FUZ REVIEWS SEASON TWENTY-ONE: A PRETENTIOUS VOICE ANTHOLOGY
WEEK ONE: Everything Changed When The Twitter Stans Attacked
As we're kind of making up for lost time and the fact that we're two episodes in with no review in sight until now, I'll make a bit of a compromise and mash the first two episodes (and their respective reviews) together for this first post. What I'm gonna do is give everyone short, sweet, Slezak-styled reviews of their respective auditions and rank them based on first impressions and overall future promise–in other words, asking ourselves who could really do some damage this season given the proper coaching. This rank will be a mishmash of all of the advancing artists from this week, so buckle in! We're in for a long ride, friends!
18. Chavon Rodgers • Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license" • Grade: C
Hmm... interesting angle to turn the song into a grungy rock ballad for sure, but I can't say the vocal was distinctive, sturdy, or all-together impressive enough to do much more than make me think, "that was a real good idea on paper!" Can't say I disliked him, per se? But the most I've remember for this performance, even a few days later, is how rough the first half or so was, how the second half wasn't quite good enough to make me forget it, and what sounded like a missed cue in between those two. Homedog's gonna need a vocal makeover of Amanda Brown proportions for him to make the lives on a basis stronger than his good looks. I would've easily mistaken him for a no-chair had he not gotten chairs so quickly.
17. Carolina Alonso • Yuri's "El Triste" • Grade: C+
Love seeing multilingual singers on this show, they're always quite refreshing. Still, again, I found Carolina's vocal to be... underwhelming? Disappointing? A whiff at bat when it could've been a home run? Maybe teen girl belters are losing a bit of their appeal to me, but a more out-of-the-box song choice isn't gonna stop me from finding her vocal just a tad undercooked. Still, Kelly's done much bigger things with much lesser vocalists.
16. Peedy Chavis • Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" • Grade: C+
I'll give Peedy some credit where credit's due... his rollicking tack on the Elvis classic was entertaining as hell, and, conceptually, a breath of fresh air from the swamp of repetition this show can kinda find itself neck deep in sometimes. Still, if we're judging purely on vocals and not on novelty... hm. Kid's gonna need a little more time baking, perhaps, before he's really ready for this jelly? This is a strange situation where I have to wonder if Peedy can thrive in this competition beyond novelty alone–I'm gonna need some convincing later down the line that he's more than just a really good Elvis impression.
15. Katie Rae • Maren Morris' "The Bones" • Grade: B-
Katie's take on Morris' hit was like going through an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers without stopping to at least try one of the dips first. Like, sure, can't say it was a bad time by any means, but... all of this potential, and yet such little explored? Katie's got a nice, smooth alto, and I can't say she missed a single note I could think of, but "The Bones" did very little to give me the impression that she can be a boundary-breaker as a vocalist. Gonna have to see where Ari takes her from here.
14. Lana Scott • Kelsea Ballerini's "hole in the bottle" • Grade: B-
Am I the only one who thought Kelly's "whiny" compliment felt a little backhanded to the girl who delivered such a violently country performance that I felt like I was about to get up and start a hoedown in my college dormitory? Or maybe Kelly heard what I heard–a vocal that was on-point vocally, but a little too nasally and at times squeaky to be pristine when it really could've been great? Lana'll do well with Blake, I reckon, but her higher register could definitely do with some ironing out before she's ready for the big leagues of the lives. Honestly, my biggest takeaway from this performance was the realization that Blake's well-endowed strategy for acquiring artists is basically just gaslighting the contestants and the other coaches. Like, seriously, that's all he does, right?
13. Vaughn Mugol • Ed Sheeran's "The A-Team" • Grade: B
Kudos for being this season's leak and getting so much online attention, but Vaughn's performance didn't strike me as much beyond "real nice to listen to". His voice is brimming with sunshine, and some of those little changes he made to the melody breathed some life and energy into an otherwise intimate, sometimes closed-off song. Some of those changes, however, just felt... really affected? A few of those notes, nice as they were, were drawn out and stretched a little too thin in some places, and they kind pulled at the song to the point where they sort of lost that intimacy. Still, his voice is real pleasant, and he could absolutely be a threat with some killer song choices. I dunno about y'all, but kinda wanna hear the guy shoot for some R&B, like he said he was interested in?
