The Voice premiere on NBC: Frenchie Davis among contestants; Cee Lo among The Voice judges

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comApril 26, 2011 

After a constant stream of promos, "The Voice" premiered Tuesday on NBC. Now it's time for viewers to speak up.

Did you watch? What did you think? Should "Idol" producers be worried?

If you're out of the loop, here's a quick primer on the show's premise. "The Voice" is hosted by Carson Daly and includes four coaches: recording stars Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.

The show spans multiple phases. The first one is a blind audition phase when the four coaches sit with their backs toward the contestants. The singers perform, and if a coach wants someone as a team member, he or she swivels around to face the contestant.

If multiple coaches want a contestant, the singer gets to choose his/her coach. If nobody wants a contestant, he/she is out of the game.

Eventually, once the four eight-member teams are created, the competition will morph into something a little more complicated. But we'll explain that later.

I watched the two-hour premiere of "The Voice" and was satisfied enough to tune in again. Among my favorite elements:

*Wider age range for contestants: Coaches picked team members ranging from a shy high school student to a 41-year-old rocker.

*Lack of bad auditions: Producers skipped over the cattle call auditions entirely, meaning even the singers who didn't advance Tuesday night had some level of genuine talent.

*Coherent judges or, um, coaches: I'll forgive the fact that Adam Levine had apparently never heard "Bless the Broken Road" before "The Voice" auditions. It was nice to go an entire two hours without hearing this unbelievably vague line: "You worked it out."

The biggest thing working against "The Voice"?

Maybe the abundance of reality TV talent contests has given me unrealistic expectations. Or numbed me to the likelihood of finding a genuine recording artist on reality TV.

Either way, nobody on Tuesday's premiere screamed "breakout star" in my mind.

There were definitely contenders -- including Frenchie Davis, a disqualified "American Idol" hopeful. But I repeatedly questioned advancing contestants' marketability.

Who knows? That could change with coaching -- which is exactly what they're scheduled to receive in upcoming weeks.

Here's a full recap of Tuesday's premiere.

***

Tarralyn Ramsey, "Breathe"

We start off with an R&B belter sporting some serious green eyeshadow. Her performance is a little mediocre at first, but she picks up steam on the chorus. I'm not sure she would survive on "Idol." A little coaching might help, though.

Cee Lo and Christina want to be her coach. She picks Christina.

Patrick Thomas, "Live Like You Were Dying"

Here's this show's answer to Scotty McCreery from "Idol." He takes the stage wearing a cowboy hat and performs a decent rendition of a Tim McGraw tune. It's not enough to give me a full picture of his marketability, but he's definitely not bad.

Cee Lo, Adam and Blake want to be his coach. He chooses Blake.

Jared Blake, "Good Girls Go Bad"

Meet the night's first sob story. Jared has six kids. And he had a substance abuse problem. And he can't get a record deal. Another setback? This performance isn't too remarkable. It's pretty much your standard bar song. Nothing new here. Move along.

Nobody wants to be his coach. Ouch. Embarrassing.

Blake says he should have chosen a better song.

Vicci Martinez, "Rolling in the Deep"

Vicci's back story: Her dad passed away. She adds more of a hard rock spin to this Adele song, with mixed results. The vocals are a bit rough at points, but Vicci has a pretty strong stage presence. The show needs a token rocker girl, right?

Cee Lo and Cristina want to be her coach. She picks Cee Lo.

Sonia Rao, "If I Can't Have You"

Her parents are immigrants from India and she doesn't have a backup plan. Music is her first-choice career. That's not a good thing. This is a totally predictable performance. Sonia doesn't have a bad voice, but she over-sings this Alicia Keys tune. Forgettable.

Nobody wants to be her coach. Sad day.

Elenowen, "Falling Slowly"

Woo hoo! It's time for the night's first duo. They're a married couple who live in a parent's basement. Love it. They do a decent job with this tune, but I'm not sure where they fit musically. They still deserve a chance, though.

Blake and Cee Lo want to be their coach. They pick Blake.

Frenchie Davis, "I Kissed a Girl"

Well hello, Frenchie! This singer, of course, was disqualified from "Idol" for some, um, questionable photos. This Katy Perry tune is an odd song choice that doesn't quite seem like a good match for a belter. I have some serious concerns, but I'm happy to see Frenchie again.

Christina wants to be her coach. So she gets Christina.

Kelsey Rey, "American Boy"

Kelsey is tired of being so pretty. Cry me a river. Apparently she has some YouTube music videos that got a lot of views in Europe. Her performance is OK. She has good points in her voice, but I'm not entirely impressed. I'd like to see a little more uniqueness.

Adam, Cee Lo and Christina want to be her coach. She picks Cee Lo.

Jeff Jenkins, "Bless the Broken Road"

Jeff is from a small town in Texas. His mom passed away. This is the first time his mom won't be in the audience during a performance. Oh man. You're killing me, producers. Luckily, Jeff is a great singer. Tons of emotion and solid vocals. I'm very impressed.

Blake, Christina, Cee Lo and Adam want to be his coach. Adam has apparently never before heard that song. REALLY?!?

He picks Adam.

Rebecca Loebe, "Come as You Are"

She's really broke and surviving on random gigs. This is an odd performance. It's a super slowed-down version of a Nirvana tune. Kinda sleepy, but I'm intrigued. I have concerns about her musical niche.

Christina and Adam want to be her coach. She picks Adam.

Joann Rizzo, "I Say a Little Prayer"

Wow, this lady is 56 years old. She has a good voice, but she needs a little more "oomph." Too bad.

Nobody wants to be her coach. Aww.

Xenia, "Break Even"

Here's our obligatory shy high school student. Her voice is really awesome, though. There's a unique quality that makes her one of my favorite contestants so far tonight. She could be really, really good. I love you, Xenia!

Cee Lo and Blake want to be her coach. She picks Blake.

Tje Austin, "Just The Way You Are"

His family is Mormon. This is an OK performance. I'm not going crazy. The high notes seem a bit off. Maybe he'll improve with coaching?

Adam and Cee Lo want to be his coach. He picks Cee Lo.

Javier Colon, "Time After Time"

Here's the obligatory guy who wants a better life for his family. But actually, he's really good. He takes the stage with his guitar and performs a stripped-down version of "Time After Time." I'm a fan.

Blake, Adam, Cee Lo and Christina want to be his coach. He picks Adam.

Beverly McClellan, "Piece of My Heart"

Beverly is a tattoo-clad rocker who's 41 years old. She comes to the audition with her friend and girlfriend. She rocks out on stage and delivers some high-energy vocals. It's good enough to make me want to see more.

Adam and Christina want to be her coach. She picks Christina.

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