Jane Smith is inexplicably rejected on "The Voice"The second-to-last episode of "The Voice" Season 4's Blind Auditions took place on Monday, and while there were a few dynamite ladies who got me all excited for next week's Battle Rounds, there was one extremely awesome lady, a not-so-plain Jane, who bizarrely didn't get picked. What does Adam Levine have against girls named Jane, huh?
I kid, I kid. Sort of. I'll get over this loss in time, as long as the amazing Grace Askew sticks around. Keep reading to learn about Grace and the other contestants who made it through--and about Jane, the one that got away--on Monday's episode of "The Voice."
Jeff Lewis - Like many seasoned but struggling singers, this Dallas troubadour, who was once signed to Interscope Records but was dropped before he even put out an album, came to "The Voice" looking for a second chance. And his audition sounded like a second go-'round, all right…because his performance of Usher's "U Got It Bad" sounded just like the first time I'd heard it done BY PHILLIP PHILLIPS ON "AMERICAN IDOL." Come on, now: Phillip's "U Got It Bad" was one of his defining "Idol" moments last year, and while it's feasible that Jeff didn't watch "Idol" Season 11 (lots of people didn't), you would've thought that some well-meaning friend might have tipped him off and advised him to do another song. Well, apparently none of the coaches watch "Idol" either, because they were all impressed by Jeff's remake, and three of them (everyone but Adam, oddly) turned around. "I have a lot of respect for you as an artist already," said Blake Shelton, who claimed he "detected a hint of country" in Jeff's style. (I missed that hint, somehow.) Shakira blew her chances by overly honestly pointing out "a few details that could be improved" in Jeff's voice. Unsurprisingly, Jeff eventually went with the man who originated the song, Usher himself. He just better not do Usher's "Nice & Slow" next, or he'll really tick off the P-Squared fans.
MEMBER OF: Team Usher
Shawna P - Shawna was the first of several rad women this evening, and she definitely was a WOMAN: Host Carson Daly described her as "one of our more experienced artists," which I suppose was a nice way of saying she seemed, um, mature. Shawna declined to state her age, but freely declared: "I've been singing since most of the people who've tried out for this show have been alive!" It turns out this Nashville veteran used to perform with Big & Rich's MuzikMafia, but that alliance didn't quite help her career the way it did Gretchen Wilson's. I am not sure why Shawna never made it big, though, because her powerful performance of the Black Crowes' "She Talks To Angels" had all of Gretchen's redneck grit and even more growl, and Shawna was giving me some Janis Joplin realness. She actually reminded me a bit of Season 1's Beverly McClellan, except with hair. I was a little surprised Blake didn't buzz in--I thought he'd appreciate this country-rock broad--but I was not surprised that Adam and Shakira spun around. "You have a voice on you! That voice needs to be on the show," said Adam. "You're so rock 'n' roll! Your voice is not like what is on radio today," said an enthusiastic Shakira, who's a bit of a rocker chick herself. Shakira has had a lot of trouble convincing contestants to join her team so far, but she succeeded this time. And I think these two she-wolves could be howlingly good together.
