I’ve added “The Honor of a Knight” to my published stories page. It was published in Bards and Sages Quarterly.
I Might Just Be a Picky Diner.
Like many people, my wife and I’s personal schedule does not always make Valentine’s Day an ideal date to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This year we took our annual date night on Tuesday, Feb 12 which was last night. We have a favorite restaurant in town, which we will skip naming at this point for reasons to be explained later.
We often wonder why this is our favorite restaurant. Maybe it’s because its locally owned. Maybe we like their food better than other places. Maybe we just like what is familiar to us. Of those three, the last seems most likely.
I should clarify that, even though we have three kids from ages of “I need you to constantly interact with me’ to ‘Why the F**K do I still live with you’, my wife and I do go out to dinner alone more than once a year. This specific annual date night is the annual celebration of Valentine’s Day.
Back to our favorite restaurant, which we’ll call “Jon’s” just to keep the syntax simple and readable: My wife and I have actually eaten there every year on or about Valentine’s Day and several other times throughout the year. We have an inside joke that we can always reliably get at least one meal free.
Jon’s has a history, with just us, as far as I can tell of getting something wrong and they are very nice about comping a meal if they do. Some examples are undercooked meat or slow service or even in one case, my wife simply didn’t actually like what she’d ordered. Slow Service happened only once in over fifteen years. I do order my meat medium-well because that’s just the way I like it. You’d be amazed how many people take it personally when you talk about ordering steak any more cooked than medium-rare. Apparently I am just not enough of a cow-meat aficionado because I don’t believe I should be able to suck the blood out of the steak with a straw.
So, on to last night:
There are actually multiple locations for this particular restaurant and one has a better track record with us than the other. We opted, last night, for the more reliable one despite an inconvenient location.
So we go in and get seated right away, which doesn’t always happen, so we started happy.
Two point three seconds from sitting down, our waiter appears and asks if we knew what we’d like to drink. Well, no, I haven’t even opened the beer list. Do I want water? No. I prefer beverages that have been through some purification like distilling or boiling. My wife got tea. So the waiter leaves before I can ask what their special beers are that night. (I hope I’m not giving away too much about which restaurant Jon’s really is.) When he comes back six minutes later with my wife’s tea, I get the beer specials from him and order one of those. We also order our food at that time.
I admit I threw them a curve when I asked for a half-rack of baby back ribs as an appetizer. That shouldn’t have been difficult. It’s not like those are cooked from scratch when ordered. Those should be cooked all day and just thrown on the grill long enough to blacken a layer of sauce when we order them. My wife ordered from the appetizer menu.
That it was thirty five minutes after we’d arrived before the appetizers were placed before us is not something we were really bothered by. We do actually try to be understanding if the restaurant is busy.
And unlike the Great Applebee’s Debacle of 2002, they gave us time to eat the appetizers before bringing our food. I have no qualms about discussing the Great Applebee’s Debacle of 2002 without hiding the restaurant name because it was 10 years ago and only one instance at one restaurant. I’m sure they are better at all other locations and even that one location has learned that the correct order of service is not: Take order, bring dessert 5 minutes later, then the appetizer 10 minutes after that then the entree 30 seconds later.
Back to Jon’s. The appetizers were good. The manager did check on us within twenty seconds of them being set on the table. “How does everything taste?” He asked. “I don’t know,” I say as I’m pulling the first rib off the rack. No, wait, I wasn’t snide. My actual reaction was just a polite nod. My wife, on the other hand, did say that and pointed out that she hadn’t yet tried hers. He was very nice and apologized and walked away. My wife’s appetizer was served too hot to eat, but it cooled and she ate it. The ribs were perfect with the meat sliding off the bone and just the right amount of sauce.
I didn’t take too much offense that three people stopped to check on us before any of them removed the plate containing just a stack of rib-bones from the outer edge of the table.
The entrees arrived a few minutes after our appetizers had been long gone. My Prime-Rib was pinker than I prefer, but cooked well within what I’d consider an acceptable margin of error. My wife’s chicken dish was, well, we don’t actually know. At this point we discovered the food was all room temperature — cold to the touch. The menu was very specific when it listed “Medium Well” as “Hot with a slightly pink center”. I understand that slightly pink can be a subjective observation. It was actually cooked and I’ve gotten steaks that were charred but not cooked before, such as in the Dread Lonestar Incident. Hot, though also subjective, is typically much higher than room temperature.
The Dread Lonestar Incident occurred on our anniversary the year our youngest was born. I ordered a Medium Well New York Strip at a restaurant that claimed to be a steakhouse. I got a charred but raw chunk of meat. When I complained I very specifically asked for a new streak to be cooked since it’s impossible to re-cook a steak. I don’t know why I felt the need to specifically mention for them not to take the same piece of meat back and throw it in a microwave. They did actually cook a new steak and got it right that time, however I got lucky because a minute after the new steak arrived, the manager came to my table with the old steak which had clearly been nuked until all the moisture had been removed from it. Dodged a bullet there – them not me. I was already on-edge because we’d been relegated to the section of the restaurant reserved for people with screaming babies. We did have our infant with us, so I understand how they categorized us, but our baby was actually sleeping unlike the babies at the other two tables. I was a little sleep deprived since my daughter was only a month old and if they’d tried to re-serve the same piece of steak after nuking it, I’d have made quite a scene.
