The Voice Recap: The Blonde Leading the Blinds?

Shawn Smith The Voice - Season 5Christina Aguilera probably gets the toughest blogosphere feedback of any coach on The Voice — she’s too mean! she makes it all about herself! she sometimes wears tiny spaceships on her head! — but I’ve got to be honest: More often than not, when Xtina fails to hit her button, I’m in full and enthusiastic agreement.

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This isn’t to say Xtina has the strongest Season 5 team; I really need to sit down and stare at each coach’s 12-member lineup before I can make such a bold proclamation. It’s just that I think it’s worth reiterating that the woman’s got a pretty great ear — and the kind of “what-in-other-worldly-melisma-was-THAT?” chops that made her spontaneous duet tonight with contestant Michael Lynch absolutely electrifying.

But ACK, now I’m pulling an Xtina and making it all about Xtina.

With that in mind, let’s cut to my ranking (from least- to most-promising) of the eight latest folks to advance to the Season 5 Battle Rounds:

8. Brandon Chase, “Wanted” (Team Blake) | Early college grad — at 17! please tell me it was a two-year school! — didn’t miss many notes, even in his adorably strained upper register. That said, the kid displayed zero emotion and even less charisma while doing it — thus, Cee Lo’s offer to help him with “flair and fabulosity.” Hopefully, Blake at least will help him to refrain from one more mention of that backstory about his serious illness and hospitalization during his infancy. It happened almost two decades ago! J’enough!

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7. Tamara Chauniece, “1 + 1” (Team Cee Lo) | Striking beauty obviously has pipes, but she treated Beyoncé’s melody with all the subtlety and finesse of a high-school running back ripping through a paper banner with his name and jersey number on it. Not an encouraging sign.

6. Lupe Carroll, “If I Were a Carpenter” (Team Cee Lo) | Adorable flower-delivery dude only got one chair to turn, but at least it was the right coach for his scraggly soulster stylings. There’s a James Morrison quavery-ness in his tone,  but I’m not fully convinced Lupe is polished enough to survive past the Knockouts.

5. Brian Pounds, “Wagon Wheel” (Team Blake) | Speaking from a paper-grading standpoint, Blake’s final team member was a definitive B- experience, hitting most of his notes and clomping along with raging competence on a not-very-exciting midtempo country jam. Of course, I probably said something similar about the country duo* who made it all the way to the finals in Season 4.

4. Sean Shawn Smith, “Chicken Fried” (Team Cee Lo) | OK, so the Iraq war vet and bartender wasn’t note-perfect on Zac Brown Band’s homespun ditty, but there was a gut feel to the performance that several of his fellow auditioners tonight lacked. Plus, dude calls himself “Big Sexy” — and has a belt buckle to match.

3. Grey, “Catch My Breath” (Team Adam) | I half expected Carson to intro this Berklee College of Music grad by declaring, “Up next, an artist who lost her last name in a tragic rollerblading accident…” (I kid! I kid!) Yet while my notes tell me I was pretty impressed by Grey’s control, pitch and stage presence, I cannot for the life of me remember anything in particular about her tone. Did my ears deceive me? (It’s possible, seeing how they were miffed that they’d have to wait till midweek for Sleepy Hollow.) We’ll find out in the Battle Rounds.

2. Matt Cermanski, “Have a Little Faith in Me” (Team Adam) | Returning contestant caught my attention with a husky tone and a pretty falsetto, too — and Adam was right that the kid showed huge improvement off his prior Blind Audition. I just hope the judges ragging on his prior choice of “Teenage Dream” won’t discourage him from risky song choices going forward. Because wouldn’t you take 10 of Michelle Chamuel’s “Call Your Girlfriend” or Amber Carrington’s “Skyfall” over 15 “Shake the Sugar Trees” from Danielle Bradberry? (I know, I know…I’ll probably never recover from Season 4’s final outcome. I’m stubborn and ridiculous that way.)

1. Michael Lynch, “Bailamos” (Team Xtina) | Irish white boy with very little rhythm in his feet tackling Enrique Iglesias’ ode to busting a move? It sounds like the kind of thing that would make Simon Cowell salivate with the anticipation of being able to sneer, “What the bloody hell was that?” over on X Factor. But in reality, Michael’s phrasing and tone were potent and powerful, even if his diction was maybe 10% too crisp for the track in question. Like Xtina noted, the guy with a love of the Spanish language started his cover with appealing simplicity, but proved a match for the “Dirrty” diva when she grabbed a mic and took him to Duet on the Holleration (population: two). Could she make him the Latin-infused Chris Mann? And would that be a good strategy? Discuss!

