Disclaimer: All thoughts, statements and proclamations contained within are the sole opinion of the writer. And they are opinions only. And I disagree with lots of people and most news articles I’ve read about the show so be forewarned… I despise Dia.
The Voice ended it’s first season run last night and I certainly have some conflicting emotions. Ultimately, the show was a success for me because despite its many flaws, I kept coming back for each new episode because I was invested. I must say, I am very pleased with the winner. Javier obviously had the best technical voice of the whole crew, and while it might not have been the most unique voice, nobody deserved the title more than him. But let me back up a bit.
I’ve been unsure during the whole run of the show whether or not it seems like an effective structure. The whole coach votes and audience votes seemed confusing and ineffective, and especially since the voting system changed every week. It was hard to keep up with how things were actually getting tallied. And since each coach became emotionally invested in their particular team, they seemed to get less and less helpful as the show went on and offered less criticism. By the end, not a single coach said anything negative about any performance, other than “Didn’t like the setting.” Far too complimentary for a group of amateurish singers who all faced serious missteps in any given performance. I stopped caring what the coaches were going to say because they all basically said the same thing, “You have a fantastic voice, you’re such a star, such great presence, I’m a fan of you!” Watered-down mumbo-jumbo if you ask me.
Which begs the question, how important is a contestant’s actual vocal ability in this show? How soon does it become more about presence and spectacle than talent? Biggest case of this is with Team Cee Lo’s final two members, Vicci vs. Nakia. Nakia’s final performance was Whataya Want From Me (that’s actually how the song title is spelled, and it makes me sick.) Nakia did a fine job with the tune, but forget it as soon as Vicci comes out and does a (vocally) average rendition of Dog Days Are Over, but who had an entire fleet of Japanese Taiko drummers to back up her own fiery drumming. Who sang better? Nakia. Who performed better? Vicci. Vicci wins. Of course you’re going to win if you’re the last performer and you have a grand show-stopping tune to cap off the night. So is it fair? Who the heck knows.
This also leads me to believe that the coaches stopped doing anything worthwhile except for choosing songs to sing. With one glaring exception (DIA), the finalists all had great voices. And they all faltered on certain songs because of poor song choice. But did the coaches EVER give them any real vocal critique past the semifinals? Of course not. When really, what could’ve been said were things like this:
“Javier, the original song you sang actually seemed a bit off for you. You didn’t seem comfortable, you sounded out of breath the whole time, and your voice didn’t ever seem to find its power through the song. Nerves maybe?”
“Vicci, rather than turning every song into a contest with yourself to see how much air you can push out of your mouth by hitting as high of a note as you can, try scaling back a little and showing some variety in your voice.”
“Beverly, stop falling back on hitting that one wavery high note you hit in every single song when you’re not sure where to go with a vocal run.”
“Dia, you’re awful in general. Go back to the anime cartoon you came from.”
The last one is a little harsh, but you get the idea. Nobody was flawless all the way through, but the show just got so freakin’ feel-good by the end.
In terms of the four finalists, I wasn’t totally on board with all of them. My ideal final four would’ve been Xenia, Bev/Frenchie (didn’t care, liked them both), Nakia, and Javier. There was no way Xenia was going to make it to the final four, and I’m surprised she even made it as far as she did. The girl had the voice most noticeably different than everyone else on the show, but gosh did she lack some stage presence. Her performance of Price Tag was clearly uncomfortable to watch, even if her voice was fun to hear. Nakia just had more flair for me than Vicci. Vicci has a decent voice, but I wasn’t buying into her whole war-dance/primal scream persona. Who could seriously listen to an entire album of her taxing her lungs that way? It’d be exhausting. And Casey Weston’s weak Dolly Parton impression was absolutely no match for Javier’s range and technical skill.