When the manager came by, I really tried to get him to touch the steak, cutting a bit off to show how cold it was in the middle. He just took my word for it. My wife’s dish was visibly cold; the gravy had congealed.
So we left the restaurant, having enjoyed good appetizers, good beer (and tea) and a small exercise in patience, but without having to spend a dime. We actually were also given a gift card worth more than we would have spent if we’d paid for our meal. This is why I am not mentioning Jon’s by its real name. They handled everything but the actual meal experience well.
I really am not picky or judgy. I don’t order the cheapest things on the menu and don’t skimp on the appetizers or dessert. I go into a nice restaurant expecting to spend a hefty chunk of money on a meal. I am usually a very good tipper too. I do have simple minimum standards in timeliness and I believe cooked food should be cooked and served before it cools to room temperature. Last night was the first time I’ve ever walked out of a restaurant with more money than when I walked in, however.
Let’s start, what will hopefully be a more prolific blogging year, with a bang.
Gun Control is a big topic these days. We’ve been inundated with the topic since the school shooting last month. We’ll hear even more about it in the coming days as the government looks to move on the subject.
President Obama has been the single most polarizing person on gun control in the past five years, causing the biggest jumps in gun sales in history. The irony here is that when the subject of restricting firearm purchases comes into the public spotlight, gun sales skyrocket as people fear they will, in the coming days, lose the ability to buy a gun. These fears have been running rampant since it became clear Obama would win the presidency in 2008.
Prior to last month’s massacre, the subject was never mentioned by the President. The only people bringing the subject up were the gun lobby and die-hard gun enthusiasts–exactly the people who would benefit most if people were buying more guns.
There are things the government can do and things the government can’t do and things it won’t do. As to what it will do, I cannot say. We’ll see a taste of it tomorrow in the VP’s recommendations.
We’ll start with what the government cannot do. It can’t outlaw private ownership of firearms with anything short of repealing the second amendment, which will not happen.
It can’t seize existing weapons. Historically, it has never gone well to make it illegal to own things that people already owned. Making ownership of something that people already own illegal only creates criminals. Once people are made into criminals, they might start to think of themselves as criminals and not strive to cross the line back into legitimacy. And it just seems like a bad idea to aggressively try to remove property from people we know are armed. So we are not going to see the government add to the list of guns that are illegal to own.
The government cannot maintain a database on the sanity of every individual. Currently to become disqualified for gun registration for mental illness requires a person to have been committed or declared mentally ill by a court. If we made it mandatory for all psychologists and psychiatrists to submit all of their patients to a federal database, the only result would be fewer people seeking help for mental illness.
The most conservative gun enthusiasts think we should spend more resources on identifying the criminals before they get guns. This is very short sighted. This means they want the government to fully investigate every single individual in the country and classify them as criminals or not criminals–long before these people have done anything criminal. Aren’t these the same people who want the government to be less hands-on with people’s lives? I’m not a fan of anything that creates a government list of people with the potential to be naughty. I have enough problems with the overreach of government powers in the wake of 911. No one should ever be labeled by what they are capable of without any actual history or demonstration of such or similar actions. Once we start pre-classifying potential criminals, its just a slippery slope towards segregating these people from the rest of the population. Then again, it’s not like we as a country haven’t done it before; ask anyone of Japanese descent who happened to live too close to the west coast around the time of WWII. Two more words: Indian Reservation.
Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t be more thorough in the background checks required for purchasing guns. The problem is that this is expensive. We can make the people buying the guns pay a little more for their own background checks, but we can’t charge enough to cover the cost. Any fee which is too prohibitive is the same, in the eyes of the Supreme Court, as abridging Constitutional rights. Basically we can’t make people pay to exercise any Constitutional right. So the bulk of the cost of any more thorough check system will fall on the tax-payer.
That’s probably going to be part of any solution even if it is at the government’s (taxpayers’) cost.
I mentioned that we cannot outlaw the ownership of what we already own. We can, however, outlaw the sale or transfer of such items. Several laws have failed to restrict the sale of firearms. Test after test has met judgment in the court system, so we know exactly where the line is drawn in accordance with the Constitution. The Constitution says we can own any weapon that fires a single round with a single pull of the trigger and that is not a sawed off shotgun or rifle. The second amendment doesn’t use those words, but that what it says. The courts say so and they’re the ones who say what the Constitution says.
