Sometimes, I wonder if The Voice‘s coaching panel is a little too quick on the trigger.
I mean, I need to read more than the first three words of a novel before I’m all, “OK, I’m gonna be up ’til 2:17am and tragically tired when the alarm goes off in the morning.” And it takes more than a glance at the label of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc bottle before I’m willing to commit to a second or third glass.
And yet time after time, Adam, Pharrell, Blake and Xtina slap their little red buttons before contestants manage to finish the opening line of a cover tune. Sure, Emily Keener’s tone and passion on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” were undeniable during tonight’s Blind Audition episode, but I had to wonder if any of the coaches regretted purchasing the teenager’s Voice stock once her pitch began to collapse like a One Direction fan after a backstage meet and greet.
To some extent, I understand the overzealousness: Coaches want to have the “I pressed first!” bragging rights in a competitive situation. But 10 seasons in, that argument seems to hold a lot less sway than a passionate, thoughtful enticement that’s tailored toward a particular contestant’s skill set.
Anyhow, while you mull the thought about how-early-is-too-early for a Voice button-push, allow me to rank the episode’s contenders from least to most promising:
8. Shalyah Fearing – “What Is Love” (Team Xtina) | In her best moments, this teenager’s grit and growl made me think she could have a bright future in the music business, but there were too many youthful indiscretions in her tone and phrasing to convince me she doesn’t need another three or five (or maybe even seven) years to fulfill her potential.
7. Caroline Burns – “So Far Away” (Team Adam) | Pint-sized 15-year-old who couldn’t get a chair to turn in Season 9 showcased a sweet, delicate tone but got tremulous and off pitch in the last third of her performance — confirming my belief that she’ll be Battle Rounds cannon fodder.
6. Emily Keener – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Team Pharrell) | With her muscular, Florence Welch-ian lilt, Emily got a very fast four-chair turn — but then almost immediately began experiencing pitch struggles that undercut the effectiveness of her Elton John cover. Xtina’s schtick about Emily’s potential to “speak to a new generation” came across as less organic than Adam Levine with blonde hair, but I’m willing to revisit the subject of Emily’s potential when we reach the Battle Rounds. (See! I can be open minded-ish from time to time!)
5. Angie Keilhauer – “I Hold On” (Team Blake) | I’ll admit that perhaps my Voice enthusiasm waned a bit during the fourth hour of the two-day Season 10 premiere, but while Angie’s vocal was inarguably solid, there was no aspect of it that struck me as particularly emotional or original.
4. Laith Al-Saadi – “The Letter” (Team Adam) | Laith’s next-level guitar skills were more .mpressive than his workmanlike vocals, but the way the bearded dude surrendered completely to the bluesy groove of “The Letter” was a reminder of why post-teen contestants can be very dangerous if they survive the judges’ cuts and make the live voting rounds.
3. Kata Hay – “Redneck Woman” (Team Xtina) | Nashville Karaoke host will probably get more attention for her quick smooch with Xtina — and Pharrell’s freshman-year frat-boy response to it — than she will for her Gretchen Wilson cover. But Kata’s primal growl and brazen energy on the uptempo ditty were pretty impressive, too, no?
2. Adam Wakefield – “Tennessee Whiskey” (Team Blake) | Adam didn’t exactly reinvent the blues-roots wheel, but he drove it through the bumpy terrain of George Jones Boulevard without ever dropping his technique or emotional intent. Don’t underestimate this fella: Fully grown adults who appeal to country and rock fans alike tend to go very far in the competition.
1. Joe Vivona – “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” (Team Pharrell) | Joe’s tightly closed eyes in the opening half of the song betrayed a serious case of nerves, but his exquisitely smokey tone and enviable ability to fully inhabit a lyric far outweighed his inability to play for the TV cameras. If Pharrell can help boost the New Jersey carnival worker’s confidence, he might be headed straight for the top of the Ferris Wheel (competitively speaking).
Relegated to the Dreaded Montage Treatment
Jonathan Bach – “Born This Way” (Team Pharrell)
Katherine Ho – “Wildest Dreams” (Team Adam)
Lacy Mandigo – “Son of a Preacher Man” (Team Xtina)