And then there’s Dia. Where do I begin? From the very beginning, she has played this show like a game. Granted, it is a reality show vocal contest game, but the fact that she is playing it so obviously makes me hate her. She is without a doubt the most disingenuous person on the show. Looking back, she started out harmless, singing some breezy song with her innocuous voice that got Cee Lo and Blake to turn their chairs. Whatever, not a big deal. She came across as this super shy girl with an interesting voice, but oh if only she could break out of her shell! said everyone. Fast forward to the battle round, still a bit stronger, but boy Dia you really need to break out of your shell if you’re going to get further! And everytime she’s on camera up to this point, she’s blinking her little mousey eyelashes at everyone and giving off this “Are these big celebrities telling little ol’ me that I have a good voice? It couldn’t be!” vibe. Then comes her performance of an acousticey Heartless, which sorry, has already been done by another reality show singing competition. Go get a more original cover, Dia. But oh my gosh! Dia finally came out of her shell! Nobody saw that one coming! Where did this little on-stage firecracker come from?! And then in the coaches remarks, she’s back to blinking at them like she didn’t know what just happened and she’s just so thankful for all their kind words, blah blah blah. Awful. This girl knew exactly what she was doing the entire show, and she apparently fooled Blake and all of voting America with her snake-like behaviors. So from then on, she just kept the strong performances coming, and not strong vocally, just strong in that everybody thinks she’s doing so well by singing confidently when really she’s had that in her the whole time. She played it so well, she started with a problem that was very easy to fix, no confidence/no stage presence, and when she did fix it, America freaked out and started buying her crappy Kanye cover on iTunes. Annoyed me to no end. How could you have released FOUR albums without any confidence in your vocal ability? Does not add up. If you look at her and you look at Xenia, obviously Xenia was being real because she actually did look uncomfortable and was not good on stage. She’s sixteen! She wasn’t faking anything. Dia was faking all the way.
And here’s the worst part: her voice is not that great. Sure, she can carry a melody just fine, but her voice sounded basically like this to me. I can’t really explain it much better than blaaaah-blaaaah, blaaah-blaaaah. Like she pushed her tongue out all the time and the sounds came from the back of her throat. Just awful to listen to.
Ironically, the only person that seemed to ever point out that she was playing the game well and putting up a front was the show’s fakest asset, coach Christina. There were actually two or three times where Christina’s comments were less than flattering and came just short of calling her out on her game-playing and Dia’s little cat-like demeanor changed from this:
Here’s the most frustrating part about Dia for me too, she nailed her duet with Blake. They chose the best possible song, it sounded great, Blake’s country voice fit just perfectly into that Tom Petty song. If she had made her Voice debut with that song and not played her manipulative game, I would’ve liked her far more. I’m so glad she didn’t win.
So overall, did the show succeed? Did it find The Voice? I’m saying definitely. Javier has a great voice, and deserves the accolades he’s receiving. Should it be up to America to choose The Voice? Definitely not, as based on the finalists original song performance, Javier just barely beat out Dia. Neither of their originals were that great. Javier had a good song, he just did not deliver a good performance. Based strictly on original performance, you know who I thought was going to win? Beverly all the way. Yeah her original song was a little cheesy bland vanilla (“lovesick…lovesick…I’m sick of love!”), but gosh did she deliver a great performance, and not only spectacle and stage presence, but she nailed her vocal part. She had the best original performance without a doubt. Yet Javier still wins. Did America choose right? Yes, but I wouldn’t trust them to do it again.
One last thing before I wrap; the show needs to ease off the product placement. Yes I know the finale needs to be exactly that, a finale, with grandiosity and flourish and big names, but I don’t consider Pitbull and Ne-Yo to be big names. Stevie Nicks was a good draw with some legit credibility (even if she has the most nasal voice ever), but the Train singer? Even worse, the OneRepublic singer? American Idol alum Katherine McPhee? Do we need a Social Media Correspondent? Or a “chance” run in with Gym Class Heroes in the next door studio which allows Adam to perform their upcoming hit single on which he is featured? All this stuff seemed SO contrived and I’d love to see less of it and more actually performing by the contestants (and the coaches for that matter). And now a few favorites:
Favorite Voice: Probably Xenia. While she wasn’t technically the best, nor certainly not the best on stage, she had a super unique tone for a 16 year old and was really fun to listen to.
Favorite Performance by a Contestant or Coach: Team Cee Lo’s cover of Everyday People by Sly & The Family Stone. Cee Lo’s afro wig was unforgettable.
Top 3 Season 1 Moments:
3. What song does Christina choose to duet with her protege? HER OWN SONG. This was the icing on the cake for how inflated her ego could actually get.
2. Brad Paisley asking Blake a question mid-song and Blake responding in kind by singing while sitting down then getting up and joining Brad on stage. So cheesy.
1. “If The Voice should be delayed for anyone, it should be…for the President. LET’S, GET, TOIT!” – Carson Daly, possibly the blandest and cheesiest human being alive. Can’t wait for what gems he’s got in store for us during Season 2.
P.S. Was Cee Lo and Vicci’s Pat Benetar cover inspired by Hook? Cee Lo made a great Rufio.