By Whitney Pastorek
Was it all a dream, PopWatchers? These past months, in which I did no blogging, covered no singing competitions, never ended a question with “[comma] PopWatchers” — did I hallucinate them somehow? Or is it possible that your Aunt Whittlz set out on a path in her life that led her from EW, circled through the Thousand Acre Wood, and deposited her right back here, to a PopWatch blog about a singing competition? Am I some sort of demented Tigger with a penchant for self-abuse? You be the judge!
Actually, please don’t. I haven’t missed that part.
Hi! I’m back, for a two-night-only limited engagement as your On The Scene Reporter Person for NBC’s hit singing/chair-rotating competition, The Voice. [Read Melissa Maerz's recap here.] Are you excited? I am! In fact, after burning my brains to a crisp covering Idol for I-can’t-even-count-how-many seasons (what? it was only three years?), I couldn’t wait to get into the Voice soundstage, henceforth to be known as the VoiceBox, and start scribbling down the snark I’ve been storing in my wooden leg under all the bourbon.
Let’s set the scene! The VoiceBox is huge, easily twice the size of the Idoldome in every direction. It is very red, as opposed to blue, which I don’t think has any political significance. Instead of confiscating my BlackBerry at the door, they let me keep it, and the ushers even gave us helpful instructions about how to hide our phones should we need to text during the show. I was also allowed to have gum, which I chewed with gusto. There only seemed to be two rules: 1) no photos, and 2) no yelling out the coaches’ names. According to the reporter next to me, the second rule was new, and if you watched the show this evening, you’ll know exactly how effective.
From the last row of the bleachers behind the coaches’ thrones — which, in person, look even more like the video slot-machine chairs they’re destined to become — I was able to drink in the shiny, shiny stage and all the many, many people. I was not able to spot any celebrities, partly due to distance, and possibly because I’ve been out of the game just long enough that my Celebudar™ has been reduced to ash. If I craned my neck around the corner of the sound booth, I could spot some Voice Voted-Offs: Pip, James Massone, Erin Willett, Anthony Evans, Gwen Sebastian, and someone I’m pretty sure was Lindsey Pavao. Purrfect the cat was nowhere in sight, but after recently spending some time with her in an unrelated situation I’m pretty sure it’s because she would have a stroke on the spot.
The warmup guy for The Voice is named Bill. (I think.) Bill’s shtick seems somewhat less polished than Corey the Idol Warmup Comedian’s well-polished aww-yeah-Hollywood-make-some-noise patter, but the basics are the same: hoist the crowd to its feet, toss out some t-shirts, crack dorky jokes. At one point, I think he threatened to throw his microphone at the head of an elderly audience member named Ike, but thank god, it was time to welcome the judges. Blake, CeeLo, Adam, and Christina entered the VoiceBox, the screaming went up a solid octave, everyone more or less ignored Carson Daly’s arrival, and Bill got down to business. “When one person stands, everybody stands,” Bill explained to us, as makeup teams swarmed to blot the judges in their chairs. “Be LOUD. You won’t be able to hear Carson or the coaches — you can listen when you get home.”
Voice musical director/Dave Grohl impersonator Paul Mirkovich appeared to say hello to the coaches, CeeLo wandered backstage for a bit. “This show is all about positivity,” Bill continued. “No booing.” Some dudes with dust mops gave the shiny stage a swiff, the finalists appeared, CeeLo came back, and Bill killed the last minute before we went live by having some kid solo on “Rapper’s Delight.” And…
As the contestants were introduced, Team Adam received the biggest in-house reaction, although we must of course deduct decibels for the Pavlovian response in teenage girls every time someone in the VoiceBox says the word “Adam.” Taking that into consideration, Jermaine Paul seemed to get the most applause. I began to sweat. It is really, really hot in the VoiceBox, and, when Carson Daly or the coaches are talking, it is really, really quiet. Like, naptime quiet. It’s actually almost impossible to hear anything anyone says over the roar of the airplane hangar-sized HVAC system, which, despite the noise, doesn’t actually appear to be doing anything.
Jermaine Paul was our first contestant, and as his clip reel rolled, a small army of crew members and orchestral musicians swarmed the stage. Upon learning that Jermaine will be singing “I Believe I Can Fly,” some in the crowd yelped with excitement, but it’s a predictable choice. Still, he seemed to do a nice job, although every single one of his high growls was eaten by the sound mix and/or HVAC system, disappearing the minute they come out of his mouth. His glory note, however, did not disappear, and it was a doozy. I was also impressed at the way the entire crowd transformed into swaybots without any pre-show coaching. I imagine whoever first introduced that move to our young people must feel such pride. Jermaine was the only contestant all night who receives a standing ovation from all four judges.