So we won’t likely see a big change in what kinds of weapons people can buy. Some guns will probably be reclassified as machine guns, which are not protected under the Constitution. It’s a bit funny really. Some gun proponents believe that the second amendment is there so the people can be armed to defend against a tyrannical government if needed. These people use that argument to defend the private ownership of assault weapons. They think we should have the means to fight our own army. With today’s technologies, that’s so far from a reality, that the argument is moot.
I don’t think we the people need weapons capable of firing 30 shots in 30 seconds. Spray and Pray is never a good tactic. Without serious experience, most people will be shooting high after the second round leaves the barrel. Heck, I recall a study that says that soldiers tend to shoot over their enemy’s heads simply due to human nature. So, I’d give a machine gun a slight advantage, but not much over any other rifle. Very few of our mass shootings have been done by people with actual machine guns. The worst were accomplished with semi-automatic rifles and lots of bullets.
So we could restrict the bullets, or rounds as gun enthusiasts would point out. This could happen in two places, at the point of sale or in the size of the magazine. For the gun-illiterate, that means restricting how many bullets the gun can hold. So we’ll likely see the VP mention restricting the sale of large magazines. We’ll probably also see a request to track ammunition sales, which won’t go over well with the people who don’t want the government keeping tabs on them. Were these the same people who want the government to keep more tabs on criminals and potential criminals? Don’t these people know that everyone will be a potential criminal until the government examines them closely enough to rule them out?
I’m personally more against restrictions on gun control and more against any more programs designed to build a database of people and what they do or could do. I’m of the opinion that the freedoms we enjoy come with a price and that price is that sometimes people abuse the freedoms.
I’m also of the opinion that since some people already have these weapons with large magazines, and nothing is going to change that, that it’s a bit rude to tell those of us that don’t that we can’t and that we will forever be the under-dogs when the zombie-apocalypse happens. Okay, so maybe not the zombie apocalypse, but any large scale disaster or break down of society. Not likely to happen, but who wouldn’t want to be prepared and not just prepared but on even footing with the other guys?
There is truth to the idea that if we make guns illegal then only criminals will own guns. Let’s not increase the headcount of criminals in our society. In the end, I think we are going to see some kind of compromise that has no real effect on anything other than to make all of our lives a little more difficult.
The Voice is now down to 8 and dwindling fast. Two more singers go home tonight. The coaches are finding less and less to say that is critical of the contestants. Christina seems to be the only one pointing out tiny problems, though piled in with a hefty helping of praise. She’s really trying to make her last contestant, Dez, seem to be the guy to beat. He’s not, but we’ll get to that soon. And by soon, I mean now.
Here are the performances from last night rated from worst to best.
Though I love Cody Belew’s showmanship, and think, of all the people in the competition, he has the tightest grasp of who he wants to be as an artist, his performance of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” was his worst so far on the show. Queen is certainly dead center in what Cody’s repertoire should be, but there are better songs in the Queen library to show how great Cody can be. If he had the chance to do it again, he’d be better picking something from the “Highlander” soundtrack like “Who Wants to Live Forever”. His voice was occasionally overwhelmed by the music/chorus/complex arrangement.
Next worst for me, though a stellar rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, was Nicholas David. The guy has the perfect voice for way over-done classics. However, there’s nothing in the arrangements or in his take on the classics to make them any less classic and more current. Though older songs are usually better than current songs, something has to be done to bring them into the 21st century.
Terry McDermott’s rock take on Blake Shelton’s “Over” really tried to impress, but it was not Terry’s best night. From the start, he seemed unsure on stage. When he got into the song and pulled it together, it was almost something worthy of radio play, but it never got good enough to overcome the weak start.
Trevin Hunte’s return to the power ballads seemed like he was falling back into his comfort zone. But his inexperience was clear several times in his performance of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”. I don’t quite think he did the song justice. A for effort. I’m sure he’s selling thousands on iTunes. It will only take time and practice for him to be less rough around the edges.
Justin Beiber songs are great for appealing to the tweeners and teens. I can’t get anything out of Dez Duron’s singing JB’s “U Smile”. I can’t find any flaws with it, just not something that appeals to me. The sob story about how no one respected how he dropped out of Yale to pursue music just didn’t even come close to pulling at heartstrings.
The three girls left in the competition carried the night.
Though taking on current songs, Melanie Martinez is darned good at making anything she sings her own. Everyone is familiar with Alex Clare’s “Too Close”. I mean we were inundated with it for months of Internet Explorer 9 ads. But Melanie made it new and fresh. It was also refreshing to see the new and improved foot cymbal.
Amanda Brown also went with a current song in Adele’s “Someone Like You”. She spun it into a rock version and killed it. It wasn’t as good as her “Dream On” moment, but it was good. Amanda is consistent and that might be enough to keep her through to win this thing.
Topping my list for the second week straight is Cassadee Pope with Michelle Branch’s “Are You Happy Now”. She didn’t completely own it; much of it sounded very close to the original. Some of it was pure Cassadee, however. THe song is just old enough to be a great song choice. What makes this the best of the night was the perfect fit for Cassadee and her flawless execution. Last weeks performance will be hard to top as the best for any contestant for the season, so she doesn’t lose any points for not accomplishing that. I would love to see her actually perform a Hey Monday song on The Voice like “I Don’t Wanna Dance” or take on Paramore’s “Misery Business”.
