'The Voice' Recap: Juliet Simms Lights It Up, Erin Martin Stumbles
The 10,000 hour theory gets frequently quoted when aging rock fans aim to point out that today's music lacks character, skill, instrumental chops -- you name it. The theory contends that to excel at anything, 10,000 hours need to be invested in practice and/or research before someone is ready for the spotlights, a notion born out by Juliet Simms on Monday's edition of "The Voice."
Simms, one of Cee Lo Green's six singers, has worked in rock bands for more than seven years, signed a label deal and was dropped and played the Vans Warped Tour last year. More than any of the dozen performers who sang Monday, Simms exhibited the traits that only experience can teach: Stage presence, vocal control and commanding the attention of an audience. Not everything about her performance of the Police's first hit "Roxanne" was A plus - she needs to resist holding onto syllables at the end of her runs -- but she provided enough indications that she is a superior talent in this pool.
Her performance was one of six that came from the school of rock, and by far hers was the most affecting. Rock 'n' roll, "The Voice" seems to be making clear, is a tough genre to sing convincingly. Covering pop sings requires a certain level of panache and an ability to hit the right notes. Most rock songs selected by contestants on "The Voice" and other shows almost always seem to come from iconic performers or the generation that followed those icons. To reach for a rock tune, it seems in the early going, means a singer has chosen a tough model to be compared against. Even if that singer is Brandon Flowers.
Granted, my judgment comes from a perch positioned behind the center-field camera inside the Burbank studio where the show is shot. Some of the night's performances felt goofy in the room and may well have played just fine on TV; the band was at a deafening volume on Jamar Rogers' performance of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," which makes it hard to judge, but it was enjoyable.
Tuesday's show will see the elimination of two members of each team. Based on Monday's performance alone, here's a personal ranking of the talents on the teams of Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green.
Juliet Simms (The Police's "Roxanne," Team Cee Lo)
A few weeks ago, Simms told Billboard.com that she was "holding back...not showing all her cards." It will be interesting to see how she evolves from this point forward. The judges loved her performance and it feels like we're only beginning to see her potential.
James Massone (Jesse Harris' "Don't Know Why," Team Cee Lo)
Girls scream a lot when James takes the stage. A lot. The girl next to me screamed and said he was the only person she had ever voted for. His performance, a cool, falsetto-driven rendition of the Norah Jones hit, was comfy and cozy in the arrangement, and when he went out to the audience the girls went wild. Cee Lo suggested he keep that under control, but judging from his wardrobe of a letterman's jacket, untucked shirt with a skinny tie and a kooky headband, his goal is t float into boy band space while singing about matters of the heart.
Mathai (John Legend's "Ordinary People," Team Adam)
Not an extremely strong vocal performance, but one that the 19-year-old from Hawaii can use to build a fan base. She might be voted off right away, but it won;t be for a lack of putting a distinctive stamp on a cool song. Christina Aguilera found her performance "lounge-y" in places, but that was part of its charms; she put a song on a roller coaster and enjoyed the ride.
Cheesa ( Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's "Don't Leave Me This Way," Team Cee Lo)
Remember in "High Fidelity" how the lead character always wants to make random lists? Let's try this one: Top 10 songs where you love to sing just one word. Who can resist the word "baby" in this Thelma Houston disco classic? It;s in my top 10. She got a pinch screechy twice, but for the most part nailed this number and surrounded herself with dancers who made it fun to watch without going over the top. Imagine that - a pure voice on a dance track. Does not seem to happen much any more.
Jamar Rogers (Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," Team Cee Lo)
It was loud, it had dancers on stilts, it was rock 'n' roll. But at the end, I believed Jamar Rogers and that is important in rock 'n' roll: Does the audience believe you? You;re not sinigng about the pain that soul singers sing about and you're not singing about the joy that modern pop acts sing about so you have to be convincing as a character. Rogers stands out in that department.
Kim Yarbrough (Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," Team Adam)
The judges' complaints were spot on. She did not make it enough of her own song, she was sharp, she was too obvious. But she has some powerful pipes and it would be a shame to cast her as a Chaka Khan sound-alike which she has probably fought -- and played into -- for years and years. Her tone is rich and potentially exceptional. I want to hear more, but I would not bet on America keeping her around.
Katrina Parker, (Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight," Team Adam)
First song of the night and first bad song selection of the show. Levine, in the taped segment, referred to Adele as "the elephant in the room" and Parker could not shake the influence of the "Rolling in the Deep" singer. Her performance wobbled through a song that requires a certain level of pent-up angst that Parker never summoned.
Tony Vincent (Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," Team Cee Lo)
A fair number of duos are based on one person taking the lead and doing the lion's share of the work while the other does, ummm, something else. Tears for Fears is one of those duos. One of the greatest records of the 1980s came crashing down in the hands of Tony Vincent who probably did not realize Curt is just as important as Roland when it comes to making this song believable. The original thrives on the deliberate nature of the singing of each word in the title as a separate unit. Vincent swallowed "world" and elected to not celebrate the song's captivating dynamics driven by the vocals. For the record the band was spot on.
Tony Lucca (Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," Team Adam)
If you has read this far you may remember that bit about icons and iconic performances. You get two choices on this song: Be as great as Peter Gabriel (impossible) or put a boombox over your head and sing-along thinking your cute and that kick-boxing is the sport of the future. Lucca did neither. And as if to prove a point his old pal from the Mickey Mouse Club, Christina Aguilera, went goofy on him, treating him to a Dumbo drop of insults about his "one-note" performance. Were they not chummy in an earlier episode?
Pip (The Killers' "When You Were Young," Team Adam)
In case you missed, here is what Pip wore. Red pants. Motorcycle jacket. White shirt. Black bow tie. Shiny sneakers. Sound confused? So did his performance, which lacked a command of the lyrics, the stage or the song. Pip seemed lost out there, which is no way to deliver a rock song from a band from Las Vegas.
Erin Martin (Liam Sternberg's "Walk Like An Egyptian," Team Cee Lo)
The Bangles hit is "Walk LIKE an Egyptian" not "Walk AS an Egyptian." Having a collection of buff boy models dressed as Egyptians proved to be a distraction as Martin meekly rattled off the lyrics to the song. Possessing none of Susanna Hoffs' sultry and sexy voice, Martin's vocals wafted off into the distance and visuals drowned out her unconvincing vocals. She has model looks and it may help her stay in the competition, though.
Karla Davis (B.o.B.'s "Airplanes," Team Adam)
This performance may well become an instruction video for singing competition contestants in the future. Fearing that she would be typecast as a country singer, Davis went for a short skirt, cowgirl boots and hip-hop and did a song that Blake Shelton astutely -- or is it politely -- pointed out was "too wordy." Apparently unaware of the demographics of TV competition voters, Davis may well have cut her run short on "The Voice" as she tried to show too much too soon. (Yes, that is a New York Dolls reference).