Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Voice: Battle Round 4

Cee Lo 5 — James Massone vs. Wade (True Colors, Cindy Lauper)

Cee Lo’s Pick: James

Adam thought James’ voice grabbed his attention but that there was still work to be done. Blake felt like both men had good voices, but thought James took this one. Xtina complimented Wade’s strong voice, but thought he had pitch problems. Ultimately, she loved James character and chose him.

My Pick: James
Wade’s upper range sounds like so much work, while James is just smooth. There were some significant pitch problems, mostly stemming from Wade. Not a great song for either man, but James adapted better and was more impressive.

Adam 5 — Nicole Galyon vs. Mathai (Love Song, Sara Bareilles)

Adam’s Pick: Mathai

Blake thought Nicole’s breathing affected her singing a little bit while Xtina said that Mathai brought confidence and swagger to her performance. Cee Lo felt that Nicole was a generic, straightforward type of singer.

My Pick: Mathai
Both ladies impressed me in their blind auditions—especially little Mathai, but neither did much to move me during their battle round performance. Mathai was the stronger of the two.

Xtina 6 — The Line vs. Moses Stone (Satisfaction, Rolling Stones)

Xtina’s Pick: Moses Stone

Cee Lo liked their compatibility and thought Moses really worked the stage with his personality/swagger. Adam liked the unorthodox take on the song and picked The Line judging by the voices. Blake felt the presentation was weird but good. Thought both were good, but went with The Line.

My Pick: The Line
Individually, both singers from The Line are very good, and together they are great. Moses just didn’t show me enough during his performance for me to go with him. The Line took the rock and roll song and embraced how different it was from their comfort zone, but Moses resorted to his style rather than tackling a song that was different from what he was used to.

Adam 6 — Orlando Napier vs. Karla Davis (Easy Like Sunday Morning, Commodores)

Adam’s Pick: Karla

Blake didn’t think that anyone stood above the other in the battle. He liked Karla’s voice, but thought Orlando performed better. Xtina thought Karla was a little more entertaining, but neither were all that spectacular. Cee Lo liked the swagger from Orlando.

My Pick: Karla
Very impressive performance by both artists. Orlando was spectacular, but there was just something special about Karla’s voice that drew me to her.

Blake 6 — Jordan Rager vs. Naia Kete (I’m Yours, Jason Mraz)

Blake’s Pick – Naia

Xtina thought Jordan had a solid performance, and Naia had more of a natural groove. Cee Lo liked Jordan’s strong voice and thgouth the song was perfectly suited for Naia. Adam noted some pitch issues for Jordan, outside his comfort zone.

My Pick – Jordan
The song choice undoubtedly favored Naia. Jordan has a great country rasp, but country artists are typically less flexible when it comes to tackling different styles. As such, I expected Naia to wipe the floor with Jordan, but I ended up preferring Jordan. He had some pitch issues (Naia did too) but his stronger parts were better than Naia’s.

Cee Lo 6 — Tony Vincent vs. Justin Hopkins (Faithfully, Journey)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Tony

Adam liked the dirtiness in Justin’s voice. Blake notes Cee Lo’s fingerprints on the performance. Tony was more versatile, but liked Justin’s more. Xtina liked Justin’s voice, but picked Tony’s versatility.

My Pick: Tony
Justin Hopkins initial advance I felt was due more to his connection to host Carson Daly than anything he did vocally. Tony is one of those guys that hearing his voice is infinitely better than watching him. Not a particularly great performance, and I was surprised Carson Daly didn’t issue an immediate host override when Cee Lo picked Tony.

***

Ultimately, there weren’t too many decisions by the judges that I vehemently disagreed with. I found myself preferring the artist that Blake Shelton did not pick a lot, but in those cases, the difference between the two singers wasn’t terribly noticeable. One of Cee Lo’s and two of Xtina’s choices were flat out putrid.

Cee Lo’s choice of Cheesa over Angie Johnson.
Xtina’s choice of Sera Hill over Geoff McBride.
Xtina’s choice of Moses Stone over The Line.

Looking at the coaches teams, I have to rank them

1. Adam
2. Blake
3. Xtina
4. Cee Lo

Adam’s team is the most complete, as he doesn’t have a bad singer in the group. A lot of solid 8’s and 9’s in there. Blake’s team is also fairly even throughout but a step below his buddy Adam. Xtina has a couple of duds taking up space, but also holds her ace in the hole – Mr. Jesse Campbell. Cee Lo’s best contestant is probably fourth or fifth on any of the other teams.

