It's the final night of blind auditions, and things are getting seriously competitive. How competitive, you ask? (And frankly it's a little weird for you to ask, considering that if you're reading this, you probably watched already.) It's so competitive that when Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton each need only one more person to fill out their teams, they watch the other closely, waiting to buzz in until the other looks like they definitely will. The better to potentially snatch away an in-demand vocalist!
At the start of the show, Adam Levine, Blake, and Xtina all need two more songbirds in their respective menageries, and Cee Lo Green needs three. That means tonight we'll see a certain cutthroat pickiness in our judges. Up first is Whitney Meyer, whose curly red hair, tough-girl jacket and psychedelic earrings make her look like Little Orphan Annie of the Lower East Side. She belts out her best Alicia Keys on "No One," with just the right amount of grit. Adam spins his chair around first, and soon enough everyone follows. "I'm glad I pushed my button early because I got to watch you perform," Blake says in his convincing Southern drawl. "Choose me, don't choose me — I'm a fan of yours." Blake is the most flattering of the judges. I want him to critique my recaps. "You can win this whole thing," Adam counters. "I promise I'll do everything in my power to make that happen." Xtina groans at this line. "We're all forces to be reckoned with in the music industry," she says, "but I'm simply the best." The impassioned plea that follows seems like it will end in Xtina bursting into song, but alas, that doesn't happen until later. Whitney chooses Adam.
David Dunn is a David Boreanaz-lookalike college student with a pregnant wife, trying to make it as a musician against the wishes of his supportive-but-practical parents. He sings "The Man Who Cannot Be Moved," which ends up being ironic when no judge will budge for it. Dunn does manage to inspire the biggest crowd reaction for a no-turnaround all season, though.
Thank God for The Shields Brothers. These two goofballs live on a Virginia farm with their parents and don't have a ghost of a chance at winning, but they're surely going to be fun to watch. "We want to punch America in the face with rock & roll," Shields #1 says, "because we think America needs to be punched in the face with rock & roll." I'm already on board. Shields #1 plays guitar on "Dancing With Myself" while the blonder, portlier Shields #2 bounces around with boundless playful intensity. Cee Lo is feeling it and he turns around pretty early. He's the only one.
I may be a real Grinch over here, but did anyone else find The Lorax interstitials kind of obnoxious? It just seemed a bit of a conceptual stretch to have Zac Efron and Betty White on the set via terrible green-screen work, with White doing "Let's Get It On." The movie should've tied in with Parks and Rec instead, where the Lorax and Ron Swanson could compare 'staches.
The mono-named Cheesa is a Hawaiian girl in a varsity jacket who does an incredibly low, almost-baritone take on "If I Were a Boy." On the chorus, she sounds like a different person, though, wailing away. Cee Lo waits until the very last note to press his button, and is rewarded for his efforts with lots of flirtation via shimmying and seductive smiles.
Lex Land is next, and seriously, what is with everybody's name? This show is a screenwriter's flea market. Music counselor Lex looks like Maggie Gylenhaal with some extra insulation. She chooses the popular Bonnie Raitt cover "I Can't Make You Love Me," and right away, her voice sounds like a pro's. It's a sultry lower register, with a quiet strength. Everyone turns around except Xtina. After the judges turn, Lex gets a little nervous, but it's okay because she's already in. "There's these little things in your voice I'd like to steer you away from," Adam says. "Because I was hearing Sade — some cool, simple thing — rather than the big thing Adele does." Blake concurs. "I heard three different singers there," he says. "I pushed my button first!" Cee Lo repeats plaintively, like a child. Lex chooses Blake.
Anyone who comes across as too cocky before their performance is dead meat. Instead of describing hip-hopera oddball Cameron "Novackaine" Novack's performance, I'm just going to list some of his comments preceding it. "I've been called a jack of all genres," he says, which is weird, since literally nobody has ever been called that. "I would consider myself a triple threat only if that's as high as you can go." Well, he is indeed threatening. "The Voice is a show for real artists." And also sandwich artists. "I'm bringing something I haven't seen anyone else do." Because everyone else has more sense! "If a coach doesn't hit the button, I'd be shocked." "People should definitely be worried about me." "Right now, I can visualize myself winning The Voice." Ultimately, it will have to remain a visualization exercise. Keep reading The Secret, Novackaine!
Orlando Napier has "good guy" written all over him, despite having been to jail. "You just opened up so many doors for me," he says to Carson Daly, who has just invited him to be on the show. "I've been whittling away at doors for the last five years, and this could be that golden door." Aside from his door-whittling obsession, Orlando also sings. In a band, with his father! He wears an oversize black fedora that makes him look more like a scarecrow than a member of the Rat Pack. His soulful, Joe Cocker-ish voice on "Waiting on the World to Change" inspires Adam to turns around, making him the first judge to fill out his whole roster.
"I'd like to be a musician who bakes, not a baker who's a musician," says Lee Koch, a baker whose feathery blond locks and beard seem to be eating his face from beneath a derby hat. He sings a perfectly serviceable cover of "Like a Rolling Stone," and Xtina waits for the harmonica solo at the very end to be convinced. "It was the harmonica that did it!" she says. "There's more where that came from!" he replies. After giving Xtina a heartfelt thanks for choosing him, they share a sweet moment and a hug.
"My biggest fear is that I get to the end of the song, look up and see the backs of all four chairs," says tonight's other single-named singer, Wade. With his just-different-enough take on "Rehab," it's a fear that never becomes reality. Although Cee Lo looks like he's not feeling it, he ends up turning around. "It was like a Stax version of a Motown-inspired Amy Winehouse song," he says. Now that Adam has a full team, he can appeal to every contestant, basically saying, "I woulda picked you, but my hands are tied.
Southern sorority sister Adley Stump may have just recently learned to sing, but her voice sure packs a wallop. With blonde hair spilling out of a golden leopard headband, she comes across as brassy and confident (and very cute) with a rockin' take on country jam "Last Name." I love that her mom says embarrassing stuff like, "When she was potty training, she sang her ABCs for Skittles," and "I hope I don't have to go over and turn someone's chair around." Moms! This is the contestant who inspires the competition I mentioned earlier. Blake admits that Xtina's interest was what pushed him over the edge. Xtina then goes on about Adley's chops, until Blake asks what that means. "You don't know because you're not a real vocalist," she says – just kidding, but maybe not just kidding? "If you're looking to work with a vocalist, I will sit and dissect with you on a vocalist level," Xtina says. Blake counters strong, though, with a subtle appeal toward his roots. "Country music is about telling a story," he says. "Not the vocal Olympics Xtina is talking about putting you through." Hmm. In Xtina's defense, this show sort of is the vocal Olympics. But we've already established Blake is a charmer. Adley chooses him.
A lot of singers are shown through montage trying to get to the final slot in Xtina's crew. It's not until smoothly-coiffed Sera Hill finally raises the rafters with "I'm Going Down" that she is moved. And boy, is she ever moved! Xtina grabs a mic and heads to the stage for a climactic duet. Sera looks like she's about to die of Happy, but she still tries to hold her own against the all-powerful white heat that is Christina Aguilera's proper singing voice, a reminder of why this judge is duly qualified for her job.
Next week: The auditions are over. Let the games begin!