With The Voice Season 24’s Blind Auditions already about halfway over, the coaches were getting pickier Tuesday, and several contestants who might have had a chance on earlier episodes were passed over. Normally I don’t write about rejected contestants because they tend to be forgotten before the next commercial break, but this week I’m making an exception for 21-year-old rocker-chick badass Giuliana Amaral, because despite turning no chairs, she made an impression and made Voice history.
Giuliana, resplendent in leather, spikes, fishnet sleeves, and Cruella-streaked Dee Snider curls, and playing a spiderweb-patterned bass guitar, performed “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio — a first for The Voice. While an American Idol contestant covered Dio’s “Holy Diver” earlier this year and was also rejected, that was more of a joke audition. Giuliana was dead serious, and I thought she had a shot in the dark when new coach Reba McEntire indecisively reached for her red button. But sadly, Giuliana was ultimately left on her own, like a rainbow in the dark, indeed.
I am certain if the coach Reba replaced this season, avowed metal fan Blake Shelton, was still on the panel, Giuliana would have gotten a turn and would be moving on to the Battle Rounds. I also believe if another Burnett Productions singing competition, Rock Star: Supernova, was still on the air, Giuliana would have been a perfect fit for that show. While her vocals were not perfect — and, yes, this show is called The Voice — her performance was fearless, fun, and ferocious. She’s probably great in her element: fronting her Boston-based metal group, Band, Inc.
Coaches Niall Horan and Gwen Stefani explained that “Rainbow in the Dark” didn’t showcase enough vocal dynamics — “It had one pitch and ine level of volume, and it kind of stayed there,” said Niall — but props to Giuliana for even giving it a try. The late, great, almighty Ronnie James Dio is not an easy singer to emulate.
These were auditioners who were more successful Tuesday, if decidedly less rockin’:
Laura Williams, 20: “Fingers Crossed”
It was hard to believe that this audition was the first-ever gig by this spunky-yet-sultry gal, who was a total natural onstage. “I would have thought you wrote that song,” said Gwen, who loved Laura’s vocal control, character, and connectedness. Reba called Laura a “prodigy” with a “God-given gift.”
Who turned? All four coaches. Niall and Gwen turned from practically Laura’s first throaty note, while John Legend and Reba waited for the payoff in the big, passionate chorus.
Result: Team Niall. Laura is a longtime One Direction fan, so her choice was no surprise. “It reminds me of when Nick Jonas was on the show — he had a certain pull with a generation of girls,” a grumpy John griped. “I’m very upset that she’s a Directioner. … We have no chance against [Niall] with these girls!”
Ms. Monet, 50: “Higher Love”
A background vocalist with 33 years of experience singing with Huey Lewis, Reba’s pals Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Queen Latifah, and even on Gwen’s holiday album, Ms. Monet, this season’s oldest contestant, has performed “pretty much every genre you can think of.” The problem with that is — while she was “polished” and certainly “sang her butt off” on this Steve Winwood hit, as Reba noted — her performance was rather generic. She needs a good coach to help her brand herself and find the right lane.
Who turned? Gwen and Reba… but they took so long that I thought this was going to be another no-chair situation.
Result: Team Reba. It makes sense that Ms. Monet, despite her previous experience working with Gwen, would go with the coach closest to her age range.
Jason Arcilla, 34: “Dreams”
Every on the panel thought this smoky, soulful voice — which John described as “rounded,” gorgeous,” and “welcoming” — belonged to a female diva. Gwen was shocked when she spun around, and she simply could not contain her composure.
Who turned? Gwen, followed by Reba, whose curiosity was clearly piqued by Gwen’s big reaction. Gwen didn’t have much game-face here — but she was “two-faced,” because she actually blocked her new buddy Reba.
Result: Team Gwen. Considering Gwen’s background in ska, she was the best match for Jason, whose first love is reggae. She might have wasted her Block on this guy.
Kaylee Shimizu, 17: “Golden Slumbers”
This was a heavy song for someone so young, and I think it was too much for Kaylee. The Beatles ballad got away from her midway through. But John was “stunned” by Kaylee’s “impossible notes” and compared her to a “young Ariana Grande,” even going so far to tell her, “You know you could win The Voice, right?” Gwen loved Kaylee’s “slow vibrato,” and Reba called this performance “spiritual.”
Who turned? John, Niall, and Gwen, who all hit their buttons before Kaylee got shouty and shrill in the chorus. But they were impressed nonetheless and didn’t seem to regret spinning.
Result: Team Legend.
BIAS, 23: “God’s Country”
The part-time worship leader gigs at a fried chicken joint in Chattanooga — “That’s real country, isn’t it?” he quipped — and he picked this Blake Shelton hit just for “Gwen Shelton,” hope to “spark her ear.” I think he was more of a visual entertainer than a great singer, which is probably why Reba, the panel’s real country expert, didn’t turn until her eyes were sparked by the studio audience’s excited response.
Who turned? Reba and Gwen.
Result: Team Gwen. BIAS had a bias, for sure!
Rachele Nguyen, 17: “Bleeding Love”
This was another 17-year-old with raw talent who wasn’t quite ready for prime time; I think she should have waited another year or two to audition. But “third-generation rodeo brat” Reba compared Rachele to a young filly — “Sometimes you get a horse that is so good, so young, and you can’t wait for this horse to blossom” — so she gave Rachele a chance. “You have so much potential, and that’s what the coaches are here for,” John said diplomatically.
Who turned? Only Reba.
Result: Team Reba. The other three coaches already seemed to be warning Rachele she had little chance of making it past this season’s Battles, congratulating her on how it will be an “amazing experience to go through a competition like this.” But however long Rachele lasts, Reba was confident that she “will grow on this show.”
LVNDR, 27: “Hotline Bling”
OK, this is what shows like The Voice are all about! This was a brilliant song-flip, very dreamily Lana Del Rey/Banks/Regina Spektor. John called LVNDR’s radical Drake remake “magical,” “slinky,” “ethereal,” and even “perfection,” and he praised her “musically daring” melodic choices. Niall raved, “That was something special. … I felt like I was watching a movie and listening to the soundtrack.” As was the case with Laura Williams, it was hard to believe this woman was a newbie to music — she only started taking it seriously two years ago, teaching herself guitar on YouTube. Some people are just born to do it.
Who turned? John and Niall. I was shocked LVNDR was not a four-chair turn.
Result: Team Niall. Once again, poor John was snubbed.
Jaquie Roar, 37: “Here for the Party”
This country-rocker and part-time wedding DJ was a ton of fun. I bet she’s great at parties! She had the perfect song choice and perfect stage name, and John joked that she “left it all on the floor” when she performed so forcefully that one of her earrings fell right off. Niall compared Jaquie to “Stevie and Steven” — Nicks and Tyler, that is.
Who turned? All four coaches. They were here for Jaquie’s roaring ‘20s party!
Result: Team Gwen! Country queen Reba was understandably shocked, but Gwen’s experience in both rock and country actually made her a sensible choice for Jaquie, who John said “can do so much with that voice.”
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