MEMBER OF: Team Shakira
Caroline Glaser - Looking and sounding like Colbie Caillat's little sister, this relatively inexperienced 18-year-old indie girl performed a nice cover of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." But it was just that--nice. It hardly moved me enough to have me belting along like the bus passengers in Almost Famous, and she sounded like a knockoff of many other folky-girl warblers I'd heard a dozen times on "The Voice." (It genuinely shocked me when Shakira told Caroline, "You are the kind of voice I've been waiting to hear on this show." Really? She'd never heard a voice like Caroline's before?) Anyway, this time Shakira's fiery enthusiasm was not enough: When Blake broached the subject of songwriting, that perked Caroline right up, and he sealed the deal. Maybe Blake can do for Caroline what he did for soft-spoken girls Xenia and Dia Frampton in Season 1, but I have my doubts about how far Caroline can really go on this show.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Michael Austin - This lug--also known as "Big Country" (not the Scottish '80s band, sadly)--could be to "The Voice" Season 4 as Tate Stevens was to "The X Factor" Season 2. He's a regular dude (a deputy sheriff!) by day, a rocker by night (he moonlights in a Vegas band!), and he's country to the core. But, like Tate, he's very generic. Perhaps that is why Blake, obviously the panel's country specialist, didn't turn his chair for Michael's cover of Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You"--while two other coaches did! Ouch. But that snub didn't seem to bother Michael much, because Adam and Shakira were so surprisingly gung ho for him. "Your performance just put me in a good mood," smiled Shakira. Said Adam: "You are the kind of voice I've been waiting to hear on this show. It will be so awesome when you choose me. Blake's entire reputation in the country music community will be at risk!" Michael eventually picked Adam, but Blake never did explain why he hadn't turned his chair, except to say, "Adam doesn’t know crap about country music." Hmmmm…
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Sasha Allen - So, does Alicia Keys's tour bus just keep breaking down in front of the NBC studio or something? Every season, another one of her backup singers ends up on "The Voice." First it was Season 2's Jermaine Paul, who won; then there was last season's Amanda Brown, who probably should have won. And now, there's Season 4's Sasha Allen, who might win. Obviously, Alicia really knows how to pick 'em; she should consider becoming a "Voice" coach herself. Sasha, a young mom who also once sang backup for John Legend and even on-hiatus coach Christina Aguilera, wowed with her stunning cover of the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice"; when she nailed the mega-note in the song's chorus, all four judges buzzed in almost simultaneously, and old rivals Adam and Blake totally turned on the charm. "I've been looking for something of that quality, and you are magic," raved Adam. "We were meant to be together, don't you see?" cooed Blake. I thought Sasha's country song choice meant she'd go with Blake, or that her R&B roots would lead her to Usher, or that maybe she'd relate to fellow diva Shakira. But, nope. Sasha signed up with…Adam! And Adam scored another very worthy player for his already very strong team.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Mary Miranda - This 17-year-old Latina beauty, who moved to the States from Havana as a child, truly impressed with her naturally emotive cover of Selena's "Como La Flor." Usher and Blake couldn't even understand her lyrics but were keen to steal her away from Shakira nonetheless, with Usher arguing, "I don't have a song called 'Hips Don't Lie,' but I can shake my hips!" However, it was pretty obvious that Mary belonged on Team Shakira. "From the moment you started that song with that long extended note, I knew I was in front of something really, really big," said Shakira (who was already referring to Mary as "my girl"). At this point, Mary teared up, and Blake exclaimed, "She's crying just hearing Shakira talk to her! We are so screwed." Blake was right, of course. But Mary will not be screwed. On Shakira's team, she will be in good hands.
MEMBER OF: Team Shakira
Grace Askew - This Memphis bouffant-topped bad girl is, to my knowledge, not related to "Idol's" Charlie Askew, but she's just as awesome and unique. Her smoky "bluntry" (blues + country) cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" had a certain Third Man Records/Jack White-protégé vibe to it, evoking Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, June Carter Cash, Neko Case, and a bit of Amy Winehouse and Lana Del Rey. I was hooked. Instant girl-crush. Everything about Grace just oozed coolness, and her growly purr was sexy as heck. Blake certainly was turned on, saying, "I don't know if there's anything sexier than a girl with a big ole chrome guitar…I knew within the first couple lines of the song that I was into it…I love you!" The feeling was mutual, and Grace joined Blake's team, rejecting the also-enthusiastic Shakira. (Poor, poor Shakira.) Now, can we convince Jack White to mentor Grace for the Battle Rounds?
