Last season on The Voice, Christina Aguilera personified the Hot Mess. Joining the show shortly after divorcing husband Jordan Bratman — and amid reports of her hard-partying ways, which led to her arrest for public intoxication in March of 2011 — Aguilera was a mentor more “Dirrty” than “Beautiful.” Her season 1 ill-fitting wardrobe was just the start of it — the singer also seemed bored with her new role on reality TV and not entirely committed to mentoring her eager contestants. Her comebacks to Adam Levine’s barbs were typically awkward, and her self-promotion tactics went into overdrive. Yes, Beverly McClellan’s “Beautiful” duet with Aguilera was fittingly gorgeous… but it was also a cover of “Beautiful.” Why push your music on a series you’re already headlining?
But what a difference six months make. Sure, Aguilera’s wardrobe has yet to completely redeem itself — though her high-collared shirts last night were a definite improvement over her Battle Round Barbarella-meets-Royal Wedding look — but the singer sure has. Over the course of season 2, Aguilera has managed to turn herself into the reality series’ most valuable mentor. Not only have her Levine-directed insults become sharper, but her passion during the blind auditions also allowed her to lock in some of the buzziest contestants. (See: Current frontrunner Jesse Campbell.) And she’s already proved she’s guiding her team on a successful path: The singer was spot-on when she warned contestants during the blind auditions that she would have more time to commit than busy countryman Blake Shelton — Aguilera’s song suggestions for her team last night were far fresher and more fitting for each contestant. (Seth and Amy say, really Blake Shelton? “Livin’ On a Prayer,” “Alone,” and “Living for the City” for your team? American Idol called — it wants its season 3 material back.)
Perhaps more impressively, during last night’s first live show, Aguilera officially established herself as the only useful talent judge left on popular reality TV. Following Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul’s Idol exit, the Fox singing series has been weighed down by three judges seemingly incapable of critiquing contestants, no matter how much they butcher Adele. (I know — it seems mean to shoot Eben Franckewitz when he’s down, but dear God, boy.) And, so far this season, The Voice’s panel has been guilty of the same crime — until Aguilera finally called out Naia Kete for her thin cover of Adele’s “Turning Tables.” Can we give her a round of applause for finally channeling that honest voice within?
Now, don’t get me wrong: There’s still enough mess in the much-hotter Aguilera to keep her entertaining. The aforementioned wardrobe that dangerously borders on malfunction, the hilarious stage mom instincts that lead her to mimic her contestants’ dance moves from her spinning chair, etc. But her actions on this season of The Voice have also reminded us that the girl’s damn talented — not only does she know how to bring out the best in other singers, but she allows her singers to bring out the best in her. One of my favorite moments of this season remains Aguilera’s impromptu duet with Sera Hill — there’s no doubt that Alpha Aguilera saw this as an opportunity to prove her vocal dominance, but it was a moment as sweet as it was calculated. Would Cee Lo turn away from Erin Martin’s legs long enough to be inspired by the most talented on his team? Purrfect says “No no no.”
So let’s applaud Aguilera for her work thus far on season 2 of The Voice — it was about time for her arrival. And NBC should be sending her one big fruit basket to wear on her head: Her commitment to the series makes it that much harder for TV fans to throw in the towel when it comes to The Voice. Even this dedicated Idol fan has fully embraced being blasphemous by throwing her UFO hat into the series. So, please, Aguilera: Continue delivering good TV and quality reality show judging — how refreshing it’s been to see you rub us Voice fans the right way. Wait, is that gross?
Who else is loving Aguilera this season?