So far The Voice in 2012 has produced no moments of genius to match Dia Frampton's "Heartless," though "Cinderella" is audacious enough to make me think there's a chance we'll get one. And I've found six standouts that are better than good (and I'm doing this all by YouTube, so my listening hasn't been all-inclusive). Here they are in no particular order:
Wobbly quirks with pebbles and glass thrown in. Lindsey's not yet got the command that a Taylor Swift or a Xenia has to turn her uncertainties into aesthetic bull's eyes, but the wavers and swallowed words fit this performance fine.
Impressed by how both of them have smoldering depths and high fires.
Among this performance's bait-and-switches, there's the smoky jazz he gives you at the start, in no way foreshadowing the twirling glitter globes and shattering stomps to come. Talent-show clip of the year, if he doesn't surpass it himself. By the way, Kangta (leather jacket, no hat) always has a look of half-astonishment and half-delight when he turns his chair; our Cinderella-man hero Bae Geun-seok merely provides him an excuse to ramp it up from 5 to 9.
The song is an IU number variously translated as "Lost Child," "Missing Child," "MIA," "Lost And Found." Love how Kang Mi-Jin goes from wispy to loud without ever abandoning the wispy. By the way, she's a music vet with a résumé as long as Dia Frampton's; was ushered out or booted from Brown Eyed Girls pre-debut, NegaNetwork then putting her (under the name Yoari) into commercially unsuccessful rock band Sprinkler, then set her on a solo career, including an OTT angry, self-pitying single "Excuse Me" a.k.a. "Listen" ("That pretty face, even the fingers, how would it be living in this world as you?/Beautiful heels fit well, and any hairstyle goes well/You would laugh looking at your reflection in the mirror/Do you know what pain is by any chance? Do you know how to cry by any chance?") with a memorably hair-destroying video (but I prefer her cover of G.Gorilla's "To My Mama").
Quirk girl like Lindsey, but with a hard lower register and fangs in the upper. She too has a back catalog, which I want to explore.
A confident Charlotte versus a restless Lex; Lex had been powerfully soft through the first third of her audition but fell apart when she decided to show what her voice could do. Here she falls into feeling and originality; should have been awarded the victory, though I can see why Blake might have thought that Charlotte's command and control would go farther. (And in the next round Charlotte got lost in her arrangement and was sent home.) I'm pissed at Blake for running the two against each other, but it makes sense, for the sake of the show's overall variety and also for matching singer and material, to pit like against like in the battle round.
As for others, Jesse Campbell is the best of the American soul bores and is a favorite to win, and it wouldn't be an injustice if he did. Even given my pro-Korea bias, I'm surprised at how, when you get past the standouts and down to the average song upon song upon song, the Koreans are so much better than the Americans. In my notes on the U.S. series, the word "soul" is all over, while "r&b" appears not once — this is probably a technical mistake on my part, but says that the singers who veered in those directions were looking backwards rather than into adventure. (I used "soul" to cover a wide range, from gruff rockers to gruff pleaders to MOR pop guys to sweet lamenters.) Whereas the American quirk girls who've heard Adele and had their ears open to the last two decades of singer-songwriters and quasi-eccentric stylists are hearing a world of permutation and possibility. And this is what the Koreans seem to hear in most everything, though of course, being unfamiliar with Korea, I could be projecting novelty onto whatever they do. (But listen, for instance, to how much fun Nah Deul Ee and Lee So Jung have with bluesy material that Americans would use to demonstrate endurance and pain.) For what it's worth, the Korean contestants are staying away from what I love most in K-pop, the fierce freestyle and the hip-hop tunepop amalgam and T-ara's thirty flavors of piffle, etc., none of which is built to impress talent-show judges. Son Seung-yeon, the best of the two Weather Girls, auditioned with a solid version of 2NE1's "Go Away," but that's basically a power ballad. Jang Eun-a and Lee Yun-gyeong did a thoroughly inventive version of SNSD's "Hoot," but as a bossa nova/r&b conglomeration. What strikes me is that the bossa nova (or whatever; I don't claim to be accurate with that designation) is so easily daubed onto the canvas.
- God bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too (Standouts From The Voice)