The Voice loves a good sob story, it does. And to its credit, the conceit of the blind auditions does grant the show a have-our-cry-and-eat-it-too power of packaging a contestant’s sob story into his or her performance while also unshackling the judges from having to know anything about it while making their decisions.
But still: I can’t be the only one who tensed up, and then pulled away, at the blunt force presentation of one 19-year-old Vedo, an R&B singer from Atlanta who was homeless for a few years with his mom before recently discovering that she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and then returning home to care for her only to learn that The Voice wanted him to audition before waving the opportunity away in the face of family only to be urged to reconsider by his own dying mother. The cameras film everything. Later, Vedo breaks down before his performance and okay, that’s enough, moving on.
He does a rhythmic twist on Bieber’s “Boyfriend” — all of the swagger, none of the staccato — that has Usher quickly spinning, which is doubly good news for Vedo and his mother, who is watching backstage. Deep breaths, you guys. It gets easier.
Opposite of Vedo is Christian Porter, who is very tall and very pale and brings with him a guitar to the stage. True story: His mom thought he was deaf as a child. Truer story: the producers are bold enough to cue up the “we’re sad” music when Porter describes his hard time living as a bar musician, often playing up to three hours at a time.
For the night, he’s prepared an adventurous version of “Sexy and I Know It” which is, yes, adventurous but also, yes, very gimmicky and does nothing to show how Porter actually sings. Blake, Usher, and Shakira take the spin, but not Adam, who wisely says he “wasn’t even sure a human was up there.”
I’m almost certain that Porter will go with Usher, who lavishes him with a double reference to Magic Mike and to the hordes of “going crazy” women in the audience. But no! It’s Blake for the steal.
As it’s now late in the hour, we get a triple-shot of sad with a look at some of the eliminated contestants, including: Nicole Serrano singing “E.T.,” Names Shealy singing “Not Over You,” and Hunter Elizabeth singing “Mercy.” XOXO.
And then, to cut through the gloom, comes the preternaturally mature Leah Lewis, 15 and a former Chinese orphan turned well-adjusted child to a smiling older white couple. Leah loves country and the blues because of her father. Her father loves her. This is all very nice. And then the niceness screeches to a halt because guess what? Leah decides to sing Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” and Leah really, really does not have the voice for that. No coaches turn around, understandably, but they also praise Leah unduly for her potential instead of the truth: that she hamstrung herself with a song that swallowed her whole.
NEXT: Surprise! Surprise!