I’m done with Nicholas, Dez and Trevin, and if I had my druthers, two of them would be going home tonight. But I’m showing my age by using words like “druthers” and for not liking Dez more. But, I suspect the two leaving tonight will be Cody and Terry.
I will say that the Producers of the show are either excellent prognosticators or good manipulators. In the blind auditions, they put the “best” acts in the first or last slot for each show. Five of the current eight were either the first or last performer for one of the blind audition shows. Even acknowledging that they might have known the top 20 at the time of the blind audition broadcast, picking 5 of the top 8 is impressive. But, there are ways to manipulate an audience…
During the voting shows, the best place to be is the last performer of the night. That’s almost always a natural boost to receiving votes. I call it the “pimp” spot. Being first is often being forgotten. I call that the “death” spot. So far, everyone who’s performed first on a voting night has gone home when the results came in. Hopefully Amanda will break that cycle.
Side Note: Adriana Louise and Sylvia Yacoub were also “first” performances in the blind auditions, but made the top 12 but not the top 8.
So, again I’ve started the recaps from worst to best.
For me, the next worst was Nicholas David singing the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me”. Sure, he sang it spot on, but the song is so iconic, there’s just not much anyone can do with it to make it theirs. He didn’t own the song at all. Not a particularly bad thing, and a truly good rendition of the song, but when everyone else on the list created a single worthy performance, this one doesn’t climb so high on the list.
Though Cody Belew’s voice was often drowned under the music, his energy and attitude on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” was fun to watch. A little less than ideal for a show called “The Voice,” but very entertaining. His black studded amalgam of a jacket, almost stole the show, but what should we expect from team Cee-Lo?
The difference between the rest of these performances is tenths of a percent on a scale of one to a hundred. They were all near perfect song choices for their performer and great execution.
Terry McDermott managed to add a little to Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69″. I’m not sure what it is, but Terry doesn’t always seem like he’s a hundred percent into the song. 99% this time. This might be because in 1969 Terry was still years away from being born.
Sylvia Yacoub went back to a pop direction with Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire”–a song I’ve only ever heard before on a Visa commercial. It sounded good and Sylvia made the performance believable. It’s a step down from her best, and perhaps too current a song.
Bryan Keith totally nailed Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”. He’s easily the most stable, in terms of appearance, of the contestants. Unlike, previous weeks, I have absolutely no complaints about his performance. He certainly belonged on the show this week. His best to date.
Team Xtina’s male representative, Dez Duron ended the show with a great performance of “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. It will be more than his smile and hair that carry him into next week. Also, his best so far.
Melanie Martinez is stepping further and further from the soft tones of her early performances, this time tackling The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” I’m quite sure most of The Voice audience does not listen to “The White Stripes”, so Melanie won’t have familiarity with the song to help them bond with the performance. Still, a single-worthy performance. I’m sure thousands will be downloading it. A high point for Melanie.
Amanda Brown took on Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ very recently released single “Stars”. I’d never heard it. It didn’t keep me from absolutely loving Amanda’s performance. She’s still the most reliable for a great performance.
But, this week’s best was hands down, Cassadee Pope with Blake and Miranda’s very personal song, “Over You”. If this performance didn’t bring you to the brink of tears, or push you straight over the brink, you probably should check to make sure you still have a pulse. Easily one of the top three performances by any contestant so far based purely on emotional connection, and far and away Cassadee’s best performance ever.
I still have my personal tastes and would rate the contestants, overall, from best to worst (all performances so far):
Trevin’s decision of going with an Usher song probably dropped him five notches on that chart.
Taking into account my perception of the rest of the voting audiences’ opinions, here’s my prediction of the outcome of tonight’s results show.
Amanda, Cassadee, Dez, Bryan.
Melanie, Trevin, Nicholas, Sylvia
Given the trends of performances, Amanda is still a front runner, but I think the audience sees Bryan as nipping at her heels. Cassadee, if she continues getting better, will be up there. Trevin is losing ground fast. Nicholas and Melanie are too niche to make it much farther. Terry might also be a touch too outside the mainstream. The rest have been playing on borrowed time since Amanda’s Knockout Round performance.
This week on The Voice, we heard the top 12, three members from each team, sing. Without exception, this was no one’s best night. There were some good performances, but the pressure appears to be getting to people. No one really knocked it out of the park. Still, I can rate them as I saw them from worst to best.
Bryan Keith sang Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”. I don’t really see why this guy is still around. I think he did okay, but I don’t put him as the same caliber of the other singers that remain. I suspect I just don’t see what others see in him.
