As the second night of blind auditions brought premiere week of The Voice to an end last night, one thing was clear: Even a mediocre episode of The Voice is 10 times better than the best episode of The X Factor (and maybe even American Idol). Even so, Tuesday night's parade of unique characters failed to leave us with the sense they had found a winner yet.
However, with returning coaches Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green missing nary a beat upon returning to the fold after a one-season hiatus, it quickly became clear that Xtina is hungry for a win, continuously telling contestants that this was going to be her year because mainstays Adam Levine and Blake Shelton – who are the only judges whose constestants have won the show (Adam with one win, and Blake with three) – were like picking an old hat.
The hopefuls that stood out on this episode, though, did not necessarily do so solely because of their singing voices – many of them had some other unusual quality about them, too.
One such standout was Barry Black, a 27-year-old native of Samoa who was able to recreate the sound of a trumpet with his mouth – and that's exactly what it sounded like, a guy pretending to play the horn. Think of it as kind of a brass-band beatbox. (His singing voice was much better.) The sound confused Adam so much he mouthed "I have to" before pushing his button just to see what the hell was going on. Blake was soon to follow. After Barry finished, the bromantic banter that ensued between Adam and Blake was the best part of the segment. When Adam called the contestant "weird and wonderful," Blake asked, "Why don't you go ahead and punch him in the face while you're at it?" Still, in the end, Barry went with Adam.
Then came 28-year-old Tessanne Chin, a part-Asian woman with a thick Jamaican accent who has sung backup for reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. (She said she is of Chinese, Native American, English and African-American descent.) Her accent-free rendition of "Try" by Pink made Christina, Cee Lo and Adam turn their chairs almost at the same time, with Blake bringing up the rear. When Cee Lo said her mature, soulful voice made her sound like "a grown woman," she replied, "I am a grown woman." (This simple statement got her two points from us.) And after Adam she could "easily win," she went with him.
Another memorable moment came when E.G. Daily stepped onstage. If the name doesn't ring a bell, her face or voice might, as she played Dottie in the 1985 cult classic Pee-wee's Big Adventure alongside Pee-wee Herman and has voiced numerous animated characters, from the Rugrats to The Powerpuff Girls. Now 51, she's still hoping to make it as a singer. She performed Faith Hill's "Breathe" in a raspy, almost strained vibrato that both Blake and Cee Lo loved. "You remind me of Rod Stewart," Cee Lo said as a compliment. Meanwhile, Blake admitted, "To have that much rasp and still hit the notes and sing in a falsetto" was what made him turn his chair. In the end, she went with Blake because she thought he'd focus on her future as a singer, not her past as an actress and voiceover artist.
Likewise, there was the inevitable stream of country artists that cruised across the stage; amazingly, they didn't all wind up on Team Blake. Twenty-year-old working musician Destinee Quinn, who won a contest at age 16 to perform with Alice Cooper, landed on Christina's team – but only because Blake didn't turn his chair. Meanwhile, rocking the ever-popular Duck Dynasty look, according to Blake, long-haired, bushy-bearded 22-year-old Cole Vosbury turned one chair – Cee Lo's – with his "balance of country and soul" on a guitar-driven version of the Jeffersons'theme "Movin' On Up."
Blake did pick up one more country singer – another burly, bearded guy: 25-year-old Austin Jenckes, who performed "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. After turning his chair, Blake admitted he was glad Austin "wasn't a scrawny kid" and that he looked more like the Brawny Man who can chop down trees." Perhaps that's the skill this guy will pull out during the Talent Portion of the competition? (We're guessing he wouldn't earn any extra points for wearing a swimsuit, but you never know.)
Other acts making it to the next round were 16-year-old vocal powerhouse Jacquie Lee, who chose Xtina; 19-year-old self-proclaimed "awkward" singer-songwriter Holly Henry, who went with Blake; and 29-year-old long-haired rocker and Iraq war vet Jonny Gray, whose vibrating voice Cee Lo compared to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.
Previous recap: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green Are Back