Hunger Games Trilogy Review

Friends had been talking up Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy for quite some time so I decided to read them for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, The Hunger Games, but did not think that it lived up to its excessive hype. The second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were just interesting enough to cause me to finish the series.

The story is presented through first person narration which completely stifled character development. Also, when your narrator is the protagonist, it’s a pretty clear giveaway that the narrator is not going to die, and any action that takes place away from her will obviously have to be relayed secondhand.

Character development is almost non-existent throughout the series. We learn very little about the background of any character, or reasons why they act and think the way they do. Over 20 child tributes die in the 74th annual Hunger Games and I hardly care about any of them, let alone know all of their names. The characters lack any personality or redeeming qualities, even the main female character, Katniss Everdeen, is sorely underdeveloped. She loves her little sister and is very independent and resourceful—that’s all I got from three books that feature her as the narrator. Katniss started as a very promising female character but ended up slipping into cliché love triangle fodder.

The one character that redeemed the series for me was Peeta—I genuinely enjoyed his character. However, the first person present tense delivery prohibited Collins from exploring Peeta’s character the way she should have. During a part that is paramount to his development, he is relegated to an image on a screen and the reader begins to forget that he even exists.

In each book there are extended boring parts. Collins writes her books in thirds, 9 chapters at a time. For the most part, the first third consists of lengthy plot dumps, which while necessary, were horribly executed. These dumps effectively kill off any momentum generated from the previous installment.

For a book with such immense promise, The Hunger Games trilogy lacked true heart and soul. The writing is not bad—it is simple and straight forward, but Collins lacks the innate story-telling ability that someone like JK Rowling has. Catching Fire and Mockingjay seemed like the were thrown together as money-making sequels rather than a well thought out conclusion to the original story. There was no WOW moment, no jaw-dropping turn of events that makes you go back and re-read the book to see how everything ended up happening.

Overall, an easy read of a series that just lacks the intrigue that makes a great book great. The book is characterized as young adult novels and I suppose that is accurate. The writing style definitely is more enjoyable for teenagers, while there is some adult-level violence and themes. Four out of five stars for The Hunger Games, two stars for both Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The book has a handful of redeeming qualities, but by no means is it a drop-everything-to-finish-it story.

The Voice: Battle Round 3

Adam 3 — Pip vs. Nathan Parrett (You Know I’m No Good, Amy Winehouse)

Adam’s Pick: Pip

Blake complimented Nathan’s big voice, but said that Pip is the guy who can do everything. Cee Lo liked Nathan’s effortless “cool” factor and Xtina was impressed with the way Nathan’s voice commands attention, even though he came across as less confident than Pip.

My Pick: Pip
Nathan’s nerves definitely returned during the actual performance, while Pip nailed just about every note. Nathan was tentative and pretty much just let Pip sing circles around him. I really didn’t think it was even close, let alone as close as the judges made it seem.

Cee Lo 4 – Erin Martin vs. The Shields Brothers (What’s Love Got To Do With It, Tina Turner)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Erin

Adam felt that the pairing and the performance was “so weird”. He preferred the Shields Brothers when Erin overshadowed her unusual voice with quirky attempts at uniqueness. All Blake could come up with was the fact that he liked Erin’s corset-based outfit. Xtina had fun watching the battle, calling it entertainment. She didn’t think that the song really fit Erin’s talents and loved the harmonies and energy of the Shields Brothers.

My pick: The Shields Brothers, reluctantly.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with either one of them during the blind auditions, but Erin really turned me off in the battle round. The Shields Brothers took all the advice to heart and did everything they could to improve. Erin acted like a spoiled baby the whole time and then didn’t impress me vocally. I think just about everyone else sent home in previous battles were better options than either Erin or the brothers.

Xtina 5 — Ashley de la Rosa vs. Jonathas (No Air, Chris Brown & Jordin Sparks)

Xtina’s Pick: Ashley

Adam noted that Jonathas was very comfortable on the stage, but went with the bigness of Ashley’s voice. Blake enjoyed the character in Jonathas’ voice, but was disappointed that he didn’t build on his performance. Cee Lo enjoyed the visual chemistry between the two performers, but opined that Ashley stretched out more.