* The Swon Brothers; I was just testing your memory! (And yeah, it took me 15 seconds to come up with the name, too.)

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think the final Blind Auditions of The Voice‘s fifth season? Who were your favorite wannabes? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ or contestants’ decisions? (I’d have turned for the rodeo chick who covered “Stars”!) Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dan (Haleyloonie) says:

    Adam has the best team. “Questions? Comments?” (And yes, I just quoted Vampire Willow) But honestly, I’m not really sure. All the couches have at least one of my favorites.

    • Matrix says:

      Agreed. Adam has the best team with Blake next. Lots of great talent all around.

    • Tyler says:

      I. Adam
      2. Cee-Lo
      3. Christina
      4. Blake

      I think Adam has the best team and Blake has the worst team.

      • arias says:

        Every season blake had the worst team, somehow he succeed. The swoon brother finish third, this guy is a genius.

      • Grammy says:

        I agree 100% for Adam;s team. Christina made TERRIBLE decisions tonight October 21st, I just don;t think she uses good judgment. Thank goodness for Adam’s ability to identify talent.

    • HTGR says:

      Tricky call, overall I’d say: 1. Adam (as always it seems) 2. Xtina and then CeeLo and very clsoe Blake. They each have at least 2-3 who could really be something and the top two have about 6-7. Hard to say. Have to hear more and refresh myself on the teams too.

    • Dan (Haleyloonie) says:

      Did I seriously say couches instead of coaches? :)

    • Maris says:

      Adam seems to always have the strongest team and then it backfires during the live playoffs, sending a strong contestant home while the other couches have more mediocre performers…

      • Jon says:

        I agree…Adam always has incredibly strong performers but then seems to sabotage them with bad song choices and staging (Judith Hill, Amanda Brown, Sarah Simmons, and many more.) That said, I think he has the strongest team this season, followed by Xtina, Cee Lo and Blake.

  2. Matrix says:

    Agreed. Adam has the best with Blake next.

  3. Chablis says:

    I am liking CeeLo. Unique team.

  4. YouKnowIt says:

    It’s Shawn Smith. Not Sean. Or just call him Big Sexy

  5. Tawney says:

    Michael, I think you are “right on” with your critique. I would personally like to know what happened with the girl who sang “Stars”. She was awesome!

    • CMG says:

      Both of us watching here thought that she was singing with a mouth full of marbles. Her tone was OK, but her pronunciation was beyond weird. It wasn’t an accent, it was just all mush-mouth.

      • Ju says:

        Yes! Her tone was pretty but I couldn’t understand the words she was singing. It was very distracting and I’m not surprised no one turned.

      • Chris says:

        And you have to hit that second ‘Stars’ note. When she went low, I just kind of turned off.

  6. Matrix says:

    Loved Grey tonight!

    • Jon says:

      Agree, Grey was great, as were Matt Cermanski and Michael Lynch. I also really enjoyed the lovely Tamara Chauniece, although judging from Michael’s disparaging remarks above and her last place standing on the “favorites” poll I guess I’m alone on that one.

  7. B. says:

    I agree Christina is freaking awesome! Can’t wait for the battles!!

  8. Juan says:

    I feel like this is Xtina’s year.
    I’ve been watching each season, and this time, I think she’s finally actually in it rather than using it to promote.
    I think that during her hiatus she must have realized that she needs The Voice as much as the contestants do.
    I can’t wait to see what she comes out of the battle rounds with, or even the knockouts.

  9. megs says:

    I like how all the coaches are just building their teams with people they feel are good in the moment, and not trying to have such restrictive game plans(like Blake’s all country all the time team last season, and Christina’s “I’m really looking for strong pop singers this year” thing from two seasons ago).

    And, Ah yes that classic musical duo….Blake and Cher???
    Excited for Ed Sheeran though!! Met him a couple years ago and he is super cool and nice. Brilliant musician too of course.

  10. Jake says:

    No duos this year, after all the hype about the Swons doing so well last year? Overall, there is plenty of talent this year but very few stand-outs… which means I might not take it so hard when the judges make horrible decisions in the Battle and Knockout rounds. Best not to get too attached at this point!

  11. Jess says:

    I’m really loving Team Xtina this season.

