Category: The Voice

'American Idol'-'Voice': Is Jamar Rogers better than Elise Testone?

Jamar Rogers
As we approach the finales of "American Idol" and "The Voice," the cuts get tougher. On "Idol," it was Show Tracker favorite Elise Testone who ended her run this week, while on "The Voice," Adam Levine sent home Mathai and Cee-Lo said goodbye to Cheesa.

That leaves five "Idol" hopefuls and eight "Voice" performers to carry on. Our "Idol"-"Voice" rankings also continue, taking all the singers from both shows and putting them head to head each week. I'm choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton -- and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.

Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.

INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? 'Idol' vs. 'The Voice'

1. Jamar Rogers, "The Voice"

The flames flickering at his back and the projections of pulsating speakers above and below him certainly heightened the sense of intensity, but Rogers' take on Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" would have felt plenty urgent even without all that impressive stage business. Rogers is a survivor, a fighter and a seriously compelling performer, and he sang as if it were his own personal anthem -– and as if his life depended on it.

2. Katrina Parker, "The Voice"

With her heartfelt rendition of Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts," all lush and raspy and round-toned, Parker stepped away from all those Adele comparisons that have been beating around her and claimed the heart-shaped spotlight all on her own. It was as if she were proclaiming a resounding "Me!" to her own question: "Who do you think you are?" Her "Perfect" the next night was a perfect follow-up.

3. Elise Testone, "American Idol"

I love it when Testone really rocks out, feeling the music and letting her voice leap, skip and bounce as if the notes are smooth stones she's expertly skipping through still water, making hypnotic melodic ripples. Her performance of Queen's "I Want It All" was a perfect example, even if her "Bold as Love" didn't quite work. I'm sad to see Testone leave the "Idol" stage, but I trust this is far from the end for this talented singer. Here's hoping she gets all she wants.

4. Tony Lucca, "The Voice"

It wasn't very nice of Christina Aguilera, with whom Lucca shares a "Mickey Mouse Club" past, to call him out in front of millions of people the other week. It was one thing to label his performance style "one-dimensional," but quite another to accuse him of trying to sneak by on his Disney past. So it was truly gratifying to see him slyly hit back at Aguilera with this song by their fellow former "MMC" castmate Britney Spears. Plus, he conquered the song as if it were a hit of his own.

5. Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol"

Of the three "Idol" judges, only Randy Jackson loved Sanchez's take on the Queen classic, but I thought she captured the song's strangeness, sounded beautiful without sounding "pretty," and proved she really can sing pretty much anything.  Yes, even rock. To me, it was far more interesting than watching someone sing Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father" on "Idol" for the umpteenth time, even if it was sweet of her to dedicate that song to her soon-to-be-deployed dad. 

"American Idol" vs. "The Voice"

Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Phillip Phillips came out on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at


'The Voice' recap: So long Cheesa and Mathai

'American Idol' recap: Elise Testone departs

INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? 'Idol' vs. 'The Voice'

--Amy Reiter

Photo: Jamar Rogers on "The Voice." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC

'The Voice' recap: So long, Cheesa and Mathai

Now that the outrage after last week's eliminations has died down, everything proceeded pretty much as expected on "The Voice" this week. And what Tuesday night's elimination rounds lacked in surprise, they made up for with the comfort of knowing that the right people had been sent home and the best candidates tapped to move forward to duke it out in the semifinals.

After Florence and the Machine, backed by Team Cee Lo, had performed their song "No Light, No Light," the remaining members of Team Adam and Team Cee Lo gathered to learn their fates.

Carson Daly delivered the audience verdict with merciful swiftness. America's save is … the boys! The sole remaining guy on each team had been saved: Tony Lucca would advance from Adam Levine's team. Jamar Rogers would move forward from Cee Lo Green's crew.

INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? 'Idol' vs. 'The Voice'

That left Mathai and Katrina Parker to compete for Levine's save, and Cheesa and Juliet Simms to vie for Green's.

If you predicted that Parker would blow it out of the water and Mathai would turn in a sweet yet somehow disappointing performance, you were right. Mathai sang "Cowboy Cassanova" and didn't lack for charm, but did lack a certain power and urgency. The judges complimented her on her "aggression."

