ABC’s ‘Duets’ review: J Rome and Jennifer Nettles strong; show sputters

Was it worth it?

We are currently racking our brains to come up with something nice to say about the newest entry in the complicated genre of singing competitions — “Duets.” It was understandable that ABC wanted to get involved in this business, and we are personal fans of every single one of the “superstar duet partners” on this show. Heck, even Quddus is a pretty good host.

The unfortunate thing is that nobody can save this hot mess of a show — from the terrible scoring system to the cheesy “let’s duet” lines and a slow pace, this may be the most tiring singing competition to date. It certainly doesn’t need to be two hours long, that’s for sure.

We’re going to do our best to talk about some of the performers over the course of the night — but we have to admit that after watching the absolutely wonderful “So You Think You Can Dance” premiere on Fox, this was not even in the same league in terms of entertainment. We’ll even try to rank them in the same sort of illogical order that they were put in by the stars. (The format is that the three people not singing all score them on some sort of magic tablet — and based on the scores, everyone seems to hate Kelly.)

1. J Rome (Jennifer Nettles) – The first performance of the night was set to “Tonight,” and it was pretty strong when it goes to hitting big notes. The one thing we will give this show so far is that it does seem to have done a good job finding artists who can genuinely sing. Now, we just have to figure out if they can do more than standard arrangements of popular tracks.

2. Johnny Gray (John Legend) – The problem with a show like “Duets” is that you have to figure out the right song to perform for two people — and when it comes to these two guys, “Ordinary People” seemed like a bit of an unusual choice, but we love the vulnerability here. We also love the John actually convinced Johnny to tone down some of the vocal theatrics.

3. Alexis Foster (Robin Thicke) – Wait … she scored this high? We don’t really get it, mostly because she just seemed to be out of her element while some people ranked below her did better — even if she did have a good song in “Magic.”

4. John Glosson (Jennifer) – This was probably our best performance of the entire night — mostly because we’re pretty sure that John is secretly the older brother of the eliminated-too-soon Sam Buttery on “The Voice” UK. It was just pure gospel fun.

5. Olivia Chisholm (Robin) – “Lost Without You,” unlike “Ordinary People,” is a perfect choice for a duet. This was some serious soul music here, and these two had some pretty hot chemistry. We don’t know if these two are going to give each other longing looks all season, but it sure could help them.

6. Bridget Carrington (John) – Bridget performed a song in “Tonight” that had a good bit of vocal charm to it, mostly because it was subdued. We like this quality to it along with some of the subtle romance — for these artists, though, this somehow resulted in a lower ranking.

7. Jordin Meredith (Kelly) – Here comes some irony — if the public was voting here, they would have picked this song to be #1. Everyone loves “Stronger,” and this was more fun than anything on the entire show. Are these other artists trying to bury Kelly to give themselves a better shot?

8. Jason Farol (Kelly) – Kelly chose a rather obscure song of hers here in “Breaking Your Own Heart,” and it was good, but not necessarily amazing. With that being said, though, it wasn’t worthy of last place. Let the conspiracy theories begin!

We’ve been pretty hard on “Duets” here as a whole, but there is still hope that this series could somehow still rise from the ashed and be saved. The talent is there on the hosting and mentoring side, but as a program there are three enormous issues keeping it weighed down and to be frank boring:

1. We don’t know anything about these contestants, so we really don’t care about them — and they already have a disadvantage in that it’s harder to relate to two people singing than it is to one.

2. “American Idol” can justify a two-hour show. They have the content for it. This felt stretched to the last thread. Make it an hour and a half at the most.

3. The format really doesn’t make any sense, and to be honest it’s hard to really understand at the moment. Artists should be responsible for eliminating other artists, and the best way to change that is by either going to America’s vote or having some outside panel on the show judge that way.

Did you like the premiere, and is this something you would watch again?

Photo: ABC

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