Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 5, Episode 18 of NBC's "The Voice," titled "The Final 10 Compete"
Imagine an entire shelf of wooden Nutcracker dolls. After everyone goes to sleep, the little automaton dolls awake and sing a robotic song about having feelings, hopping up and down on their little wooden legs. That's the best description I can think of for the cast singalong kicking off Monday night's episode of "The Voice. It was an amplified disaster.
There were a few other oddities on this very strange episode of 'The Voice" unrelated to singing I've got to address.
1. Cee-Lo Green wore a leather hooded cape with no shirt underneath. He looked like a Hefty Bag headed for a wild night at the Crazy Horse. Then he wore the world's largest pair of sweats to his rehearsal with Kat. GET THIS MAN A REALITY SHOW, and make it be only about shopping.
2. Those expressionless backup singers dressed in black, standing motionless in the background? Very "Partridge Family joins the cult." I thought it was just me, and then Cee-Lo referred to them as "American Horror Story." More like "The Following," but it really was odd.
3. Christina made her vocalists do yoga, proving why I have never asked for a Christina Aguilera reality show.
4. Usain Bolt came to "The Voice" to cheer on Tessanne! Is that for real?! Is Jamaica like "Cheers," just warmer?
Without further delay, here are the top 10, woefully arranged and rearranged from my personal best to worst, but always open to interpretation.
Tessanne's cover of "Try" remained my favorite song of hers until tonight. I think it was less about the song and more about her hand motions and foot stomping and rasp. It seemed like Tessanne's most organic performance. Such a perfect singer, she sometimes can come across as more rote than real. Monday night, Tessanne delivered a beautiful version of Gladys Knight's "If I Was Your Woman." More than that, she noted during rehearsal that she was afraid, wanting to show the proper respect to such a classic song. I think we can all agree Tessanne is allowed to sing from the Gladys Knight catalog whenever she wants now.
This was the perfect song for Ray to sing. Has he waited until this perfect moment to drop "You Are The Best Thing" on America? So much poise (and let's be honest, that jawline). He looked like the cat who caught the canary after he finished singing and the girls started to cheer. Christina hit it on the head tonight: Ray Boudreaux finally has some personality. Also, somebody finally noticed he could be a heartthrob?
Harry Nilssen! James Wolpert is kind of like Harry Nilssen mixed with Phil Collins and a little Michael Stipe. I thought this was so brave for a young guy to do. I's so earnest and passionate, even Mariah Carey covered it. That didn't stop James from doing his bombastic loud amazing thing. I think, toward the end, he would have done better to have strayed from the melody.
He's so sweet, singing a song like "Beneath Your Beautiful" and dedicating it to his future wife. Matthew doesn't have the greatest capacity to sing low, and it was on display tonight in the beginning. Some commenters have suggested that he sang in a different key during rehearsal, and changed the key at the last moment. He still redeemed himself. It's not just that he sings beautifully -- Matthew performs and moves with so much innocent, confident energy. The judges couldn't even talk for the first minute or two because people were screaming so loudly. Screaming, "I love you!" and then other people screaming, "Me too!"
How does he not win?
Listen to Kat Robichaud loud. I wasn't crazy impressed with her on television. When I plugged in the speakers, her voice sounded so much better. My boyfriend and I basically represent America when it comes to Kat, because he hates her and I think she's the next Annie Lennox. I concede that, on the first half of "We Belong," Robichaud sounded wobbly, lacking that force she displayed last week on "Sail." Tell me -- who is right? Is she a misunderstood genius or an overly-manufactured drama queen? Doesn't anyone think she sounded incredible belting out those final "We Belongs?"
Is Cole Vosbury a singer or a shape-shifter? Even being a dude who's known for his oddball music choices, "To Be With You" by Mr. Big seemed like a strange choice. Sounded like Cole learned how to sing on this jam. He actually sounded like a better version of Mr. Big -- if Mr. Big reads this, I apologize for hurting your feelings. Can you believe he's only 22?
"Your Love" by The Outfield was the equivalent of Cole Vosbury's genre-busting "Adorn" from last Monday's episode. Here's the problem -- you got to have a little bit of cocky 80s mod attitude when you sing a song by The Outfield. I think Austin did a good job singing, but the bland arrangement and his raspy vocals together made this sound like any mid-90s adult contemporary song. He doesn't have Cole Vosbury's ability to take a song and make it something else ... but he sure can belt out a high note at the end.
Christina said something funny about how his red suit and all the fire made him look like the devil. This is all the more funny because Will Champlain seems as affable and harmless as a pile of kittens. He sang well tonight! And he's also #darkhorse on Twitter, which is about right.
This performance is perhaps the best argument for letting coaches, not high school students, pick their songs on "The Voice" (an argument which can absolutely change next week). To be young often means to operate with a literal paradigm from which we see the world. I guess Caroline wanted to sing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" because she has flown to California to be on "The Voice," according to the notes from her rehearsing. A more mature singer might actually name the emotion and find a stage-ready song to channel it. I just thought it was too literal and too dull to take seriously.
Poor thing. Jacquie was ripped online for pitch issues during the first half of this very slow take on "Clarity" by Zedd and Foxes. She goofed the lyrics, it seems, sang flat, and a bit off rhythm. What's worse is that the arrangement was slowed down from the super dance-y original. I just don't know if this song can ever possibly work as a ballad, and I don't know if young Jacquie was ready to take on this challenge.
Watch "The Voice" Tuesday night at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.