Are “The Voice” coaches ageist? Tonight, they turned away one of the best singers who has taken the blind audition stage this season, 55-year-old school bus driver Yolanda Barber, only to fill a slot with an average 22-year-old pop girl soon after. Last week, they ignored 52-year-old vocal coach Lorraine Ferro. It seems like the over-50s just can’t catch a break.
Vocal maturity is a flaw in the blind audition system to begin with, since it can be heard and identified. And so few of the contestants in that age bracket even make it to the blind auditions. Why then, would the judges pass on the few veterans who have that extra level of experience? Do they feel like they just can’t mentor someone older/wiser than them, that at this point, if that’s how you’re going to sing, then that’s how you’re going to sing? Or do they think that we viewers at home are all teenagers and that’s what we want to see?
The beautiful thing that “The Voice” offered us when it debuted as an antidote to “American Idol” was the lack of an age limit. Last season, Kim Yarbrough, age 50 made it quite far in the contest. But she’s the only person of that age group to even get the chance.
Tonight, the judges seemed genuinely confused with themselves for passing on Yolanda, who said she’s been singing for the last 45 years, and has spent 10 years on cruise ships. Her performance of “Get Here” was rich and seasoned and passionate, and yet, no one spun. Adam Levine was extremely apologetic. Only Christina Aguilera offered an explanation, albeit one that wasn’t very comforting: “At this point in the game, we’re all forming our teams and looking for specific sounds.” Meaning, adolescent Disney-esque sounds? Because tonight, the best sound I heard was Yolanda.
The 22-year-old they went with instead was Cassadee Pope, the former frontwoman of the band Hey Monday, which had a song, “Candles” featured on an episode of “Glee.” So you can imagine. Cassadee sang “Torn” adequately but unremarkably, and yet got all four coaches to spin for her. Adam and Christina competed for her the hardest, while Cee Lo Green didn’t even try. “Well I just thought you were wonderful as well,” he said completely monotone. But it was Blake Shelton who won her over with a passionate, hyperbolic plea: “There is nobody else like you and I believe with 100 percent of my heart that you are a superstar.”
Other standouts: Cee Lo picked up a former backup singer for Adele, Amanda Brown, who auditioned with one of the best audition songs ever, “Valerie.” Blake got Charlie Rey, a “smog technician” with a smooth and personality-less voice. And Christina took Sylvia Yacoub, a girl born in Egypt with a penchant for dance music. The last two: age 19.
Teams so far
Adam (14): No additions. Michelle Brooks-Thompson: non-NFL husband; Brandon Mahone: modern-day Temptations; Sam James: indie boy, no airtime; Collin McLoughlin: biz school dropout; Benji: raspy racecar driver; Alessandra Guercio: “Fame” high school, “Idol” reject; Melanie Martinez: indie teen; Brian Scartocci: single dad; Adanna Duru: 15-year-old, no airtime; Samuel Mouton: reggae in a baseball cap; Nicole Nelson: gospel hippie; Lauren Allred: wedding singer, no airtime; Bryan Keith: raspy guy coming out from under dad’s shadow; Joe Kirkland: band frontman dumped by label.
Blake (14): Charlie Rey: smog technician; Cassadee Pope: former Hey Monday frontwoman; Terisa Griffin: inspirational older lady, put Blake in his place; Suzanna Choffel: music teacher with Stevie Nicks vibe; Ryan Jirovec: no airtime; Michaela Paige: 16-year-old with a mohawk, no airtime; Lelia Broussard: reminds him of Miranda Lambert, no airtime; Liz Davis: country, legs; Kelly Crapa: 15-year-old, no airtime; 2Steel Girls: mother/daughter duo; Casey Muessigmann: wrestling cowboy; Julio Cesar Castillo: mariachi singer; Terry McDermott: Scottish rocker dad; Gracia Harrison: yodeler.
Cee Lo (14): Amanda Brown: Adele backup singer; Diego Val: childhood disease; Alexis Marceaux: Hurricane Katrina survivor; Mycle Wastman: crazy falsetto; Todd Kessler: “Maggie May,” no airtime; Ben Taub: classical, no airtime; Emily Earle: country, no airtime; Avery Wilson: never had a singing lesson but better than Usher; Nicholas David: the Minnesotan Aaron Neville; JR Aquino: Alaskan YouTube singer; Domo: Bronx hip-hop dancer; Mackenzie Bourg: Justin Bieber meets Harry Potter meets gnarly virus; Daniel Rosa: huggable former reject; Trevin Hunte: wailer proving his 8th-grade teacher wrong.
Christina (14): Sylvia Yacoub: dance music singer from Egypt; Jordan Pruitt: former Disney star; Dez Duron: season 2 reject; Laura Vivas: Latin pop singer, no airtime; Joselyn Rivera: preemie learned to sing on Barbie karaoke; Beat Frequency: married couple; Paulina: 16-year-old, no airtime; Nelly’s Echo: Nigerian refugee, Lisa Scinta: gymnast, no airtime; Marissa Ann: 15-year-old, no airtime; Adriana Louise: Brooklyn waitress; Aquile: from broken jaw to buttery voice; De’borah: gospel church misfit; Devyn DeLoera: sang “Ain’t No Other Man” and survived.