You should be watching The Voice: It’s like television candy, with glitter

April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

I recently started watching The Voice on NBC. Or rather, on Hulu, but they tell me it’s made by NBC. This is the televised singing competition judged by Christina Aguilera, the guy from Maroon 5, some handsome country singer, and That Guy Wearing a Cape.

To elaborate, from left to right, we have:

1) Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, known for his sex-heavy lyrics, his tattoos, and those Adult ADD commercials he’s doing now

2) Christiana “I was totes on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney and JT and Baby Goose before I became a superstar” Aguilera

3) Cee-Lo Green, half of Gnarls Barkley and the slick pipes and sharp wit behind the best breakup song of all time, “Fuck You” (on the coaches’ voice-over intros on The Voice, Carson Daly refers to this song as “Forget You” — the title of the radio-friendly censored/neutered version that basically destroys the song. When Gwyneth Paltrow sang “Forget You” on Glee, I wanted to punch her in the mouth even more than I normally want to punch her in the mouth.)

4) Blake Shelton, apparently a super famous country singer who is married to another super famous country singer

“But isn’t The Voice just a rip-off of American Idol?” you ask, from which the follow-up question for people who know me is “Why are you watching it?!” Often people say this because they know I hate American Idol. Sometimes they say this because they think television other than Mad Men is a waste of time (I watch Mad Men, too!) or they think anything that needs electricity to run is inherently abhorrent (I have a poet friend who is a fairly hard-core luddite, and super pretentious about it, too, which is obviously the best part…there are downsides to having super arty friends.)

And yes, I hate American Idol. Why are they still searching for the next American Idol when they already found him? (I heart you Adam Lambert.) But yeah, watching American Idol makes me feel physically ill (true story). It’s basically a televised celebration of mediocrity, judged by the astonishingly dull (and Steven Tyler). Seriously, Randy Jackson is so predictable that they could put a giant brown teddy bear in his seat and play a recording of him saying, “I dunno, I wasn’t really feelin’ it dawg,” and no one would notice the difference.

Unlike that Neilsen juggernaut, however, The Voice doesn’t actually have “judges,” it has “coaches.” This is actually a significant difference because each of the four coaches personally chooses singers for her/his team and then works with them each week, setting up each contestant to battle the singers from the other coaches’ teams. Or that’s what eventually happens. First, there is a series of “Battle Rounds” in which two members from a given team sing a duet, then their coach chooses the singer he/she prefers and sends the other one home.

That’s one of the great things about this show: they’re always getting rid of people left and right. Sweet; I’m not interested in the average performers. During each of the four weeks of “battles,” half the singers go home, and then during the initial “live shows,” viewers vote (like on Idol) to keep half the singers, while each judge can save one remaining person from being kicked off the show (so to tally, that ultimately means that a third of the people go home from each of these live shows).

I know. That was confusing. That’s one thing about The Voice: it’s not dull because nearly every week they change how people get kicked off/kept, so you’re too busy trying to keep up with the gorram rules to get too bored. After the initial audition weeks in which the coaches pick their teams, the show progresses as follows:

Battles (4 weeks): 6 out of 12 singers kept each week

Initial live shows (2 weeks): 8 out of 12 kept each week

More live shows: unspecified number go home each week

Thus, over the course of six weeks, they go from 48 performers to 16. Mitt Romney would be excited by that rate of dismissals. After they’ve whittled the pool down to 16, I’m not sure how many people they’ll let go each week because I just started watching this shit and I’m just happy to have understood the rules up to this point, but eventually someone wins, and that person’s coach gets bragging rights through the next season, while all the other coaches get the right to whine about the winning coach’s bragging rights.

Each of these coaches brings his or her own flair to the show — and I’m talking flair, not the personas American Idol judges have, like “The Mean One,” “The Female One, i.e. The Nice One,” or “Steven Tyler.” I mean, Steven’s fun, what with his outfits that look like he found them in a dumpster in 1978, but The Voice has more than one sartorially entertaining celeb.

Christina dresses like Wet Seal and Bebe threw up,

And this is the best thing she's worn all season. Honestly.

wears rhinestoned cocktail coasters on her head,

treats her breasts like flotation devices that won’t work if they aren’t exposed to air,

and appears to live in Barbie’s Dream House,

complete with a Diva Throne.

