After a soft premiere, "Duets" planted its feet firmly on the ground in Week 2 with feistier judges, more knockout performances from the duet partners and clearer rules as to how this competition will be played out in the coming weeks.
Minutes after the show starts, we find out, once again, that all the contenders are safe from elimination. Now, I don't know about everyone else, but when I don't see some real competition, I start to get a little impatient. Someone's telling me the cake is coming, but I don't see the baker. But host Quddus reassures America that next week, the bottom two in the "music chart" will have an a capella sing-off to determine who will be packing their bags. Not only that, but come Week 6, America will get the chance to vote. I'm ready! But back to Week 2:
Some of the performances left me relieved, others left me underwhelmed and some had me snapping my fingers to the beat. After Kelly Clarkson and Robin Thicke sang a rendition of Michael Jackson's "State of Shock," John Legend took the stage with his first duet partner, Bridget. Last week, Bridget and John woo-ed the audience with their chemistry and this week was no different. They sang "I Know You Were Waiting (For Me)" with as much eye-to-eye contact as before. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to mention that this was a George Michael and Aretha Franklin duet because I was expected Aretha and instead, I got, well, Bridget. I must've been the only one thinking that because Jennifer Nettles said the song "fit her voice in a better way" and Kelly described her runs as "tasteful." Robin liked her performance so much that he compared her to a bag of candy -- and he "loves Skittles!"
Kelly chose a more soulful song for her duet partner, Jordan and it couldn't have been a better choice: "Misery." Kelly is a firecracker coach (as well as a performer -- but y'all knew that) so she immediately knew what to do to get her team out of the bottom two: confidence boost! Jordan wanted to show that she's got something and Jennifer saw "more than something." She was happy with the song and how it "showcased her voice" and John and Robin said she had her soulful moments. Most of the criticism was based on technique, but I would like for her to have her "moment" in the song because ome people wait a lifetime for a "moment" ... like this. OK. Moving on.
For her hometown partner, Jennifer chose the classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for John. Jennifer was very adamant about paying tribute to the song and stayed as close to the classic rendition as possible. Ain't no problem with that. John is definitely one of the strongest vocalist and all the judges seem to be on the same page. John called him "one of the best singers in the competition" and Kelly said that she "loved that he was having a great time." But Kelly and Robin also mentioned that the song made the whole performance seem cheesy; even Robin claimed John mirrored every move Jennifer made. None of it fazed Jennifer as she fired her first Nettles-ism of the night: "Listen, I said 'we are not fixin' to go into a gun fight with a knife' so bring it." Whatever that means.
Robin kept up his sensual chemistry with duet partner Olivia by choosing a lesser-known (at least to her) song, "Where Is the Love?" It should've been called, "Where Are he Rest of the WORDS?" since Olivia's only singing parts were the repetitious phrase: "Where is the love? Where is the love?" I didn't feel like Olivia sang it her all, but Kelly complimented "the texture of her voice" and John liked "her presence on stage." Someone's got to be lying because Olivia ended up last (fourth) at the music chart at that point of the night and Bridget was holding strong at No. 1.
Halfway through the show, Quddus dropped a bomb: John's partner, Johnny Gray will no longer be in the competition due to "unforeseen reasons" (which loosely translates to "something scandalous but we can't tell you about it"). Oh, well. That means John has to work to find another partner -- and fast. He holds an open call and chooses Meleana to sing "Endless Love" with him onstage. When I say fast, I mean fast -- the girl had 48 hours to get her butt and voice into gear and by the looks of it, she pulled it off. Jennifer raved about her "composure after such a whirlwind" and Kelly thought she was "a beautiful partner." Robin talked about onions, mustard and the condiments of a sandwich -- all of which made crazy sense as he called her sandwich "the perfect amount of onion, definitely not too much mustard, and you even put a little provolone for me in there." And there's some more food for thought from Robin Thicke, everybody. And soon enough, the newcomer was bumped to the No. 1 spot. Whoa. Beginner's luck?
Kelly's big challenge with Jason was to rip him out of his shy shell quickly because he's coming into Week 2 in last place. She chose (one of my all-time favorite songs), "Whenever You Call." Following in the footsteps of Brian McKnight is not easy, so Kelly told him to "bring whatever you've got in your arsenal." Jennifer and Robin could see his confidence build so much from last week while John thought it was good, but he "always looked to Kelly for approval." Apparently, he needs to cut the umbilical cord. He had great harmonies and his smile helped the performance so, overall, not a bad rendition. Baby steps. Baby steps.
Jennifer chose "You're the One That I Want" for J Rome's Week 2 song. Even the duet partner was hesitant in the song choice, but Jennifer claimed "bigger risk, bigger reward" and I was I throwin' cash at the screen. The duo sang their hearts out with choreography and dancers in the background. J Rome and Jennifer put a modern twist into the old show tune classic and it delivered hot 'n ready; ever seen a "swaggin'" Danny Zuko? John called J Rome "polished and natural," while Robin gave him a 10 for presentation. "You've got nothing to worry about," he said. Kelly would've liked a more challenging song for his vocal range, but it seemed to be enough as J Rome tied for No. 1 with Meleana.
The last performance of the night was Robin and his duet partner Alexis singing "You're All I Need To Get By." Alexis admitted her lack of stage charisma and I applaud her for her honesty. She certainly tried her best with this performance as she had more attitude than last week. Jennifer said the "presentation gave justice to the song" and John agreed with how good she sounded, despite her microphone placement (oh, musicians). Kelly was the one that felt that it was "disconnected," but "the last three notes were good." The scores still didn't leave Alexis at the bottom.
At the end of the night, the musical chart read:
There were definitely improvements from the duet partners that needed an extra boost of courage in Week 2, but enough with the hand-holding -- let's throw these singers into the ring already so we can see some bloodshed more great performances.