Except maybe Dez Duron who did Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. Again, no staggering flaws, just not in the same league as the next worst, which is…
…Adriana Louise and her attempt to take the country out of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl.” Last week she powered through Katy Perry’s Firework and tried a similar, but less potent, take on “Good Girl”. I put part of the blame on the sound mixing which allowed the band to drown out a significant portion of the performance, but Adriana takes part of the responsibility as well. Her stage presence was great, but her vocals wavered in pitch.
Nicholas David then lowered his standards and went with Huey Lewis and the News’ “Power of Love”. Absolutely the wrong song choice. This is not Nicholas’s style and it showed.
Trevin Hunte is not pigeonholed. With Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman”, he went full into power balladeer mode and just didn’t hit it as solidly as the judges seemed to think. I don’t think the performance warranted a standing ovation. Okay, it did if you take into account his personal journey, but I’m not going to allow sympathy to bias my judging of their performances. He’s a great singer, and this was an almost great performance. Almost.
I’m not sure why Michaela Paige decided Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” would be a good song choice. Any “goodbye” type song just seems unwise when you want people to keep you around and vote for you. Still, after a nervous start she proved that she still has everything that makes her very marketable.
Cody Belew took on Tina Turner’s “The Best” and I think he did well, but the choice did little to really allow Cody to show us the potential in his voice. High energy is good. Too much energy and the performance drowns out the song.
Rocker Terry McDermott rocked Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”, missing a few notes and having to compete with the music, which even his powerful voice couldn’t overtake at times. Very good Not his best and not his worst.
Starting seated as if hiding under a table, Melanie Martinez went with Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup”. Melanie didn’t keep her voice soft, so her affectation wasn’t the center of her showcase. We did learn that that breathy sweetness comes through at any power. This was her best performance since the blind audition.
Also with her best performance since the battle rounds, Cassadee Pope sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes”. She’s more nervous than I would expect of a veteran performer, but when she pulls it together, it’s clear why she’s up there in the top 12.
I’d never heard Florence and The Machine’s song, “Spectrum” before Amanda Brown sang it standing on a high platform center stage last night. I don’t have a baseline to say how she compared to the original. I noticed a few pitchy moments, but overall it was great. She’s clearly the most talented of the show’s contestants.
When Sylvia Yacoub announced she was going with Celine Dion’s Titanic ballad, “My Heart Will Go On”, I was very worried. When I realized she wasn’t going to even try to sing it as a Celine imitator, I realized she had made a perfect choice. I found this to be the best of the night, edging out Amanda in my mind, probably only because I was more familiar with the song and didn’t have to analyze both performance and song.
Noting that, if I had my way, the two at the top of the above list would go home, I will now make my predictions as to how it really will happen.
Given that last week, the Judges had to save Adriana, Cody, Michaela and Melanie, the best bets would pick the bottom two with these. Adriana is almost certainly not safe. Then we have to note that in prior shows, the contestants were only being compared in vote tallies against people on the same team and some teams are far stronger (Adam and Cee Lo) and some are weaker (Xtina). My gut tells me that both of the folks going home will be from team Xtina and I’m not sure most voters will see Sylvia’s performance as other than a poor Celine imitation, which is was not meant to be. I’m hoping to see Dez and Adriana go.
But, as I said, no one was stellar on Monday night. I wouldn’t be willing to place any significant bets on anything other than Adriana going home.
First, when talking about yesterday’s live rounds show of The Voice, let’s review the rules I established last week:
Rule 1: Classic songs are better than current songs.
We’ll stop there because it’s really the only relevant rule for Wednesday’s show. In order of appearance: (Many of these are too close to really rank.)
The show started with Adriana Louise (Team Xtina) taking on Katy Perry’s “Firework”. She did a near perfect rendition of the song, but it was so near perfect, there was nothing to distinguish it as Adriana’s instead of Katy’s. At this point in the game, distinctness is better than a great copy of the original. That and Rule 1 applies. The song is too new.
Cody Belew (Team Cee Lo) then sang George Michael’s “One More Try” and made it sound better than George ever did. Cody Belew, who would be the absolute last person I would guess would come from a rodeo background, has had perfect songs, taking on classics and making them his. I would say that Cody is totally safe except Team Cee Lo is stacked with talent this year.
Erkel, I mean, De’Borah (Xtina) sang P!nk’s “Who Knew” and gave it a very distinct De’Borah sound. It was a good performance, but not her best on the show. Still, she is the most charismatic person on Team Xtina, so she should be okay.
Diego Val (Cee Lo), at his coach’s behest, sang Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos”. Cee Lo’s reasoning was that the Peruvian should sing in Spanish. Diego has a great voice, but was uncomfortable with the genre and it showed, albeit, not so much to me as it did to the coaches. I think he is a very talented singer and only needs a minor makeover to get rid of that flop he’s borrowing from 1987.
MacKenzie Bourg (Cee Lo) sang One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”. I can’t find anything wrong with his performance. He may just have a monopoly on the teen girl vote. I think he’s safe.
