Sunday, December 8, 2013

FLUNK Off: The Voice U.S. S5 Report Card

As The Voice approaches the close of its 5th season with 5 singers left, now is apt time to give the show its report card (Why now? To increase traffic to the blog, durrr. Also I kind of have an idea as to how the season may end already.) Are my thoughts all knowing of the audience consensus? Fuck no! I started this blog in part to the hype surrounding HRFH and Screech from S4.

(Besides, if I were really that all powerful I'd be like this with Colby Keller of Big Shoe Diaries fame. Hell, throw in Conner Habib of NewNowNext SEXpert fame in there as well. Yes I know full well what they do outside of the things I just mentioned.)

This is what I'm taking into consideration for grading the show:

1. Previous seasons V.S. this season

2. Song choices on the Live shows

3. Contestants (here's a hint...if you've read my blog, you can expect to see HRFH -2.0 with very low marks)

4. Phases of the show; meaning Battle Rounds, Knockouts and Live shows until now.

5. Elements of the show (here's another hint...montages and Taxicab Confessionals must die.)

Let's play rough and get it on!

1. Seasons Past V.S. Season 5: Last season got a bit of flack for not having the most "enigmatic" performers compared to S3 (You sons of bitches kept voting for HRFH and you wanted a charismatic performer...logic; methinks thou dost not possess it). Well if S4 was lukewarm, S5 is the cold fish compared to S3. Yes some of the contestants were good, but a lot of the interesting ones got ousted in either the Battle Rounds or the Knockouts.

In S1 V.S. S5...after considering S1's Battle Round turned Live show winners and S5 having Battle Round turned Knockout turned Live show winners, the better pool was in in S5; by 2 maybe 3 singers and I liked 4 people in S1 [S1 had Frenchie Davis, Casey Weston, Xenia and Nakia; S5 I considered Tamara Chauniece, Amber Nicole, Jacquie Lee, Stephanie Anne Johnson, Caroline Pennell and Matthew Schuler; James Wolpert kind of made up for his Knockout performance and has had an inconsistent run. Other than that, my favorites never win.]

In S2 V.S. S5...after considering S2's Battle Round turned Live show winners and the aforementioned S5 roster give or take James Wolpert, the better pool was in S5; by at least 1 singer [S2 had Katrina Parker, Kim Yarbrough, Erin Martin {I thought her audition of "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's was lovely}, Ashley De La Rosa and Moses Stone]

In S3 V.S. S5...considering the same format of Battle Rounds to Knockouts to Live shows, the stronger pool was in S3 by 1 pure singer in terms of hard numbers [S3 had Joselyn Rivera, Amanda Brown, Melanie Martinez, Cody Belew, Trevin Hunte, De'Borah & the Knockout surprise of Loren Allred]

In S4 V.S. S5...considering the current format, the stronger pool was in S4 but the fact my field of 13 (!) picks got reduced to 7 does play into the final grade [S4 had Amber Carrington, Caroline Glaser, Kris Thomas, Karina Iglesias, Sasha Allen, Holly Tucker and Michelle "Amazing Human" Chamuel].

In overall terms, S5 has been the 3rd best season to me in terms of contestants I like making it to the Live shows. Though in terms of format adjustments to where steals were just introduced in this year's Knockouts, S5 is the worst.

FINAL Grade for Seasons Past V.S. Now: C+ Get rid of the hype driven contestants earlier and this grade will change for the better.

2. Song Choices on the Live shows: While varied, songs by One Direction and Miley Cyrus were performed. F-...OK; I'm telling myself I have to be a touch more thorough with this bit [though let it be said teeny-bopper artists never help you.] Looking back through the songs performed on the show, although a mix of current and classic have been performed, I really can't say that a lot of songs picked actually help the contestants.
John Denver, Joni Mitchell, Reba McEntire, Katy Perry, Miguel, Etta James...and a lot of stuff in between. However, no one has the balls to perform any song by Lana Del Rey, Janelle Monae, Kelis, Lady Gaga or any artist that has originality alongside with vocals to aspire to. The bland choices a la Tom Petty, Ray LaMontagne etc., must be stopped. Also, would it kill any producers to have songs by past Voice contestants other than Cassadee Pope?

FINAL Grade: C-. The choices need to be a little more eyebrow raising for all the right reasons.

3. Contestants: The pools of talent The Voice manages to get is impressive in terms of its main competitors, American Idle...err Idol and...hmm; that's odd. I thought the X Factor was here. Maybe it missed its flight from the UK to the US...3 seasons ago. *shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade* In terms of how the Live show contestants did this season as a collective?