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Ryan Innes - Ryan had a midlife crisis of sorts after his girlfriend dumped him, and he decided to quit medical school and pursue his musical dreams before it was too late. That's a very made-for-"The Voice" story, if I've ever heard one. Ryan really epitomized what this show is supposed to be all about: He didn't look the part of a pop star, but his voice had Adam buzzing in literally during the first word of his cover of John Mayer's "Gravity" (which was, er, "gravity"). And the other three coaches soon followed suit. I personally didn't think Ryan's vocals were all that distinctive, but he definitely possessed some lung power. "Your voice is packed with soul and substance. You shook this entire room!" said Usher. Blake said he and Ryan were "the perfect pair, like a scene in a movie where a couple is running towards each other." Shakira said something that was once again ignored. (Poor Shakira.) And Adam countered with, "I would just like to point out the lightning quickness with which I turned my chair around." But in the end, Ryan said, "Because I sing soul music, I pick…Usher!" Wow, I didn't see that one coming. I am not sure if Usher and Ryan's different soul styles will mesh well, but I suppose I must applaud Ryan for taking a risk.
MEMBER OF: Team Usher
Jamila Thompson, Amy Whitcomb, Justin Rivers, and Michelle Raitzin - Ugh, stop it with these montages, "Voice" producers! Yes, frustratingly, here were four more probably-fodder singers who received barely any screentime, with their auditions smushed into one combined 65-second package. Contestants whose auditions aren't shown in full never fare well on "The Voice," but hopefully the exception to that rule will be Amy, who was on NBC's other vocal competition show, "The Sing-Off," twice--first as a member of the a cappella crew Noteworthy, and later in Delilah. I wish "The Voice" had aired Amy's entire audition (her itsy-bitsy snippet of Kelly Clarkson's "Because Of You" showed promise), and I hope she doesn't get "montaged" on future episodes. I want to see her sing solo, with an actual band!
MEMBERS OF: Teams Usher, Adam, Blake, and Blake, respectively
Jane Smith - Whyyyyyyy didn't any of the judges spin for this awesome girl? Biggest "Voice" fail of this season so far, for real. Obviously the judges could not see how adorable Jane was, with her perfect Marlo Thomas hair-flip, sweet Keane-painting eyes, and Zooey 101 style…but surely they must have heard the potential in this Belle Histoire frontwoman's throaty performance of Florence + The Machine's "You Got The Love." I don't understand why no one turned, since they'd turned for less impressive singers this season. Of course, the four coaches who rejected Jane then spent 10 minutes annoyingly gushing about how great she was, which only made me wish there was such a thing as a Do-Over Round on "The Voice." Le sigh. If only Cee Lo Green hadn't sat out Season 4. I have a feeling Cee Lo would have totally hit his button for Jane.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo (in an alternate universe of my own imagination)
So if you're keeping track, or trying to, Team Adam now comprises Michael Austin, Sasha Allen, Amy Whitcomb, Patrick Dodd, Agina Alvarez, Karina Iglesias, Duncan Kamakana, Warren Stone, Judith Hill, Midas Whale, and Sarah Simmons.
Team Blake has Caroline Glaser, Justin Rivers, Michelle Raitzin, Grace Askew, Savannah Berry, Trevor Davis, the Swon Brothers, Holly Tucker, the Morgan Twins, Danielle Bradbery, and Christian Porter.
Team Usher has Jeff Lewis, Jamila Thompson, Ryan Innes, Audrey Karrasch, Orlando Dixon, Taylor Beckham, Chelsea M., Michelle Chamuel, Josiah Hawley, Jess Kellner, and VEDO.
And Team Shakira has Shawna P, Mary Miranda, Brandon Roush, C. Perkins, Garrett Gardner, J'Sun, Monique Abbadie, Tawnya Reynolds, Cathia, Kris Thomas, and Mark Andrew.
So now the teams are almost complete. Tuesday will be this season's final night of Blind Auditions, and each coach only has one spot left to fill before finalizing his or her team of 12. It still seems like Adam has the strongest crew and Shakira has the weakest, and that's unlikely to change during the course of a one-hour episode…but in the end, there can only be one winner of "The Voice" Season 4, so choosing wisely at the last minute could hypothetically make a world of difference for any coach's chances, even Shakira's. So watch this space, and make sure to watch "The Voice" on Tuesday.
- Interview with "The Voice's" Judith Hill
- Interview with "The Voice's" Midas Whale
- Photos from "The Voice"