Yesterday was Cyber Monday, so I watched last night’s episode of The Voice on my ten 10%-off (10 times 10 equals 100% off; I am a financial genius) plasma TVs I bought earlier that morning with Amazon Prime One-Hour Shipping. Here’s what you missed.
No one has cared so much about a Top 8 since back when MySpace had more than four active users (and, let’s be real, one of those is Tom). Cee Lo Green is the only coach to have retained three artists in the competition, while Dez Duron stands alone as the sole remaining member of Team Christina—Obi Dez Duroni, you’re her only hope. (Considering her recent hairstyles on The Voice, it’s only a matter of time till Xtina shows up for a taping in Princess Leia buns.)
The show starts with 50 Cent and Adam Levine dueting on their new single “My Life.” A fog machine on full blast and an abundance of neon “50” signs can’t distract from how meh this is. I’d rather see Adam perform with some kind of freaky asylum patient from American Horror Story.
The first to take the stage for Team Adam is Amanda Brown, former Adele background singer—going full All About Eve with a cover of the English superstar’s “Someone Like You.” But this ain’t no ballad. Amanda brings a gritty, rock-and-roll edge to her performance, completely transforming the song’s tone. Get it, girl.
Cee Lo envisions Cody Belew as a latter-day Freddie Mercury, so what better song for him to cover than Queen’s “Somebody to Love?” This classic track requires personality as well as power, and boyfriend delivers—recovering from last week’s Beyoncé misstep with a performance grounded in strong vocals.
But that’s not to say Cody’s lost his oddball “bam bam” charm. When he climbs atop a grand piano—as a full choir in floor-length robes looks on—it’s clear that he’s more in his element than ever.
Cassadee Pope, Dez Duron, Melanie Martinez and Terry McDermott band together for a version of the All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” For reasons that escape me, they are accompanied by Max Headroom lookalikes in sleeveless suits, banging on light-up garbage cans with glowsticks. Yup.
Terry is up next, performing coach Blake Shelton’s own (!) “Over.” Blake modestly explains the song is “better suited for Terry” than it ever was for his own voice (ugh, humility dreamboat), and that he wants America to see McDermott perform something other than classic rock.
Terry’s rendition is completely solid, but not terribly exciting—save for a weird, avant garde close-up of a lightbulb, because somebody behind the camera just wrapped up their first prereq for their Film Studies minor.
Though she’s complimentary overall, Christina points out that Terry’s voice falters slightly in its lower range. It’s interesting at this stage to see the backhanded compliments and subtly passive-aggressive digs emerge from competing judges (the exception to this is Blake, who is a perfect, guileless, broad-shouldered angel). They may no longer have a direct hand in who’s eliminated, but damn if they won’t try to sway how America votes.
Team Adam’s baby sister Melanie Martinez covers “Too Close” by Alex Clare—she mentions that she’s chosen this song because she’s “going through a break-up,” and I wonder if we’ll soon have another Taylor Swift on our hands.
This is, in many ways, a standard Melanie performance, but arguably her best so far—this time the raspiness doesn’t feel forced, and her power crescendoes perfectly at the chorus. Melanie looks increasingly mortified each time Adam offers to beat up the boy who apparently wronged her, and I suddenly realize—oh no, she broke his heart. Awk. Somewhere on Long Island tonight, a 17-year-old is crying into his AP Chem textbook. We feel for you, bro.
“A lot of people peg me as this Yale quarterback jock guy,” Dez Duron says with a smirk. No, Dez. No, they don’t. In fact, we peg you as the type of guy who’d cover Justin Bieber, which is exactly what you’re about to do.
It’s actually irrelevant how well Dez sings “U Smile,” because he’ll automatically win the vote of every prepubescent female in the country no matter what he does. I find Dez hopelessly boring, and am embarrassed to admit I sort of stopped paying attention mid-song. As an apology, please accept this actual fan comment left on a recent photo uploaded to Dez’s Facebook fan page: “He.Is.The.Sexiest.Thing.On.This.Universe.”
After last week’s ill-conceived detour into dance music, I’m so relieved that Trevin Hunte has chosen “The Greatest Love of All,” the gold standard of ballads. Increasingly confident—and looking the part of a supah-star in a supah-sparkly blazer—Trevin does some of his best belting yet. “I really hope that this is heaven,” Adam sighs.
Christina Milian is babbling about something to Terry McDermott when, all of a sudden, his wife and son appear in the Skybox alongside them. They giddily make out (Terry and his wife, that is—not his wife and his son, nor his wife and Christina) and it’s possibly the sweetest thing ever.