Let's rank them; starting with the first 8 acts to go this season...

Tied for last place (8th) - Nic Hawk and Olivia Henken; these two were terrible from the gate in singing. Nic went on to give the worst Live show performance in Voice U.S. anthology while Olivia couldn't sing and was boring to watch. F- for them both.

6th- Shelbie Z.; although a bubbly lass with projection, her allegiance to country music and Team Blake didn't make her anything special this season. Also, her performance of "Fancy" by Reba McEntire wasn't up to snuff with her previous efforts. C-

5th- Grey; the wedding singer turned aspiring artist lived up to her name by being relatively boring until her Live show performance of "Still Into You" by Paramore. However, the voting public was not on her side. C-

4th- Preston Pohl; the soulful male [this season] was OK against the aforementioned field, but a case of "too current, too soon" worked against him in the Live shows. C+

3rd- Stephanie Anne Johnson; someone I actually liked this season who went home too early. She at times sounded a bit too polished, but in her Live show performance brought grit. Sadly, X-Tina saved Josh Logan. B-

2nd- Tamara Chauniece; this was a case of the "Disco death knell" [a phenomenon from a voting public too stupid to realize that disco is awesome if sung on TV.] working against someone who should've stayed. B+

1st- Amber Nicole; from Blind Audition montage to budding dark-horse, her elimination can be blamed on the son of a bitch who sicked her with a Cassadee Pope song. Let this be a lesson; Cassadee Pope songs should NEVER be performed on this show again. NEVER. A-

Next, the 4 acts who followed them in elimination...

4th- CopyKat; may whoever held the door for her on the Blind Auditions be fired immediately. She is easily the most grating singer of this group. F-

3rd- Josh Logan; for all his attempts at being smooth, his rendition of "Man in The Mirror" by Michael Jackson was a miscast on every level. That and Stephanie Anne Johnson should've been in his spot X-Tina. D+

2nd- Jonny Gray; he did make it farther than I thought, but he was way too hit and miss and was a barely a hit with his rendition of "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve. C

1st- Austin Jenckes; despite being a member of the Confederacy...err Team Blake, Austin was rather pleasing for a folk singer. However, his lack of a "breakout" moment cemented his fate. B-

Next, the 3 acts who followed them in elimination...

3rd- Ray Boudreaux; bland, boring...*yawns* Sorry, what were we talking about? *shaaaaaaaaaaaaade* He made it further than I ever expected him to. Still doesn't make up for the fact that he skated by mainly on Blake's confused arousal of him. Good job on giving Blake a lady-boner, but Adam does that a lot better than you (The Shevine jokes will not die. I will give them life support until you croak.) D

2nd- Matthew Schuler; yes I did like him, but his off night with a One Direction song sealed his fate. Also, X-Tina needs to be slapped for that "Rhythm Nation meets STOMP!" bullshit in the Top 8 for him. Still he was one of the few contestants on the show worth a damn every week, and with me that is very hard to be. A-

1st- Caroline Pennell; she amazed me in terms of going from a really nervous dork who can sing, to a dork who can sing very well. Give or take her performing a John Denver song, she had committed no major sin. Damn you East Coast/Central Coast Twitter! A+

The Top 5 as they are now...

5th- HRFH -2.0; this is the last terrible singer I hated from the beginning. I have said this before and I will say it overrated backup singer for an internationally acclaimed music act; got all 4 chairs to turn; landed on Team Adam; defeated more deserving singers in the Battle Rounds and Knockout Rounds and sang her pre-Voice mentor's song in the Live shows...this is HRFH all over again. At least this one can project, but the hype makes me sick. F-

4th- Cole Vosbury; had things worked differently and he were still on Team Cee-Lo, I would like him. However, because he's on Team Blake and Blake must lose this season...I can't give him a lot of room. I choose to remember him as the Team Cee-Lo standout who sang the motherfucking theme to The Jeffersons and that is always a plus. B- [I was being very generous with that Jeffersons line.]

