Pay no attention to Carson Daly’s lack of hyperbole.
Sure, Tuesday’s installment of The Voice may not have included color commentary from the relentlessly upbeat host touting “THE AUDITION THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING/ REDUCE YOU TO A PUDDLE OF TEARS AND PLASMA/ ALTER THE FABRIC OF HUMANITY.” But nevertheless, two or three contestants came roaring out of the starting gate with such gale-force gorgeousness that it’s hard not to envision ’em staying in the competition well beyond Pumpkin Spice Season.
[Please forgive my use of “spice” prompting an inevitable link to the new Sporty Spice single “Anymore.” That Mel C really can sing though.]
Here’s hoping the fact that exec producer Mark Burnett doesn’t already have his hype-o-meter cranked to the max means that Season 11 will be more of a horse race, rather than a coronation march to victory for some pre-ordained favorite (a la Sawyer Fredericks, Jordan Smith and Alisan Porter).
Oh look, I’m not casting shade on any of those worthy champs, I’m just saying The Voice is a lot more addictive when the outcome isn’t obvious by the end of Episode 3.
With that said, allow me to rank Night Two’s Battle Round-bound artists from least- to most-promising, bearing in mind I’ll be back in about 30 minutes to update this recap with more detailed performance reviews.
9. Andrew DeMuro, “Vienna” (Team Adam) | In the spirit of brutal honesty, I can vividly recall dude’s grey-striped sweater, but not one detail about his vocals.
8. Dan Shafer, “Marry Me” (Team Blake) | On a show where twentysomethings decalre their audition as their “last chance” at success in the music biz, I’m always eager to support someone in his fifties. Unfortunately, Dan’s choice of Train’s worst piece of musical pablum and his overall lack of “oomph” proved far less memorable than his anecdote about being the voice behind the “Transformers… robots in disguise!” theme song.
7. Brendan Fletcher, “Jolene” (Team Adam) | With its smokey, appealingly acrid top notes, his NYC bartender’s tone recalled a big, roaring bonfire. Unfortunately, his dubious enunciation rendered the lyrics of “Jolene” (not Dolly Parton’s, but somebody else’s) borderline indecipherable.
6. Ethan Tucker, “Roxanne” (Team Blake) | I completely understood why Blake and Adam turned their chairs for this affable Washington native with a voice so husky it could compete in the Iditarod. But as Alicia pointed out, Ethan needs to explore more shades and colors — and not simply rely on his raspiness — if he wants to go deep in the competition.
5. Sophia Urista, “Come Together” (Team Miley) | No doubt, Sophia’s got stage presence and personality — and I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge she’s a darn good vocalist, to boot. Still, while girlfriend captured the trippy essence of The Beatles’ weirdest hit, I wish she’d dialed back on the squeaks-and-croaks affectations and waded a little deeper into the funk-swamp of the melody.
4. Lauren Diaz, “If I Ain’t Got You” (Team Alicia) | Plenty of tecnically outstanding divas have made a big audition splash — only to get ignored by the voting public — over the last half-decade of reality singing competitions. Lauren, though, brought a fearlessness to her cover of Alicia Keys’ monster ballad that made me think she could stretch beyond the borders of balladry and become a genuine contender. Whether or not Ms. Keys feels the same could determine whether Lauren is destined to thrive or collapse once the voting rounds begin.
3. Billy Gilman, “When We Were Young” (Team Adam) | Pre-teen country star who’s now an out-and-proud 28-year-old not only survived, but actually thrived, while scaling Mt. Adele. Billy’s pitch perfection and polish were impressive, but his emotional vulnerability soldified his four-chair turn — and his position as a bone fide Season 11 front-runner.
2. Sa’Rayah, “Drown in My Own Tears” (Team Miley) | Is it too late for Sa’Rayah to adopt a stage name that differentiates her from Empire’s also-unimonikered Serayah? I sincerely hope so! Because The Voice’s Season 11 chanteuse was so exquisite in her Gospel-blues rendering of a Ray Charles chestnut that I actually seconded Miley and Alicia’s decisions to hit their buttons within the first couple lines of the ditty. Don’t ask me why Sa’Rayah’s incredible range and enviable texture didn’t result in a four-chair turn, but maybe Adam and Blake are subliminally hinting that they’re due for a one-season hiatus?
1. Wé McDonald, “Feeling Good” (Team Alicia) | After mocking Mark Burnett’s hype-o-meter, I’m reluctant to wax too ridiculously poetic about Wé, a 17-year-old girl whose raw, rumbling voice cut straight through my soul like a Ginsu knife through a ripe tomato. But dang, the way her lower register registers a 3.2 on the Richter scale, the way her flirty upper register floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, the way she shifts the phrasing of a lyric to give it her own special interpretation… it wasn’t hard to understand Alicia’s post-performance whisper into Wé’s ear: “I got you for real. I heard you just now.” Oh, we did, too.