The Voice Monday 11/17 Recap: A Roller Coaster Ride

ТheVoiceTV-logoMonday’s version of The Voice was an up and down affair. It started rough, then began climbing upward, with some up and down moments the rest of the way. The episode had no group performances and no coach performances-just a brief recap and then right down to business.

First up is Sugar Joans from Pharrell Williams’ team. Let’s get it out of the way quickly-I’ve never liked anything she has done since the season started. Tonight, in Pharrell’s production of My Fair Sugar, she takes on “Take Me To The River”, well known for being performed by Al Green and the Talking Heads. And as usual, she is a giant ball of meh-but the coaches are all singing her praises. I. Don’t. Get. It. Maybe the fact that she had to be saved last week, bodes well for her finally going home this week.

Next up for Gwen Stefani’s team is Ryan Sill. Ryan is performing “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran. Maybe it’s nerves, but he didn’t wow me either. Very shaky performance-and the notes at the end were just off-key screaming. Yet the coaches are on their feet, again proclaiming a good performance. What are they hearing?

Blake Shelton’s first artist to perform is Jessie Pitts who sings Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia. She does the song at the piano…I wonder if she is really playing? Even if she is, she does marginally better than the first two artists. Are nerves getting the best of the performers? What I really think about this performance though, is that while I’m not as big a fan of her voice as Blake is, I thought her voice was pretty good tonight. But I think the song didn’t mesh well with her strengths…and again some more off-key notes.

Adam Levine’s first artist is next up, and it is Damien. Damien does “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies. The potential for going overboard is apparent by the song choice, but Damien keeps it under control and does very well. At this point, he’s the best in the show by a wide margin. I was a little bit surprised by Adam’s song choice for Damien, but it paid off handsomely for him. He is definitely one to watch going forward.

Back to Team Pharrell for the next artist. DaNica Shirey will perform “Creep” by Radiohead. During rehearsals, Pharrell suggests a change in the arrangement, which I think suits DaNica better. When the actual performance comes though…I didn’t really feel it. Yet I could find no real fault with her performance. It was an “it’s all right, but it’s all wrong” type of performance. Something seemed a bit off, but I couldn’t begin to tell what it was. I don’t know if it’s enough to get her booted from the show, because she certainly is one of the more talented vocalists left in the competition, but I’m concerned for her going forward.

At the halfway point, Team Gwen’s next artist is Taylor John Williams. In my opinion, he is the best artist she has. So imagine my surprise when she gives him “If” by Bread to sing. The song reminds me of elementary school music class, where we would sing some of the recent pop hits of the day-if recent were five years prior. Anyway, as opposed to his performances where he made the songs his own, he sung this one pretty straight. He hit a rough patch towards the end of it, which surprised me because he has been solid throughout the competition. I don’t think it’s enough to knock him out though.

Next to sing is 16 year old Reagan James from Team Blake. Reagan performs “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz. Again, nerves win out-the performance was very breathy. And more bad notes. Reagan has always left me cold-I can never understand what’s great about her performances. All I seem to hear from the coaches is that she is so wonderful for being so young. Whereas I think, if she were a little older, I think she would be a bit better. It wasn’t her best performance of the season, but she may get some underdog sympathy for the votes.

Luke Wade is up next from Team Pharrell doing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. It must be the Ed Sheeran season of the show. There have been a lot of his songs performed so far this season. Luke had a blackout moment early on-he came in on a line two beats too soon-but he recovered well. He gave another solid performance in a string of solid performances. Will the voters hold his mistake against him? I hope not; he has enough good will from earlier performances that this should not put him out of the show.

Next up from Team Adam is Matt McAndrew, who performs Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.” After comparing tattoos with Adam during rehearsal, Matt gets the song down and goes out and performs. And he does very well. Though I thought finishing on his knees was a bit much, he did a very good job with the song. He brought power to the vocal in all the right places, and he built the song up very well. No complaints here.

Craig Wayne Boyd is up next for Team Blake. Blake gives him a country song “You Look So Good In Love” by George Strait. After my surprise last week that Blake didn’t save Taylor Brashears (who I thought was his most “country” artist), he gives Craig a straight up country song. I had always thought that Craig leaned more toward blues-rock or southern rock, but he handled the song with ease. Absolutely no problems at all with this performance, and again one of the best of the night. Boyd should breeze into the next round.

Chris Jamison steps up from Team Adam and performs “Jealous” by Nick Jonas. Must have missed the part where the Jonas Brothers broke up…anyhow. I think Adam sees Jamison as a guy who can get votes if he can get solid performances out of him, and a solid performance is what he delivers. Very good on the falsetto parts of the song-he nailed them each time. The girls in the audience are screaming-which may mean Adam may be onto something with this kid. Or the girls just think he looks good. Whatever-a very good performance.

