony!

Vertigo Shtick's Top 8 Quarterfinal Contestants

Team Blake Shelton

Erin Willett

With her stellar performance of "Living for the City," Willett proved her worth beyond a doubt. Fans thought so, too, sending her to the next round.

Jermaine Paul

Handsome, smooth voice, smart, experienced...what's not to like about the former backup singer for Alicia Keys? He could definitely compete against Jamar Rogers and/or James Massone from Team Cee Lo for the heartthrob vote, and we know that goes a long way.

Team Christina Aguilera

Ashley de la Rosa

De la Rosa was a surprise to viewers and to Christina Aguilera, who selected her to continue to the next round after the 17 year old singer's crowd-pleasing, suddenly confident performance of "Paris (Ooh La La)" in the first week's Elimination Show. She's got great pipes and a good personality, and she continues to deliver surprisingly compelling performances just when you count her out.

Jesse Campbell

Probably the most effortlessly competent singer in the competition, Campbell's cockiness can get a bit irksome. But boy does he have the instrument to back it up.

Team Adam Levine


Mathai has a nice voice - a little shrill at times, but that should improve with age - but what makes her irresistible is her incredible stage presence. For her first round performance of John Legend's amazing song "Ordinary People," she barely moved from her spot center stage but still had the crowd, and voters, in the palm of her hand. She is simply dynamite. 

Katrina Parker

Parker's performance of a Smashing Pumpkins cover did not do justice to her remarkably powerful voice, but luckily her last chance performance of "Don't Speak" more than made up for it. Her voice is so rich and beautiful it's almost like a giant polar bear that you just want to hug even as it's tearing you apart.

Team Cee Lo Green

Jamar Rogers

No sense denying it: the ladies love Jamar. He certainly is a rousing performer, although to be honest I spent more time watching the rocker chicks with guitars on stilts during his first live performance than him. He certainly has star power, though, and coupled with a fine voice like his that's hard to discount.

Juliet Simms

Simms was the one who truly tore the house down last week, though, with her rendition of "Roxanne." The arrangement shrewdly featured a variety of levels that Simms played to the hilt, from the spare, aching opening to the rock out with your cock out end segment. She was interesting in the Blind Auditions, but it was in the first Live Show that she won me over again. Voters agreed.

Vertigo Shtick's Top 10 of the Top 24 Contestants

Live quarterfinal performances begin Monday, April 16 at 8:00/7:00c on NBC.
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