Christina 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.
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!
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.
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!