Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows – The Team Gwen Blues

Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows - Team Gwen

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

 

Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows continued with showing the moments that the comeback artists found out they weren’t going home – which has been nice.  There was also a sweet bit of Team Adam wishing Team Gwen good luck as they filed into the stage area.  Unfortunately there were also some…interesting song choices by coaches.

It’s bad enough that six singers get cut to three in one night.  Doing it this way gives viewers less choice because it’s done by team. (I discussed that on night one.)  That’s most likely why it’s structured that way, but at least it’s not a blatant manipulation. However, when coaches make wonky song choices it’s immediately suspect.  These men and women are pros.  If everyone watching can see a song is a terrible idea how do the coaches not see it? The question then becomes this: why are they sabotaging a singer?

Team Gwen – What the Heck was That???

No, I’m not talking about her outfit – although it’s a fair assumption.  Instead it’s the bizarre save she ends up making that’s upsetting. If you’re a good coach making reasonable decisions who cares if your outfit makes no sense?  It’s when just about everything else is weird that outfits become grating.

Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows  – Who the voters saved on Team Gwen

America saved: Hunter Plake

There was no doubt that America was going to save Hunter Plake. He’s the only artist thus far to break the top 40 on the iTunes hot 200 singles chart.

America Saved: Brennley Brown

Brennley Brown staying on Team Gwen was no surprise either.  (I could do an entire article on that – and I might. ) Gwen wasn’t about to lose the pretty 15-year-old country/pop girl who is also the only female performer on her team.  If America hadn’t saved Brennley, Gwen would have.  Who’s going to let go of Danielle Bradbery take-two?

Here’s Who Gwen Had to Chose From for her Save

1. Johnny Gates

The most sensible thing Coach Gwen Stefani did on Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows was bring back singer Johnny Gates.  Considering the only other rock-n-roll guy she had was Troy Gates it was reasonable to give him another shot.  After all, Adam had young Josh West with his classic rock hair, so the guitar-playing Johnny with his own mane, plus the leather jacket could be an asset.  He does an excellent job remaking the Selena Gomez electro-pop hit “Hands to Myself” into a straight-up rock song!

2. Quizz Swanigan

This kid is amazing – like from another era.  I love that the suit was his idea – Gwen didn’t even know he was going to wear one!  Of course, last season we had another young man with a classic sound.  Remember the crooner Riley Elmore? He shockingly got eliminated in the knockouts.  Quizz is lucky to have made the lives at all.

Not only was Quizz the youngest in the competition, but he essentially competing in two lanes – which is never a good thing on The Voice.  The classic male r&b field was very crowded and competitive, as was the “wunderkid” lane.  Quizz moving on would have taken up two slots. (If you think producers don’t think about things like that you’re naive!)   It would be great if someone like Quincy Jones – or maybe Bruno Mars saw this kid and started mentoring him.  He’s got something special – too special for The Voice.  They have certain formulas in mind…which hasn’t gotten them their Kelly Clarkson level superstar yet, but whatever.

3. Troy Ramsey

On this song Troy Ramsey has the same problem that Ashley Levin from Team Alicia had.  His voice great tonality and emotion, but he mumbles words.  Unique to him was this thing of at times singing to softly to be understood.  Also, of the four people Gwen had to chose from Troy has the least stage presence.  (This has nothing to do with looks or age – Sundance Head – last season’s winner – has great presence.)

The Elimination of JChosen

On Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows Gwen could have picked anyone but Troy and justified it.  However, why JChosen – a four-chair turn – got eliminated is sad.  Looking at his trajectory either Gwen Stefani is the worst coach ever, or there was some manipulation and lane clearing going on.

It all goes back to the battle rounds.  Do you remember the battle between Chris Blue and RJ Collins and how over-the-top (and inappropriate) Gwen got about Chris’s performance?  After all of that, Coach Blake Shelton made a pronouncement.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that, Chris, will be in the finale.

Well, that was a good way to distract from the mess Gwen made. At that point, JChosen was doomed.   Blake Shelton is king of The Voice.  Not only has he won the most but he is the only coach that has managed to use his personal music connections to push the careers of his artists.  he’s also taken numerous members of his teams on tour with him.