Then Parker came on -- looking lovely -- and showed off her lush, round, gently raspy tone on  "Perfect." "I know Tony got the vote from America," Blake told Adam. "But Kristina is the best singer on your team." Christina said she agreed with Shelton "100%" and that, of all the singers on Levine's team, she was "most excited to hear original material sung by" Parker.

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'The Voice' recap: Pip and James Massone shove off

VoiceceeloholdThe eight singers on teams Cee Lo and Adam performed on Week 2 of "The Voice's" live quarterfinals Monday, and before the night was over two of them had gone home in another irritating "instant elimination" round, in which each coach must send home one team member before the performance sweat has even dried.

As I've said, I think it's ridiculous to hand this sort of game-changing decision to the coaches before the audience has even had time to absorb the performances, much less to vote for their favorites. Even Adam Levine, who had embraced the nod toward greater coach control last week and at the beginning of Monday's show (around the time the coaches were cracking each other up, apparently with fart jokes), seemed a little less enthusiastic by the time his turn came to suddenly crush one of his team member's dreams. It was "stupid," he said, that the coaches had to send someone home.

Then, after a speech about how being sent home wasn't the end of the world for the performers, Levine informed Pip, the dimpled lad who ditched his trademark bow tie and veered off key Monday with "Somewhere Only We Know," that he was letting him go.

INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? "Idol" vs. "The Voice

That meant audiences would still be able to vote to save one of the remaining three members of Levine's team, leaving the other two to vie Tuesday for the coach's save:

Mathai: The former nursing student gave a so-so performance of "I'm Like a Bird," with what her coach, Levine, called a "sketchy dude" swinging acrobatically overhead, but she still emerged smiling.

Katrina Parker: The former cubicle worker distanced herself a bit from those Adele comparisons and gave an emotionally raw, vocally polished "Jar of Hearts" that ought to collect her a few votes.

Tony Lucca: The former "Mickey Mouse Club" member stopped the show by tweaking his past and hitting back at fellow former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera with a rocking rendition of Britney Spears' "... Baby One More Time." Even Aguilera, who had ripped into Lucca after a previous performance, admitted she "thoroughly enjoyed" Lucca's performance. "Nice job," she said.

At least, before bringing the ax down on Pip, Levine spoke extemporaneously, rather than reading his singers a message he'd composed on his cellphone. That's what Cee Lo Green did before cutting his team's weakest link: letter-jacket-and-hairband-wearing Boston car mechanic and Green-dubbed "lady killer" James Massone. Massone had turned in a typically tame, teenybopper-targeted performance of "I Want You Just the Way You Are." "It just laid there for me," Blake Shelton said after Massone had performed, likely echoing the thoughts of many.

Massone's departure left three singers to seek the save on Green's team:

Jamar Rogers: Rogers' positive outlook and heart-tugging back story -- the HIV-positive recovering drug addict has said he didn't think he'd make it to his 30th birthday, crediting a Green song with helping to save his life -- gave a particular power and poignancy to his intense performance of "It's My Life."

Cheesa: Green's anointed "power vocalist" gained judge approval for her gutsy, throaty take on "I Have Nothing" -- Aguilera said she hit notes that Whitney Houston herself hadn't; Green weirdly hailed her "childbearing strength" -- but it just seemed all wrong to me.

Juliet Simms: The raspy-voiced rocker donned a set of giant "Angels in America"-esque wings and stood amongst cascading feathers for her no-holds-barred take on "Cryin'," but the melody flew away from her like a bird.

We'll get the audience verdicts tonight. In the meantime, who do you think gave the best and worst performances?

"American Idol" vs. "The Voice"

Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Phillip Phillips came out on top.

Who will the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at


Full coverage of 'The Voice'

'The Voice' recap: Justin Bieber appears; two go home

'The Voice': Christina Aguilera makes shocking elimination

— Amy Reiter

Photo: "The Voice's" Carson Daly, Juliet Simms, Cee-Lo Green, Cheesa and Jamar Rodgers. Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC

'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice: Is Phillip Phillips the best?

Phillip Phillips, "American Idol"

On "American Idol" this week, Colton Dixon got voted off, and the judges had no power to save him. Over at "The Voice," there was a surprise elimination — Jesse Campbell — who joined RaeLynn and Ashley De La Rosa in going home this week.

It's the end of the line for those three contestants, but not for our "Idol"-"Voice" mash-up, which takes all the singers from both shows and puts them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton — and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.

Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here

INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? "Idol" vs. "The Voice

Phillip Phillips, "American Idol": Phillips, long my "Idol" favorite this season, briefly fell off my list last week. But this week he reminded my how bad I have it for him, first strumming and singing just as sexily as Jennifer Lopez said he did on Usher's "U Got It Bad," and then all itchy-twitchy, chicken-dancey (sans guitar) with "In the Midnight Hour." When he really gets going, Phillips seems almost electrified by the music he's making, and we, too, get caught up in the current. A real musical thrill.

Elise Testone, "American Idol": Testone boldly tackled the Marvin Gaye song "Get It On," showing off her vocal texture, sensuality and soul. Who knows why the judges didn't like it? Maybe it made them uncomfortable to see a woman growling and grooving and getting her moves on up there. (Steven Tyler excepted.) Or maybe they are harder on her because she's older than the other contestants and they think she can handle the criticism, as Testone posited on Thursday night's show. Regardless, "Let's Get It On" was one of my favorite performances of the night. Testone's take on Alicia Keys' "No One" wasn't too shabby either.

Joshua Ledet, "American Idol": Ledet is an immensely talented singer, and early in the season, he was among my favorites. Not long before we started these weekly rankings, however, a few overwrought performances made me lose my taste for him. Happily, in the last couple of weeks, he's gotten his vocal excesses back under control and renewed my appreciation. His restrained "A Change Is Gonna Come," though not pitch-perfect, was nevertheless a pleasure to listen to, perhaps because it was less polished and precise than previous performances. It was no less passionate, though.

Jesse Campbell, "The Voice":  Though "Halo" was definitely not Campbell's best song, he was one of the best singers — if not the best singer — on "The Voice" this season, and if the song didn't suit him, I blame his coach, Christina Aguilera, who appeared to press him into singing it even though he expressed discomfort. Campbell may not have hit all the notes spot-on, but even Aguilera had to acknowledge he brought emotion to it, evoking his experiences being homeless, inspired by his daughter to persevere. I'm including Campbell on my list in part to protest his early ouster. And he's the only "Voice" contestant on here (sorry, Jermaine Paul and Lindsey Pavao) because I'm mad at the show for not giving its audience a say in the matter. At this point in the competition, "The Voice" shouldn't deprive its audience of its voice.

Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": Sanchez seemed understandably affected by her shocking near-ouster last week. She didn't come back with quite the same power we've seen from her some weeks, but she didn't lose her lush tone or playful musicality either. Somewhat chastened, perhaps, by the voters' spurning, she seemed to approach her songs — Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and the Otis Redding hit "Try a Little Tenderness" — with a new caution. But then she got as caught up in them as ever, prompting many of us to fall for her all over again. I understand what Jimmy Iovine is saying about her tackling songs that may be too old for her. On the other hand, her vocal maturity is just startling. She may look 16, but she sure doesn't sound it.


'American Idol': 6 remain after Colton Dixon departs

'The Voice' recap: RaeLynn and Ashley go home

Blake Shelton says elimination 'a lot of pressure'

— Amy Reiter

Photo: Phillip Phillips performs on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.

'The Voice': Blake Shelton says elimination 'a lot of pressure'

"The Voice"

Blake Shelton said he was just as surprised as viewers by his elimination choice in Tuesday's episode of "The Voice." But he wasn't basing his decision on the whole season, he said. And that's why we saw country spitfire RaeLynn get the boot, not Erin Willet.

"There’s no point of having a sing-off if you're going to base your decision on the other episodes," Shelton said Wednesday during a panel for "The Voice" at NBC's press day. "That’s what sucks. ... I went into that show last night thinking that I would probably pick RaeLynn if they did an equal job. As a country artist I feel like maybe I could have helped her a bit more. But Erin had a better performance. I felt like it was my job in that red chair to do the right thing."

And for a moment, it seemed viewers weren't even going to see Shelton make his choice -- credits started rolling with the show drawing to a close, prompting host Carson Daly to frantically say, "Give me a name! Give me a name!"

"It's a lot of pressure," Shelton said.

And there may be a lot more of it. There have been reports the well-performing singing competition series would get a third season that would air in the fall -- which NBC has not yet officially announced. Daly, who also serves as a producer on "The Voice," was coy about whether it would actually happen.

