We’ve come to the point in my Voice recaps where I admit that I’m tone-deaf. So tone-deaf. Almost aggressively tone-deaf. When Christina Aguilera gargles up a compliment like, “It was really the tone in your voice I was attracted to,” I literally believe she’s talking about nothing. (She’s usually talking about nothing, which makes it confusing.) She’s actually talking about something I can’t hear, but I believe that gives me an advantage over her: I can tell you what the average, below-average American hears in these contenders. We’ll call that a gift.
Anyway, The Voice breezed through more than a dozen auditioners last night. It was so hard to like many of them. Let’s give ’em all letter grades and shoot this two-hour fiasco off a cliff.
Sarah Golden, Lady Gaga’s “You And I”
Sarah set herself back a couple pegs without ever singing a note, because something about “You and I” just doesn’t work as an audition song. In fact, like most tracks on Born This Way, it feels like 2/3 of a good song that needs a cleverer hook or an essential shred of uncontrived nuttiness — the whimsy and kitsch that make “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” so unbeatable. The whole album is too cold and over-juiced, which is why it surprised me that Blake and Cee Lo snapped around to see Sarah’s unassuming mug. Sarah’s balladeer growl is serviceable, but I wish she’d played on her last name and sang the hell out of “Golden” by Jill Scott. Seriously. We weren’t shown Sarah’s face until the very last moment, but by the way Carson Daly prepared us for her reveal, you’d think she was a naked transvestite Elephant Man niece. Nope. Just a nice-seeming lady with her nice-seeming voice. Grade: B
Elley Duhe, Duffy’s “Mercy”
There was no excuse for underselling this song, because “Mercy” is one of the kookiest, sassiest jams of the past five years. The bouncy Elley Duhe looked like she had a good time, but her poppy trill just doesn’t compare to Duffy’s whack-ass warble. The judges abandoned her, but luckily, her dad looked a little like a wizened Chris O’Donnell. Good for her. Grade: C-
Pip, The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”
Single-named phenomenon Pip began his assault on the senses with a medley of awful quotes: 1) “I’m almost more comfortable onstage than I am offstage.” 2) “I don’t like to blend in with the crowd.” 3) “I like to push the envelope a little bit with my style.” Oh, and what a style it is: He pulled together some H&M suspenders and a bright blue shirt. That’s called “an average Wednesday” for some of us, Pip. Fortunately, Pippi Longsuspenders selected a perfect song, “House of the Rising Sun,” and gave it about 40% of the grit and gothic cool of American Idol pseudo-legends Siobhan Magnus and Haley Reinhart, who both slayed the Animals’ hit in their respective seasons. It was all worth it to see Pip’s mother cry, “He is PRECIOUS — PIP.” Grade: B+
Erin Willett, The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”
It’s very sad that Erin’s father has stage-four pancreatic cancer, but The Voice‘s schmaltzy production makes me wonder if the producers forced him into the fatal illness to ensure that his daughter would be on the show. Worse things have happened! For instance: Triscuits. Just the worst.
Erin’s zeal was a great change of pace for the show last night, which lurched into an ugly languor early on. Her fire was electric, and her onstage “selling it” expressions were believable! Is it becoming clear that I judge these performers using RuPaul’s Drag Race criteria? Welcome to me. Grade: B+