There’s a reason I wiped the most recent season of The Bachelorette from my DVR after only two episodes: I don’t actually enjoy watching real people get engaged on television. (Fictional characters? Get down on bended knee and keep doing your thing!)
This might explain the recurring waves of nameless dread I felt during Monday’s installment of The Voice, as host Carson Daly repeatedly teased how “coming up after the break” (after the break) (after the break that’s after the break) (because apparently we’re all going to change the channel to DWTS if there’s anything left uncertain) we’d see a televised proposal to melt hearts and influence voting patterns.
Ultimately, the end-of-episode romantic interlude turned out to be tolerably sweet — a spoonful of crème brûlée as opposed to three packets of undiluted Splenda — but I’d rather have had those three extra minutes devoted to one of the trio of vocalists who got the dreaded “montage treatment” on their way to the Season 9 Battle Rounds.
I know, I know, The Voice has a 2015 Emmy award for Outstanding Competition Series and all I’ve got is a penchant for grousing “What about the actual singing?!” But let’s have a show of hands here: Are you more or less inclined to vote for the night’s other loverboy, Chris Crump, after learning he and his bride left their wedding reception to attend a local Season 9 casting call?
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You’re not going to make me say out loud which way I’m leaning, are you? Before you answer that, allow me to count down Monday’s nine Battle Rounds-bound vocalists from least- to most-promising:
9. Amanda Ayala, “Mississippi Queen” (Team Adam) | By the time I brush my teeth, memories of this not-entirely-enthusiastic teenager’s very average performance will have been wiped from my brain like… wait, what was I writing about?
8. Jubal and Amanda, “Seven Bridges Road” (Team Pharrell) | I hope their televised engagement is the start of a beautiful marriage, but their intermittent pitch issues and shouty choruses have me less optimistic about their happily-ever-after as it pertains to NBC’s singing competition.
7. Madi Davis, “It’s Too Late” (Team Pharrell) | Teenage hippie chick’s audition showcased an intriguing tone, but her affected pronunciations and lack of emotional heft make me think it was a year or two too early for her to try to make a go of a singing career.
6. Chris Crump, “Thinking Out Loud” (Team Blake) | Chris’ enunciation in the opening verse rendered almost unintelligible the aw-shucks lyrics of Ed Sheeran’s love ballad, but he showcased a clear and pleasing clarity when his voice opened up on the chorus. If Blake takes a shine to him in the Battles and Knockouts, his babyfaced southern-guy charm could prove a major vote magnet.
5. Lyndsey Elm, “Lips Are Movin'” (Tean Gwen) | It’s hard not to applaud an artist who’s willing to eschew karaoke and cook up her own take on a ubiquitous radio jam. Still, I heard some less-than-solid breath control on the “Na-na-nas,” and if I’m being brutally honest, I thought Lyndsey’s slowed-down, stripped-down arrangement drained all the sass and sting of Meghan Trainor’s original.
4. Morgan Frazier, “I Want You to Want Me” (Team Blake) | As much as I wanted the story about Morgan’s parents let her move to Nashville alone at age 16 to be played as a cautionary tale, I quickly got over my outrage and succumbed to the sweet lilt and delicate crumble in Morgan’s unaffected instrument. She knows how to breathe new life into a lyric, and her ability to land a punch line (“I’ve been watching [Blake] since he had a mullet!”) will further aid her cause.
3. Tyler Dickerson, “Hard to Handle” (Team Blake) | My heart broke a little for Tyler’s tale of losing the major-label deal he’d landed as a teenager — then suffering further after a horrific car accident. But I’m not sure why the judges tried to pretend that Tyler’s wasn’t the 37th permutation on this series of events that The Voice has coughed up over the last eight seasons. Nevertheless, his straight-up-the-middle cover of the Black Crowes’ cover proved he’s got charisma, vocal dexterity and a tone as clean and clear as a bottle of Evian.
2. Jeffery Austin, “Lay Me Down” (Team Gwen) | I wasn’t expecting much from Jeffrey, considering it had been six years since he’d performed on any sort of serious stage — and his highlight reel mostly consisted of his roles in high-school plays. But just as you can’t judge Adam Levine’s net worth by his collection of hideous bowling shirts, Jeffery’s pursuit of a public-relations job doesn’t mean the guy isn’t in possession of a buttery beauty in his upper register, a husky addictiveness in his lower tones and a patience approach to a lyric that brings every subtle emotion to vivid life. As Gwen huffed, her fellow coaches missed the boat in failing to press their buttons; now, here’s hoping their bad choices won’t result in a downgraded opinion of Jeffery’s talents come Battle Rounds.
1. Manny Cabo, “Here I Go Again” (Team Adam) | I’ll admit I’m a sucker for offbeat arrangements and unexpected melodic choices, but when taking on a beast as ominous as Whitesnake’s greatest hit, I’m OK if a guy like Manny merely strides on stage and slays with ferocious vocal power and an “I got this” confidence. There appears to be no limit to the strength or pitch of the 45-year-old photographer’s instrument, and the fact that he was undeterred by Blake’s relentless “don’t choose a judge with rolled-up jeans” shtick has me hopeful he’ll maintain his own vision in the coming weeks and months (provided Adam doesn’t make any ageist decisions and TKO him in the knockouts).