Once upon a time, I thought it was folly for the inexperienced to audition for The Voice.
After watching Javier Colon, Jermaine Paul and Cassadee Pope take the Voice crown in the first three seasons, it was clear: This was a competition for seasoned veterans in the music business.
Danielle Bradbery changed all that by winning Season 4 at age 16, with virtually no pre-show experience.
And as I look down the Top 10 rankings below, I can’t help but notice that lesser experienced singers hold four of the top five spots.
The Voice singers return to the stage Monday at 8 p.m. EST. Check back then for a live blog including song by song grades.
1. Matthew Schuler (1) (Team Christina): “Hallelujah” should be banned from singing show competitions. It’s almost become an unfair advantage to the singer who winds up performing it. A guaranteed “moment” if you don’t screw it up. That said, there was nothing in Matthew’s rendition to detract from his status as the Season 5 front-runner.
2. Jacquie Lee (2) (Team Christina): She smiles and giggles like the 16-year-old she is before and after she takes the stage. But when the song soars, she turns into a woman possessed, impressing us with her power and her range, even when the material is a wee bit too mature. To this point, Jacquie Lee has been more impressive than Season 4′s 16-year-old winner.3. Tessanne Chin (3) (Team Adam): Look at her Facebook fan base (306,000), and you wonder how she could possibly not win this competition. Listen to her string of impressive performances, and she sure sounds like a potential winner. But, to date, there’s no sign of Tessanne dominating the competition on iTunes the way Cassadee Pope did with a string of Top 10s back in Season 3.
4. Caroline Pennell (4) (Team Cee Lo): Compared to past efforts, the lukewarm reception to “Wake Me Up” might have been the result of Caroline singing first. Or it might have been a reaction to her going up-tempo for the first time. Regardless, Cee Lo would be well advised to avoid elaborate stage productions for the teen. Just let Caroline work her own unadorned magic.
5. James Wolpert (6) (Team Adam): I sure hope the fact that he was the last contestant sent to safety before the instant save isn’t a reflection of where the lad from Lancaster landed in the fan voting. Because James showed pretty remarkable versatility in rocking out to “Mr. Brightside” just a week after scoring an acoustic hit with Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
6. Austin Jenckes (7) (Team Blake): Fans did not flock to iTunes to buy his rendition of Travis Tritt’s “It’s a Great Day to be Alive.” But they voted him into the Top 10. The message to Blake: Fans like Austin Jenckes better than they like Austin Jenckes singing country music. He’s Blake’s most experienced performer and I still think he’s Blake’s best singer.7. Kat Robichaud (5) (Team Cee Lo): She went back to rock. She crowd-surfed without missing a beat. And she still needed an instant save to make the Top 10. What next? Maybe she and Cee Lo should try classic rock. Hey, Aerosmith worked well for Juliet Simms and Amanda Brown. A song with a chorus consisting of more than one word might help, too.
8. Ray Boudreaux (9) (Team Blake): Blake tried his best to cast Ray as the competition’s male hottie last week. Who knows? Maybe it worked. The pop swamp specialist from down south made it to the Top 10 on fan voting in spite of what was his weakest vocal to date. Given his past success, I’m expecting a rebound from Ray this week.
9. Will Champlin (11) (Team Adam): After surviving three straight rounds on the basis of saves, the 30-year-old needed the boost he got from performing last — and impressively — while singing “Demons.” Now the key will be building on that rather than looking back at it as his shining moment on the show.
10. Cole Vosbury (10) (Team Blake): He plays the guitar. His early influences were country music. He scored a major iTunes hit a couple weeks ago with Passenger’s “Let Her Go.” So what does Blake do? He takes away Cole’s guitar and makes him perform “Adorn,” an R&B tune. And viewers seemed to like it. It’s enough to make one wonder what other tricks Cole has hidden in that beard of his.