"We'd certainly be excited by the opportunity to have a show people are so passionate on again in the fall," he said. "The truth is, it's a call from the network. We'd obviously be thrilled by it."


 'The Voice' recap: Justin Bieber appears as 2 go home

Full coverage of 'The Voice'

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Contestants RaeLynn, left, Jermaine Paul and Erin Willet on Tuesday's episode of "The Voice." Credit: NBC

'The Voice' recap: Justin Bieber appears as 2 go home

The untold number of Justin Bieber fans who tuned in to see their idol appear to introduce what turned out to be only a brief clip of his forthcoming video, "Boyfriend," may not have noticed, but two more contestants were sent home on "The Voice" on Tuesday night, leaving Teams Blake and Christina with just two contestants apiece as they head into the semifinals in two weeks.

(Don't despair, Beliebers. Your heartthrob, whose new album will be released June 19, will return to perform "Boyfriend" – and perhaps make more confusing chit-chat with the coaches – on "The Voice's" finale, which is only three weeks away.)

But somewhere between the high-pitched, lovelorn screams of Bieber devotees and fans of the Wanted, which performed live on Tuesday's show, "The Voice" got down to the at times tearful business of narrowing the playing field.

Of course, "Voice" fans may still have been reeling from the previous night's jarring instant eliminations, in which coaches Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton each sent one contestant home, without any post-performance input from "Voice" voters. Aguilera, in particular, had startled viewers and stirred up controversy by eliminating a perceived frontrunner, Jesse Campbell. Her decision apparently surprised her fellow coaches, as well.

"I was really shocked, and I'm not easily shocked," Adam Levine said, noting, however, that it was Aguilera's decision to make.

"I am no stranger to controversy and I am OK with that," Aguilera reminded viewers, saying she had a strategy, had thought long and hard, and had, ultimately, followed her heart. "I am fearless in the face of what I believe," she added, before directing attention to her remaining team members, looking frightened as they clumped together on the stage.

Ashley De La Rosa, Chris Mann and Lindsey Pavao: One of them would be saved by the fan votes. The other two members of Team Christina would compete for Aguilera's save.

Classically trained opera singer Chris Mann got voter save, leaving De La Rosa, Pavao and Aguilera all looking unhappy.

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'The Voice' recap: Christina Aguilera makes shocking elimination

Wow. Total shocker on "The Voice's" live quarterfinals Monday night, on which Teams Blake and Christina performed. And I'm not talking about when Christina Aguilera appeared without pants to sing "Fighter" with her team and a high school choir. The last time Jesse Campbell performed on "The Voice," he was "the one to beat," according to Adam Levine, who, alas, was not his coach. And the time before that he was the one who made us love him by stutter-singing the word "b-b-b-baby" with such style in the B-b-b-battle Rounds.

This time, he was the one his coach, Aguilera, sent home. And I, for one, totally didn't see his insta-ouster coming. Campbell, who had overcome homelessness and had a lovely young daughter and a fluidly expressive voice, was one of my early favorites. Now – without the audience weighing in on his performance of "Halo," a song picked by Aguilera that was not a good fit -- he's gone, and to quote Jordis Unga, who was also sent home in a flash, "I'm sad."

Actually, what Unga said was "I'm sad, but I understand," because her coach, Blake Shelton, explained why he'd made the choice he'd made. It wasn't personal or even really much of a judgment call. Faced with making a decision he didn't want to and apparently hadn't expected to have to make, he decided to "revert to America's vote," and send home the person he'd saved from elimination two weeks before. That was a rationale we could probably all understand.

His team – sassy, boot-stompin' country girl RaeLynn; soulful belter Erin Willett; Alicia Keys' spotlight-worthy former backup singer Jermaine Paul; and vulnerable rocker Unga – had all given more or less top-notch performances Monday night, though Willett had unfortunately been saddled with an Adele song, "Set Fire to the Rain," and no one really shines like Adele when singing Adele. "You had big shoes to fill," Aguilera told her. But Willett did manage to use the song to highlight her own strengths.

RaeLynn growled and shimmied winningly on "She’s Country," which was a perfect song for her. Paul showed off his supple voice and commanding stage presence on "Against All Odds." Shelton predicted Paul would look back on the performance as a turning point in his career. And Unga – in a glamorous, form-fitting white evening gown that showed off her impressive arm tats – got vulnerable and a little bit weepy with "A Little Bit Stronger."

