Reality singing competitions live or die by the strength of their contestants, but it doesn’t hurt to have other secret weapons — especially when you’ve got a two-hour telecast to fill. This week’s installment of The Voice certainly proved the value of a loaded arsenal — employing a fluffy white cat, some creative editing, subtle/possibly nonexistent nods to American Idol‘s Haley Reinhart, several hilariously unrehearsed outbursts, a wrestling match pitting Christina Aguilera’s breasts against the exhausted black Lycra of her scoop-neck top (spoiler alert: the blouse is so going to lose), and even a crushing blow to gossip monster Perez Hilton. Let’s review:
* I can’t tell a lie: I howl with delight every time we’re treated to a shot of Cee Lo’s cat Purrfect — who, for what it’s worth, has almost as many Twitter followers as Taylor Hicks — lazily stretched across her master’s arms during his confessional segments. Cee Lo has become the jaunty Bond villain that The Voice couldn’t live without, and yet even when he’s being a little creepy — calling undeniably hot contestant Erin Martin a “wonderful creature of a woman,” then purring, “Quite naturally, you belong to me, don’t you agree?” — you know he’s doing it with good humor, and that the objects of his prurient glances are in on the joke. Why else would Sarah Golden hop aboard Team #RedZone after the “Crazy” singer, encouraging her to choose between himself and Blake Shelton, grinnned lasciviously and noted, “You can’t handle us both, baby”?
* Speaking of Golden, how much did you love the way the episode kicked off with a true blind audition for both audience and coaches, never allowing us to see the singer’s face until the judges turned their chairs? Here’s hoping we get one or two of those edits per week for the rest of the audition rounds.
* I know I have an unnatural Haley obsession — Exhibit A: My Twitter background — but it can’t just be coincidence that the night’s first two successful auditions (from Golden and the uni-monikered Pip) both featured songs memorably covered by The Growler during American Idol‘s 10th season, can it? (Okay, okay…it can.)
* My two favorite quotes this week seemed to slip right out of their sources’ mouths: Adam Levine catching his first glimpse of R&B singer James Massone and shouting “He’s white!” and Chris Cauley’s wife watching the opening notes of her hubby’s performance and declaring “He’s so cute!”
* And finally, while all of this week’s ousted auditioners displayed decent talent and gracious attitudes, I was kind of flummoxed by turquoise-haired Winter Rae bringing Perez Hilton to her audition and thinking it was going to be a positive. (That’s not suddenly a positive, right?)
Either way, let’s get on to the business of discussing the singers who advanced to the Battle Rounds. In the interest of not getting too attached too soon to any one artist — coaches will have to narrow their personal pools of 12 vocalists down to six in the not-too-distant future — let’s rank last night’s dozen successful auditioners, and review their work in a Twitter-esque 140 characters or less:
12) Nathan Parrett (Team Adam) | Got cannon-fodder edit, and his blah cover of “The Joker” did nothing to indicate he shouldn’t be.
11) James Massone (Team Cee Lo) | Auto-shop worker’s tears were oh so adorable, but I was stunned three judges turned for his nasal boy-band delivery of “Find Your Love.”
10) Erin Willett (Team Blake) | When her dad cried, I did, too. That said, her transitions and riffs were a little rough on “I Want You Back.” Backstory > Vocals?
9) Brian Fuente (Team Blake) | Didn’t hear anything crazy-distinctive in very brief clip, but anyone who sings Grace Potter’s “Paris (Ooh La La)” can’t be too bad.
8 ) Sarah Golden (Team Cee Lo) | 1970s a.m. radio voice — but would Anne Murray have been excited by Cee Lo being “inappropriate”? “You and I” odd for self-described folkie.
7) Pip (Team Adam) | Hot buttered irony alert: People don’t take him seriously because of his clothes, said guy known simply as “Pip.” Solid “Rising Sun,” tho.
6) Geoff McBride (Team Xtina) | “Higher Ground” played like first-class karaoke, but there’s no denying he’s packing serious vocal horsepower. Proceed with prudence, Xtina!
5) Moses Stone (Team Xtina) | Correct coach for show’s first emcee: Already envisioning him rapping on Xtina’s “Dirrty. I’m waiting for sister to act/ like Lauryn Hill!
4) Jordis Unga (Team Blake) | Rock Star: INXS grad showed combustible power on “Maybe I’m Amazed,” though a little restraint might’ve been nice, too, y’know?
3) Katrina Parker (Team Adam) | Cubicle drone has a hot, husky voice, brought finesse to Joan Osborne’s underrated “One of Us,” used the word “ninny.” How come only Adam turned?
2) Erin Martin (Team Cee Lo) | “Egyptian warrior princess” served Macy Gray-Ricki Lee Jones oddness while bringing real emotion to “Hey There Delilah.” More, please!
1) Chris Cauley (Team Adam) | Cee Lo was right: Dude’s slow, lounge-y “Grenade” was the best full performance of the night. Which made judges’ muted response bewildering.
What did you think of this week’s installment of The Voice? Who were your favorites? Sound off in the comments!