'Duets' Recap: New Hair, New Scoring, New Game--It's the Live Shows!
'Duets' Recap: New Hair, New Scoring, New Game--It's the Live Shows!
Jenn Lee
Jenn Lee
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
It's the moment we've all been waiting for--Duets has finally gone LIVE! Gone are the confusing secret-Superstar-scoring tablet system and ridiculously anticlimactic Duets ranking after each performance. Yes, there are only five amateurs to root and vote for, but at least we're involved, even if that involvement will be short-lived.

The live show kicks off with a double duet performance by the Superstars and the only thing that stands out is Kelly Clarkson's radically different look: the "Stronger" star walks out sporting blonde locks in a hot pink form-fitting dress. I'm sure some will love it, some will hate it, but either way, it's hard to ignore. Quddus arrives more enthusiastic than ever and announces this week's theme: songs from the last decade. Smart choice, Duets--keep it fresh the first week viewers can actually invest in the performances.

Jennifer Nettles' First Duet: "When You Say You Love Me" with John Glosson
It's clear there was some time off in between the pre-taped episodes and the live shows, because John went home to his event/wedding design business and realized the difference his being on the show had made. That's right, John--you're a legitimate talent, now! Back in the rehearsal room, Jennifer's excited for their heartfelt Josh Groban song, claiming, "We're going to kill them with romance!" Gotta love Jennifer's zest.

On stage, the mood is certainly set as John brings out his lovely tone. But as the song progresses, it starts to feel a bit too serious and tender, especially when the two partners end the song staring intently into one another's eyes, faces inches apart. I love these two together, but it wasn't my favorite performance of theirs. Kelly has nothing new to add (except her golden hair) to her previous praise of John and Robin calls him "Georgia Bocelli." John, however, does have a critical note to add, saying the song felt "syrupy" to him. (I'm inclined to agree.) And this is about the guy who was able to pull off "My Heart Will Go On" authentically.

Robin Thicke's Duet: "Need You Now" with Olivia Chisholm
It still seems like the subdued Olivia is mainly here because Robin needs a partner, but she shows a more emotional side when she talks about her supportive parents. Robin has chosen a song that's "sensual and loving" to match Olivia's voice, and I have high hopes for this number. Olivia wants to show everyone she's not just a "soft-voiced girl," but that she can be confident and powerful.

From the beginning, it's clear Olivia's voice hasn't changed one bit, and she's still as scratchy-soft as ever. She has stepped it up in the wardrobe department, though--not sure what kind of look she's going for with her warrior/shoulder-padded/sequin dress, but it makes a statement. This is a very current song and unfortunately, their version doesn't sound nearly as good as the original. If only Olivia's voice and presence could live up to her fierce accoutrements (check out those killer red nails!) John commends them for going country this week and Jennifer similarly loves the song choice. But Kelly addresses the most important issue (her voice) on the head, saying Olivia was "pitchy throughout."

Kelly Clarkson's Duet: "Mercy" with Jason Farol
Somehow Jason managed to make it to the live shows, despite being stuck in the bottom most the time. Everyone knows this is a turning point for the hesitant young singer, who will undoubtedly win over any young female viewers. As he and Kelly rehearse, it does seem Jason has managed to muster a little confidence during their break--we'll see if it holds up in front of a national audience.

I'm liking the suspenders-and-tie look on Jason and he seems to be more comfortable on stage as well. Kelly spends the first verse next to the backup singers to show clearly that Jason is the star, not her. While it is hard to shine next to the powerhouse pop vocalist, I don't think Jason's quite at star potential yet. The best points in the performance are when the two briefly join together in their simultaneous runs. Jennifer loved the performance and knows Jason is "dangerous" if any teenage girls are watching. Robin glazes over Jason to admit he couldn't keep his eyes off Kelly and got jealous when she danced for John. Again, the bold presence of Kelly has overshadowed the timid Jason. John says there has been some improvement, but still feels Jason isn't completely natural when he dances.

John Legend's Duet: "Halo" with Bridget Carrington
Like John Glosson, Bridget went back to her desk job during the time off and almost cried from missing the spotlight. Thankfully, her mentor has picked a super ambitious Beyonce song that will pull her straight back into the center of the limelight--if she can pull it off. But Bridget is not meant for office work and her determination for stardom is clear.

When Bridget joins John on stage, her clean, sophisticated look matches her more mature presence. Her voice powers through the challenging notes and she definitely seems more star-ready. Though the tempo felt a bit slow at points, her last halo note was fairly impressive. All three judges liked the song choice for Bridget, Robin liking the song better as it progressed, Jennifer liking the brighter tone and Kelly complimenting the last run. But of course, even with all this Superstar praise, the only thing that will matter is if America enjoyed her performance.

Jennifer Nettles' Second Duet: "Without You" with J Rome
Where can Jennifer and J Rome go from here? The humble singer has been at #1 every week, so Jennifer feels they should just focus on being him and having fun on stage. But J Rome isn't taking anything for granted and gratefully acknowledges his mentor's role in his success on the show. Jennifer just playfully teases, "Trust your instincts, Luke." The newly pregnant star definitely has the best lines tonight.

In the first verse, J Rome's voice is remarkable as always and it's clear this singer could be the next Usher, given his talent. Then the chorus kicks in and the duo sing out a different arrangement to the song, which is interesting and shows they're continuing to challenge themselves, despite not having any competition in sight. America might have a different opinion, but if there's any justice in this competition, J Rome will be the one to take home the prize. John calls J Rome a professional but thinks his vocal performance was weaker in the lower parts of the song. Robin was too busy checking out the hopeful's female Duets partner again (he was impressed the pregnant Jennifer could still "drop it like it's hot"). Kelly makes good on her threat last week to throw her shoe at J Rome as an expression of how unfairly amazing he is.

Voting is now open and next week we'll see who has the lowest votes and will be leaving the competition (chances are, one of the Superstars will be left partner-less). Who do you think it will be?

(Image courtesy of ABC)