12. Joshua Vacanti • Idina Menzel's "Into the Unknown" • Grade: B
Absolutely kooky song choice aside, I walked away from this performance with the impression that Vacanti has a loaded cannon of a voice; massive, powerful, unwieldy, and fully capable of blowing some poor sap to pieces if you aim it the right (wrong?) way. Unfortunately, there's no overlooking the misfiring of his highest belted notes or his incredibly affected intonation, but, beyond that, you have someone who, with the right coaching, could wield that weapon masterfully. Some of those notes–the ones he seemed to have the most control over–were reaaal sexy, y'all. Let's just, like, make it an 100% success rate instead of, say, a 75%.
11. Kinsey Rose • The Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away" • Grade: B
I'm not always a huge fan of female country voices... they tend to blend together for me sometimes? But there was a lilting beauty to Kinsey's tone, one that captured the desire the original song invokes. Her tone is just so pretty, y'all! Sprinkle in a few solid runs and enough range to get the wheels in my head turning for what may come in the future, and she could really be a threat in the later rounds.
10. Jim & Sasha Allen • John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" • Grade: B
It was nearly impossible for me to not love this father and son duo going into their performance on personality and story alone, which is why I'm a little disappointed I was only somewhat charmed by the performance itself. For me, the biggest issue was their mixing; I can't help but get the feeling that Sasha was much louder than Jim. Was that just me? Do my ears just suck shit, or was Jim just real quiet? Despite that, their harmonies were so delicate and sturdy, and the folksiness of their vocals–plus Jim on the mandolin, certainly a fun instrument to bring to the table–definitely brought them an extra layer of appeal, and, given that they work out that one issue, they could certainly help make history on the show by giving us more than one group act in the lives ('cuz let's be honest, we've already got one that's basically a lock).
9. Jack Rogan • The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" • Grade: B+
If I judged this performance on vocals alone, I'd probably bump Jack down a few spots, but those first few seconds, where it was just him and the guitar, were just... absolutely magical. I can't say my excitement didn't wane the moment the band kicked in–there was a lot of potential for this to be a really memorable, intimate moment had he just stuck with his instrument alone. But his alluring, swampy tone definitely made up for it, and the troubadour brought a layer of intrigue to the song that most other artists who have done the song justice on this show before didn't. Vocally, this song is Hannah Huston and Kimberly Nichole's. But perhaps Jack could make a name for himself if he keeps on this track as this season's resident storyteller?
8. Jonathan Mouton • Silk Sonic's "Leave the Door Open" • Grade: B+
This was just a really good cover of a song that might not be great to cover on a show like this. Jonathan brought pretty much everything to the table that the Silk Sonic song asks for–the sly seduction, sly vocals, and that extra kick of passion that makes the original song so appealing. Still, singing a song in a different key isn't exactly the best way of shaking it up stylistically, and Jonathan's cover, while really good, wasn't particularly distinctive, I guess? Can't deny how strong of a vocal it was, but I may need something with a little more fire from him later for me to be fully convinced, you know? Nonetheless, job well done, Jonathan–there's no ignoring the mellowness of his tone and the range of his runs.
7. Hailey Green • Marc Broussard's "Home" • Grade: A-
Corey Ward doing absolutely unspeakable things to our hearts last season has definitely paved a path for returnee artists in a way that very few artists have done so in the last ten or so seasons; case in point, Hailey Green, who came back from her overbaked, pitchy audition two seasons ago to give us a vocal worthy of a wrinkled nose and a "hell yeah!". There were some places where the vocal kinda felt a liiittle overdone, but that's worth overlooking for how much Hailey put the pedal to the metal this time around. One chair turn who?
