"Hit me with emotion." That was Cee Lo Green's advice on last night's (May 3) second episode of NBC's "The Voice," and it was counsel that contestants could have well used. While last week's premiere of NBC's new singing competition came with a fair amount of discovery -- new voices, as well as rules to learn -- that went by the wayside in week two, as the the four celebrity judges built their teams up to eight each with an unfortunately lackluster pool.
The most encouraging news came when Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo and Adam Levine did not pick certain hopefuls, proving they had discerning taste. One Josh Hand mumbled his way through Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi," and Angela Wolff took a risk and sang a song associated with mentor Blake Shelton's fiance Miranda Lambert, "House That Built Me." The judges stayed put in both cases, refusing to spin around in their chairs to see who was performing these songs at karaoke level and impressing no one.
Video: Watch NBC's "The Voice," episode 2
Levine took the opportunity to set "The Voice" apart from the show it intends to rival. "The people that we're not turning our chairs around for could win 'American Idol,'" he said. "'The Voice' is after something more -- that extra thing, that unbelievable, extra spectacular, mindblowing thing."
By not spinning their chairs around, the judges indicated that they're basing their decisions on vocal ability. But more often than not, their comments also betrayed a visceral curiosity about how a contestant's voice might match up to his or her appearance; when Adam Levine inadvertently winds up picking a man instead of a woman, it's clear that a singer who gets the mind reeling is just as valuable as one with an impressive set of pipes.
Those who were chosen hardly made multiple chairs spin. Nakia, a burly fellow from Austin in his mid-30s, took a chance and sang Cee Lo's hit "Forget You," gaining the songwriter as his mentor; Christina Aguilera made Justin Grennano her first guy selection; and Devon Burley, with an unimpressive version of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," was paired with Adam Levine. Shelton and Aguilera each wound up with overtly country singers.
Unlike week one, there was not a lot of competition for singers. Dia Frampton showed promise in term of being easy to mold, but too many others lacked personality or consistency in their performances. Why Tyler Robinson chose "The Voice" as the avenue to come out of the closet to his father is anyone's guess. Why he sang Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," the most overplayed song of 2010, is a bigger mystery. Meanwhile, the Thompson not-quite twins (pig farmers, actually) wound up with Cee Lo in a last-second moment of desperation.
Promos for week three indicate that it's the judges who will be put on the hot seat, though anyone from last night's episode who expects to top their predecessors will need to heat up in a hurry.