Let’s start The Voice‘s second season with an essay question: Who else here is offended by this show?
Nope, I’m not talking about its self-satisfied judges (though they’re less articulate than Idol‘s not-so-articulate panel) or its singers (who are less memorable than Idol‘s not-so-memorable winners), but the show’s conceit itself: Why is encouraging a singer based only on the sound of his instrument considered a refreshing approach? It’s a bizarrely uninteresting approach, actually. Pop superstardom is and should be about a performer’s command and sense of purpose, not a rubric that nets you a BA in Vocal Performance. The Voice‘s system of recruitment is inherently flawed and condescending, and when I watch Christina Aguilera spin around in her chair to lay eyes upon a hollering, walleyed dame in a denim vest, the look on her face doesn’t read, “What an obvious candidate for the Billboard Hot 100!”; it’s “Here’s what I’m stuck with! Oh no, she also wears cheap hats!” And then we’re stuck with them both.
Still, the show is entertaining. The rotating thrones remind me of the revolving contestant island on Match Game, so my compulsion to keep old game show lore alive is sated. Phew. And of course, Adam Levine has a Highly Sittable Face™. Which is exhilarating. Let’s rank the six performances of the evening from worst to best and see if the next Carrie Underwood Javier Colon is in our image-hating midst.
6. Daniel Rosa: Neon Trees, “Animal”
The quivering, bow-tied nice guy from Riverside, CA, cried and apologized almost as soon as he was introduced, and that told me one thing: He might not be the next Madonna. After selling us on his humility with teary self-deprecation, the bespectacled 20-year-old belted that nondescript Neon Trees wah-ness in a pre-adolescent yelp. Oh no, child. Even The Voice draws the line at wounded dodgeball noises. Cee-Lo, Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton didn’t feign amusement, and Shelton muttered, “Pitchy!” to his colleagues like a hilarious homosexual. Good for him. Afterwards, a crestfallen Daniel summoned some optimism and said to host Carson Daly, “A lot of people don’t even get critiques from people like that!” True, but Christina Aguilera is less of a “person” and more of an “unfunny wig.” Subtle, but crucial difference, Daniel.
5. RaeLynn: Miranda Lambert, “Hell on Heels”
Get this: Miranda Lambert, who is a singer, is married to Blake Shelton, who is a singer (and person, for real) but also a panelist on this show. RaeLynn, you are a sly/slippery eel/cat! Clever. RaeLynn is one of those hair-flower-and-red-lips people, so she’s ready to be secretly boring, but her performance of the foot-stomper was emphatic, if certainly inferior to the original. Blake Shelton snatched her up for his team, and I’m hoping he senselessly champions her the way he did with last year’s Xenia. She spent most of her time on stage looking for a place to nap. I want someone to be infuriated about again, and maybe RaeLynn is the one. Stay tuned.
4. Juliet Simms: “Oh! Darling”
The finest female performance of the hour wasn’t exactly a triumph, but “Oh! Darling” is a very compelling audition song that never feels as cheap or expected as a “Fallin’” or “Hallelujah.” Juliet — whose name, face, and bangs situation are a tribute to the sacred fertility goddess Juliette Lewis — worked one of those mega-growls that singing competitions pretend to care about. Adam Levine and Xtina enjoyed a thoroughly staged argument about her merits after they both buzzed in for her recruitment (with Xtina calling Levine a “Justin Timberlake wannabe” in a fit of pseudo-scathing angst), but Juliet signed up for Cee-Lo’s team instead, because he probably understands boho ladies in denim vests the most. Adam Levine probably doesn’t cruise chicks who wear garments reminiscent of Patrick Swayze‘s in Road House, is all I’m saying.