'Duets': Alexis Foster and Jason Farol face off in the first a capella sing-off

alexis-foster-jason-farol-duets.jpgIt's time for the first elimination on "Duets" - does anybody else think it's weird they are doing a few weeks of taped eliminations and then it goes live? We feel like it should go live after these first two weeks we had to get to know the contestants.

Anyway, after a fun John Legend-Jennifer Nettles duet, we kick things off with Inspirational Songs as the theme, so that should prove tear-jerking in at least some cases ('cause we are watching a reality competition).

1. Robin and Alexis, "Killing Me Softly," Roberta Flack/Fugees

The beginning is a little weird - not enough melody. The verses are better, but Alexis doesn't quite have the smooth voice that I want. Plus, when it gets to the chorus and she jumps to singing harmony, it's a bit jarring, especially since Robin Thicke is barely audible on the melody line. This is kind of a mess, honestly. The mix of their voices and what I mentioned about harmony/melody balance is really off.

Obviously, she'll be tops because she's first, but I would expect her to fall quickly.

2. Jennifer and John, "How Great Thou Art," various

Oof, this song. I'm tearing up already, y'all. I'm not even overly religious but it's just such a beautiful piece of music. And now Nettles is crying in rehearsal. I'm a mess. Then he starts a capella and it's gorgeous. So restrained. The harmony is gorgeous. The "then sings my soul, my savior God to thee" gives me goosebumps. Nettles on her own is pretty powerful too. This is not my favorite version of this piece ever, but it's really nice and the emotion is overwhelming, like palpable through the TV screen.

I expect that to go to the top of the leaderboard and stay there.

3. Kelly and Jordan, "Mama's Broken Heart," Miranda Lambert

It's weird in the pre-performance package how A) Kelly Clarkson goes out of her way to say "before I started singing professionally." Is she not allowed to name-check "Idol"? Because we all know how she got famous and B) She says she wishes someone would've helped her when she was Jordan's age, but like - somebody did. You got a huge boost from "Idol" when you were like exactly Jordan's age. Very weird.

Anyway. Jordan is trying her best this week at the stage presence problem, but sound-wise, this is my least favorite she's ever done. The second verse is better than the first, but the chorus sounds like Kelly is really carrying. Also, Jordan's barefeet and small dress is kind of distracting - why is she dressed like a hobo and Kelly has on a pretty dress? Hmm. Overall, that did not do it for me and I'm a Jordan fan. Am I just crazy on this one?

She jumps over Alexis on the leaderboard and that's fair, but I expect her and Alexis to move down as the night goes on.

And BTW - Robin needs to stop being all creepy all over the place. Rein it in, Jason Seaver Jr. You're scaring me.

4. John and Meleana, "If I Ain't Got You," Alicia Keys

This is a fabulous song choice, Meleana and John both sound great on it, plus he's finally not behind the piano for part of it. Their voices also really go well together. There isn't much to say, that was a very nice duet. Everything Kelly says is dead on - their chemistry is great, and Meleana's voice really soared. Once again, Robin is a creeper.

Not sure that trumps John and Jennifer, but definitely second on the leaderboard. Huh. Third. Interesting.

5. Robin and Olivia, "Crazy in Love," Jay-Z and Beyonce

Hmm. This is a risky choice. Olivia has a beautiful voice, but I don't think it's a Beyonce voice. And Robin is definitely no Jay-Z, no matter how badly he wants to be. The song starts and ... Robin doing the spoken part is cringeworthy. Olivia is better than we thought she would be, but the chorus is still terribly thin. This is not the right song for her and Thicke is struggling big time on parts - at the end, the melody is like nonexistent because Thicke can't belt it out enough. His choice of songs is awful.

I would rank that only above Alexis on the board, which is where she ends up. You know what is ridiculous about this show? The judges comments are so ridiculous and unnecessary. They never say anything worthwhile, they just gush platitudes and then people still get ranked low. It's dumb.

6. Jennifer and J Rome, "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," Jessie and Slater at the prom when Zack and Kelly break up Michael Bolton

Does anyone find it weird that he's talking about his grandpa and his last moments and "Amazing Grace," but THIS is the song he picks? It's not ... about that. That's just the title. Did that make anybody else laugh a little? Sorry, maybe I'm just crabby tonight. Anyway.

Now, vocally, this is beautiful. It suits them and they sound really nice on the chorus. In fact, I kind of wish Nettles would quiet down a little so I could hear J Rome more, which is not something I generally wish on this show. Ooh, the key change. Yikes. It's not that they miss it (they don't, they nailed it) but it was super awkward. Very weird place to put the modulation.

This was good, I'd put it near the top. My leaderboard at this point would be John, J Rome, Meleana, Jordan, Olivia and Alexis. J Rome goes right to the top, but that's OK. It's more of a personal preference thing.

7. Kelly and Jason, "Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen

This song has become a reality singing show cop-out. It's like - THIS again? And I love this song. Anyway. Jason does well on the verses, but when Kelly comes in on the chorus, the melody gets totally lost. Jason needs to muscle through. I'm also not wild about the harmony in general, the arrangement. But on the chorus, it really doesn't work unless Jason is louder. It's like it's too low for him and he can't do it. This is OK, but not the best. I'd put this third from the bottom.

But he winds up second to last, which I can't argue with. I thought Olivia was weaker, but they were all kind of meh down there at the bottom.

8. John and Bridget, "Heard it Through The Grapevine," Gladys Knight version


Bridget struggles a bit with the arrangement in rehearsal, hopefully that gets better. John sounds great at the start of the performance. Then Bridget joins in and it's a lot of shouting. This is not a great arrangement of the song, honestly, and she's OK, but it's a lot of angry shouting. Hmm.

At this point, my leaderboard would go John, J Rome, Meleana, Jordan, Bridget, Jason, Olivia and Alexis.

But it ends being J Rome, John, Jordan, Bridget, Meleana, Olivia, Jason and Alexis. Can't really argue with a Jason vs. Alexis sing-off, though I do think Alexis is the weakest and should go home.

The Sing-Off

Jason starts with "Me and Mrs. Jones," which is just OK for me. He sounds pitchy, honestly. Like he can't quite figure out what key he's in. Plus, the high stuff is not that good and he's nasally. Jennifer Nettles has her mouth hanging open like she's never heard such singing before, but I disagree. Then Alexis takes on "Natural Woman" and it's not that great either - her casual relationship with the melody on the chorus is annoying.

Either one can go, honestly. Not gonna cry over either elimination. Alexis ends up going home, which is neither a shock or an injustice. Robin Thicke needs to step it up by picking better songs - he's really the weakest superstar partner.

What do you think, "Duets" fans?

Photo/Video credit: ABC