The Voice Keeps The Niceness Quotient High

via Rickey
After the first of its live shows, some real problems have emerged with The Voice. Similar to the last season of American Idol, none of the celebrity panelists is willing to say anything remotely critical, although that reluctance at least makes more sense here because they're supposed to be coaches, and not judges. It's becoming increasingly obvious that all the other coaches can't stand Christina Aguilera and that she really doesn't have her shit together enough to be on live TV. Carson Daly sucks so bad, and I especially can't stand how he doesn't just throw to the judges after the performances; he has to say something like "That was great! Cee-Lo, wasn't that great?" And yet I still enjoyed the show way more than anything I just wrote would indicate, since it's a fresh format with a bunch of engaging people who can actually sing and since there's always the chance that we'll get to hear one of the coaches sing.

Carson Daly started out the show finally dressed like he was hosting something on TV, wearing an actual suit that looked pretty OK. But then he had to remind people that he was friends with MxPx or whatever by pairing goddamn skate shoes with the suit. I would dearly love to see Ryan Seacrest show up on this show, challenge Carson to a fight, and tear Carson's throat out on some Khal Drogo shit.

In any case, Carson threw to the show's coaches, who performed together for the second time. Given that all of these people are total pros, those group performances are a nice little trump card for the show to pull out on big occasions. This time, for whatever reason, they were all getting together to sing a medley of Queen songs. Adam Levine sounded smooth and in control on the first bit of "Bohemian Rhapsody," and it was fine, but they should've given him "Under Pressure." Cee Lo and Blake Shelton tag-teamed "We Will Rock You," with Cee-Lo sounding hoarse and tuneless (always a danger with that dude; he is, after all, a rapper), and Shelton sounding tough and comfortable. They should've given Cee-Lo "Somebody to Love" and Shelton "Fat Bottomed Girls," obviously. It was, however, fun to see Levine nail the Brian May solo. That guy! All surprises! And then Christina Aguilera, wearing something that she must've pulled off the floor of the Burlesque wardrobe room, sang "We Are the Champions," and it turned out to be exactly the song she should've sung. Goddamn, she sold that thing. After decades of sports-montage abuse, I didn't think I'd ever enjoy hearing "Champions" again, but she wrung out every drop of feeling left in it while showcasing all the ridiculous shit she can still do with her voice.

Somewhat clumsily, this led to a previously-on-The Voice montage. Even with a two-hour show, we only got two of the teams—Team Xtina and Team Blake—facing off. Carson, shitty host that he is, did a shitty job explaining the rules from here on out. Rather than the Idol model, where everyone votes and the person with the lowest number leaves, we got something else: The audience picks someone to be safe, and so do the judges, but then two people from each team go home. I didn't get it at all, and all these wrinkles seem pretty stupid. Just send the least popular person home and save yourself the confusion. Also of note: Cee Lo wasn't wearing sunglasses, and he appeared to be growing a mustache. He looked like a minor villain in a low-budget action movie starring Tyrese. And all the various contestants were sitting in a green room tweeting at people, which seems like a truly shitty way to psych up for a televised performance.

The first performer, the absolutely tiny Raquel Castro, performed with a vast onstage mob of dancers, a truly weird production decision for this show. But she was singing Ke$ha's "Blow," a fired-up club-pop song that can support that sort of silliness. And she looked remarkably comfortable, showing off a couple of big notes and managing to avoid getting kicked in the face by the backflipping dancers. A song like that isn't going to convince anyone that Raquel's a great singer, but she held the stage convincingly and Ke$ha probably couldn't have sung that song nearly as well.

The next guy up was Team Blake fake Daughtry Jared Blake, and I'm hoping he gets kicked off because (1) he sucks and (2) I really don't want to be typing the word "Blake" twice in a sentence ever again. He sang the Kings of Leon butt-rock staple "Use Somebody." Halfway through, he pulled a reverse "Summer of '69" video move by ripping off his guitar and throwing it to a stagehand, which freed him up to do this weirdly awkward hand-on-heart dance move all over the place. He also sang the last line directly to someone in the crowd who I thought was his wife, but no, she was just some girl. Also: Glittery black headband. I'm saying: fuck this guy.

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