6. Katherine Ann Mohler • Ella Eyre's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off • Grade: A-
I hate to be that fan of The Voice who claims that any particular song "belongs" to a particular artist, but I couldn't shake my fond memories of S9's Ellie Lawrence as a near identical instrumental kicked in for Katherine's performance... which, as soon as she opened her mouth, revealed itself to be nearly indistinguishable from the raspy rendition of year's past. There was a quiet, subdued type of desperation to Katherine's musicality here, and that, combined with an absolutely stunning chest and head voice, makes me wonder how she only got two chairs to turn... and so late at that! Definitely could be a frontrunner down the line.
5. Paris Cunningham • Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" • Grade: A-
The sheer amount of joy I derive from the mere concept of someone covering one of my favorite songs that came out before I was born was enough to get me revved up for an exciting performance, and by god, king didn't disappoint! A few missed notes in patches was merely a mild misstep in the grand scheme of a performance so exciting–vocally and energetically!–that I nearly stood up and grooved right along with him from the comfort of behind my computer screen. I mean, my lord, some of the changes he made to melody were absolutely exhilarating! Doing the impossible–making a cover of "Superstition" as exciting and groovy as the original–should be rewarded, y'all.
4. Samuel Harness • 3 Doors Down's "Here Without You" • Grade: A
I'll be the first to admit that I, unlike Kelly, had never heard this song before this episode, but Samuel delivered the exact type of performance that makes me rush to iTunes to download, only for me to get on my knees and mourn the loss of pre-Live Shows recordings of performances from this show. Samuel harnessed (laugh.) pretty much every best tool in his arsenal to deliver a performance that was not only emotional, but vocally captivating–from his undeniable raw musicality, to his absolutely delectable rasp. He's the type of artist who could do justice to such a wide variety of different songs, and someone like that is a real threat to take away the crown. Not to mention... I think he may be a rare case of someone who'll actually benefit from being on Team Legend, dare I say? Hm, we'll have to see 'til later, but...
3. Gymani • Ariana Grande's "pov" • Grade: A
Every season, I feel like the audience still watching The Voice collectively takes the time to ask, "when will a woman of color win The Voice again, and when will an African-American woman win it period?". Our patience wanes with every passing season, especially when we pay witness to such magical and powerful performances such as what Gymani delivered on Ariana's own damn song. Not unlike Paris, Gymani did absolutely unspeakable things to the song's melody, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The moments where she really let lose were straight up phenomenal, especially on that last chorus–with just enough restraint for her to still hone in on hitting the notes with pinpoint accuracy. Tamara Jade of Season 19 did something similar with every one of her performances, albeit with about 20% less control–how much damage can Gymani deal with that edge? Not to mention her intriguing choice of coach...
2. Girl Named Tom • Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Helplessly Hoping" • Grade: A
You know, I think the idea of trios auditioning for this show was exciting when we could envision an act like this auditioning for the show, rather than groups that don't fully explore the potential of nailing three-part harmonies on the Voice stage. Which makes the arrival of Girl Named Tom, absolutely perfect melodic choices and scary harmonic accuracy in tow, all the more exciting. I mean, they couldn't have done a better job at creating pure magic onstage together, right? They rose together at just the right moment, and yet left us all begging for more in the end anyhow. It's been a real long time since a group act made the finale, but could that fifteen season curse break this season? Honestly, if they keep performances like this up, count me as a yes.
1. Wendy Moten • Chaka Khan's "We Can Work It Out" • Grade: A+
Maybe Girl Named Tom was a little more right on the money as far as the intricacies of their harmonies go, but when you're giving out performance rankings, you gotta consider how much of a show is put on. With that in mind, let's take a moment to bow down to the first new contender for "most exciting The Voice audition" we might have gotten since maybe Katie Kadan, a performer who spent such an insane amount of time in her higher belted register for such a small amount of time to perform. I swear, the Voice stage crew may have needed to stomp out some stray flames on the stage after Wendy was done, because she just absolutely smoked that performance. When I say she ate it up, I mean it, y'all. Control! Range! Power! There's no better word to use than "revelation" after a performance like that. And, with a coach like Blake under her belt, she could maybe–just maybe–break the curse of black women getting screwed out of a well-earned trophy for years of this show's airtime.