Devyn DeLoera (Xtina) Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”. Another near perfect performance, for the first half of the song, after that her precision wobbled a bit. I don’t think she’s safe.
Another man in need of a makeover, in my eyes, though I could see him using his appearance as a distinct trademark look, Nicholas David (Cee Lo) totally nailed Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”. Yes, I’m shallow. Yes, this guy can sing as well as anyone on the show. I like other people better, but I suspect Nicolas is safe.
Sylvia Yacoub (Xtina) sang Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”, thus ensuring that every Katy Perry song has been sung on The Voice that can be sung on The Voice. I don’t see “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” as a good song choice for anyone. I am a fan of Sylvia’s but I don’t think this was her best performance. Great, but not best.
Dez Duron (Xtina) gave his rendition of Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted”. I don’t know who Hunter Hayes is. I’ve never heard “Wanted” before. It made it hard for me to appreciate the performance. I suppose he sang well. I don’t know how much he made it his. Still, he appears to be a crowd favorite, which might make him safe.
Trevin Hunte (Cee Lo) tried to re-attain the heights he flew to in the Knockout rounds with Laura Branigan’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”. He didn’t quite make it, but he still got pretty far up there. By far the safest of the night.
So, my preferences on who should stay and who should go.
I would like to see more of Sylvia, De’Borah and Adriana, but I suspect the outcome will be:
Popular votes: De’Borah and Dez.
Christina save: Sylvia.
Going home: Adriana and Devyn.
Team Cee Lo:
I would like to see Trevin, Cody and Mackenzie make the cut. Most likely outcome is:
Popular Votes: Trevin and Mackenzie.
Cee Lo save: Nicolas.
Going home: Cody and Diego.
The competition within each team was very close and there are only a few certainties in my predictions. De’Borah is the only one I’d really be willing to bet on being safe. I would be willing to bet Diego goes home also. The rest of my speculations are simply too big of a gamble.
I should note that everyone left on the Voice at this time (with one unnamed exception) would be a top-two finalist on any year of American Idol if vocal talent were the only factor.
Unfortunately, I was exaggerating when I said Katy Perry’s songs have all be sung. I love Katy’s work, but I’m sick of it being a top choice on the Voice. Unless someone really takes a song of hers and chews on it long enough to make it totally their own, I don’t want to hear any more Katy Perry impersonations.
Team Adam and Team Blake: The good, the bad and the woman who will send them all packing.
Here’s my take on Monday’s Team Blake and Team Adam’s live performances.
From worst to best:
Julio Cesar Castillo (Blake)sang the José Alfredo Jiménez song “El Rey.” When this guy sings and the judges give him praise for anything other than enthusiasm, I have to wonder just how bad the sound on my TV is. This guys performances have been downhill since “La Bamba”
Bryan Keith‘s(Adam) singing the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” didn’t really grab me. There are several contestants that do, meaning the ones that don’t have an uphill battle to gain my vote. Bryan didn’t.
Joselyn Rivera(Adam) sand Beyonce’s “Love on Top,” She sang through the words making most of the song unintelligable. I thought she did okay pitch-wise, but she’s out of her league at this point in the show.
Loren Allred (Adam) sand the aged “All Around the World” by Lisa Stansfield. This didn’t have the character or conviction of her Knockout Round performance. Consistancy is important at this point and Loren didn’t have that tonight.
When Liz Davis(Blake) came out with Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” was good, but lacked anything special to push it up to the best half of my chart.
I like Cassadee Pope(Blake). Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending” probably had it’s first ever live performance with Cassadee at the mic. I thought she added energy to the song, but sometimes Cassadee seems like she’s going through the motions without any passion. She did better tonight than her last performance, I’d keep her, but since she’s up against Liz and Liz is country, I think Cassadee may be heading home.
Terry McDermott(Blake) took on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”I think he phoned it in. It wasn’t as great as any of his other performances. Still, he’s great at what he does and that will keep him alive in the competition.
Michaela Paige(Blake) sang Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks”. She owned it. It was her best performances to date. She knows who she is musically and I suspect it will take her far.
Melanie Martinez(Adam) attempted the Ray Charles classic, “Hit the Road Jack” and gave the song a new life. It was a gutsy song choice, but she did more than okay with it.
And the night ended on a high note, literally, with Amanda Brown(Adam) belting out Aerosmith’s “Dream On”. She’s the winner of the night and the top contender for the Voice title from Team Adam.
Popular Votes: Melanie and Amanda.
Adam will save Bryan. Who he should save is a moot questions. Bryan, Joselyn and Loren are all equally over their heads at this point in the competition.
Popular Votes: Terry and Micheala.
Blake will save Liz. He should save Cassadee.
Julio has had Blake choose him before over a clearly more talented singer. I can’t confirm it won’t happen again.
I apologize for being a day later than I would like to be for this review. Yesterday was pretty hectic. It started with a dentist appointment, then work, then the traditional October 31st stuff, you know, I got a year older…And then there’s the kids knocking at my door for Elmo’s Candy Begging Day, or do they still call it Halloween?
