As told to Marc Snetiker:
This was a tricky episode. It was halftime before last night’s episode started to air. The coaches came out in the third quarter, and slots are really starting to fill up, and last night was a good example of the coaches being their pickiest. And when they’re their most picky, you start to see some good people get away… or you see them pick some people who they otherwise maybe would have liked to have not picked. Their judgment comes in question when they get really, really picky.
This week’s theme was easy come, easy go. I don’t know if that’s harsh, but it felt like the coaches made some questionable calls this week, and I think they felt the pressure. I once thought I could guess who would pick who, but I felt like I had no idea what was going on in the coaches’ minds this week. They showed signs of really doing the right thing with really strong performances like Jamie Lono doing “Folsom Prison Blues” or Monique Benabou doing Kelly Clarkson. There are times where it’s sort of obvious, but then there are times when I wonder what they’re thinking. To me, Ducky set the barometer of this particular episode, and then it just went all over the place after that. I don’t want to get into the game — I have it easy, my job is to support the artists and their families — but I think Ducky was a good example of a good one that got away from the coaches. When I was watching it, I kept looking back like, am I seeing something that the coaches aren’t seeing? I felt like he had great energy in the room.
Last night’s episode also exuded a lot of interesting strategy. I think you see the diversity in Christina’s team being built. She and Cee Lo both needed pop people, who they did not have yet, so they jumped at the opportunity for Jonathas. And I think, with Blake, he looks at his team and he doesn’t quite have that niche coffeehouse singer-songwriter whose records could sell well at Starbucks. I think he saw that in Naia Kete.
Naia is right in Team Blake’s wheelhouse, carrying over from female singer-songwriters with unique voices like the Xenias and Dias of last year. I think he went in really fast on her. The good thing about Naia is that she sounds really good and really natural just playing outside with an acoustic guitar. I mean, she’s a street performer. The next time you walk down the street and see someone with their hat out sitting on the street playing music, just stop and think about that person’s life for a second. It really puts it into perspective, the opportunity that Naia has with The Voice – coming in and getting an envelope and getting this real opportunity. She can sit on the street and sing a song; now she’s going to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues. It’s like she was batting 400 in stickball; now give the girl a real bat and a real ball and some cleats and let’s see what she can do. And this is right in Blake’s territory. He’s got some great advisors in Miranda Lambert and Kelly Clarkson – it’s going to be fun to see the vocal makeover of Naia Kete in the battle rounds.
When Jonathas came up, I think you saw an excitement from two of our biggest pop coaches – in Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera – because they both were thirsting for a very familiar, marketable voice. They both got excited when they heard Jonathas. Cee Lo actually really thought it was Usher; he thought we were pulling an April Fool’s trick on him by bringing Usher out. They showed an insatiable appetite, a craving for pop, and they jumped on that with Jonathas. They build out their teams – we’ve seen Christina this year be so diverse, and it looked like she wanted to fill that youth pop slot, and she did that.
But here’s the thing with Cee Lo: You can’t put it past Cee Lo. Cee Lo knows what’s coming down the line – he knows the show now. So he’s collecting a team of people who are going to put on some of the better live performances, probably. Cee Lo’s all about theater. And so that’s why a guy like Tony Vincent is a good fit for Cee Lo. Everybody just looked at Cee Lo the minute he started to sing that Queen song, very dramatically. Everyone’s like, “Oh, what’s Cee Lo going to do here?”
I think one of my favorites last night was the sandwich guy, Jamie Lono. I loved him. “Folsom Prison Blues” was my favorite song of the night. I’m shocked [that more coaches didn’t turn around]. I thought that that would have been all four. He really did his own version of the song — he was quiet when he needed to be quiet on the song, and then he really showed the bigger side of his voice. I think last night was also a great example of some of the artists that we’re getting. Not only can Jamie sing so well, but he did it with half a lung. The backstories on some of these people are really just incredible. As much as we want to make the show about our four coaches, the power of the show is really that it’s a snapshot of America. I think at the core of why people are tuning into The Voice every week is because it’s really about the pursuit of a dream, and it’s about doing it at all costs. And we all just want to be a part of that because it takes a special person to take the stage and do that.
The four banger doesn’t happen often, and we look forward to when it does because it really speaks to the fact that a mini-phenomenon is taking place on the Voice stage. All four of our coaches, who are all such amazing and incredible artists themselves, when they all come together and unanimously agree that this unknown voice is moving all four of them, then you really just start to think that if these four hear something… it’s almost like, what did they hear? You almost look at Charlotte Sometimes differently. Yes, she went out there and did a great job with that song, but she must really possess something special in her voice that only a trained ear can pick up. I think it’s cool because it lets us feel like a professional musician for a second, to witness those moments. And it just doesn’t happen often when all four turn around, but when they do, it’s really special.
Justin Hopkins played guitar in my house band for a long time. When he came to the blind auditions, it was great to see him trying to take that leap. I thought he was really nervous, singing that David Gray song, but Justin could be somebody to keep an eye on, after going through the battle rounds and the mentor process. But it’s all selfish because I got to watch him play guitar and sing in my house band every night, so I was personally very excited for him. I was proud in just getting to see his wife and their baby. I know Justin as the rock star in my house band, and that was a few years ago, so now it’s good to see him as a father. We’re sort of similar. When he played in my house band, I was a single guy trying to do a late night show in a studio and he was a rocking guy with long hair. And now, five plus years later, we’re both family men and have children, so it was great to see that side of him, too.
They’re going in next week knowing that they have to fill up their teams – they’ve got to get 12 now. But the road to finishing isn’t going to be as easy as our coaches think it is. They think just because they have a couple more slots to fill that they can just sit back and relax. It’s not going to be that easy. I think there’s going to be a little truth to The Voice saving some of the best for last. It’s the last blind auditions, so these guys know that and they’re still going to be picky, but they’ve got to push their button, so can they get their timing and chemistry right on their selections? I can tell you this: Christina, she’s the pickiest. She proves next week that she is only going to press the button for her when she is moved by a voice at all costs.