'The Voice' Recap: Teams Adam and Cee Lo go live
Am I the only one who ended up feeling a little sorry for Adam Levine after both his and fellow coach/judge Cee Lo Green's team took the stage for their first live performances on "The Voice" this week?
He didn't think there was a person on his team who couldn't win the whole competition, Levine told us in a video package at the top of the show, later sounding a bit less confident when he added, "The live shows are like sending your kids to college. You're sending them out in the world."
When the camera found Levine live, as he waited for his singers to do their thing, he looked pretty tense. And as the show wore on, he looked disappointed, maybe a little confused, sometimes ticked. Except for when some of Green's singers performed, when he sometimes sounded more enthusiastic about Green's team even than Green, going so far as to declare one to be "the best performance" of the night and another to represent the very embodiment of "The Voice."
Aw, poor Adam!
Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton, whose teams had performed last week, just got to "just sit back and be entertained," as Aguilera noted, with Shelton joking that he'd dressed down to show "how little of a crap I give about y'all's teams."
Here's how things went down with the six singers apiece on Team Adam and Team Cee Lo:
Katrina Parker (Team Adam)
Parker did a fine job, overall, with the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight," showcasing her lush tone. Aguilera said she was captivated by Parker's "gorgeous voice" but wished she'd rocked out more with the song and said she'd maybe hit a "few pitchy notes." Green said that, while it had been a "commendable effort," the song itself might not have been the best choice and that she'd made it too show-tuney. Levine, however, said he was happy with the song and with Parker. "You killed it," he said.
Cheesa, who felt she had something to prove after the battle rounds, sang "Don't Leave Me this Way," embracing the disco vibe while seemingly struggling to open her glittery, overly made-up eyes. Shelton called it the "perfect song choice" and said it made him feel like he was watching "Solid Gold." Levine said it was a "great performance." And Green thought it showed his Cheesa's vocal power, praising the dancing, the excitement, the energy, the staging, even the "colors," calling the whole thing "electrifying."
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Tony Lucca (Team Adam)
Lucca had seemed to be one of Levine's best singers, and here, with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," he sounded strong, if a tad cheesy. The pink lighting didn't help. Aguilera, who had disappointed fellow former Mouseketeer Lucca during blind auditions when she failed to recognize him, had apparently had enough of all this long-lost BFF talk. "I thought that was a good performance," she said, but "I just find you to be very one-dimensional." She added that she believed "there are just better voices on the show" and she'd hate to see him get through because he had "celebrity" connections to her and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Ouch. "That was honest," Levine said, and tried to rescue Lucca by saying how proud he was of him and that he was "so happy with the way this room felt for the three minutes you were up there." But the die was cast. It wasn't going to be Levine's night.
Kim Yarbrough (Team Adam)
Levine took a beating for letting mature, bluesy-voiced Yarbrough sing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Shelton thought Yarbrough was "sharp" at first, but got better as she went along. Green said Levine should have talked her out of singing such a popular song, because it was too easy to compare her -– and not favorably -– to the original. Then Levine piled on himself. "I'd be remiss if I didn't say there were some problems," he said, trying to shift focus to Yarbrough's "potential."
James Massone (Team Cee Lo)
Massone stepped out in one of his trademark letterman jackets (this one was sort of a blazer hybrid) and hairbands and sang a nasally, pitchy "Don't Know Why" while making goo-goo eyes at all the girls in the audience. He had the judges panting. "I almost threw my panties on the stage. I want to wait to hear the number because I'm gonna vote for him. I like him," Shelton said. Aguilera, at least, noted the pitch problems -– "I almost pitched my panties!" said Shelton, again – but then Aguilera, too, got on the Massone bandwagon, saying, "But when you do hit the notes, it's really dope." Green invited the "ladies" to cheer, and then gently suggested that Massone pay a little more attention to some of his notes.
Juliet Simms (Team Cee Lo)
Simms, who says she's had five record deals that have amounted to nothing, wants to show us she's more than a "classic rock girl," so she takes on "Roxanne" by the Police. She gives it a weird cadence, and I was distracted by her trembly chin. But she did seem to know how to work a stage and attack a note. The judges are on their feet! "Well, this just pisses me right off," Levine said, reminding us that he had wanted Simms on his team but had lost her to Green. He added that she was "the best performance I've seen so far," much as he hated to admit it. Aguilera called Simms' voice "dope," and even Shelton said he finally got why the other judges had been fighting over Simms. Green basked in the praise and offered more, "Wow, baby, just wow."
