The Voice Feels The Pressure Before Its Big Finish
Already, The Voice is just about over. Tomorrow, the field of four contestants gets wiped away and we get a winner. This show could've kept going for another three months or so if it followed a less fucked-up elimination schedule, but maybe NBC didn't realize they had an actual hit on their hands. This two-hour show was a weird one, with all the contestants teaming with their coaches for duets and also singing original songsand original songs on televised singing competitions are never good. Structurally, the show remains a mess, and I hope some of the problems will be fixed next season. But all four remaining contestants are people who I could imagine having careers in music, and that's not something I can say about any single season of American Idol. The people behind The Voice did a pretty amazing job picking talent, if nothing else.
One of the show's producers must've bought usage rights for Queen's entire catalog at a garage sale, since the show opened with all four coaches singing "Under Pressure," supposedly in tribute to the contestants. Carson Daly talked about the performance like it was some slapped-together impromptu thing, and maybe it was, since it seemed like the sound guy wasn't quite sure when one contestant would jump in. "Under Pressure" remains a shatteringly awesome song, but it's not the sort of thing that benefits from having four radically different voices sing it; the people on stage didn't interweave the way they've done in previous big-group singalongs. Christina Aguilera got at least one titanic note, but weirdly, Blake Shelton kind of won the moment just by belting out his solo lines with a bit of growl and a minimum of histrionics. (He was singing Bowie lines, not Mercury ones. Obviously.)
One thing I'm not going to miss: Social media reporter Alison Haislip, whose whole job is to read bullshit Twitter questions to contestants and to act like the questions are great. "Facebook wants to know: Did you sleep at all last night?" Shut up, Alison Haislip. Every one of her segments was just 30 or so seconds of absolute hell. I feel like I don't talk about her enough, but she needs to go away.
For his original song, Javier Colon got to work with Rodney Jerkins, who did the same shit on American Idol this year. That guy has no loyalty whatsoever. Javier's song was called "Stitch by Stitch," and it was a sort of MOR pop thing that exists at some intersection point between a ton of different genres. It was R&B, basically, but it was also something Ashlee Simpson could've sung six or seven years ago. It was a perfectly pleasant, perfectly anonymous bit of studio-pop, and it doesn't seem fair that a singer's career should live or die based on a song like that. That's life, I guess. Javier sang it just fine, but it didn't have any of the force of any of his covers, probably because it's just not as good of a song.
For their duet, Blake Shelton and Dia Frampton, both dressed like Blues Brothers for some reason, sang Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," and the amount of time these two have spent together shows. Their harmonies shouldn't have worked, but they did, and they both fit the song nicely. (Blake fit better, but Blake's the actual star of the two, so that makes sense.) "I Won't Back Down" is sturdy to the point of transcendence, and it didn't really give either singer many chances to take any crazy runs. But then again, neither of them is the type to do crazy runs, and I'm happy to see a singing show where you can do well just by planting your feet and belting out the song.
In the video segment before her original song, Vicci Martinez had a nice moment when she ran down her producer Butch Walker's past accomplishments and called Dashboard Confessional "a guilty pleasure from when I was in my teens." That guy! He's so done! Screaming embarrassments have taken their toll! (One day, there will be an early-'00s emo revival. I'm kind of looking forward to it.) Vicci's song, "Afraid to Sleep," sounded like Pink trying to do a Pat Benatar power ballad. I kind of liked it, but I've already forgotten just about everything about it.