3rd- Will Champlin; his appeal has always been hard to understand. The fact he's in the Top 5 is astonishing in and of itself. However, he did have a performance I liked. His rendition of "Secrets" by OneRepublic did the impossible; it made a OneRepublic song tolerable. However, his magic faded from weeks on end and he had the nerve to try and sing "At Last" by Etta James knowing goddamn well that is Sasha Allen's song. C

2nd- James Wolpert; a kind of favorite of mine at first, he started off with two kickass performances. Then, he screwed up royally in the Knockouts by singing tacky arena rock. He made up for it slowly and surely...until he had the nerve to rip off Cody Belew's stage antics for his version of "Somebody to Love" by Queen. 2 really bad nights but a penchant for White Stripes songs make him someone I can live with. B-

1st- Jacquie Lee; despite giving some Selena Gomez vibes, Jacquie can sing very well. She started to ascend to front-runner status by bitchslapping her competition with a rendition of "Stompa" by Serena Ryder. However, her renditions of "Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes and "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin were her biggest missteps of the competition. Yet because of her previous work, she is the best of the Top 5 as of now. A-

Live show contestant totals: 4 F's, 2 D's, 5 C's, 5 B's and 4 A's.

Top 5: 1 F, 1 C, 2 B's and 1 A.

FINAL Grade: C+ Despite the B's, only 1 A singer is in the Top 5. This is not satisfactory.

4. Phases of The Show: Considering format tweaks every now and then, it'll be tricky but not impossible to compare the seasons.

S1 worked like this; Blind Auditions, 2nd chance round [after the coaches had failed to make their teams full by the end of the regulated Blind Auditions.], Battle Rounds, Live playoffs and then Live shows. The playoffs determined which singers would make it to the Live shows. Each coach had to save one of their artists that didn't get the public vote. The teams were required to have 1 member of each team make the finale. The Top 8 [last 2 on each team] competed against each other in a 100 point distribution [ex. Singer A got 53 points and Singer B got 47 points] along with another 100 point distribution from the public votes. The final 4 that season got to write their own song and perform it in part 1 of the finale.
S2 worked like this; Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds Live playoffs and then Live shows. Like S1, each team was required to have 1 person represent them in the finale. This was determined by the points system as done in S1. Unlike S1, the final 4 of S2 did not have to compose and perform a song of their own.

S3 began some of the best changes and worked like this; Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds w/ Steals, Knockout rounds, Live playoffs and Live shows. Unlike S1 & S2, S3 onward was "No Man's Land" meaning that once the Live playoffs had concluded and the teams were set, every singer was judged equally. Unlike S1 & S2, the finals were determined by the 3 singers total left in the competition. Like S2, the final finalists did not have to compose and perform a song of their own.
S4 operated to the same drum as S3.

S5 had this format; Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds w/ Steals, Knockout round w/ Steals, Live playoffs and Live shows in S3 & S4 style "No Man's Land" realness. This season, the final finalists [in a really American Idol move] will be working with Ryan Tedder to produce an original song of Tedder's creation. The winner will debut that song during the Season finale.

In overall terms, no season has operated precisely the same [maybe S4 working just like S3] but the fact none of the final finalists since S1 are composing and performing their own songs, really neuters the creative aspect the artists crave. Also, the iTunes multiplier must be stopped. S3 and S4 were screwed by these damn bonuses going to the wrong people.

FINAL Grade: B+. No one can say it's the same gig every season, but in some cases The Voice needs to promise no more gimmicky shit

5. Elements of The Show: In the Live shows, apart from that damned iTunes bonus, certain elements in the Results show have bugged me. The things I write in this sentence detract from an A+ grade. Dear NBC...get rid of the montages in Blind Auditions and Battle Rounds, Taxicab...err Voice Confessionals in the live shows and the Instant-Save.

FINAL Grade: C

So, the S5 report card looks like this...

Seasons Past V.S. Season 5: C+

Song choices on the Live shows: C-

Contestants in the Live shows: C+

Phases of The Show this Season: B+

Elements of The Show: C

***UPDATE: I apparently glossed over Holly Henry from Team Blake who despite her allegiance to him was actually pleasing. That does not affect the grades, but she deserves credit for not biting it royally.***

As to who could win it all this season? I have a really strong sense that for 5 seasons in a row, it won't be someone I like. Here's a list of logistics as I see it...[if a certain two contestants are sent home]

If Cole and Will are sent home, I fear HRFH -2.0 could pull a miracle from her hat.

If Cole and HRFH -2.0 are sent home, Jacquie could win with Will in 2nd.

If HRFH -2.0 and Will are sent home, James will win by a narrow margin over Jacquie.

If Jacquie and James are sent home, Will would barely win against the field.

If Jacquie and HRFH -2.0 are sent home, Cole might win but barely against James.

If Cole and James are sent home, Jacquie will win.

I'm sure there's more scenarios I missed, but this is how I graded S5. Now FLUNK off!

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