But while Xtina has some crack-tacular outfits, Cee-Lo isn’t satisfied with her brand of trashy glamour. He goes for full-on Spectacle.

He wears pink satin pajama suits during the day for his important meetings and rehearsals, the same way other people wear, you know, suits.

Cee-Lo also has a throne, only his came from Ethan Allen rather than Kim Kardashian's imagination.

He wears what seems to be the red sequined version of the above ensemble for performing with the other coaches…

…and in celebration of the first live show, he wore a wig and whatever else this is:

Look at the sleeves!

That is some intense fringe. I adore this man.

The biggest star on The Voice, however — other than Christina’s breasts — is a furry companion of Cee-Lo’s.

This is Purrfect the cat (no, I am not shitting you; that is the cat’s actual name). Cee-Lo brings him/her out for all of his chats with the camera, stroking the cat Dr. Evil-style. Or to be more historically correct, Blowfeld-style. (I deeply impressed a professor of mine a few weeks ago when I immediately and easily answered his question about what character Dr. Evil is parodying. I was raised on James Bond; my dad is so proud right now.)

While Cee-Lo and Christina are metaphorical disco balls, Blake Shelton spends his time wearing vaguely Western-looking shirts, saying “y’all,” making wisecracks, and being sweet to the contestants, while Adam Levine waits for the female portion of the audience to stop screaming every time he talks and then similarly makes wisecracks and says sweet things to the contestants, only while wearing more rocker-ish ensembles and without saying “y’all.” Adam and Christina also bicker like children. Children that want to do each other. Anyway…

I failed to mention earlier that the coaches choose their team members through the Blind Auditions, so called because singers preform onstage while the coaches’ backs are turned, and if a coach likes what she/he hears and wants that person on his/her team, the coach pushes a button and the chair turns around to face the performer. If only one coach turns around, the singer automatically joins that coach’s team, but if more than one chair turns, the contestant gets to choose which coach they want to work with.

The Blind Auditions’ force the coaches to judge based on voice rather than looks whether they like it or not (this doesn’t last, though; image comes into play later when the contestants are competing against each other, though that seems fair to me since music is a business, and the audience at a concert doesn’t watch with their eyes closed). Partly due to this limiting of first impressions to voice alone rather than voice plus appearance, along with each of the coaches’ having a distinct individual style, The Voice is populated by singers much more varied, unique, and even strange than the regular cast of Idol characters. Opera singer Chris Mann is learning to adapt his killer chops to other genres, while contestants like Charlotte Sometimes, Erin Martin, and Lindsey Pavao have weird and wonderful voices that actual sound unusual.

So despite the fact that it’s hosted by life-size plastic doll Carson Daly — who would give white bread a run for its money in a Contest for the Exceedingly Dull — I’ve found The Voice to be an entertaining, quirky show that features singers with actually interesting talent and coaches with idiosyncrasies galore.

The Voice: like American Idol, only interesting.

Sometimes it's just amusing how extremely different the coaches are from each other. I mean, look at that picture. These four would not have been friends in high school.

What’s Wrong with Handsome?!

March 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

So I have this friend. He’s very pretty. Like, his skin was made by elves and his hair spun out of rose-gold by fairies.

No, not that kind of fairy.

Moi???

Except…well, okay, that works too.

My point is that this friend has been genetically blessed when it comes to his physical appearance. He has those ice blue eyes that are so piercing they kind of scare you, and his strawberry blonde (though more strawberry than blonde) hair is so silky and perfect that I’ve talked with a number of friends about it, and we have all admitted to sometimes getting distracted just staring at his hair, seeing the light glance off it, watching him run his hands through it — see, I’ve wandered off into a daydream just thinking about his hair.

And this isn’t just a “break me off a piece of that” kind of situation. A straight guy recently made an envious comment regarding this hair, which was basically like, “How is that possible? Come on!

And yet recently, my pretty friend has been letting his hair grow too long. Whereas he once had that slightly shaggy “I’m an artist!” haircut, he let the bangs grow until he had to sweep them awkwardly to the side in The Zac Efron:

I know, Zac Efron, squeal!, or whatever, but seriously people, this is not how you want your hair to look.