So, it’s not a coincidence that the most successful Voice alumni all are country singers.  It’s all because of Blake Shelton.   His willingness to go that extra mile has turned The Voice – ostensibly a show designed to find talent in many genres of music – into a pipeline to Nashville.  It’s also made him the most influential person on the show.  If he says Chris is going to be in the finale it’s a safe bet that he will be.

Now, Chris is darn talented, no question, but up until this point he & JChosen were equally popular.   Had they gone more head-to-head in the lives it’s hard to say who the audience would have gone with.  Then there’s the thing about having two r&b guys in the finale. That, is never gonna happen. One of them had to go, and Gwen’s outbursts helped make the decision about who.

Knocking Out JChosen

The first sign of things to come occurred in the knockouts.  When JChosen rehearsed, “Without You” there was a flood of emotion pouring through the song.  He was really making it his own.

You could also see that Gwen was truly affected by it.  Yet her coaching instructions were to cut down on his vocal runs (which made it unique) – because she wanted it to come from “a real place”?  It didn’t make sense.  Stripping that from his performance took the soul out of it! Even his competition had commented about his runs being what made JChosen a “top tier performer.”

These thoughts aren’t in hindsight either. Here’s what I said about it last week.

In rehearsal JChosen really put his emotions into the song and slowed it down a little. It made the song seem more his own. Until the very end the actual knockout performance was basically just like the original. Granted, sounding like Usher will definitely win a knockout. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that they didn’t let him do it the way he wanted to — as a tribute to his mother.

Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows – JChosen

Then we go to his performance for the lives.  Gwen picked a Prince song for him to do! What the heck?   JChosen has a deep rich baritone voice.  Sure, he’s got some falsetto range – but nothing that suggests Prince!  You could tell JChosen knew he was being thrown under a bus. He even asked, “Why this song, for me?”  Gwen’s answer is done with wide-eyed innocence.

Because we just lost Prince and we love him so much, and so this is the first time for this song to be on The Voice.

Night Two of The Voice Season 12 Live Shows - Gwen Stefani

Talk about a guilty face!

Right….

JChosen’s Live Performance

JChosen does the best he can with Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You” – but this song isn’t in his wheelhouse or range.  This is man who came in doing Mavin Gaye.  Vocally he can’t punch the song where it’s needed – and it’s Prince. People expect a Prince song to sound like one.

Nevertheless, this not being his best performance does not explain Gwen picking Troy.
He has a good voice, but of the four choices up there he’s the least charismatic and needs the most help with vocal technique.  In terms of hiding those puppet strings if Gwen had said she was keeping him because he needed the help most I might have bought it. (That move is a classic from one of the original Voice coaches – Christina Aguilera.)

Coach Alicia Keys said – with a straight face – that she would have picked Troy because he was so emotional.  One of two things were happening there.  Either Alicia is seriously playing to win and misdirecting Gwen to protect her team, or it was decided before that Troy would be moving ahead.  If it’s one then Gwen is just not a good coach.  With two, The Voice has gotten super sloppy in hiding the show’s behind-the-scenes mechanics.

The Wrap Up

It’s episodes like this one that make me feel like Charlie Brown – and the show is Lucy with the football.  I keep forgetting that it’s not just a singing competition, but a reality show.  Amazing voices do get sent home.

If you’ve ever watched the scripted show Unreal on Lifetime, you know that there’s a ton of behind the scenes shenanigans that occur to get the entertaining outcomes viewers see on screen. The trick is not making it obvious.  Coach Adam Levine is excellent at this.  (Keep an eye out for a rundown on Team Adam’s eliminations.)

With The Voice, some seasons are more opaque than others. You could say that part of what makes a good coach is the ability to hide those deliberate moves made to affect outcomes. (One could argue that the show would be better off with less of these moves in general, but that’s an argument for another day.) A hallmark of a good reality show is being able to keep up the illusion that the marionette has no strings.  What happened with JChosen and Gwen’s choice was a total puppet show.

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