Tag Archives: Cee Lo

The Voice

NBC finally pulled it off. They got Colleen and me hooked on a reality music contest show. We first saw the ads for The Voice about a month and a half before the premiere, and usually when a show is overhyped I immediately write it off. A reality music contest judged/coached by Christina Aguilera, the girl-voiced Maroon 5 guy and a country singer, hosted by Carson Daly? Thankfully Carson managed to pull in the artist who released one of the Top Three Best Albums last year and who has the soul to match his wardrobe, Cee Lo Green. I’d seen Cee Lo do some featured spots on some rap albums prior to the Gnarls Barkley album “St. Elsewhere”, but his name actually solidified in my brain after he and Danger Mouse released the single “Crazy” in 2006. I definitely wouldn’t ever have expected him to do a reality music contest show so I figured this one was worth tuning in for.

Oh so right. The first two weeks were blind auditions, where the four coaches get to pick 8 singers for their team based only on their vocal performance. After the blind auditions, the coaches then have pairs of singers off their teams perform duets and then they decide which singer they keep on the team and which one gets booted off the show. After each team is whittled down to four people, then show will go live for I guess audience voting rounds? I’m not sure past that but for now, the show is riveting reality TV.

What is the draw here? I’m confused as to why I like the show but I think it has to do with a combination of good singers and good coaches. With American Idol, you have to sit through the first few shows of crappy auditions to finally get to the actual contestants. With The Voice, I’m not sure where they got the contestants, but most have had some kind of experience with singing, whether it’s on broadway, releasing actual studio albums, back-up singers for famous singers, etc.

And the coaches! Cee Lo is obviously awesome, and it’s so great to see him talk about music and singers and goof off with the other coaches. His outfits are outrageous. With Adam, I used to be a huge Maroon 5 fan (they’ve got pretty redundant to me the last few years but whatever), and he’s got some pop music credibility so I’m fine with him. Christina has singer cred all over the music industry, so while I’m not a huge fan of her, I appreciate her being a coach as she’s got some pretty impressive, albeit often gaudy, pipes. Then there is Blake Shelton. Started off not liking this guy because he’s country, what is he going to have to offer? He won us over on the first episode. Not only is he a pretty funny dude, he might be the one coach who has the most legitimate pieces of advice for the contestants. So while I will never listen to his music, I definitely think he adds a lot to the show. And that’s why, you don’t judge*.

After the blind audition weeks, the coaches pick two singers off their individual teams and have them practice up (with the help of a celebrity coach aid) on the same song which they then perform as a duet, then the coach picks one to stay and one to go. I wasn’t sure this change in the show’s format was going to work but holy cow it definitely does. It immediately draws out some fierce competition having two singers singing the same song at the same time. I will say though, in terms of the coaches actually coaching their singers before going out into the battle round seems a little pointless. The coaches don’t actually seem to offer much technical advice and their celebrity friends offer even less. The aids were Reba McEntire, Adam Blackstone, Sia, and Monica. I don’t care much about any of them other than Adam Blackstone (producer on many great records, he’s playing the sickest bass with ?uest and James Poyser right here), and he just wasn’t featured much. They could be done with the celebrity cameos and it wouldn’t hurt the show at all.

So the battle round went off like crazy, super fun to watch and listen and root for a certain team and singers within teams. The only thing I’m torn about is the finality of the coaches decisions. This was demonstrated better by Blake than anyone during the first battle round. He had two guys singing against each other, the country guy (Patrick) and the soulful guy (Tyler). Blake ended up going with (SPOILER ALERT) country boy Patrick, which was severely disappointing. As good of a voice as Patrick had, Tyler had pipes that blew his competitor out of the water. He was so much more entertaining to listen to, he had real range and emotion in his voice versus the one-note stylings of Patrick. The better singer was robbed. And there’s no second chance, no comeback or anything. We’re just left with a singer who is less entertaining than another one. Disappointing.