To be fair, most of the kids coming to my door last night were dressed in proper scary costumes though a few were still cartoon characters. And I’m not going to hold dressing as a princess against anyone this year.
And now back to the purpose of this post. Let’s talk about The Knockout rounds of the Voice. Starting with Team X-tina.
Devyn Deloera started the rounds singing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” against Laura Vivas singing Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know.” Taking on Whitney Houston songs is always a big risk, big reward situation. It either shows a contestant’s weaknesses or it show how few weaknesses they have. Devyn did more than okay, so she goes on to the next round as Christina’s choice.
Next up were Adriana Louise and Celica Westbrook singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” and Justin Beiber’s “Never Say Never” respectively. Neither really stood out as a clear winner, but no one seems to do well singing Beiber songs–or Chris Brown songs, but that’s a later story. Celica, who’d been one of my favorites, went home while Adriana continues on.
Then Alessandra Guercio, another favorite in my home, sang Rhianna’s “Take a Bow” and seemed a bit shaky. Dez Duron sand “Stuck on You” by Lionel Richie. Picking older songs and adding just a little of their own personality seems to go over better with the judges than taking contemporary songs and emulating the original. Dez goes on to the next round.
Next up were two of my favorites on the show, Gaga backup singer Chevonne sang Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and had fun with it. Unfortunately it’s not a good song to show off more than the ability to have fun. De’Borah sang The Fray’s “You Found Me” and since she sang and showed vocal talent, she won.
Mono-moniker man Aquile sang Bruno Mars’ song of unrequited stalking “Grenade” and changed little of the recent hit. Sylvia Yacoub sang Christina’s own “Fighter” and since Christina understood the difficulty of the fast paced, high energy song, Sylvia won. So far, taking on any song by one of the judges’ (or their wives’) songs seems to pay off.
That completed Team X-tina for the live voting rounds, so now we move on to Blake. Blake started by explaining how he was trying to cover the spectrum of music and not sticking to just country.
He then put his two most promising country women against each other. Yodeler Gracia Harrison went with Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and tried to make it country by singing with a (slighter than usual) country twang. It didn’t really make it country so much as make it a rock song sang with a twang. So when Liz Davis came out with Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” it was a no-brainer for the guy looking for his country artist. Liz won.
Next up were devoted father Rudy Parris with Chris Brown’s “Forever” singing against devoted rocker Terry McDermott singing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”. Rule 1: Classic songs are better than current songs. Rule 2: Don’t sing outside your expected genre when your coach is looking to fill a slot for your expected genre. And rule 3: Terry can sing rock better than anyone who’s ever been on a singing talent show. So, Terry won.
So, knowing those rules, it’s no surprise when Collin McLouchlin couldn’t win with The Script’s “Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)” against Micheala Paige singing Pat Benetar’s powerful “Love is a Battlefield.”
And the most confusing decision of the night saw Mariachi singer Julio Cesar Castillo singing Justin Beiber’s “Somebody to Love” against MarissaAnn with the pop-diva collaboration “Lady Marmalade”. MarissaAnn mopped the floor with Julio, kicked him in the ribs and stomped on his skull. It was that unbalanced of a knockout round. Yet somehow despite Julio breaking all the rules and singing off key for the whole song, Blake played favorites and let MarissaAnn go in favor of Julio. I have a little less respect for Blake at this time.
Then two more of my favorites, Hey Monday’s singer Cassadee Pope took on Maroon 5′s “Payphone” and Stevie Nicks clone Suzanna Choffel tried to sing reggae classic “Could You Be Loved” by Bob Marley. My wife is not a fan of Cassadee because of the odd spelling of her name and my wife can hold grudges for odd reasons. Still, she couldn’t find anything redeeming in Suzanna’s trying to sing reggae. (Which, traditionally shows very little vocal range and Suzanna didn’t really try to expand it.) But Cassadee is one of my favorites so I was happy when Blake chose her to go on. I would have been happier if Suzanna had put up more of a fight–then I would have been sad when either went home.
So going into the Live shows with audience voting, the teams are: (*Astericks by my faves, #’s for who I expect to be audience faves)
Julio Cesar Castillo
I’ll be back next week.
I’m breaking my silence to go ahead and jump back into reviewing the only reality show I’m watching this fall: “The Voice”.
In my opinion, for people wanting to watch and listen to people who hope to gain fame through their singing, “The Voice” is the best, if not only option. “The Voice” showcases proven talent and doesn’t focus on amateurs with little or no training and talent. I’ve had enough cringe moments during the four seasons of Idol that my wife and I watched.
Monday’s show was the first of two shows of ‘Knockout Rounds’. We’ve already been through the blind auditions and the “Battle Rounds.” Those who know “The Voice” are familiar with the blind auditions where the coaches choose contestants from chairs facing away from the stage so they must make their selections based on the voices alone. And fans would also know of the “Battle Rounds” where two challengers sing a duet and their coach chooses one to continue on the show.