I'm actually frightened by how much my friend's hair looks like this. This may be a picture of him wearing a Zac Efron mask.

At times, loathe though I am to speak of them, his hair even approached The Justin Bieber:

Even The Biebs has since realized the error of his hairstyling ways, and I don’t think “Justin Bieber!” when I think “someone who makes great fashion choices.”

I’m sure you can imagine, given the mental picture I’ve painted for you, why I recently commented (nicely! casually!) to said friend that his hair was getting really long and asked if he was planning on cutting it (he’s the kind of person I can see going off into the woods on a “spiritual quest” for the weekend and then turning up three months later, not realizing how much time has gone by and surprised people have been worried about him, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just forgot to cut his hair).

But, horror of horrors — he told me he was growing his hair out! To waist-length! On purpose!!! And that he was always going to wear it down because he doesn’t like when men wear ponytails!

I remember that I excused myself from the room to go vomit, but I must have actually stayed, since he then revealed to me that he’s had long hair before and that, in fact, he used to have dreadlocks! He took his straight, shiny, magicked-into-existence-by–woodland-fairies hair and made it into a dirty mass of wtf are you doing, white boy? 

At one point when he had dreadlocks, he also had a bushy beard, and when he saw his mother for the first time with these new style choices, she took one look at him and burst into tears. True story. (Also, he said that he no longer grows beards because the beard splits in the middle of his chin and gathers into two points. May I quote Joey Tribbiani when I say, “That goatee makes you look like Satan.”)

Now, my friend has no reason to give a flying #&$% what I think of his hairstyle, me or anyone else — although we are the ones who have to look at him all the time — but his desire to go from “Hellooooo there” to “I think that guy is going to try to steal my purse!” got me thinking: what is it that makes really handsome guys work to uglify all their natural pretty?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately since it’s been awards season, and despite the fact that the Oscars are better than Lunesta at combating insomnia, I somehow watched all of it. And all of the Golden Globes. And I think I watched part of the Emmys? Although I avoided the Grammys like the plague because I hate that shit — also, I want Chris Brown to crawl under a rock and die.

The point is, I watch these shows partly out of masochism (who doesn’t love watching mediocre art beating out good art for the title of “year’s best”!) and partly out of my love for fashion. I watch for the dresses, and the hairstyles, and the jewelry, and the shoes, and oh yeah, the suits and other men-type-things.

Unless you’re Ryan Gosling in that olive green suit from the Ides of March premier, or Darren Criss in that cranberry slim-cut, or any other sexy man in a suit that I want to pour into my glass and drink, mostly men at the Oscars (etc.) succeed through understatement, i.e. by simply not doing anything wrong.

The other night I ordered an olive in my martini, but he did not come with it.

Ditto every Cosmo or vodka cranberry I've ever had.

If you’re a man at the Oscars (etc.) and I don’t remember what you were wearing the next day, that’s probably a good sign — not an incredible sign, you didn’t wow me, but still, high five for you — a sign that you wore a black tuxedo that fit you well enough, rather than putting on something too crazy.

Since menswear excellence is often based around less-is-more (or around Tom Ford — everything that man makes is stunning), it’s other parts of male stars’ appearance that stand out to me. Lately, it’s their panic to cover up handsome.

And why? What, pray tell, is wrong with handsome? I’m a huge fan of handsome! Why are you taking the handsome away from me?!

If the media is going to push unrealistic beauty expectations on us at every waking moment, I might as well have some pretty men to show for it!

The Oscar Man Fug that had one of my best friends texting me in horror occurred on the face of one of my all-time favorite pretty, pretty men: Bradley Cooper.

Baby, WHY?! Let’s hope and pray this was for a movie. And we know it’s not actually for the role of Satan because that 3-D Paradise Lost flick got cancelled, thanks be to all that is good and holy.

Others, however, can’t so easily hide behind the “It’s for a role!” defense. Take, for example, Ashton Kutcher, who’s role on Three and a Half Men recently led to his being forced to fix his horrifying face. And by that I mean cut his hair and evict the rodents living on his chin.

Hey there! Sorry about destroying your ability to see! #lolz #megadouche

Now, while Ashton Kutcher is majorly not my type (and by that I mean that he is astonishingly accomplished in the art of douchebaggery), he does actually have a pretty face. You know, when he allows it to go outside.

