Apr 16, 2017
The Voice Premiere: How Will We Keep Recapping It If Everyone Stays Nice And Awesome?
When snipy gave me the list of potential teevee shows to recap I was like “ugh” because man, so many shows about people singing and dancing (and one about Mindy Kaling, who I don’t believe does either of those things) but I picked The Voice because once upon a drunken Superbowl party NBC aired The Voice immediately after the game, nobody was sober enough to find the remote to turn it off, and and CeeLo Green was petting a fluffy white cat like a James Bond villain.
We watched the whole damn show. So roughly 87% because of my adoration of CeeLo Green, let’s together journey into Season 5 of The Voice.
As the show recaps its own purpose — the judges assemble teams of singers and then somehow those singers vocally battle until one of them is named The Voice — I realize I don’t really understand what “winning” means on this show. Is it money? A record deal? Have any of the previous Voice winners been Kelly Clarkson’d into mainstream music fame? I don’t know, and am therefore going to go with “probably not.” Maybe Becoming The Voice means literally becoming the Voice. TRANSCEND YOUR MORTAL COIL, HUMAN. BE THE VOICE AND EXIST ON TOP 40 AIRWAYS FOR ALL TIME. Yes, yes, this is probably the prize.
Also apparently Country Singer Man Blake Shelton’s contestant (and therefore Blake himself) has won the past three seasons, which I can already tell I will be reminded of eight hundred thousand times during Antagonistic Yet Friendly Judge Banter ™ this season.
The judges start the show by singing “I Love Rock and Roll” together, which is a tune that usually demands more hot women in leather than viewers are presented with, but the judges actually sound pretty excellent together. They take turns soloing bits of each verse —Christina Aguilera belts, Blake Shelton country-belts, Maroon 5 guy Maroon 5’s, and CeeLo wins my heart. It’s like the judges’ sonic Olympics, a moment of union and peace before they’re forced to invent conflict between one another. Also, way to remind everyone that these four humans have, you know, good voices. They do! They’re not just yelling to yell! (This is the failure of reality competitions based on cooking, I think — there is no way to convince me Guy Fieri or Gordon Ramsey can make anything more complex than toasted pop-tarts until scientists stop fucking around with 3D screens and invent some Willy Wonka pull-the-chocolate-bar-from-inside-the-television tech. Where’s the venture capital for that?)
CeeLo Update: COOL GOOD CEELO IS BACK I WASN’T GONNA KEEP RECAPPING THIS IF HE WASN’T STILL HOSTING. Excellent. Now I don’t have to familiarize myself with The Mindy Project. CeeLo is sans villain-cat this time around, but he’s wearing Eddie Murphy’s red jumpsuit from Delirious and sporting some kind of elaborate pattern on his head that isn’t hair. Is it a tattoo? Henna? Sharpie? A message from his alien overlords to Earth? Tune in next week to (probably not) find out!
As we dive into the first contestant I’m reminded OH RIGHT CARSON DALY HOSTS THIS SHIT. I hope that man has an amazing third act. I hope he runs for senator. I hope he’s remembered as one of the greatest statesmen of the 21st century. But anyway our first contestant is a young woman named Cat, who was in a band for a while and toured a bunch but we all know that’s no way to make money these days, so now she’s here.
Right, most of the contestants get little mini-docs made about them they air before we ever hear them sing. I’m awash in sympathy for the assistant editors who have to cut the segments about people who don’t make it. But now Cat, who is an attractive white girl because Give The People What They Want, is lamenting that she didn’t get to see her husband much when she was touring. Ah, conflict. BUT then she starts talking about her dad who got her into music and how he liked The Voice and he died and it’s sad aww bb.
Cat gets on stage and promptly begins killing “I Got the Music in Me.” Like, dang. Daaaaaaaaaang. She’s already dressed like a rockstar in heels and in all black and white and has a raspy voice and after a couple of improbably high kicks I’m pretty sure I already know who I’m rooting for this season.
At the close of her song the judges begin arguing over whose team she should pick. Christina whines “I’m into her I think she’s really speciaaaal” but ultimately Cat chooses CeeLo, cementing that yes, I already know who I’ll be rooting for this entire season.
Shelton remarks to the other judges how they picked up exactly where they left off arguing-and-group-dynamics-wise. Essentially: “If you liked last season, you’ll LOVE this season.” I’m waiting for when the judges to start a literal soap opera between them on the side and let the competition be a backdrop to their interpersonal drama, but I’ve been watching a lot of Twin Peaks recently.
An adorable little seventeen-year-old white girl auditions next. I don’t catch her name because I am too busy worrying that this is going to be saaaaaaad if she doesn’t make it, or heartwarming if she does. As the show goes on, I realize more and more that The Voice is much less interested in exploiting bad performers for than forebears like American Idol. In fact, besides the contrived Friendly Inter-Judge Bickering™ the show is relentlessly positive, even to the few contestants they show perform but who aren’t picked to continue on by a judge. Anyway, back to the ballad of the Nameless Cute Little White Girl.