The “Knockout Rounds” have the same result, one of two contestants goes on. But, each contestant sings their own song with one other contestant on stage with them, sitting in the corner. Then they switch places and once both have performed, their coach must select one. At the beginning of Monday’s show, Team Adam and Team Cee-Lo each had ten contestants. Now they each have five. Here’s how they got from ten to five:
The show starts with ten members of Team Adam on stage. They each don’t know who their opponent will be until their coach announces two names. The first two: Joselyn Rivera and Kayla Nevarez.
Joselyn started with a very energetic rendition of Beyonce’s “Love on Top”. Kayla followed with V.V. Brown’s “Shark in the Water.” I don’t have perfect ears, but neither seemed to be an exceptional performance. Both were good, neither was great. However, Joselyn showed more energy and range with her song choice. I would have chosen her. Adam seemed to have agreed with my assessment and picked Joselyn.
The following pairing saw Joe Kirkland singing Taylor Swift’s “Mean” and Brian Keith singing Brian Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”. I’m not familiar with most of Swift’s songs, so Kirkland was difficult for me to bond with, though I think he did a good job with it. Keith on the other hand was rough, taking two thirds of the song before bringing it together to finish well. I would have said Joe did better, but Adam picked Keith. I’m not disappointed.
Amanda Brown and Michelle Brooks-Thompson followed with Grace Potter and the Eternals’ “Paris (Ooh La La)” and Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight”, respectively. Amanda’s been one of my favorites from the beginning. When she was cut from Cee-Los team it was a sad moment. Then Adam picked her up, and apparently he’s glad he did. He chose Amanda over Michelle. I think it was a no-brainer. Amanda had more energy and picked a song that was simply more fun.
Next up were Loren Allred and Nicole Nelson. Loren sang Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” with style and conviction. I’d not seen much of Loren in the Battle Rounds, the show skimmed over her performance there. It’s been a long time since the blind auditions and I don’t remember her performance in those. I do remember being a fan of Nicole’s. But Nicole’s performance of Alicia Key’s “If I Ain’t Got You”, while great, wasn’t as gripping as Loren’s song. Adam agreed and will be going on to the voting rounds.
Melanie Martinez, who I consider to be the poster-girl for Season Three, sang the La Roux song, “Bulletproof”. She was up against a man I call a walking knit cap, Sam James, who sang Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis”. Melanie has a very affected singing voice, giving her a relatively unique sound. I say relatively because that particular affectation is common among amateurs these days. Sam didn’t really do well with his song. Melanie has the talent and more than deserved to go on, but I think this decision was made before the show started. Simply pairing Melanie against Sam all but guaranteed the outcome.
Adams final five complete, we then go on to team Cee-Lo.
The initial pairing was one of the most promising of Cee-Lo’s competitors, Avery Wilson singing Chris Brown’s “Yeah 3x” up against Cody Belew singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. Yes Cody is a guy. No he didn’t even try to reverse the genders in the song (not that anyone could). But, he pulled it off and Avery, with his attempt to show off his dance moves overwhelming his singing, didn’t. Cody won.
Cross Harry Potter with Justin Beiber and you’d get someone who looks like MacKenzie Bourg. But Mackenzie doesn’t sing like Justin, he has a singer/songwriter style and his mellowed version of Carlie Rae Jepsen’s overplayed summer hit, “Call Me Maybe” easily ran over second-chance competitor Daniel Rosa’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Back to December.” Daniel went home, again.
Trevin Hunte nearly knocked Amanda Brown off the show in the battle rounds in what I considered a close call. When he sang Phil Collin’s “Against All Odds” against Terisa Griffin’s rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love”, nothing Terisa could have done would have been enough. Cee-Lo wept at Trevin’s performance, and it really was that good. Trevin goes on.
I had to fast forward through most of the next round. Mycle Wastman singing Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” just never found a stride. Nicholas David, who can sing as well as anyone on the show, is difficult to watch. His sparse and scraggly beard, Jesus hair and odd stage movements are ever so slightly off-putting to me. I could listen to the guy on the radio all day, but he could benefit from a makeover, or maybe just a stool and some sunglasses. But the show is “The Voice” and we’re not supposed to be shallow about appearances, and he can sing. I suspect there are many people out there less shallow than I and will want to see more of this guy. Nicolas won.
One of the things that cost several performers the opportunity to go forward in the show is singing a hit exactly as the original artist did. Amy Lee’s voice cannot be replicated so when Caitlin Michele too on Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life”, she needed to do more to make it distinctly hers. Diego Val, with only minor alterations to Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” won the round simply because he made those minor personalizations to the song. Otherwise, Caitlin, whose voice is far better, would have taken this round.
And so Cee-Lo has his team.
Tonight we get to watch Cristina and Blake pare down their teams. I suspect I’m going to have to deal with more than one round where I’m a fan of both competitors.