The Voice recap: The Neverending Sob Story

Rockers steal the show, but two major trends are keeping this season from hitting a high note.
Ep. 04 | Aired Mar 4, 2014

RUGE AWAKENING '80s rocker Megan Ruger kicked off the episode with some stylish vocals, but she's falling victim to the same problem as others this season: the Unnecessary Backstory.

NBC

Here’s where we stand after 300 minutes of season six of The Voice: Adam and Usher are both packing seven team members, Shakira’s got six, and Blake’s rocking four. As I wrote yesterday, those 24 contestants probably only include about four worthwhile ones, but tonight’s episode added at least two more names to that worthwhile mix.

Before I get into tonight’s auditioners, I want to quickly discuss two unnerving trends that I’ve noticed so far this season. The first to point out involves the conversations that the coaches have after spinning their chairs, wherein they’re trying to woo potential artists. In truth, while the contestants themselves have been relatively milquetoast this year, the coaches’ banter has been even worse. Their arguing has become almost painstakingly bland.

Really, the problem is that we’ve seen the dynamics before: Blake and Adam bicker, then kiss and make up; Shakira shakes her hips and talks about beating the boys; Usher waits until the end of the song, then turns and says something about waiting for the moment (every single time). Frankly, it already feels a little rote, which is a major danger since we’re so early into the season, so I’m putting it out there now that season seven is going to need a big chair shake-up to keep me watching. With Cee Lo officially not returning, it’s anyone’s guess whether next year’s panel will reprise this year’s foursome, or if Christina will step in again. Dare I suggest two women on the panel at the same time!? (Blasphemy!) A Christina-Shakira dynamic would actually make the show super interesting again, but ho hum, that’s just me.

The other trend I’ve picked up on this year (and some of you have pointed this out in the comments) has to do with the contestants’ pre-taped packages, namely their completely unnecessary sob stories. When I say completely unnecessary, I genuinely mean it. Having divorced parents or not being able to do calculus doesn’t exactly count as a troubled musical past, and it certainly doesn’t seem worthy of the Flowery Sadness Music that underscores each unfortunate recollection of “I broke my collar bone once” or “My ears no longer support hoops.” This is a singing show, so unless the backstory involves music, I don’t need to hear it.

Tonight’s major sob story involved a girl whose doctor found a growth on her retina and made her undergo two brain surgeries to fix it. That’s great and all -- power, girl, for surviving brain surgery! -- but how does that inform how I should feel about her as a singer? She could be the world’s worst belter. I get it: It’s a compelling story that illuminates this singer’s past and what she’s experienced in her life to get where she is, but it’s manipulative and serves no purpose. It’s not just The Voice’s fault -- you can blame the earliest seasons of Idol for perpetuating the Sob Story Audition Package problem. But I’ve already had my fair share of them with almost every singer so far.

Anyway, that’s that. Complaints aside, tonight provided us with some pretty stellar voices to pay attention to this season. We begin Day Four of the blinds with a rocker.

NEXT: The performances! Rockers, baseball players, and a super cool Vietnamese British dude

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