If you’re even a semi-regular watcher of The Voice Blind Auditions, you probably know the five simple rules for ensuring a better, brighter viewing experience:
1. Don’t get attached to a contestant on the basis of his/her intro package alone — not even if she’s a sweet young woman from Coal City, WV who tearfully tells the grandparents who raised her that her audition wouldn’t be possible without them.
2. Don’t get thrown by next-level buffoonery from Adam Levine — i.e. the Maroon 5 frontman asking “Are you guys sisters?” to a duo that’s clearly comprised of identical twins.
3. Know that Blake is, 99 times out of 100, going to land the in-demand country singers.
4. Brace yourself for a chorus of patronizing “Oh, wow! I messed up!” exclamations whenever coaches lay eyes on a traditionally attractive performer whose vocal performance failed to make him or her push a button.
5. Allow yourself to get caught up in the exuberance of host Carson Daly and whatever friends and relatives are backstage, weeping and whooping over their loved ones advancing to the Battle Rounds.
While you brainstorm any additional guidelines for maximum Voice enjoyment, allow me to count down Tuesday’s nine advancing vocalists from least- to most-promising:
9. Chance Peña, “I See Fire” (Team Adam) | 15-year-old with a face that may have been created in The CW’s heartthrob test laboratory slathered on twice the necessary amount of vibrato. Considering he wasn’t any better than the lesbian pastor’s daughter who wobbled her way through “Uptown Funk,” I’m not sure how he didn’t join her as one of the earliest Season 9 evictees.
8. Cole Criske, “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” (Team Blake) | Sweet teenager who dedicated his song to his late dad was able to convey an impressive amount of emotion for one so young, but his slightly Kermit-y tone and still body language had me wondering if he should’ve allowed his talent to marinate a few more years before making a play for the big leagues.
7. Celeste Betton, “Love You I Do” (Team Pharrell) | A perfectly fine vocal, but if you’re going to cover J.Hud, you’ve got to conjure up more inner fire than a lit match getting dipped in some day-old dishwater.
6. Alex Kandel, “Bright” (Team Gwen) | There was a Florence-y lilt to the opening verses that sat right at the intersection of Ethereal Ave and Powerful Pl. Still, as Pharrell noted, her ability to sing in key got less certain as the ditty progressed. Former indie darling is going to have to conquer her insecurities about performing without her band — and quickly.
5. Viktor Király, “What’s Going On” (Team Adam) | Upsettingly handsome, U.S.-born transplant to Hungary risked his budding pop career overseas for a chance to break through in America. Yet while his Marvin Gaye cover was slick and professional — conveying a smooth tone and a true grasp of pitch — it also felt simultaneously soulless and bombastic, like he was trying to maximize his reality-show impact rather than truly connecting with his lyrics.
4. Korin Bukowski, “Cecilia and the Satellite” (Team Gwen) | Her pre-performance package could’ve benefitted from 47% less quirk, but as Gwen noted, the self-proclaimed weird girl proved to be one of those rare “character voices” on The Voice who can belt a big note, too.
3. Darius Scott, “You Make Me Wanna” (Team Pharrell) | Usher’s very first hit is no easy composition, with its start-and-stop phrasing and general verbosity, but Darius handled it all without breaking a sweat — then threw in some up-and-down-the-scale runs and a ridiculous high note just to remind everyone he’s a legit contender for Sawyer Fredericks’ crown.
2. Andi and Alex, “Thank You” (Team Adam) | Twin sisters’ masterful harmonies rightfully scored them a four-chair turn, and the way they transported Dido’s ubiquitous hit from the adult-contemporary arena to something folksier proved they’ve got creativity in their corner, too. If Adam makes good on his promise not to screw them up, they could be in the mix til well past Thanksgiving.
1. Krista Hughes, “Angel from Montgomery” (Team Blake) | If this West Virginia songbird can replicate the magic of her exquisite Bonnie Raitt cover tonight, I’m not sure a genetically engineered hybrid of Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Carrie Underwood could beat Krista.