‘The Voice’: Rudy Parris & Others Bring The Blind Auditions To A Close
We start the final night of Blind Auditions with a cautionary tale for all forgotten boy band members: The Voice is not the place you. Typically, if you were forgotten, you were forgotten for a reason — and neither Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine or Cee Lo Green are going to bring you back. No one told this to Rod Michael (not legally related to George Michael, but perhaps spiritually), former member of boy band B3. He’s 31 now, and has really messed up the whole John Stamos look he had going for him with an unflattering haircut. When he sings “Please Don’t Go” by Mike Posner, no one is impressed, thus bringing us to our biggest lesson learned of the Blind Auditions: The Voice is for talent, and Dancing With the Stars is for former “celebrities.”
Moving on to such talent, the final night of Blind Auditions was good but not great. No one slipped through to the next round unfairly, but there was no one that really blew us out of the water, unlike with some previous rounds. Nonetheless, there were eight hopefuls that were good enough to (finally) get us to the Battle Round next week.
Nathalie Hernandez, 15, Dunedin, FL
Nathalie Hernandez missed both her prom and her brother’s graduation to audition. Granted, we’re not really feeling the same sympathy we did for the folks that, you know, quit their jobs, sold their houses or dropped out of Yale. But we’ll let it slide. Nathalie has won Dunedin Teen Idol and Largo Teen Idol (what, you’ve never heard of them?), but this is her first shot at the big time. The pop country diva sings Taylor Swift’s “White Horse,” and though she’s a little shaky, Blake, Christina and Adam turn around. Adam kind of phones it in with this one — and in fairness, he’s not going to win someone who is a little bit pop from Christina, or a little but country from Blake. But Shelton’’s smug grin is wiped off his face when Nathalie says she’s not really into country, and Natalie chooses Christina as her coach. Guess it was worth missing the prom.
Caitlin Michele, 20, Boston, MA
Before we get to Caitlin, let’s just take a minute here and talk about her brother-or-boyfriend. The guy has a fully grown handlebar mustache, and yet not even Carson acknowledges how very odd this is. Well we’re going to do it. Dude, the ‘stache creeps us out, and really overshadows Caitlin’s blue-tipped hairdo. But back to your sister-or-girlfriend. Caitlin sings “Cosmic Love” by Florence + The Machine, and channels her inner Florence Welch for her vocal and performance style. She’s unique in terms of all other Voice contestants, but really does sound just like Ms. Welch. That aside, both Blake and Adam turn around, Adam noting that she’s “different.” Christina pipes in and suggests Caitlin go with Adam as opposed to Team “Normal,” which shocks just about everyone. With the help of Christina, Adam wins her over, even though he acknowledges “there were some pitch things.” Blake feels the loss, but that’s what this new “Steal” Option is all about.
Nicole Johnson, 18, Denham Springs, LA
Originally from Louisiana, Nicole and her family moved to Nashville after driving over 40 roundtrips there in a year-and-a-half to support her singing. Between her cowboy boots and her Nashville ties, we assume they could just skip the song and put her on Team Blake, but the formalities continue nonetheless. Nicole sings Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know it All,” and Cee Lo responds with an immediate turn. It gets really country and downright twangy when she sings, “You don’t know a thang about me,” over and over, getting Mr. Shelton to perk up and turn. We wonder why Cee Lo even bothers to fight for her, telling her, “All I thought was I was hearing someone with a perfect voice.” Blake then uses Blake math and tells her that she is a singer that he is a 200% believer in (200% clearly being the new 100%), and, yes, “you had me at thang.” Couldn’t make this up if we tried. Nicole chooses Blake, thus surprising no one.
Chevonne, 26, Little Falls, NJ
When we see Chevonne, the first thing that comes to mind is that she must have stolen those platform ankle breaker shoes from Lady Gaga. It turns out that she, indeed, was a background singer who toured with Mother Monster. We know our footwear. The rest of the outfit is very Bon Jovi stripper chic, and it’s not going to go well if she falls in that outfit with those shoes. Chevonne sings “Brass In Pocket” by The Pretenders, and despite early reservations, Cee Lo and Blake turn around at the very last minute. Blake tells her, “I’ve had pretty good luck with background singers as a coach here on The Voice.” It then gets unnecessarily awkward: Chevonne regales the coaches with her struggles with an eating disorder (emotional, but fine so far), Cee Lo responds with “I can definitely relate to you because I can relate from a painful place” (ok, nice empathy) and the camera briefly catches Christina stifling either a laugh or a yawn (yeah, we saw it). Chevonne chooses Cee Lo as her first step out of Lady Gaga’s shadow…until “The Edge Of Glory” comes on as she walks backstage.