The final artist to perform is Anita Antoinette from Team Gwen. Gwen gives her Redemption Song by Bob Marley. Yes, it’s another reggae song. My question-how can we see her range if all she is going to sing are reggae songs or songs tweaked with reggae-style arrangements? Again, Anita gets a song in her wheelhouse and does a good job with it. But we’ve seen this act before-I think it’s time she showed that she can do something else.

So there it is. To me, Craig Wayne Boyd, Damien and Matt McAndrew were the best of the night. I think all three should be safe. I’d worry if I were DaNica or Reagan. I would think Sugar Joans should also be nervous, but she has nine lives or something. All will be revealed later tonight.

And here’s the Spotify playlist of the songs performed on Monday’s show:

Have an opinion? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Big Bank Hank Is Gone

If you are under the age of 35, you may be asking yourself, “who is Big Bank Hank”?

For those who don’t know, Big Bank Hank (nee Henry Jackson), was one of the members of the Sugarhill Gang, the first rap group to make a commercially successful rap single. That song, “Rapper’s Delight” was fifteen minutes of non-stop rap from Jackson, Mike “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien. “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap single to hit the top ten of Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues charts, and also the first to make the top forty of the Billboard Pop chart.

Jackson passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. He was 57 years old. He happened to become a part of music history with that one song. And while the Sugarhill Gang had more hits (notably “8th Wonder” and “Apache”), it was their first hit that spawned a phenomenon that is still going strong today (though some will tell you it isn’t as good as it used to be, while others will tell you it was never as good as some make it out to be). That debate can be had at another time.

What I would say is that, as a young eighth-grader hearing that record in the fall of 1979, it was different than anything else heard on the airwaves. And once it became popular,  it was all anybody wanted to hear. I can remember people requesting it on the radio and it getting major airplay. And of course, in those days, if you wanted your own copy, you had to go to the record store and get yourself a copy. RappersdelightI only remember seeing the 12-inch version-never saw a 45, though I’m sure they probably existed. Besides, why get the edited version when you could get a full fifteen minutes of glory? And of course, you had to get those lyrics. At one time, I could recite the whole song from start to finish (no easy feat then, or now).

The song wasn’t without a bit of controversy. The basic groove was based on the breakdown from “Good Times” by Chic, which launched a lawsuit from the writers of the song. And there was also the bit that Hank stole lyrics from Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers (the part of being the C-A-S-A-N-O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y…), which caused beef between the two for years.

Though the Sugarhill Gang did not start rap, and were not necessarily the first to put rap on a record (Fatback’s “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” may have preceded it), they were the first rap superstars. And they were, rightly or wrongly, credited with being “pioneers” of the style of music.

Nevertheless, may Big Bank Hank rest in peace. And as a reminder of his big moment in the sun, here’s Rapper’s Delight.

Open Our Eyes

Psalm 119:18 New International Version (NIV)

18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.

Open Our Eyes Lyrics

Father, open our eyes, that we may see
To follow Thee, oh, Lord
Grant us Thy lovin’ peace, oh yeah
And let all dissension cease
Let our faith each day increase, oh yeah
And Master, yeah, please, yeah, oh please

Open our eyes, open our eyes
Open our eyes, Lord, open our eyes

He has given us, hills and mountains
He has given us, oh yeah, level plains
He has given us food and clothing
Gave us shelter from the storm and rain, oh yeah
And all that He provided
Kept us good, good, oh yeah
From the storm and the plague

Grant us Thy lovin’ peace,
And let all dissension cease
Let our faith each day increase,oh yeah
And Master, yeah, Lord, yeah

Open our eyes, open our eyes
Open our eyes, oh, open our eyes

Yeah, yeah, ah, Lord
And smile down on Your helpless children
Yeah, Master, yeah

Open our eyes, yeah, open our eyes, yeah

Yeah, yeah
Well, want You to smile down
On Your helpless children
Smile down on Your helpless children
Hey, Master, do You hear me?
Say, Master, can You hear me?
Hey, Master, hey

Smile down on all the helpless children
And starving children all around the land
Yeah, everybody walkin’ ’round
Nobody wanna be a man

Songwriters
Lumpkins, Leon

Published by
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

[Hat Tips: Bible Gateway, Metro Lyrics]

This Week In New Music-November 15 Edition

The following playlist was created from the music sources that come to me via email, feed reader or from various music websites. Those sites are: Soulbounce, Soul Tracks, Next2Shine, ThisisRnB, and SmoothJazz.com. In addition, songs may be added from AllMusic, and Slate’s BrowBeat blog, from podcasts from Soul Sanctuary radio, as well as playlists from Spotify for New Music Tuesday and 1556296-705014-vector-music-notes-backgroundTrendy Music. Basically, I look at all the information, find which tracks can be found on Spotify for streaming, and make a playlist for the week. This week’s list features several well known artists as well as some newcomers. You will find Bruno Mars (featured on the Mark Ronson track “Uptown Funk”), Sisqo, Lenny Kravitz, Ne-Yo featuring Juicy J, Pharrell Williams and Jessie J on this week’s list.

