'Duets' Recap: Classic Duets and a Surprise Newcomer
'Duets' Recap: Classic Duets and a Surprise Newcomer
Jenn Lee
Jenn Lee
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
It's week 2 of Duets, which means the novelty has passed and now we can really assess how this new singing competition stands on its own merit. From the start Quddus gives the audience some good news: starting from week 6, America will get to participate in determining who wins through a public voting system (there's a relief). Also, next week, the bottom two amateurs will sing in an a cappella showdown, and one individual will finally be sent home. Given this news and Kelly and Robin's opening rockin' duet, this is shaping up to be a promising second week.

John's First Duet: "I Knew You Were Waiting" with Bridget Carrington
John and ambitious Bridget were not satisfied with last week's #6 ranking, and the mentor thinks the verses were a little low for her range. This week, Bridget does seem to command the stage a little better, and I like her confidence. Somehow some of the verses still seem a bit too low for her, but I enjoy her runs when her voice is given a chance to shine.

Jennifer agrees that Bridget "raised the bar" from her previous performance, but Robin thinks her energy was a bit restrained in the beginning of the song, though she opened up at the end and finished strong. Again, obviously, Bridget is ranked at #1 (Are they going to continue this every week? The anticlimatic reveal seems unnecessary.)

Kelly's First Duet: "Misery" with Jordan Meredith
Kelly and her two amateurs have something to prove this week, being the bottom two on the chart in the premiere. You've got to give Kelly credit when she admits "Stronger" was more of an anthem that didn't showcase Jordan's soulful voice. But Jordan's nerves are also definitely an obstacle, at least in rehearsal. On the actual stage, I don't think she stepped it up as much as she needed to. Yes, they picked a slower song, but perhaps they slowed it down too much? Even given this week is dedicated to classical duets in music history.

Robin frankly says Jordan wasn't able to hit some of the higher notes at the end, but he's thankful he has a better idea of who she is as a singer. John also advises Jordan to not use Kelly as a crutch on stage, which I think is sound advice - Jordan needs to own her ability! She's predictably ranked at #2.

Jennifer's First Duet: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with John Glosson
Jennifer believes her "Stay" duet with John from last week deserved to be #1 (it was #3), so this week she's bringing it with one of Marvin Gaye's most beloved tunes. She and John smartly decide to stay close to the original, but I hope it's special enough that it's not just a replica. On stage, John gives a special little run on the last note, but otherwise it was pretty predictable.

The other Superstars seem to agree, and even point out a few criticisms - mainly, that the performance verged on hokey and "a little bit Broadway," according to John. Robin took it the furthest by saying it was the wrong song for John and that his movements seemed off. Basically, they're nitpicking the performance because they can't criticize his incomparable voice - John is placed at #2, above Jordan.

Robin's First Duet: "Where is the Love?" with Olivia Chisholm
When Olivia says she's nervous about singing a song she's unfamiliar with, I already have a bad feeling about this performance. Then she comes to rehearsal without having memorized the lyrics and Robin is upset. This does not bode well. Then the two perform and the only thing I can help thinking is Really? "Where is the love?" is like 90% of the lyrics. It almost doesn't matter that her tone is so cool and clear.

Even when Jennifer gives negative feedback, she prefaces it with "I thought it was great!" So far the Superstars have gotten better at giving more critical feedback, but I still get the feeling they're afraid to NOT say something super positive. John is the most encouraging when he says he loves Olivia's stage presence, while Kelly finds her struggles with the lyrics funny (I think everyone did). Olivia seems unable to draw herself out of that setback and is placed at #4.

John's Second Duet: "Endless Love" with Meleana Brown
Out of nowhere, Quddus announces Johnny Gray, John's second partner, is off the show due to "unforeseen circumstances." Trying to glaze over an awkward moment, the show quickly goes to the clip of John's rapid-fire search for another partner. John narrows it down to fun-loving Mario with "a lovely tenor" and great control, versus Meleana, whose amazing voice was balanced by her slower speed of learning.

Perhaps because she was forced to audition, learn a song and perform it on Duets within 48 hours, Meleana already seems to have an impressive quality to her. She's also in a sparkly flowing gown, as if her late entrance deserves fancier attire. Plus, she sings the matchless classic with dignity and talent. Robin is so moved he compares her performance to the perfect sandwich in random metaphor, but Kelly warns Meleana to not lose sight of the soul when she sings with such technical precision. All the factors seem to come together for Meleana, because she's now #1! The crowd seems to support this swift rise for the newcomer.

Kelly's Second Duet: "Whenever You Call" with Jason Farol
Like Kelly's other partner Jordan, Jason has confidence issues. But Kelly believes he has so much potential and an amazing voice, so she tries to pull out all the stops to quickly shape the shy singer into the star she sees. On the Duets stage, Jason still seems too timid, especially next to Kelly's booming voice. But then he turns towards the crowd and seems to gain a boost of courage.

John and Robin both agree that Jason needs to step away from Kelly's leadership on the stage and take more ownership as an equal partner (and John tops Robin's sandwich comparison with the weirdest metaphor of the night when he calls Jason's dependence an "umbilical cord.") Jennifer mentions the tightness in Jason's chest area, making his Superstar feedback the oddest of the night. Unsurprisingly, Jason is put at #5, above only Olivia (the failed memorizer).

Jennifer's Second Duet: "You're the One that I Want" with J Rome
Having the best record between her two partners after the first week, Jennifer feels confident in picking an unconventional song for her and J Rome: a Grease single. While J Rome feels a little uneasy about the choice, he trusts his mentor wholeheartedly, and the song ends up being thoroughly entertaining (but why do they get background dancers?) J Rome caps off the performance by humbly saying he doesn't view the show like a competition with the other amateurs, but a competition with himself to be better.

Kelly was surprised but J Rome's Bruno Mars-esque ability to make the Grease number cool, but she and John agree the song wasn't challenging enough for the polished and talented singer. Robin just gives J Rome's pelvic thrusting (something he specializes in) a solid 10. At the end, J Rome is placed at #1 in a tie with Meleana - his second week at #1 (he's clearly the one to beat).

Robin's Second Duet: "You're All I Need to Get By" with Alexis Foster
This week Robin wants to push Alexis to work on her stage charisma and bring the physical aspect to stage performance. Despite this clear goal, I still felt Alexis' movements were stiff and, maybe it's just me, but something about her stage presence still feels a bit unnatural. (By Kelly's facial expression, she doesn't seem to be digging the performance either.)

Jennifer gives Alexis props for giving a "great" (there it is again) presentation and doing the song justice, but the other two Superstars have more critical things to offer. John gives Alexis a lesson on holding the mic and Kelly calls the performance "really disconnected" and that it didn't feel like a duet to her. As the last song of the night, Alexis is placed at #6, which feels about right.

Here's the final chart for the night:
1. Meleana Brown (John)
1. J Rome (Jennifer)
3. Bridget Carrington (John)
4. John Glosson (Jennifer)
5. Jordan Meredith (Kelly)
6. Alexis Foster (Robin)
7. Jason Farol (Kelly)
8. Olivia Chisholm (Robin)

Maybe it was the classical duets, which have the potential to feel a bit dated on a new show that's trying to be fresh, or Quddus' heightened awkwardness as a host this week, but somehow this episode felt less exciting than the premiere. Still, the Superstars try to push their happy-good-times attitude when they spout their positive platitudes and dance to the upbeat closing music as the credits roll. Will America feel the same way about this rookie singing show? What did you all think?

(Image courtesy of ABC)

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