My Pick: Ashley
Jonathas was more polished, but the sound that Ashley produces is just phenomenal and unexpected. I think I’ve kind of seen all that Jonathas is capable of, but with Ashley there’s huge untapped potential that I would love to get a chance to see.

Blake 4 — Alyx vs. Jermaine Paul (Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean)

Blake’s Pick: Jermaine

The judges were unanimous in declaring Jermaine as the clear winner. Adam said that Jermaine kicked the song’s ass, while Cee Lo loved the confidence that Jermaine put on display. Xtina loved the energy and how he made the song his own.

My Pick: Jermaine
Two big voices going head-to-head, but I think that Jermaine ended up blowing Alyx out of the water. I think that the arrangement definitely lent itself to showing off Jermaine more so than Alyx and it showed.

Adam 4 — Angel Taylor vs. Katrina Parker (Keep Bleeding, Leona Lewis)

Adam’s Pick: Katrina

Blake: Loved Angel’s unique voice, but thinks Katrina flat out won the battle.
Cee Lo: Angel seemed a little uncomfortable while Katrina came in confidant .
Xtina: Unique rasp, but liked Katrina’s Adele-type voice.

My Pick: Katrina
Katrina started the song so strong and just continued getting better through the whole track. Angel was not bad, but she didn’t do anything too special to set herself apart. Katrina has this smoky, sultry aspect to her voice that just intrigues me.

Blake 5 — Gwen Sebastian vs. Erin Willett (We Belong, Pat Benatar)

Blake’s Pick: Erin

Adam was drawn in by the richness and warmth of Erin’s voice and Xtina gravitated to Erin’s style. Cee Lo preferred Gwen who completely sold him with her last phrase.

My Pick: Gwen
Erin is all power all the time, and I prefer the nuances of Gwen’s voice – with the wicked run at the end really selling it for me.

The Voice: Battle Round 2

Xtina 3 — Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill (Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin)

Xtina’s Pick: Sera

Adam felt that Sera put on more of a show, but Geoff was better vocally. Blake was more turned on by Sera and really felt her energy in the performance. Cee Lo enjoyed a high-energy performance, and picked Geoff who displayed more vocal control.

My Pick: Geoff
Everything Christina said Sera did well, I felt that Geoff did better. Xtina once again went with the vocalist that she preferred, and while that’s her prerogative, she’s proven that who she likes doesn’t always have the most talent. For the second week in a row, she sent one of her better singers packing early.

Blake 3 — Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land (Pumped Up Kicks, Foster the People)

Blake’s Pick: Charlotte

Adam felt that Lex outperformed Charlotte, Cee Lo preferred Charlotte but also commented on how smooth and soothing Lex’s voice was. Xtina also picked Lex

My Pick: Lex
It sounds like Charlotte’s jaw is still collapsed or whatever because she can’t correctly pronounce anything when she is singing. Lex’s voice is definitely better and her style doesn’t rely on gimmicks.

Cee Lo 2 — Sarah Golden vs. Juliet Simms (Stay With Me, Rod Stewart)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Juliet

Adam loved Juliet from the beginning of the competition and continued to prefer her sound. Blake saw Sarah as the better option, considering how limited Juliet’s vocals are. Xtina didn’t think Sarah was a good fit for the song and thought Juliet was an easy choice to win.

My Pick: Sarah
Cee Lo really set up Juliet to succeed with the song choice, but I didn’t think either lady sounded all that great during the performance. I actually preferred Sarah’s sound, even though she was way out of her sweet spot.

Adam 2 Whitney Myer vs. Kim Yarbrough (No More Drama, Mary J. Blige)

Adam’s Pick: Kim

Blake thought that the performance was awesome and that both women used their strengths in their performances. He couldn’t pick between them and tried to choose host Carson Daly. Cee Lo felt that the song was better suited to Kim’s maturity than Whitney’s youth. Xtina thought Whitney had the higher end, but she loved the richness of Kim’s tone.

My Pick: Kim
I loved Whitney’s sound and performance, but Kim handled the song better and her voice is an actual powerhouse and not a wannabe imitation. Kim is everything that contestants like Cheesa think they are.

Xtina 4 — Lee Koch vs. Lindsay Pavao (Heart Shaped Box, Nirvana)

Xtina’s Pick: Lindsay

Adam was thoroughly entertained by a delightfully creepy performance. He thought it was odd, but in a great way. Loved Lee’s other-worldy sound. Blake was unfamiliar with the song, but would have picked Lindsay while Cee Lo was fascinated by the fact that the lighting made Lee look like Jesus. Apart from the physical appearance, he thought that Lee was unique and creative in his approach.