Performing changed her life and she has stage fright but also she doesn’t have stage fright because of THE POWER OF MUSIC. ALL HAIL. A piano begins tinkling when she walks on stage and for a moment I’m convinced this is going to be dirge-y and horrible but then she opens her mouth and oh, just kidding, she’s dope. CeeLo and Shelton agree and are the judges who hit their Red Buttons of Approval. PLEASE TINY WHITE GIRL TEAM UP WITH CEELO. PLEASE. MAKE THIS THE NEIL SIMON PLAY OF MY DREAMS, I think very hard at my television.
Nameless Adorable Lace-Collar-Dress White Girl likes Norah Jones and sounds like baby Norah Jones and likes Florence and the Machine and Regina Spektor.
Then Maroon 5, whose name I know is Adam but whatever, calls her “like, the sweetest thing on earth” and it is…mostly cute? There is discussion over Tiny White Girl’s giggle but then CeeLo claims he and this girl are kindred, which is hilarious, and then guys she picks CeeLo as her coach instead of Blake Shelton I am overjoyed. This is amazing. I might enjoy this show. Nameless Giggler says of CeeLo “I think he’ll take good care of me as a person” and I can’t wait to watch this pairing happen.
CeeLo Update: Even without a supervillian cat to pet, clearly still the best part of this show.
The next contestant is a fiftysomething black woman named Donna. Donna was a Tampa Bay cheerleader and something like her high school’s first black homecoming queen — she lists off a lot of cool accomplishments in a row and it’s honestly hard to write them all down — and was a professional R&B singer but stopped so she could raise her son. Am I just going to be pulling for dope women so kick ass all season? Did The Voice producers watch Orange Is The New Black or something? Regardless, Donna says “I’ve waited long enough. This is for me and my son.” Hell yeah, Donna.
About two notes into “You are so beautiful” Christina Aguilera hits the Approval Button to spin her chair and look upon Donna in all her glory, and Maroon “Adam” 5 immediately follows. Donna crushes the song and gives the whole audience eons of life.
For a moment I get cranky at the Snippy Judge Banter ™ because they don’t really explain what their button-not-hitting strategy is and I feel like that’s kind of crucial to the show’s concept. Then Shelton says he didn’t hit his button because he thinks Donna should be on Christina’s team, so ask and ye shall receive, I suppose. Donna fails to take Shelton’s advice and chooses Adam, who runs up to embrace her, which then turns into a sexy her-legs-wrapped-around-him embrace and there is much smiling and laughing and it is really difficult to not get caught up in how damn pleasant this show is, guys.
We follow Donna with Jake, a 17 year old Texan whose mini-doc consists of him talking about mud. And fishin’. And four wheelers. So ends our streak of Dope Lady Singers, but like all of the other contestants Jake is pleasant and polite. The mini-doc about Jake’s life shows him and a group of buddies in mud stained white t-shirts relating how his buddies told him to “man up” and try out for The Voice, so here he is. “Not much to it, decided to do it.” he declares. You go country boy. You go.
It turns out none of the judges choose Jake, but he’s “just happy to be here” and honored and excited to meet all the judges and talks about how much he respects all of them. The judges are kind and encouraging. This show is so pozzy.
Next up in The Voice’s search for the perfect American is Matthew. Matthew is initially shown being very handsome and playing rugby. He works at a bagel shop, goes to college, participates in a bunch of extra-curriculars and loves his family. BOTH HIS PARENTS ARE PASTORS. Clearly, we are being introduced to a Perfect Human. The family used to have a church but they lost the church so now they have a church in their basement and his dad works three jobs and oh my god this casting agent just goes hunting for talented angels with talented angel families.
The instant — this and this isn’t Internet hyperbole for once — Matthew starts singing, all four judges push their Approval Buttons. In the Nervous Friends And Family Waiting Booth, Matthew’s family freaks out and starts jumping around, and it’s deeply hilarious to watch dorky Carson Daly try and participate in this family’s joy. Part of the appeal of this show is they manage to cram the excitement of the third act of a heart-wearming success story film into every episode — the judges are out of their seats, Matthew’s family is overjoyed, the audience is losing their minds, and Matthew is being handsome and talented and smiling and singing the shit out of whatever the hell song this is. He finishes the song and a few of the judges stand up to shake his hand or embrace him before they even argue over who gets to own his soul, except Adam, who somehow gets stuck atop his chair like a clueless, beardy kitten.
Then the soul-possession arguments begin. Blake Shelton makes what I think is a joke about his marriage being in trouble, judging by the covers of US Weekly I’ve scanned while waiting in line at CVS. Is his marriage in trouble? Is this going to be a plotline in the show? Whatever, because now Christina is claiming Blake is feeding her “good vibrations” and Blake accuses her of “stealing my vibrations” and all I can think of is that scene in Dr. Strangelove about women stealing men’s “precious fluids.” It apparently works, because after a commercial break — yeah, we get a cliffhanger for which judge this kid chooses, so we can assume he’s an Important Figure — Perfect Angel Matthew chooses Christina as his coach. Everyone is excited and hugging. A lot of this show is excited hugging.