Mathai (Team Adam)
"You're so good. You're like from another planet," Levine told Mathai during rehearsal. Wearing a strange head ornament and a flowy green dress, the former nursing student lent her extraordinary voice to "Ordinary People." Aguilera said she liked Mathai's voice and the way she makes songs her own, but found this particular choice a "little loungy." Shelton admired Mathai's voice and her confidence, saying "it draws you in." And Levine had a good moment, telling Mathai she was "magical" and that he "couldn't possibly be happier with that moment I just witnessed."
Tony Vincent (Team Cee Lo)
Vincent, the Broadway veteran and new dad (it's a girl!) who wants to realize his pop-rock dreams, sang "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" as if it were a song from the musical "Evita." Shelton said it made it hard for him to concentrate on the music. Aguilera liked the production values but thought the song itself was a little restricting for Vincent's voice. Green appealed to viewers to remember that Vincent is "a far better singer than any one performance," and encouraged them to vote for him.
Karla Davis (Team Adam)
Whatever confidence Levine and Alanis Morissette had found in Davis during the battle rounds (for some reason, they'd named her inner confidence Bertha) seemed to be swallowed up in one big gulp once Davis went live. Perched on an airplane wing singing "Airplanes" by B.o.B., Davis came off as breathy, amateurish and frankly terrified, veering off-key in spots to boot. Aguilera called her "the biggest surprise" of the night, but seemed to be referring more to Davis' song and sartorial choices than to her actual singing. Shelton didn't think the song allowed Davis "to explore." Levine said she wasn't nearly as good as she'd been in rehearsal, but threw her a "fantastic job" anyway.
Erin Martin (Team Cee Lo)
Green encouraged strange-voiced former model Martin to tackle "Walk Like an Egyptian," by the Bangles, which would seem a natural for her, given its emphasis on quirky fun over powerhouse vocals and its lavish production opportunities. If ever Martin had a chance to sock it out of the park, this would be it. But though she smiled and looked pretty in her outfit, she failed to talk the talk (or sing the song) to match her walk. Shelton was distracted by Martin's dancers, but Aguilera put it plainly, " You definitely could have brought it harder." Even Green -– who commended her for remembering the words (!) -- seemed disappointed. "I want you to be more aggressive," he said. I doubt she'll have a chance.
Pip (Team Adam)
Young Pip, who didn't have to tell us he'd appeared in a lot of musical theater in high school, but did anyway, apparently has great expectations of remaking himself as a rock star. Levine told him he had to let go and get messier, but the dimple-cheeked lad didn't even lose his trademark bowtie as he tackled "When You Were Young," by the Killers. A misfire. Aguilera, the evening's truth teller, told him he was "trying too hard" for her to be able to connect with the performance. Levine admitted it wasn't what he'd hoped, telling Pip he needed to get "grittier" and "less trust-worthy" if he really wanted to rock.
Jamar Rogers (Team Cee Lo)
This "comeback kid" -– what with the history of drug addiction and the HIV positive diagnosis and all – earned a standing ovation from at least some of the judges with his terrific take on Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," during which he ran through the legs of guitar-wielding, stilt-wearing dancers. Shelton thought Rogers was "too good to have all that crap going on onstage," but Green and Levine competed to see who could praise the performer more enthusiastically. Forget the competition and the teams, Levine told Rogers, "You embody what this show is, with what you just did."
Who are your favorites from Teams Adam and Cee Lo?
"Idol" versus "The Voice": Times music and television writers, including Amy Reiter, are ranking the five best performers each week, regardless of venue. Readers are invited to cast their votes too. See who made the top five last week at latimes.com/idol-voice. Who do you think stood out? Use the poll below to make your picks. Check back to see if your favorites made the cut. The poll closes Monday at noon.
— Amy Reiter
Photo: "The Voice" judges Adam Levine, left, and Cee Lo Green. Credit: Colleen Hayes / NBC