For the evening’s second group number, Cody, Trevin, Cassadee Pope and Nicholas David perform “Any Way You Want It” (is Journey secretly NBC’s majority shareholder?). In general, these group performances by their nature struggle to surpass the awkward choreography of a middle-school class concert, but this is a strong showing from a strong ensemble.
Baby-daddy-to-be Nicholas David’s rehearsal with Cee Lo is joined by soul legend Bill Withers, there to help David hone his rendition of “What’s Goin’ On.” Nicholas can’t help but stare at Withers—whose “Lean on Me” he covered last week—literally open-mouthed at the sight of his hero. D’aww.
As you’ve probably come to expect from Nicholas, the performance is so, so good. In terms of musicianship, he’s such a refreshing change from his competitors—who frequently sing with virtually untouched prop guitars—as he makes the keyboard his b-word week after week.
Closing out the night is Blake’s Cassadee Pope, still riding high from topping the iTunes charts last week. She takes on Michelle Branch’s “Are You Happy Now,” tapping into the “spiteful” side of the song—inspired by her painful history with her out-of-the-picture father. (Maybe this also served, obliquely, as emotional fodder for “Over You?” Maybe I spend too much time thinking about Cassadee Pope’s childhood? Maybe you don’t know me? Maybe you should back off because you’ll never understand Cassadee’s and my deeply personal connection?)
Back in her pop-punk wheelhouse, Cassadee turns in a strong performance, if not a particularly unique one. For me, it was a letdown after last week’s country revelation. Nevertheless, Adam proclaims her to be the show’s new “front-runner.”
The Voice returns tomorrow night at 8 p.m., when the bottom two artists will be eliminated. Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC]
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English school teacher David Edwards can now retire from teaching.
Edwards, a physics teacher from Denstone, has become the second person to win the £1 million jackpot on Britain's Who Wants to be a Millionaire, BBC News reports. The first person to win the jackpot was garden designer Judith Keppel in November.
The big win had still not quite sunk in yet, Edwards said at a press conference.
"One afternoon, I had a couple of hours of smug contentment. I had some idea of what is going on," said Edwards, whose win aired Saturday.
The new millionaire and his wife, who have two children in college, plan to go on vacation
Host Chris Tarrant said Edwards "was so cool and had an amazing general knowledge."
Martin is no "Zorro"
Ricky Martin will not wear the mask of Zorro. Martin's reps have dismissed British tabloid reports claiming that the Latin singer would star as Zorro in a new West End musical.
" [He's] not planning on taking over the lead in the show and has had no discussions with its producers," a rep for his record company said, according to ABC News reports.
The singer has had some acting experience, first as an actor in soap General Hospital and in Les Miserables.
David Lee Roth and Van Halen reunite
Former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth recorded three songs last year at Van Halen's private studio, ABC News reports.
"About a year ago, myself and the great Van Halen band played together once or twice and it sounded amazing, phenomenal," Roth said on his Web site.
The recording was made in July, but he hasn't made music or kept in touch with the band since, Roth said.
"But I am holding forth. I'm in the shape of my life and I got the high note. I'm ready to go," Roth said.
Van Halen fans hoped to see a such a reunion after Roth joined the band to present an award at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards. Roth also recorded two songs for a Van Halen's compilation album, but soon departed ways again with his former bandmates.
Producer Jack Haley dead
Jack Haley Jr., longtime Hollywood producer, actor, writer and the former husband of Liza Minnelli, died early Saturday of respiratory failure, The Associated Press reports. He was 67.
Haley, who had been in poor health, was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., on Friday in a semi-comatose condition, said his assistant, Kelly Brandt. He died Saturday at the hospital.
During his 30-year career, Haley produced numerous films and television specials, including a number of the Academy Awards presentations. He also produced The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a 1990 documentary on the making of the classic movie. His father, actor Jack Haley, starred in The Wizard of Oz as the Tin Man.
The Oz connection did not end there. In 1974, Haley married Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Haley and Minnelli divorced in 1979, but remained close friends.
" I fell in love with him the first time I met him, and I have loved him with all my heart ever since," Minnelli said in a statement released Saturday.
Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli dead
Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, best known for his daring interpretations of the works of Verdi and Puccini, died late Friday after suffering a heart attack while conducting at a Berlin opera house, The Associated Press reports. He was 54.
Sinopoli was rushed to the city's German Heart Center clinic after collapsing during the third act of Giuseppe Verdi's four-act Aida. Doctors first tried to resuscitate Sinopoli at the Opera house and then at the hospital. The opera house sent home its shocked audience members.
Sinopoli founded the Bruno Maderna ensemble in 1975. He began his career as an avant-garde composer before turning to conducting.