Kayla Nevarez, 17, Mission Viejo, CA
Kayla wins us over when she tells an incredibly tearful story about how her father is very sick with liver disease, and her seven-member family has moved into a two bedroom apartment. But, she says, “a lot of people have it worse than me.” We love a girl with perspective. She sings Estelle’s “American Boy,” which is a tough one to nail, but she manages to showcase her vocal talent throughout. Adam, Christina and Cee Lo all turn. We think she’s a shoo-in to complete Christina’s team, or at a stretch might take her rhythm to Cee Lo, who called her “swaggery.” But Kayla chooses Adam. We can only guess it has something to do with the fact that she’s 17 and he’s hot.
Now that Team Levine is complete, Adam speaks with glowing praise about them wearing a ripped-up sweatshirt perhaps stolen from a sixth grader. We all celebrate differently.
Celica Westbrook, 16, Franklin, TN
Not to immediately call out the chip on her shoulder, but Celica identifies herself as a third generation singer like it’s something that matters. She also talks about her failed contract and the empty promise that she was going to tour with Justin Bieber from a record label like it’s the first time that’s ever happened. We’re kind of over this chick even before she gets on stage. Her rendition of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” isn’t all that impressive, but sweet enough to earn turns from Christina, Cee Lo and Blake. Blake reverts to dropping the names of streets and malls in Tennessee — which has worked before. But Christina wins her over when she says, “God as my witness, you need to be on the radio like now.” Celica chooses Christina, completing Team Aguilera, despite the fact that they shopped at different malls.
Rudy Parris, 46, Visalia, CA
Rudy looks and sounds a little like Meat Loaf, and we mean that in a nice way. He’s been singing since the ’70s, but took time off to raise his now 22-year-old daughter. The two may share a straightening iron and long glossy hair tips, but beyond that, you can feel the love between them. Before he takes the stage, Rudy says, “Daddy’s done his work and it’s time for Daddy to go play a little.” He’s so endearing that it’s only a little creepy that he refers to himself as “Daddy” in the third person. We’re shocked when his version of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” turns out to be downright country rock, but not as shocked as Blake is seeing Rudy in front of him when he turns around. It’s that joyful first online date moment when the profile picture didn’t quite match the real thing. Cee Lo, on the other hand, turns around and loves the weirdness in front of him. “Damn, you look cool,” he says sincerely, followed by Blake’s, “You damn sure don’t look country.” Rudy chooses Blake because of his country roots, and because he can’t pick up on social cues. Team Blake complete.
Cody Belew, Beebe, AR
The final performance of the night is Cody Belew, straight from a farm in Beebe, Arkansas. His family looks like the family in a made for TV movie about rodeos, and we love them for their lack of irony. Cody started off country, but he also discovered soul music, believing he was an elderly black lady in a past life. It’s good to know your reincarnated roots. He takes the stage with his cowboy boots on to sing The Black Crowes’ “Hard To Handle.” Having turned his back to the audience to end the song, Cody has no idea that Cee Lo turned around to choose him, and is all but giving his farewell speech when it hits him. The reaction is priceless, as he freaks out, gives Cee Lo a hug and uses some language that can only be televised if The Voice moves to Showtime. He tells his new coach that his favorite thing to do is entertain the world with a little bit of “bam bam” (a signature dance move), causing NBC’s entire social media team to light up and get started on #bambam as a trending topic for the duration of Cody’s run on the show.
This brings the Blind Auditions to a close, and we’re just as excited for the next round to start as the coaches must be for costume changes. We also can’t wait for appearances by this year’s mentors — Mary J. Blige, Rob Thomas, Michael Buble and Billie Joe Armstrong — when the Battle Round picks up next week.