duets judges kelly clarkson jennifer nettles robin thicke john legend 'Duets' premiere: Kelly Clarkson's duets scored low   what did you think?“Duets” kicks off Thursday night (May 24) on ABC, so let’s dish about the new singing competition show, shall we? We also have to get this out of the way right at the top – Robin Thicke really weird us out, because he’s like Bizarro Jason Seaver. He sounds so much like his dad, but then looks slightly off. It always throws us for a loop.

Tonight’s theme is the Superstars’ Biggest Hits, which they will perform with their eight mentees, which have already been selected. Before we get to any singing, the show has a montage for each star finding his or her contestants, leading into some performances

1. Jennifer Nettles and J Rome, “Tonight”

J Rome has a very smooth R&B voice, which is lovely, but we aren’t sure it meshes with Nettles’ country voice overly well. They aren’t bad or anything, but it just doesn’t blend as much as it should, maybe. There are also some harmonies on the bridge we don’t love – did those big notes sound off to anybody else? It was just a weird arrangement for us.

John Legend is next and it’s really, really nice to hear him complain about someone’s riffs and runs – we were just thinking there is too much of that in today’s music. It can be beautiful, but let’s not get carried away. If you have a pure, beautiful tone, you don’t need to do that.

2. John Legend and Johnny Gray, “Ordinary People”

Beautiful song and each man’s solo section is nice, but they need to sing together sooner. It’s like – is this a duet or just a back-and-forth? When they finally do, it’s … hmm. It’s more like two people just singing at the same time than an actual duet done in tandem. A duet should meld the singers, have them working together. Not just seem like a crooner singing with his piano backup.

3. Robin Thicke and Olivia Chisholm, “Lost Without You”

They sound great together – from the opening line when she walks out, this duet is totally engrossing. They really know how to actually “duet” together, too. This is much more of a tandem song than either of the first two. In fact, this is so intimate it almost feels like we shouldn’t be watching. Heh. They should jump to the top of the leaderboard (which we don’t quite understand yet).

The host (who we still don’t know at all) also mentions how he felt like he was interrupting something, while John Legend says they can get into it a little more. Um, what? If they got into it any more, they would’ve been having sex on stage. Meanwhile, Legend needs to take his own advice with his duet partner.

Inexplicably, the judges put Olivia/Robin in third place. Um, what? That was the first REAL duet of the night. Crazypants. We wish they would explain that stupid thing – what are they judging on? What is the scale? Ridiculous.

4. Kelly Clarkson and Jason Farol, “Breaking Your Own Heart”

This is another one where they get right to the harmonies, which is nice. They sound great together – really terrific blend. We kind of wish they were singing her Jason Aldean duet – maybe they couldn’t get the rights. Anyway, the harmonies on this one aren’t anything tricky, they’re singing in a lot of thirds. But it sounds nice – the very last note was a little weird.

The host finally says the judges score them on a scale of 1-100 – did he say that earlier and we just missed it? Anyway, that seems like a humongous range. We wish they had to show their scores, at least to the audience at home. We understand not showing them to the other judges because we don’t need to turn this into an all-about-the-judges competition like some other singing shows (we’re looking at you “Voice” and “X Factor” – “Idol” doesn’t do that, they just have completely worthless judges at this point). But it would be nice if the viewers got to see the scores.

We’re also kind of mystified at this point that the first two are leading and the second two are below. We would’ve ranked them 3, 4, 1, 2 (those numbers are performance order, the ones we used above).

5. John Legend and Bridget Carrington, “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)”

We like Bridget’s voice, at least from the video package. We wish he’d get out from behind the piano – that really makes it awkward for your duet partner, no one to interact with. And also, once again, his duet is back-and-forth, not singing together. That really bugs. It definitely gets better when he gets up from the ivories. This one is better than his first duet, quite a bit better, but we still aren’t overly impressed by Legend as a mentor/partner.

6. Jennifer Nettles and John Glosson, “Stay”

We’re so glad she picked a hometown boy and his “How Great Thou Art” brought tears to our eyes too. We’re not overly religious, but that song always kinda gets us. Have you seen Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill’s version from CMT’s “Girls’ Night Out”? Holy crap.

Anyway. This is a great duet – the verses are fine, but it’s back-and-forth. The real meat is the chorus. They sound fabulous together, very nice blend and nice emotion. They’re connecting but not in a borderline sex way, like Robin and John did with their ladies. The show just needs to get John looking a little less Otho from “Beetlejuice.”

Robin Thicke’s comment that he told his mom Jennifer Nettles was on the show and she said, “Now that’s a real singer” – that’s hilarious. But leaderboard-wise, there is NO WAY he is below those first two schlubs. It’s like the stars didn’t know how good it was going to get, so they overscored the first two singers.

7. Robin Thicke and Alexis Foster, “Magic”

Hmm. This is not exactly “gospel” and we also don’t see any connection between these two. She’s very awkward on stage and it’s like they don’t know how to interact with each other. Wow, this is the worst so far, right? They aren’t working together, it’s a lot of shouting, it’s awkward. Are we crazy? Not that good, right?

She lands THIRD on the leaderboard?!  Are you kidding?! OK, these judges may be able to sing, but they are high as judges.

8. Kelly Clarkson and Jordan Meredith, “Stronger”

This is a fun duet. There’s a little too much unison on the chorus, not that an obvious harmony is jumping out to us, but it’s not a duet if you both just rock the melody together. Heh. We love the last chorus when Kelly starts going above the melody line and their voices sound nice together, we’re excited to hear more from them.

The final leaderboard ends up going J Rome, Johnny Gray, Alexis Foster, John Glosson, Olivia Chisholm, Bridget Carrington, Jordan Meredith and Jason Farol. Wow, Kelly Clarkson’s duets are the bottom two.

We would’ve ranked them: John Glosson, Olivia Chisholm, Jason Farol, Jordan Meredith, Bridget Carrington, J Rome, Johnny Gray and Alexis Foster.

Overall, we’re on board with this show because it was certainly fun to watch. But we wish the judges’ scoring system had been explained a little better – what are they judging on? Are they judging on just the contestants’ voices? Or are they actually judging the “duet”? Because that would explain a lot, if they are only judging the former. Also, we think they should have to show us viewers at home the scores. Furthermore, we really do suspect the stars did not anticipate how good everyone was going to be and scored the first two too high.

What do you think of “Duets” so far?

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."