  12. Deb M says:

    Loving the talent this year, but agree that the backstories are getting ridiculous. The number of contestants who have had near-death experiences or sick relatives is crazy. If the auditions were continuing, we’d probably have someone who’s great-grandma died before I was born and never got to meet her and someone who almost wasn’t born himself because the sperm almost missed the egg!

  13. The Guest says:

    Michael Lynch was the only stand out tonight in a pretty underwhelming season. There’s been no real wow moment like Terry McDermott’s knockout round or Dia Frampton’s first live round performance, so I guess we have to wait and see.

    Also, all this talk about team strength is nonsense. Only one person wins the whole thing (and you can probably bet Blake will knock down every one of his singers left and right to get Holly Henry to the final show). And they’re not teams to anyone but the coach. You think the singer Amber Carrington eliminated in the battle rounds last season was rooting her on to win? It was probably more like a Lex Land/Charlotte Sometimes situation.

    • Matrix says:

      Not really nonsense. Team strength means that the probability of the winner coming from that team may be higher. After all, the coach wins too. As evidenced from the trophies Blake was sporting.

    • Kaba says:

      Notice how last season consisted of people who weren’t serious standouts their blind auditions making it to the top 5.
      Amber wasn’t a blind audition standout
      Neither Sasha
      Certainly not the Swon Bros
      I’m not sure if Michelle constitutes as not being a standout
      Danielle was the only ridiculous standout
      So give people time, you’re expecting everything to start at its peak rather than it building up

      • HTGR says:

        Wasn’t Sasha a stand out? I thought Michelle got some notice too. And yeah maybe not some of the country singers, but then again, some didn’t consider them tops at the end either but that country vote….

      • HTGR says:

        That said, yeah it’s too early to really say all that much yet, a good point certainly.

    • Tyler says:

      I think there’s a lot of standouts so far–before the battles, such as Tessanne, James W., Juhi, Will, Holly, Michael L., Matthew. The wow moment for me was Tessanne and James W.

  14. dreamy says:

    Adam always has the best team. For the past two seasons, all the great artists from his team floundered from too much artistry…

  15. I must be an awful person, but I’m getting REALLY tired of sob stories. Stories of struggle to master a craft? Those I love, but the “I almost died three times over, I was in a horrible car crash, I lost my ___ (insert here father/mother/sibling/pet/whatever)” stories don’t make anybody good, just make them HUMAN. That Brian Pounds sob fest bored me to tears. And he had to repeat it all over again on stage! WTF?!

  16. Templar says:

    I loved the quality of Brian Pounds’ voice. There’s a Glen Campbell clarity there that should sell well to country fans.

  17. AdversityMyA$$ says:

    The young kid that “stopped breathing 64 times” when he was a newborn, the way they introduced him “he overcame great odds to be here tonight,” REALLY????? That was 23 years ago when he was a NEWBORN, he didn’t really seem to have any issues growing up! As a nurse, I see worse cases in the Neonatal ICU. When I think of overcoming adversity I think of Robin Roberts, Nelson Mandela, Eva Peron, Valerie Harper, Marcus Engel (google him), people that have had real adversity in their ADULT lives and have come on to accomplish greater things than just a damn audition. For Season 6 they need to stop embellishing these “overcoming adversity” stories.

  18. You guys are so funny–rooting for Xtina. Haha! There’s a reason she loses and it is pretty tied to the quality of her ear for talent..

  19. Josh says:

    There’s something that tells me Team Xtina will win it this year… Team Adam and Team Xtina are the strongest.. and Blake’s team by far is the weakest… if he wins again.. we all know that he wins because the housewives and the country votters go with im

  20. Megyn says:

    I agree with other posters here. Christina has a really strong team and Christina herself seems rejuvenated. She’s been enjoyable to watch.

  21. Douglas says:

    Yeah, Christina….. She is the soul of the show. Fun, beautiful, talented and most importantly, she is happy with herself again. Have a good team, hopefully win, she really deserves.

  22. David Williams says:

    People put so much in credence in an audition 4 chair turned on The Voice does not spell victory it just mean all the coaches would love to work with you. Your critique on Tamara Chauniece is at best shallow. Her performance of that same song 1+1 on iTunes peaked at 46 on the R&B chart in two days. Do not be so quick to cast ugly reviews of course Mr. Slezak it is your opinion and you a right to voice that. Believe me when the battle rounds begin that is when your critiques will mean something stay tune and watch.

  23. arias says:

    This guy michael something, has always been wrong, year after year. Why is he still doing this.