So the show rocks, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s still early enough on to catch up with it and keep watching. Good reality competition TV, which I think is hard to find.

-Jon

*-J. Walter Weatherman

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Open Letter to John Mayer

Dear John,

I watched the 2011 Grammy’s last night. What has happened to our music culture?

I am glad I kept watching through the first quarter of the show, because it got far better as it went on. But it started out rough because Lady Gaga performed. And more than anything I was confused. I have been for about a year now actually. I’ve listened to her stuff; I enjoy dancing to it about once and then it fizzles out for me. How has she become such a powerful force in the industry? It’s her persona. It goes so far beyond her music. She is all spectacle; rather than just releasing killer dance music and not dressing it up, she promotes her persona through everything she does. It has never seemed to be just about music with her. Releasing a new album isn’t her end product, and unlike musicians in the past who have used their music to promote some sort of social ideal outside of themselves (I don’t need to give you a music lesson here, but Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Comeis the first one that comes to mind), Lady Gaga seems to use her music as one facet of her persona for the end result of promoting herself, but it’s dressed up in the garb of “Be whoever you want to be! For me that means shoulder spikes, fake blood, and dinosaur eggs.” I’ve seen her performances on different televised events and rather than seeming inspirational, it all comes back to her. What would a performance of hers be like without looking like an extra off of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? What would be left of Lady Gaga if you took away all the pomp?

Same with Justin Bieber, but in a different way. Everything I see this kid do seems contrived. His documentary just came out this weekend. Wait, his documentary? He’s sixteen years old. How does this kid deserve to have a documentary? He has no story yet! Someone found a cute young kid on YouTube, realized how well he could be marketed in the right hands, and the gamble paid off. How many sixteen year olds have as much musical talent as Bieber has? Lots of them. And most of them go on to music schools or perform in orchestras or sing in church choirs. I didn’t see any real musicality from him last night, all I saw was some slick dance moves and a baby playing left-handed guitar chords. Not enough, Justin.

What about spectacle done right? Look to Cee Lo’s performance with Gwyneth. I loved it, mainly because they both have the chops to back up how visually grandiose their performance was. They both sounded amazing and it was so much fun to watch. Yeah it was over the top, there was a fake rocket ship on stage and Cee Lo was dressed like a giant rainbow-colored chicken. I laughed each time the back up puppets shushed to keep the performance TV friendly. That’s the kind of spectacle I want to see in our culture. Glam done right, not shock value for shock value’s sake.

I need more of good stuff, like Dylan’s performance with Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. Sure, Bob Dylan is old and his voice isn’t what it used to be, but he has earned his place on that stage. He gets to go up there and sing whatever he wants and however he wants to. It was great to see an old legend perform with new talent; they looked like they were having a blast.

So here’s why this is penned to you, John. I wish the real talent in our culture produced more. I know real music takes longer to write and produce and output but it’s disheartening to see what a powerful market force Justin Bieber is and how he is dominating everything when all I wish I had was a new Coldplay album or a new album from you. I want less choreography and more playing. I want to see collaboration and creativity in a musical sense, not who can come up with the craziest dress. I loved seeing Raphael Saadiq dancing around on stage with Mick Jagger. I want to see which musicians D’Angelo has back him on his new album and figure out as much about them as I can. I want more albums like The Roots/John Legend’s Wake Up! from this last year. I can’t wait for Adele’s album to come out next week. I know it’s selfish of me as a consumer to demand so much output from the talent, but what is a consumer without a producer?

And ultimately, the Grammy’s weren’t as discouraging as I thought they would be. I cheered when Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist over her tough competition and when Arcade Fire beat out the other huge smash records for Album of the Year. And please don’t stop making music. Your performance with Norah and Keith was my favorite of the night. Rhythmic, sexy, succinct, understated. Such an awesome tribute. And it was nice to know you don’t have the lyrics to Dolly’s entire discography memorized.

-Jon

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