Here’s the playlist for this week. Enjoy, and if you hear something you like, leave your reaction in the comments, or better still, purchase the music.

The Voice Wednesday Recap: Sweet As Sugar

Realizing that this recap is at least one or two days late (hey! I just started here!), I am writing a recap of Wednesday’s Voice program which whittled down the 20 remaining artists down to the final twelve. Going into the show, I couldn’t predict who would stay or go, but I had some idea of certain people who would be around. What I didn’t know when I began watching was that there would be a few mild surprises, and to my ears, one unbelievable shock. (Author’s note: I have been writing Voice updates on Facebook for weeks now; this is just a way to add some of that content to this new blog).ТheVoiceTV-logo

After the first group performance by the members of Team Blake, it is Blake Shelton’s team that is first up on the chopping block. The rules of elimination for this round is that the American public saves two artists from each team, while the coach makes the final third save, leaving two artists out in the cold. America’s first save went to Reagan James. I wasn’t totally surprised, even though all I hear is how great Reagan is for being fifteen years of age. That’s nice and all, but I don’t think she is as good as they make her out to be. Something about her performances leaves me cold. That said, she may have the potential to do greater things as the show goes on. The second save by the public was for Craig Wayne Boyd. This one was a no-brainer to me. His performance of “Some Kind of Wonderful” by the Soul Brothers Six was one of the best of the first night of live performances. Blake used his save for Jessie Pitts. While I think she has done well enough, I don’t like her voice as much as many others do. I was surprised that Blake didn’t rescue Taylor Brashears-as I was of the opinion that she was the most “country” singer he had on his team. James David Carter, the other artist who bowed out of this round, was good, but he wasn’t good enough compared to his teammates.

The next team to face the elimination round was Team Pharrell. It was this writer’s opinion that his team was the strongest going into the live rounds, so he figured to have the toughest decision. America saved Luke Wade and DaNica Shirey-which were two good choices. Although I thought DaNica’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” was outstanding and far more ear-pleasing than Luke’s version of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” Wade had been outstanding up to that point. The tough part was left to Pharrell, from which he had to choose from Elyjuh Rene, Jean Kelley and Sugar Joans. Based on Tuesday’s performance and coaches comments, it didn’t look good for Jean, which left Pharrell’s choice between Elyjuh and Sugar. The coach picked Sugar Joans, and I was absolutely flabbergasted. I mean, speechless. But not surprised. Pharrell and the other coaches have played up Sugar’s performances exponentially throughout the competition. These ears, however have only heard a giant ball of meh. Based on actual voice talent, Elyjuh sang rings around Sugar in my opinion, and up to her last performance, even Jean Kelley had outperformed Ms. Joans. But then, we’ll see. I may not be hearing what everyone else is hearing.

Third team up was Gwen Stefani’s team, that I considered the weakest of the four. Yet on Tuesday night, they surprised me. They were very solid, even if they have the weakest collection of talent. America’s votes saved Taylor John Williams (who I believe is her best performer), and Anita Antoinette, who was coming off her weakest performance in my opinion after stepping a bit out of her boundaries with Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” Gwen’s surprise pick to save was Ryan Sill, who got the nod over Ricky Manning and Bryana Salaz. I thought she would pick Manning, given that I believed he had been growing and getting better from week to week.

Last up was Adam Levine’s team, which he was forced to rush to pick due to time almost running out on the live show. After his team’s group performance, precious few minutes remained to name the three members going on to the final twelve. Quickly named to the final group were Damien and Matt McAndrew; two very solid choices by the viewing public. Adam then had mere seconds to get out the name of his artist that he wanted to save, and he picked Chris Jamison over Mia Pfirman and Taylor Phelan. A mild surprise that he didn’t pick Phelan, but it was very close to me between him and Jamison, almost a tossup.

I can’t call a winner, but I see several favorites based on talent. DaNica Shirey, Craig Wayne Boyd, Damien and Taylor John Williams have done very well throughout. Luke Shaw has a lot of potential as well. The others have been very solid if not always spectacular, and Sugar Joans has been Sugar Joans. We’ll see what happens when the final twelve sing on Monday night.

A Spotify playlist of the original versions of the songs sung on Monday and Tuesday follows (with the exception of “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House” by Garth Brooks (sung by James David Carter)):