Blake Shelton Twangs Out of Tune on SNL

Honestly, Blake? We're not mad. We're just disappointed.

Shelton's hosting/performing gig on Saturday Night Live this week is a lesson in coulda-woulda-shoulda: He could've brought a bit of country to the concrete jungle, and he could've downplayed the differences between the big city and the small-town sensibilities embraced by his music and persona. Despite some great comedic moments, an epic fake music video in "Wishin' Boot," and perfectly respectable renditions of "Boys 'Round Here" and "Neon Light," he stayed straight in the confines of assumption and delivered exactly the kind of episode we'd anticipate from someone who may as well be dubbed Music Row's Hollywood ambassador. He did what pop-country stars are expected to do by those who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the genre: He banked on the easy jokes and became a cartoon of himself that grew more ridiculous with every punchline, and he threw a pall over his performance (and country music on the whole) in the process.

He gave the haters what they wanted — and that's a problem, as Shelton's hokey routine set his songs up to fail.

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Oddsmaking: Best Country Solo Performance, Where Ludacris's Stamp Of Approval Makes A Difference

As part of this year's larger reduction in genre-specific awards, 2012 will see the country portion of the Grammys streamlined to just four categories: Best Solo Performance (which swallows Male and Female Vocal Performance), Best Duo/Group Performance (which swallows Best Duo/Group Vocal Performance and Instrumental Performance and Best Collaboration with Vocals), and Best Album and Best Song (which have been around since the beginning). This year, the last of those categories mixes old and new, split (along gender lines, as it turns out) between Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Martina McBride, who between them racked up 13 Female Vocal Performance nominations and four wins, and Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton, both up for the first time. Full breakdown below.

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Radio Hits One: Reality TV Propels Aging Stars Back Into The Top 40


When I heard that Jennifer Lopez was leveraging her new position as an American Idol judge to launch her new single, premiering the video for "On The Floor" on one episode and performing the song on another, I rolled my eyes at what I thought was her hubris. It'd been less than two years since Lopez's long-flagging music career had seemed to finally come to a screeching halt; her single "Louboutins" flopped, and Sony opted to drop Lopez rather than release her seventh album. Using Idol as a platform to relaunch herself into pop stardom seemed doomed and desperate.

Or so I thought.

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The Voice Feels The Pressure Before Its Big Finish

via Rickey

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 songs—and 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.

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The Voice: All Of A Sudden, There Are Only Four Contestants Left

via Rickey
One thing about The Voice that bugs me: Way too many people getting sent home way too quickly. It's hard to develop that much of a connection to the contestants when half of them get axed once a week. So on this results show, people were, once again, just dropping like flies. Would it kill this show to stretch things out a little longer? It's not like NBC has shit else going on.

Another thing that bugs me: How do people get sent home again? The results came from some combination of coaches' scores and audience votes, but Carson Daly didn't exactly do a bang-up job explaining how it would work, or which was weighted more. At this point, it's been firmly established that the coaches love everyone, so why not leave it up to audience votes entirely? Is that such an awful idea?

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The Voice: The Dominance Of Javier, The Rise Of Vicci

via Rickey
Vicci Martinez performs "Dog Days Are Over."
I wish Game of Thrones was still on. It isn't. But hey, The Voice is still on!

On last week's show, it seemed pretty obvious which four singers would make it through and which ones wouldn't. On Team Cee Lo, for instance, it was absolutely not a surprise that Vicci Martinez would be the one voted through. The only surprise came when Vicci stood up next to the other members of her team and revealed herself to be tiny. She's Peter Dinklage height; if she'd gone home, she would've had to travel to King's Landing to become the new Hand. Probably even Cee Lo is taller. It also wasn't surprising to hear Cee Lo go into phantasmagoric funkateer detail about how much he loves each and every one of the singers on his team, though it was pretty fun. And then, when he picked friend-of-a-friend Nakia as the one guy to stick around, I'd already called it exactly. So, you know, I'm awesome. Good choices, everyone.

(Quick Nakia update: Marc Hogan, my friend and his former showgoing buddy, reports that Nakia does, in fact, have a last name, though I've already forgotten it. The shows, Marc confirms, were probably John Mayer shows, though Nakia was probably going because he was friends with the opening band or some shit.)

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The Voice: Cee Lo Wigs Out, Adam Levine Gets Inspired By Old VH1 Playlists

via Rickey
Hey, The Voice! It's still pretty good! And right now, there's pretty much nothing else on TV except for Game of Thrones!

On last night's episode, Carson Daly, you'll be happy to learn, moved on from the detestable suit-with-sneakers look he was rocking last week. Unfortunately, he swapped that thing out for a leather jacket over a shirt and tie. Will somebody teach this man how to dress like an adult? If he's going to step into the singing-show-hosting game, he has to look the part. I'm harping on this because it just demonstrates how woefully underqualified Carson is for a job that, as it turns out, must be pretty hard. Ryan Seacrest only makes it look easy; all the little things that the guy does improve his show vastly. Carson has been blessed with a relatively entertaining show; he's just not living up to it. Cee Lo could've fixed all this just by lending Carson his incredibly sparkly jacket, but I don't blame Cee Lo for wanting to hold onto that thing.

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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.

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"The Voice" Closes Its Eyes And Takes On "American Idol"

So: The Voice. The big challenge. American Idol has been the dominant ratings force in American TV for a full decade now, but none of the other networks has really managed to do much with that show's format, which seems like a relatively easy thing to steal. (Or they haven't made a big singing-competition show out of the format, anyway; Dancing With the Stars is the same show in a lot of ways.) The Voice is a last-ditch shot on the part of a desperate NBC, and it sure seems like they spent a lot of money, time, and thought on this thing. (God knows anyone who's watched Community over the last few months has had to deal with nonstop ads for the show.) They also got themselves a pretty impressive roster of guest coaches.

Christina Aguilera is obviously the big get here, even after all the disastrous career decisions she's made lately (biting Gaga and then claiming she'd never heard of Gaga; attempting to make a megabudget electroclash album nine years too late; Burlesque). Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, and Blake Shelton are all pretty famous too, and unlike 2/3 of the current American Idol judging lineup, they've all scored hit songs relatively recently. What interests me more about them is that they've all had a hand in at least one awesome thing--in descending order of awesomeness, Soul Food, marrying Miranda Lambert, "Beautiful," and the chorus of Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say".

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