Poland to sell unpublished Monroe pictures
The Polish state treasury will sell thousands of unpublished photographs of Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood legends, Reuters reports.
Celebrated photographer Milton Greene's collection, which also features Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra, was acquired in 1995 by Poland's foreign debt agency from an American businessman.
" The time is ripe to turn it into cash,'' said Piotr Grzeskiewicz, an administrator of the assets of the liquidated Foreign Debt Servicing Fund.
Greene worked for such magazines such as Life and Vogue. He died in 1985.
The collection contains about 300,000 negatives from the 1950s and is valued at least several million dollars. Grzeskiewicz said he hopes the collection arouses strong interest from Monroe collectors.
" We have to decide on the best way to sell the collection. We do not want to spoil the market by flooding it with the photos,'' he told Reuters.
Stax Museum breaks ground
Numerous R&B musicians gathered Friday at the site of Stax Records in Memphis, Tenn., to reminisce and celebrate the groundbreaking of the museum and music conservatory honoring the former label.
A crowd of 3,000 met on the empty lot where Stax's famed recording studio - dubbed "Soulsville, USA" - once stood, The Associated Press reported.
The planned $20 million Stax Museum of American Music and adjoining Stax Academy and Performing Arts Center will serve tourists and budding musicians, said Deanie Parker, president of Soulsville, the nonprofit group behind the project.
"All around the world, this is the stamp of approval of what we did back in the '60s," said Steve Cropper, one-time guitarist for organist Booker T. Jones and his Memphis Group (MG's). "It will educate the people, and especially the kids, about the music."
"Boys Don't Cry" mother deserves more compensation
The mother of murdered cross-dresser Teena Brandon - the inspiration behind Boys Don't Cry - deserves more compensation, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday. The Supreme Court determined that a lower court had blundered by awarding $17,361 in damages to JoAnn Brandon for official negligence in the death of her daughter. The Supreme Court remanded the case to a District Court to determine new damages. The damages were awarded against Richardson County, Neb., and its sheriff, Charles Laux.
In his review of the case, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hendry said Judge Orville Coady's decision not to award damages to Brandon's mother for the loss of her daughter's companionship "shocks the conscience."
"Nothing will bring Teena back, but I will sleep better knowing that we found some justice for her, and because of this case, fewer parents will find their children abused and exposed to danger by law enforcement officials," Brandon told the Omaha World-Herald.
Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of Teena Brandon in the 1999 film, Boys Don't Cry.
Actor Bill Bellamy to host Miami soul festival
Actor and comedian Bill Bellamy will host the inaugural Soul Beach Music Festival at the Orange Bowl in Miami, The Associated Press reports.
Among the performers are: Angie Stone, Eric Benet, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Musiq and the Isley Brothers.
The concert shows how much the city's racial climate has improved since the early 1990s, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said. At the time, Miami was boycotted by black tourists after the Miami City Commission snubbed visiting anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela for his refusal to repudiate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
``We have overcome some very painful experiences in this community,'' Penelas said.
The festival runs from May 30 through June 3.
Rapper Suge Knight leaves jail
Rapper Suge Knight, the co-founder of rap music label Death Row Records has been paroled five days earlier than expected, at Mule Creek State Prison, The Associated Press reports.
Knight told Sacramento, Calif., television station KXTV before his parole that prison had been a good experience for him and hopes to persuade young people not to follow his path.
" I had everything. I still do," he told the station. "But I had everything I could possibly have and I had six of the best lawyers and I still got nine years."
Death Row Records remains successful despite Knight's incarceration. The late Tupac Shakur's newly released album has been at the top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart for three weeks.
"Wind" parody publication blocked
U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell on Friday blocked the publication of a novel that he said borrows too liberally from Gone With the Wind and infringes on the copyright of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel.
Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone is essentially a retelling of Gone With the Wind from a different point of view using the same fictional characters and places, Pannell wrote.
Publisher Houghton Mifflin argued that the story, told from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's mulatto half-sister on the plantation Tara, was a political parody. Pannell disagreed, writing that Randall's "recitation of so much of the earlier work is overwhelming'' and constitutes an unauthorized sequel.
Attorneys for Mitchell's estate had sued to stop publication of Randall's book.
" It's a wonderful decision," said Martin Garbus, a lawyer representing the Mitchell trust. "It protects authors and publishers."
Writers, such as Pat Conroy, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison, who signed a petition in support of Randall's novel, were surprised.
" I can't believe the book will be suppressed,'' historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. said. "The Mitchell estate is doing a wonderful job of advertising for Houghton Mifflin."