Five seasons in, there’s no denying The Voice has its predictable rhythms.
There are typically four or five successful auditions per hour, offset by one hopeful who doesn’t get any chairs to turn. The coaches are as plain as the desperation on a Kardashian’s face when they’re truly excited to get a singer on their team (versus feeling kinda ambivalent after hitting the big red button). And no matter the case, Cee Lo is gonna say something daffy, like asking a teenage girl if she got her boots at ALDO, then insisting on snapping a photo of ‘em (probably so he can purchase ‘em online during a coffee break).
Still, what makes The Voice an enduring treat are the “did I just see that?” twists: Alice Cooper making a shockingly emotional (albeit twisted) cameo to support one of his former protégés. The awesome choice of The Jeffersons‘ theme for a bearded soulman’s audition. A familiar character- and voiceover actress making a play at a different kind of notoriety. Xtina’s décolletage hiding in plain sight.
Episode 2 of Season 5 had all that — plus at least four (if not more) contestants who might have a reasonable chance at stealing the iron throne from Khaleesi Danielle Bradbery. (The only negative? The coaches asking questions of various hopefuls that made me feel like a producer was shouting questions into their ears.)
Anyhow, before I turn into Conspiracy Theory Jones, let’s cut to my ranking (from least- to most-promising) of the nine latest folks to advance to the Season 5 Battle Rounds:
9. Barry Black, “What You Won’t Do For Love” (Team Adam) | Flugelhorn imitation and retro-cool song choice aside, I didn’t hear much from Barry’s audition that convinced me he’ll advance past the Battle Rounds. I mean, it can’t be a good sign that I felt an overwhelming urge to Google “Aua, American Samoa” before the halfway point of his audition, can it?
8. Austin Jenckes, “Simple Man” (Team Blake) | Oh how I wish Carson Daly hadn’t baited this dude with the “Are you doing this for your dad?” question, which somehow seemed exploitative on the heels of an intro package outlining that Austin’s father had committed suicide some nine years back. Still, while Austin most certainly stayed on pitch during his audition, his tone and stage presence were the equivalent of cream-colored eggshell paint: Nothing wrong with it at all, but kind of indistinguishable from dozens of others like it.
7. Cole Vosbury, “Movin’ on Up” (Team Cee Lo) | Cole’s may be a case of the contestant’s song choice — and former rocker-chick grandma — being more memorable than the actual vocal performance, but there’s no denying he’s got a legit sense of rhythm — and the kind of pelt on his lower face that might’ve brought top dollar at a trading post back in Ye Olden Times. (And I mean that as a total compliment.) All together now: Fish don’t fry in the kitchen…beans don’t burn on the grill…
6. E.G. Daily, “Breathe” (Team Blake) | I’ve never watched a Pee Wee Herman movie (You: “Strrrike one!”) or watched Rugrats (Me: “That’s more of a ball than a strike, right?”). So in a lot of ways, I’m probably E.G.’s ideal market: Someone who can focus fully on her singing, and not on any of the acting or voiceover work with which she’s made a living for several decades. I liked the shred in E.G.’s voice when she dug deep on the final chorus, and while yeah, there were a couple little wobbles in pitch here and there, “Breathe” is kind of like an Orca in a sea of country songs: Beautiful, but definitely big and scary. And the good news is that even if E.G. didn’t quite slay the beast, she didn’t get eaten alive by it, either.
5. Jacquie Lee, “Back to Black” (Team Xtina) | I might be a terrible person for admitting this, but the Tracy Flick-ishness of Jacquie’s intro package — tennis! soccer! volunteer work! sanguinary ambition! — gave me reservations about buying what she was selling. But it turns out the kid’s got a ton of power and vocal control — reminiscent of Season 3′s Joselyn Rivera, with a little less pre-fab slickness. That said, should a 16-year-old really be tackling Amy Winehouse? (I said “No, no, no!”)
4. Holly Henry, “The Scientist” (Team Blake) | As Adam noted, this Emma Stone/Jaime Pressly doppelganger has a soft, girlish tone that’s not at all short on brute strength — and both of those qualities were put to haunting effect on Coldplay’s beautifully mournful ballad. With her multi-instrumentalist boasting and her haunted loner eyes, Holly could easily be this season’s answer to Melanie Martinez. And if Holly’s beyond adorable little brother continues dissolving in tears every time his sister rocks the stage, she could be rocking said stage well into the holiday season. (Hey, it’s a known “fact” that adorable crying relatives increase vote tallies between 10 and 15 percent!)
3. Destinee Quinn, “Cowboy Take Me Away” (Team Xtina) | I really dug Destinee’s lack of sob story, her cute floral tiara, and the mostly positive slant she took about being able to support herself as a musician (even though I would’ve liked a slightly more detailed explanation of Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding competition). Better still, though, Destinee’s Dixie Chicks cover was effortless and dreamy — and to my ears, didn’t really have the lower-register woes that Blake harped on. (Cassadee Pope’s early Season 3 performances, on the other hand… OK, OK, now I’m just being cheeky.)
2. Tessanne Chin, “Try” (Team Adam) | Show of hands: When Tessanne began to talk about her musical journey, how many of you initially thought she said she’d sung backgrounds for “Sergei McCliff,” not “Sir Jimmy Cliff”? (Please, please say it wasn’t just me!) Adorably confounding accent aside, though, Tessanne’s gale-force rendition of Pink’s gorgeous anthem was somewhere on the Voice scale between Judith Hill “What a Girl Wants” (aka “holy smokes!”) and Amanda Brown’s “Dream On” (aka “as good as it gets”). I just hope that doesn’t mean Adam will spend the season saddling her with dubious song choices that cause her to get booted before her time. (Uh-huh, I went there!)
1. Jonny Gray, “All These Things That I’ve Done” (Team Cee Lo) | I can’t argue that Jonny has a better voice than Tessanne — and come to think of it, they should probably be tied at No. 1. But there was something about the former Air Force member’s deep, rumbly vibrato that was like an IV of tinglies going right into my veins. (Ugh. That sounds like something J.Lo’s going to say on Idol come January. Now I hate myself. And so do you!) But I digress… dude really feels what he sings — and never misses a note even when he’s neck-deep emotionally. If I could make one tiny suggestion to Jonny, I’d shed the goofy hat and the super long tresses immédiatement: Those shots of him with buzzed hair while her served in the Middle East were hotter than the 127-degree weather he had to contend with on his tour of duty.
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Episode 2 of The Voice‘s fifth season? Who were your favorite wannabes? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ or contestants’ decisions? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!