My Pick: Lee
Lee and Lindsay blended very well together, but Lee came across as more of the star and Lindsay was more the support. I felt that Xtina did a better job choosing her initial team this year during the blind auditions, but now that we’re into the battle rounds she’s getting rid of a lot of male talent just like she did in the first season. And that turned out to be a real poor strategy.

Cee Lo 3 — Jamar Rogers vs. Jamie Lono (I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Jamar

Adam thought that Jamar came out and owned the performance while Jamie struggled with the high parts and fell off as the song went on. Blake however, liked Jamie’s vibe. Xtina was entertained throughout, but turned to Jamar when he nailed the final note of the song.

My Pick: Jamar
Jamie was definitely weak in the upper range, and neither guy gave a knock-out performance, but Jamar was better and deserved to win the battle.

The Voice: Battle Round 1

Adam 1 — Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley (Beautiful Day, U2)

Adam’s Pick: Tony

Blake: Expected Tony to dominate stage but thought Chris outdid him vocally.
Xtina: Name-dropped the entire Mickey Mouse club and picked Tony.
Cee-Lo: Tony articulated the song more clearly.

My Pick: Chris
Although you could tell that Tony was much more used to the crowd-engaging part of performing, Chris outshone him vocally. Chris has a unique sound to his voice that set him apart from the more mainstream pop sound that Tony has.

Blake 1 — RaeLynn vs. Adley Stump (Free Falling, Tom Petty)

Blake’s Pick: RaeLynn

Adam: Adley overpowered RaeLynn, but would go with RaeLynn’s unique sound.
Xtina: Thought both were on pitch, but picked Adley as the stronger of the two.
CeeLo: RaeLynn was adorable and youthful, but preferred Adley as being there now as opposed to being well on the way.

My Pick: Adley
RaeLynn seemed to know she was overmatched vocally in this battle and tried to do way too much to compensate. Adding too many dips and turns when she should have just sung. Blake kept true to his preference for the young female vocalist who have a unique quality to their voice. Xenia and Dia had it in season 1, and RaeLynn’s is the same way.

Xtina 1 — Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou (Power of Love, Celine Dion)

Xtina’s Pick: Chris

Adam: Monique picked it up after a shaky start, but picked Chris.
Blake: Thought Monique brought it just enough to beat Chris.
Cee-Lo: Believes Chris is one of the best.

My Pick: Chris
Even though he was way out of his comfort zone, I thought that Chris nailed his performance much more so than Monique did, who was a little shaky throughout.

Cee Lo 1 — Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson (Total Eclipse of the Heart)

Cee Lo’s pick: Cheesa

Adam: Early nerves, but goes with Cheesa.
Blake: Clarity and diction goes with Angie
Xtina: Angie got better as it went along.

My Pick: Angie
Angie showed a much bigger range of vocal ability, nailing the loud and powerful high notes, to the soft and sweet melodies. Cheesa didn’t do a whole lot new to impress me, replicating the skills she showed off in the blind auditions.

Blake 2 — Brian Fuente vs. Jordis Unga (Ironic, Alanis Morissette)

Blake’s Pick: Jordis.

Adam: Tough to choose, but Jordis.
Cee-Lo: Got a kick out of Brian really getting into it.
Xtina: Some pitchy moments throughout for both, but picked Jordis.

My Pick: Jordis
I went into the performance thinking I was going to prefer Brian, but he didn’t do anything to blow me away and while Jordis wasn’t spectacular, she was better than Brian and I think she has more untapped potential than Brian.

Xtina 2 — Jesse Campbell vs. Anthony Evans (If I Ain’t Got You, Alicia Keys)

Xtina’s Pick: Jesse

Adam: Sheer level of talent is mind blowing, picked Jesse.
Blake: Loved Anthony’s high note, thought Jesse’s swagger owned the stage.
Cee Lo: Blown away by both performances.

My Pick: Jesse
In the best battle of the night, both men absolutely nailed a terrific performance. Very similar styles, both guys have great control of the upper register, but stylistically I felt that Jesse had a slight edge. But Anthony is definitely one of the best 6 vocalists on Xtina’s team and it’s a shame he had to go up against her best vocalist so early in the competition.