Monday, April 30, 2012

The Voice Season 2 • Semifinals

It is time for the final eight to perform tonight, and I have to sit back and think about that for a moment. Next week, there will just be four, one from each team, singing for the win. This season moved by so quickly, and when I think about it, it has been a great ride. I like the quickness of the chopping of the teams, leaving us with a semifinal of eight, two from each mentor. Although I try to avoid the comparisons, this is certainly making Idol seem like it is plodding along, going endlessly toward crowning another winner that will fall off into oblivion. Oh, enough with that. Forward, I say...

Blake Shelton Christina Aguilera Adam Levine Cee Lo Green
erin-willett-voice Chris Mann Katrina Parker Jamar Rogers
Jermaine Paul Lindsey Pavao Tony Lucca Juliet Simms
Top Row, Mentors: Blake, Christina, Adam and Cee Lo. Contestants Clockwise: Erin Willett; Chris Mann; Katrina Parker; Jamar Rogers, Juliet Simms; Tony Lucca; Lindsey Pavao; and Jermaine Paul.

The first performance of the night goes to Team Adam, and Tony Lucca. Tony will be singing How You Like Me Now?, the 2009 hit by UK band The Heavy.



Tony takes the song in the soulful and rocky direction, which is just in his sweet spot. I thought it brought the best of him out, with the blues and rock just perfect for his voice, and giving him a bit of youth, of freshness. There is a nice Robert Palmer quality to the performance as well, with Tony in his suit and the ladies in "the band." Blake loved it, and thought Tony was "bad ass." Christina was kind of nice but meandering, and takes a slight cheap shot before being done. Cee Lo loved it, and Adam is just so very proud of Tony and having gotten the chance to work with him. After a break, it is time for Team Blake, and singer Erin Willett. She will be performing Without You, the 2011 song from David Guetta, featuring Usher. I'll be honest here, and thought it was her weakest performance to date. Her voice went off a bit, with a tough tone on the chorus. And she has this quirky phrasing that seems to continually fall behind the beat. I thought it brought the whole song in just a bit flat. Christina seemed to be searching for something to say that was nice, and Cee Lo was also kind. Blake brought it home with the emotions of the song, sung for her father. Soon it was time for the first up from Team Christina, and Chris Mann will be singing Ave Maria.



This is a gorgeous song, and a chance to allow his voice to show off. I think he sang the Charles Gounod version, as sung in the video by Kathleen Battle. It is lovely, but I will tell you, I find his voice to be a bit hollow, even a tad frail. I want him to be fuller, to really allow it to bloom, but it just doesn't for me. Cee Lo and Adam are nice, and enjoyed the departure from Pop music. Christina is thrilled, and just thought it was quite moving. Soon, it was time Team Cee Lo, and the people's choice for the semifinals, Jamar Rogers. He will be putting his own very special spin on the great song by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, If You Don't Know Me by Now. Jamar definitely takes it away form the original, giving it a bit of a reggae feel at the top, and an odd Trance/Electronica flavor, while keeping the vocals strong and soulful. It almost sounded like some of the music I remember from the early 1990s, being done by the New Wavers like Jimmy Somerville and Boy George, but not quite getting there. I was a bit confused by it, I have to admit. At times the vocals seemed to be fighting the music, battling tempos. But he was in great voice. The judges were loving on him, and he is just so pumped up, brimming with energy. Soon it is time for the first group performance of the night, as Team Adam and Team Cee Lo get together to sing The Killers' All The Things I've Done, the 2005 hit for the band. It was great fun, and they all sounded great. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I find these to be the two strongest teams in the competition. There was great energy between them all, and it was great fun to watch, and let up cleanse the palate just a bit. The second hour kicks off with Team Blake and Jermaine Paul singing the great Open Arms by Journey. And by Journey, I really mean the amazing voice of Steve Perry.



Well, that was nice, I do have to say. But it was not spectacular to me, or even all that special. There was something that was special about Perry's voice, so crisp and clear, that managed to push what is really a rather mediocre song to a different level. After a break, it is time to have the next contestant perform, with Katrina Parker singing Roberta Flack's 1971 hit, Killing Me Softly With His Song. She is, however, singing the 1996 version by The Fugees, featuring the vocals of Lauryn Hill.



Now, that was an amazing version by Lauryn Hill, and Katrina delivers so beautifully. That was a wonderful performance, one of the best of the night. I don't have any criticism whatsoever. Amazing. Christina starts on about how she loves her, and how she would have coached differently, and how Adam needs to look at Katrina over Tony. I heard all that and laugh, thinking how ugly she would get if the same was said to her. Thankfully, Adam has the class to just move away from that. Cee Lo reminds everyone that not just Lauryn Hill, but the great Roberta Flack to thank for that brilliant song. And Adam just can't control how thrilled he is for her, and how much he loved her performance. That is followed by a performance by mentor Blake Shelton, who sings his latest single, Over. Wow, he did a great job with that song, and it makes me want to buy his album, Red River Blue. After another break, it is time for Christina's save, Lindsey Pavao. She will be singing Skinny Love, 2008 song by Bon Iver.



Well, that was about what I thought it would be. It is tough for me to think one could find a performer more imbued with affectation. She sang a song by Hipster darling Bon Iver, and, well, it annoyed me. However, both Cee Lo and Adam are nice, and appreciate the performance. Blake was even more kind, noticing how Christina brought both her kids to where they started. Christina jumps up and wants to give Lindsey a hug and kiss. Soon, it is tome for the second group performance, and Team Christina and Team Blake are tackling Lady Gaga's Edge Of Glory. This seems more disjointed than the other, but only because the voices are way more varied in this on than with the other group. Lindsey suffers trying to sing big Gaga, and Chris sticks out, not sounding very Pop. But it is really just a time filler, so I don't really give it too much thought. This leaves only one performance, as Team Cee Lo's Juliet Simms takes to the stage to sing It's a Man's Man's Man's World, the 1966 song by James Brown.



Juliet is singing it nicely, keeping it strong and vibrant. I don't really get the shoulders on the dress, or the weird way she moved around. I think she is talented, but often relies on gimmick. I wish she would trust the talent. I will tell you, I am not sure what will be happening with the voting tomorrow night. The judges have also been given 100 points, and can divide them the way they see fit. Last week, the four men ruled in the voting, but I don't thin the same will happen this week. Can Juliet overtake Jamar, who also had a strong performance? How about Katrina, can she pass by Tony? And did Lindsey do enough to overtake Chris? I don't think Erin delivered what was needed to pass by Jermaine, but you never know. The voting is now open and continuing until 10:00am Tuesday morning. And how about the judges scores, written down to be revealed on the results show Tuesday night, at 9PM on NBC.

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