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'American Idol' vs. 'Voice': Is Jessica Sanchez the best performer?

Jessica Sanchez
"American Idol" was shaken by drama this week when fans voted to send Jessica Sanchez home and the judges used their save on her. Across the dial on "The Voice," Karla Davis and Kim Yarbrough from Team Adam and Tony Vincent and Erin Martin from Team Cee-Lo said goodbye.

But both shows carry on, along with our "Idol"-"Voice" rankings, which take all the singers from both shows and put them head to head each week. I'm choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton -- and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.

Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here

INTERACTIVE | "Idol" vs. "The Voice": Who's the best?

Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": How is it possible that this precocious, preternaturally talented 16-year-old was almost sent home this week? We've long known that Sanchez is a star -– this week's guest mentor, Akon, called her a "legend" in the making -– but with her riveting take on "Stuttering," she surpassed even her sky-high standard. The powerhouse performance may also have been Sanchez's most intimate. When she sang about yearning to connect and communicate, it felt like she was reaching out directly to the audience. At that moment, the contest seemed to have been Sanchez's to claim, potentially making her "Idol's" first female winner in years. Which is why her near elimination, before she was yanked back from the brink by the judges' save, left us sputtering.

Elise Testone, "American Idol": If I could squish Philiip Phillips' face in here next to Testone's, I would. Their duet of "Somebody That I Used to Know" was suspenseful and satisfying, with Phillips contributing the creepy undercurrents and Testone delivering stylish swoops of melody –- distinctly different from "Voice" contestant Lindsey Pavao's take on the song last week. Testone also showed off her textured tone and in-the-moment performance style on Lady Gaga's "You and I," gently caressing the soft notes, bouncing up and like she was revving for takeoff, and then letting her voice soar.

Jamar Rogers, "The Voice": They're calling Rogers, who has survived drug addiction and an HIV-positive diagnosis, the "comeback kid." I call him totally exciting to watch onstage. This week he burst onto "The Voice's" live shows like a fireball, energetically inquiring "Are You Gonna Go My Way" while, at one point, running through the legs of stilt-wearing, guitar-thrashing dancers. He worked the crowd like a pro and didn't miss a note. Leading us to answer the question posed in his song with a definite "yes."

Katrina Parker, "The Voice": Though I began to admire Parker's voice during the battle rounds, I understand why voters might not have rallied around her for her performance of "Tonight Tonight" on "The Voice's" performance show this week. But her "last chance" take on "Don't Speak" showed off her passion, vulnerability and throaty-good vocals. I do wish the show's stylists would stop making her up to look like Adele, though. Parker's got an individual voice; she should have her own look to match.

 Skylar Laine, "American Idol": After looking to stay in the game by showcasing her ballad-worthy vocals on "Wind Beneath My Wings" last week, Laine seemed to slide back into her own persona, while perpetuating the power of that moment. Accompanying herself on guitar, with campfire sparks flying, Laine looked and sounded every bit the confident country star. She hit every musical and emotional note of "Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You" just right. Didn't know how much I liked her until this performance.


'American Idol' recap: Jessica Sanchez wins the save

INTERACTIVE | "Idol" vs. "The Voice": Who's the best?

'The Voice': Four depart from Teams Adam and Cee Lo

 -- Amy Reiter

Photo: Jessica Sanchez on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

'The Voice' recap: Four depart from teams Adam and Cee Lo

Gotta hand it to "The Voice." It does its elimination shows well. On Tuesday night, viewers were treated to better performances by virtually all of the contestants who sang than they were during the actual performance show on Monday night.

During a look back at the previous night's performances, Adam Levine reiterated what we all knew anyway. There were moments when his team had made him proud, he said, and others when he felt they had let him down. He was, he admitted, "a little jealous" of Cee Lo Green's team at times. Green, meanwhile, just glowed, saying his team had blown the roof off the joint.

The net result for both teams, however, would be the same Tuesday. America had voted three singers from each team of six through, and after the voting results were revealed, the team's coach/judge would select one more to save, sending two of his team members home.

VOTE: Who did you think was the best singer of the week?

