John Legend and Kelly Clarkson's controversial Christmas duet leaves some 'Voice' viewers cold

Lyndsey ParkerEditor-in-Chief, Music

Tuesday’s top 10 The Voice results show stirred up a lot of outrage in the Twitterverse, but not for the usual elimination-night reasons. It wasn’t particularly shocking who was in the bottom three, or which two contestants eventually went home. No one sat out the show in a bathrobe. Adam Levine wasn’t around to throw anyone under the bus

Nope, the reason for all the online commotion was the TV debut of coaches Kelly Clarkson and John Legend’s #MeToo-era makeover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a classic holiday duet that in recent years has been scrutinized and criticized for having date-rapey overtones. In this woke 2019 version, John’s character is hardly barricading the exit door or plying the innocent, feebly protesting Kelly with secretly spiked cider. Instead, John respects Kelly’s agency, grasps the concept of consent, and books her an Uber as he uncomplainingly sends her on her way.

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I’ve always thought it was pretty obvious John and Kelly’s remake was meant to be cheeky. Even if the problematic, archaic original probably did need some updating, this version always seemed like a clever parody to me, almost like an SNL skit, delivered with a nudge and a wink. I mean, a dual line like “My daddy will be pacing the floor/Wait, what are you still livin' home for?” is funny enough to make me spit out my egg nog from laughter. But some Scroogey, Grinchy, lump-of-coal-hearted viewers didn’t seem in on the joke.

“Really sorry you and John have bent to political correctness,” one fan tweeted Kelly. "That was the most horrendous retooling of a song I've ever heard,” another viewer posted. Another tweeter griped that the song “shouldn't be messed with." Still, other viewers called the performance “brave and awesome” and said it made them “smile from beginning to end.”

As of this writing, the queen of Twitter, Chrissy Teigen, hasn’t chimed in — but she already told the haters to “get over it” last month, so there’s that.

I personally enjoyed seeing these two world-class vocalists join festive forces, and at least it was better than that time when American Idol’s apparently very self-unaware Fantasia Barrino did this duet with disgraced original Voice coach Cee Lo Green. Um, hearing Fantasia ask Cee Lo, “Say, what’s in this drink?” Yikes.

Well, America may have been divided when it came to John and Kelly’s Christmas cover, but Voice viewers pretty much seemed on the same page when it came to sending home Team Kelly’s Shane Q and Team Gwen’s Joana Martinez, both of whom had been in the bottom two or three before.

During the Instant Save sing-off, Shane’s wheezy “Killing Me Softly” was plagued by pitch issues, a vague sense of desperation, and — most annoyingly — a pronoun switch to “Killing Me Softly With Her Song.” (Yes, I am aware that male artists like Perry Como, Andy Williams, and Johnny Mathis all recorded this ballad with the “Her,” around the same time that Roberta Flack did the “His” version, so this isn’t another example of controversially changed lyrics. But Roberta, who had a No. 1 with it, set the gold standard. That’s something that shouldn’t be messed with.)

Joana’s cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” was a cool and interesting choice — frankly, I would have liked to see Joana go in this indie direction all season, especially since she was coached by alt-rock icon Gwen Stefani. But she had many rough patches too. The song started off in what seemed like way too high a key for her, and she struggled and strained to keep up throughout.

So, that left Marybeth winning the Instant Save, with 49 percent of the vote, almost by default. But she really did earn her victory. Her version of Leona Lewis/Calum Scott’s “You Are the Reason” — the best and most appropriate song pick among the bottom three contestants — was lovely and tender, and it was emotional without ever being desperate or histrionic.

I will say it’s ridiculous that five contestants have already gone home in just the first three weeks of Live Playoffs — and with the finale only two weeks away, four more contestants will go home all at once next Tusday. Baby, that’s cold.

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