I'm actually surprisingly cute, right?

That look is okay. The guess-how-long-it’s-been-since-I-showered! look? Not so much…

No high-fives for you. Go get the electric razor.

Christian Bale is another one that I’ve been having trouble with for a while. Look, I know that he’s a very good-looking man. I’ve seen Batman Begins. I’ve seen The Dark Knight. I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma, and The Prestige, and Public Enemies. I even saw Terminator: Salvation, though I can’t imagine why. I’ve seen Newsies. I’ve even seen Pocahontas, and in Pocahontas he’s sexy as a cartoon!! And yet, when I see him at any public event lately, I can only think, “What did I see in this guy, again?”

Seriously, what did I see in him? Oh right, that’s what:

Mmm.

The movie-star-on-his-off-time-skipping-a-shave-or-two is a pretty common occurrence in tabloid photos/in actors’ actual lives, and that makes total sense to me: if it’s your job to look perfect every moment, I can see why you’d trash the razor and eat entire pizzas given the chance. However, I think this should stop at a point.

Yes, sometimes when I’m working on a paper (graduate school = now I’m a perma-student), I don’t leave my house for four days and I don’t shower or put on makeup or wear anything aside from pajamas or sweatpants, and my bangs are all twisted on top of my head and I get that twitch in my eye…but the point is that after I finish the paper (or happen to look in a mirror), I take a shower and put on some real clothes. Also, though I do frequently grocery shop after I go to the gym and thus venture into public with no makeup, a red face, and sweaty, sweaty hair, I usually don’t want to punish strangers for having to look at me.

And I think, given these recent photos, that Shia LaBeouf has reached the “punishing strangers who have eyes” stage.

via The Daily Mail

If I hadn’t been prompted by the headline to know that this was Shia LaBeouf and you’d asked me who this was a picture of, I’d have replied, “Some homeless guy,” or “A hipster.”

Shia’s not in the upper echelons of “Bring the smelling salts! She’s fainted!” handsome, but he is definitely not bad-looking, and he has this strangely sexy vibe that I’ve never been able to pin down. And if you can look like that bum/painter above or like this:

…guess which look I think you should pick.

Plus, my best friend K has run into him in Burbank and apparently he’s super chill and a great sport, and he dated Carey Mulligan for several years whom, if you read the site regularly you’ll know I totally adore, so I’ll continue like Shia — or as we’ll soon be calling him Shi-Yeti.

But while Shia LaBeouf is a young guy who seems like a bit of a wild card, some of the other “Keep the handsome away from me!! The power of fame compels you!!!” menfolk are less young and far more handsome.

Brad Pitt is potentially the worst offender of all, in that he been hiding his handsome behind bad haircuts and bad facial hair for years, and also because he has the most handsome to hide.

So close, and yet...

I despise his hair. Despite the fact that he probably has a stylist following him around his house adjusting his hair/clothes, Pitt’s long hair always manages to look like it hasn’t been washed in a few days.

And don’t tell Angie (or the tabloids), but I’d suggest that in the above picture (his official 2012 Oscars nominee portrait), he looks like he’s channeling ex Jennifer Aniston during her early Friends years. 

Short in the front, long in the back for no reason? Yep, it’s The Rachel, only without the proper styling — Brad forgot to add the mouse and blow-dry the top with a large round brush! Shame on you, Brad…

Also, that goatee has got to go. My favorite photo from the 2012 Oscars red carpet is the following one, because Brad’s facial expression is admitting what Brad himself refuses to admit: that facial hair is heinous.

"Please! Get it off me!" - Brad's face

We know you’re not 25 anymore, Brad, and that’s okay! We know you won’t look like you did in Thelma and Louise,  but you can still look like this:

Or like this:

Don’t let Angelina’s perma-perfect alien-skin get you feeling down about your wrinkles — you’re an earthborn human so you’re going to age, while she doesn’t seem to have that problem.

You’re still handsomer than 99.99999985% of men. Who have ever lived.

Brad, we love you, not as much as we love The Clooney, true, but we love you. So please, bring back the short hair and the clean shave, or even just the short hair!

But whatever you do, don’t go back to this:

I stand corrected. THAT goatee makes you look like Satan.

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