After Jessie J, who is a coach/judge on the U.K. version of "The Voice," sang her hit song "Domino" -- wearing mismatched epaulets, a sheer film of a skirt and fabulous high-heeled red booties -- with backing from Team Christina, Carson Daly filled us in on how the vote had gone. (Though not before the camera found Arsenio Hall in the audience in a moment that felt surreal, but which makes more sense when you realize Hall is competing on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" this season.)

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'The Voice' Recap: Teams Adam and Cee Lo go live

'The Voice' judges Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green's teams compete liveAm 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!

VOTE: Who did you think was the best singer of the week?

 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.

Continue reading »

'American Idol'-'The Voice': Is Phillip Phillips the best of all?

In our "American Idol"-"The Voice" mash-up, "Idol's" Phillip Phillips stands at the top
On "American Idol" this week, DeAndre Brackensick got the heave-ho, while on "The Voice," Charlotte Sometimes and Naia Kete from Blake Shelton's team and Sera Hill and Moses Stone from Christina Aguilera's group said goodbye.

But the shows go on, as does our "Idol"-"Voice" mash-up that takes all the singers from both shows and puts them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton -- and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.

Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.  

INTERACTIVE | 'Idol' vs. 'The Voice': Who's the best?

1. Phillip Phillips, "American Idol": There's no other contestant on either "American Idol" or "The Voice" I love more than Phillip Phillips at the moment. He earned my love all over again during '80s week on "Idol," taking "That's All" by Genesis and phillip-phillipsing it into something totally his and totally appealing. And then his crazy chicken-necked stroll across the stage while dueting with Elise Testone on "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" put him right over the top.

2. Jesse Campbell, "The Voice": Campbell has been my "Voice" favorite from the start, and even more so during the battle rounds, when he stutter-stepped his vocals straight into a deep pocket of my heart. Singing "What a Wonderful World" during his performance on the first live show this week, he made his sweet voice stretch and bend and melt and expand in ways I can't recall hearing from anyone else before. Wonderful.

3. Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": Sanchez is the total diva package: She can sing, she can move, she can emote, and she can wear pretty much anything onstage and make it look fab. She showed she was up to an up-tempo with "How Will I Know" this week, tackling it with the complete command with which she tackles everything. She even introduced her alter ego, Bebe Chez (a la her idol Beyonce's Sacha Fierce), who she says "likes to party and have fun." See? She really is only 16. Oh, and her "I Knew You Were Waiting" duet with Joshua Ledet wasn't too shabby either.

4. Lindsey Pavao, "The Voice": There's something about Pavao's offbeat vibe, weird tone, asymmetrical hair and frank glare I can't get enough of. It's friendly and familiar, yet totally fresh and a little bit fierce. Her "Somebody I Used to Know" had a strange, haunting quality -– and it wasn't just the freaky guys in the masks. I'm looking forward to watching her stare down her adversaries -– and to seeing what she tackles next.

5. Erin Willett, "The Voice": She's kind of a dark horse, Willett. During the battle rounds, when she dedicated her performance to her dying father, it would have been easy to dismiss her as a sympathy-vote contender. But this week, with "Living for the City," she did her late dad, and herself, proud –- and proved herself worthy of our admiration as well as our sympathy. I didn't really care for the hokey "Smokey Joe's Cafe"-esque staging. But Willett's soulful, full-throttle vocals cut right through the visual clutter. She nailed it.


"The Voice" recap: Four singers say "so long"

"American Idol": DeAndre Brackensick packs it in

INTERACTIVE | "Idol" vs. "The Voice": Who's the best?

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Phillip Phillips performs on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett team up for new NBC reality series

Dick wolf
Two of TV's elite producers — Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett — are joining forces for a new NBC reality show revolving around military veterans and active-duty servicemen and servicewomen training celebrities.

Wolf ("Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU") and Burnett ("Survivor," "The Voice"), will be executive producers of the show, which has the working title "Stars Earn Stripes."

In the series, nine celebrities will gather at a top-notch, secret training facility. Each will be paired with a trainer assigned to prepare his or her celebrity for the weekly challenge. Those challenges will be adapted from real exercises drawn from all five branches of the armed services, as well as joint ops and Special Forces.


Keith Olbermann's $70-million suit accuses Current TV of blackmail

OWN announces four new series

Late Night: Andy Cohen hosts "Real Housewives" screaming match

— Greg Braxton

Photo: Dick Wolf. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times


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