Our next talented and morally righteous contestant is named Nic Hawk. He claims he wants to be Jessie J and talks about his having been in dozens of musicals and it’s not long before he says the word “twerking.” But then we learn his stepdad left his mom, so Nic moved home to help his mom and little brother with epilepsy by bartending and teaching dance. Now that his family is back on their feet he can return to performing, bless his adorable, septum-pierced heart.
Nic sings Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style” and, naturally, kills it. I think Christina actually thinks he’s a lady until she spins her chair because “oh wow” is the first thing she says upon seeing him. Maroon 5 also spins his chair, and he and Blake get some of their apparently quota-enforced bickering out of the way. Adam greets Nic upon the conclusion of his song and Nic immediately calls Adam “handsome” and for the next several minutes the studio audience whoops and cheers Nic’s light sexual harassment of that dude from Maroon 5. Truly we are living in a post-DOMA America. Nic eventually chooses Adam as his coach and Christina declares their relationship a “bromance” of which Blake Shelton is jealous. Guys, just drop the “b” and make this a very high-budget soap opera. I beg of you.
We now skim over a bevy of young contestants —tweens and teens—who almost-but-don’t-quite make it onto the show. We skip most of the mini-docs in favor of seeing snippets of their performances, including a kid who sings that paradoxical “What makes you beautiful” One Direction song (aren’t One Direction an X-Factor copyright? Is this musical reality genre starting to eat its own tail?)(Yes.)
The poster boy for the Almost-Teens is named Matthew, whose two-year-old brother died when he was a child but “singing helped me heal” and “he’s with me on every performance, I know that much.” It’s sad and adorable and uplifting all at once. His actual performance piece is the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” which tanks all the Stevie Wonder Twelve Year Old Genius jokes I wanted to make and Michael Jackson jokes are tired as hell so let’s just skip to the part where the judges like him very much and are encouraging but do not pick him.
CeeLo Update: After he performs CeeLo asks Matthew “Where did you get that voice from?” and Matthew immediately responds “God.” So naturally CeeLo goes backstage to talk to Matthew and his family after the judging. He talks with Matthew, who sang at his younger brother’s funeral, about singing at his own mother’s funeral. He then tells Matthew to not give up and that he has a greater purpose and CeeLo is the best and my god this show is so. Damn.
Shelbie Z is from Jasper, Alabama and coaches beauty pageants and is a full-time stylist. She won 45 beauty pageants as a kid so I SMELL A CROSS-OVER EPISODE.
But Shelbie stopped doing pageants when she was ten because she was made fun of for being chubby, and she remarks that she’s glad The Voice auditions are blind. She needn’t worry, though, since she crushes a country song in her audition that all the judges, save for Adam (who Blake mouths “she won’t pick you” to during her audition because this is the benign, bro-conflict this show has) spin their chairs for. Shelbie does the country thing and chooses Blake.
Josh Logan is wearing a fedora, and I immediately want to check the score of the Broncos game.
He got his then-girlfriend pregnant at 16, realized he had to “be a man” and support his son through construction jobs, but now he’s in his thirties and can be a full-time musician. Another score for the do-right women and do-right men on The Voice.
He auditions with “Too Close,” which prompts Blake Shelton to claim he has a “man crush” on Josh. Captain Fedora looks deeply uncomfortable with this and says “I don’t know how to take that.” As a compliment, you weenie. Josh’s discomfort escalates when the requisite Adam-and-Blake bickering concludes in the two men hugging it out. He chooses Ms. Aguilera as his coach because I guess it would be gay not to. ?
Delvin Choice is a “sexually chocolate glass of water” with a sweet haircut and a job at Starbucks.
He calls working at Starbucks “one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.” Having worked at a Starbucks myself, I immediately assumed this kid was some kind of elaborate embedded advertising. It’s a decent service industry gig, but even though Delvin is “the singing barista” (because he sings everyone’s orders), “coolest experiences I’ve ever had” is a little much. He sings “Closer” for his audition, and the judges don’t pick him. So maybe he was just product placement.
Our final contestant of the night is an average-looking white guy named James Wolpert. James went to Carnegie Mellon, and his little introduction mini-doc is pretty bland — he calls singing “transcendent” and walks around sporting 1950s glasses — until he says being picked by one of the coaches would make “all the pain I put myself and other through worth it.”
James. What did you do to get here, James? What have you done? What unspeakable sins have you committed to get here, what lives have you ruined and psyches destroyed in order to get yourself on The Voice, James?
Regardless, apparently whatever voodoo magic he practiced worked, because all of the judges spin their chairs during his audition. Shelton goes so far as to call him “the complete vocalist.” Adam tries to somehow compare him to the NBA but CeeLo interrupts him and makes everything better. Regardless of CeeLo’s obvious superiority, James Wolpert goes with Adam.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE WEEK: To win The Voice you must either be pure of heart or waist-deep in black majiks. CeeLo’s head piece might contain the secrets of the universe, and this show has the same emotional effects as taking a Prozac. See you next week.