Two weeks ago the second season of CMT’s talent show Can You Duet (CYD) began, a scant 14 days that brought us to tonight’s third episode. Perhaps a short period of time for us, but for the ten singles remaining in the competition I’m sure it must have seemed like forever. Whether they came to audition as a solo or with a partner, it was now down to waiting for the judges to place them into permanent duos so they could make their mark in the field of country music.
As Lance Smith, CMT VJ and host of many specials, including this season of CYD, put it, “Singles Night, where the remaining top ten singers will turn into five duos, right before your very eyes.” He ran down the turn of events for us; we’d see why each new pair were put together and they would perform. By the end of the night, three of these partners would remain in the competition to return next week with O’Shea, Steel Magnolia, and The Stellas, they having won their rounds last Saturday night.
Our esteemed panel of judges are all in fine array as their clothes certainly seemed to suit their personas. Big Kenny (of Big & Rich) for example had on a cool jacket with a cut-up tee with the word ‘freak’ in large red letters. Ms. Naomi thought it made a statement as she even had BK (as he is otherwise known as) stand up and model it for us. Scott Borchetta, founder, president, and CEO of Big Machine Records (Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Jack Ingram) and its sister imprint label Valory Music Co. (Reba, Jewel, Emerson Drive) was every inch the breezy gentleman of business in a dark shirt and blazer. He makes it look so casual when in fact, as the label of name for contracting the winner of CYD, there's quite a bit riding on the end result of this season for his company. This is as good a time as any, I think, to remind us of what he is looking for while checking out these acts:
- Undeniable talent
- Undeniable desire
- A great vocal blend
- Star power
Lastly, but by no means least, Ms. Naomi Judd made quite the fashion statement as befitting her stature in the country music community. In a stunning electric/cobalt blue outfit and a sassy updo, it seemed to me that she also had an extra twinkle in her eye. I’m of the mind it’s because this was her night in a sense. Outside of Can You Duet, Ms. Naomi is a multi-talented tour de force. Her stint as one half of country music’s most famous mother/daughter duo, The Judds, singing with her daughter Wynonna, garnered her many accolades with 20 top ten hits (15 of them as #1) and numerous honors including five Grammy Awards.
As a songwriter, Ms. Judd won a Country Song of the Year Grammy for penning the pair’s hit single “Love Can Build A Bridge”. She is an activist for several causes and created the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund to raise awareness of the Hepatitis C virus which also helps with research funds for the American Liver Foundation. Her interests in personal growth and developmental education has led her to write several books on those matters like 2008's Naomi's Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers. She’s shared the silver screen with Andy Griffith and Gerald McRaney in A Holiday Romance and has also been seen in cameo appearances on various television shows. Her talk show Naomi’s New Morning ran on the Hallmark Channel for several seasons.
Now she’s back for her second turn as a CYD judge. As much as it could be her night on a show featuring other singers, this is it. Lance reminded everyone of the major role she played in last year’s judicial pairing of Caitlin Fisher and Will Snyder who took home the big prize as Caitlin & Will. I think the best way to sum it all would be to quote her from tonight’s show when she told one set of hopefuls, “Naomi’s my name, harmony’s my game, and I’m sorry, but that did not meet my standards.” She was here to knuckle down to business and get the job done.
On tonight’s show, as with last week’s, I’m sure it was pretty apparent to viewers which of the three permanent new duos should stay in the race.
Ryan (Larkins) & Avalon (Peacock) had been paired up during the call-backs and they both felt strongly about being kept together even though they had been warned it might not stay that way. Wisely, the judges let them be and their turn at the classic “Tennessee Waltz” was lovely and lilting. They made an ethereal coupling in looks and vocals which will give them a good hook for marketing purposes. Ms. Naomi said, “You came, you saw, you conquered.” BK thought they were fantastic and gathered that Mr. Borchetta would be making a lot of money off of an act from this show. As for the man himself, he asked, “Can I get a hallelujah?” and continued on by saying it was the sexiest version he’d ever heard and then just simply “touchdown.”
Jonathan Cox and Brandon Green, who shall now be known as JB Rocket, picked their name because of the shoes they both favor. I’m here to tell you it could have been because they took off like one from the opening notes of “Long Time Gone” and kept it going during their entire performance. It looked like they were having fun and they were fun to watch as well. Maybe the duo took everyone by surprise as only Scott had a clear comment. I mean, how can you top it when he said, “Dare I say you’re probably going through to the next round.” He even had to pull himself back by mentioning that we’ll have to wait and see. Right. Definitely a no-brainer on this one either.
The final couple of the night to sing were Matt Boggs and Keeira Lyn Ford a.k.a. Matt & Keeira. They did a rousing version of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” lots of high energy and worked towards relating well with the audience and towards one another. Scott thought that “we got it right” which Big Kenny agreed with. Ms. Naomi mentioned that they need to relax into it and I totally get what she's saying. They have the elements right there, which is very cool for their first performance together. As they continue to work together and get into the groove as a duet, they’ll have a good chance of being solid contenders.
All this meant that four singers would be packing it up and heading on out. Memarie Gayle and Kassie Miller, who were put together by the judges as well as Abby Fender and Holly Jackson had to go. A bit sad as I think these girls were quite good. But with only one shot to make that impression as a permanent duo, it was obvious that their chops couldn’t stand up in comparison with those remaining.
That’s the end of week three. We have our six final couples. I have to say that at this point, I have no clearcut view of who could win. There’s something about each one of them that appeals to me. While the pre-established duos have a slight edge from their experiences performing together I have the feeling that the three newbies are quick studies. At least, that’s what I’m gathering from what I saw tonight. Now we’re getting down to the real nitty-gritty of the competition and the gloves are off.
Next week, all of the partners will sing, after being mentored by Big Kenny. It’ll be a good time I think and entertaining as anything with BK in a larger role than judge would be. At this point in the show, only one couple will be asked to leave each week.
Until then, let me know what you think. Did you think the judges paired up the right couples? Was your favorite kept or let go? Talk to me. And I’ll see ya next week.