THE VOICE Recap: Way More Drama

Welcome to week two of the battle rounds, everyone! Taking my lead from Cee Lo, I am dressed for the occasion in my pajamas. In my defense, though, I’m not wearing them while publicly mentoring people in the presence of Babyface. It’s an important distinction.

Before we dive into the battles, we get a quick recap of last week, in which the Anthony/Jesse showdown is heavily featured; shockingly, the RaeLynn/Adley duet, not so much. Then we see some of the other contestants preview tonight’s battles, including Charlotte Sometimes (still figuring that’s a stage name, yes?) saying of her unnamed sparring partner, “I wanna DESTROY her!” That’s the spirit.

For our first matchup, we head to Christina’s brothel living room. Stevie Wonder-ish Geoff McBride will take on Mary J. Blige-ish Sera Hill to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” which Sera humbly notes will “showcase all my elements.” (Carbon? Potassium?) Meanwhile, 51-year-old Geoff is happy to take on a song he grew up with, and I’m glad for the reference; many youngins will know this as a song that contestants routinely butcher on Idol (Fantasia’s epic version notwithstanding), and frankly, nothing irks me more than to see a teenager blithely attribute “Feelin’ Good” to Michael Buble or “To Make You Feel My Love” to Adele. It’s nice to celebrate a song in the proper context.

In practice, it becomes clear that Sera is more nuanced, while Geoff is powerful but in an airhorn kind of way – he has one volume, and it would trigger avalanches. When they take to Carson’s death ring, he brings more soul and seems to have unstuck the volume knob; the duet is actually quite great, and I frankly wish that Christina could keep them both and force them to form a superduo. The goodwill’s over by the song’s conclusion, though, and Geoff and Sera do Aretha proud by vocally running the hell all over each other. After a long commercial break, and an even longer rationalization process, Christina selects Sera to move on. Geoff thanks Christina for giving him the opportunity to have his mother and brother in the crowd to hear him sing for the first time in his 51 years; dagger, meet Christina’s (barely covered) heart.

Blake’s turn! Please God, let this be better than RaeLynn vs. Adley. He selects Charlotte Sometimes and Lex Land in a battle of the oddly named and overly praised (they were both wildly popular in the blind auditions, which still befuddles me), and informs them that they will be singing “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. Cool choice! Charlotte reveals that she’s from Jersey, in that odd way that all Jersey people seem to have, like they’re inordinately proud of being from the same place as Bon Jovi and The Situation (sorry if that’s harsh, just a friendly observation). Anyway. Neither girl sounds particularly awesome – Charlotte’s voice seems to have that manufactured jazzy quality, like she’s trying to be Adele but not quite succeeding; and Lex is clearly overwhelmed by stage fright to an incapacitating degree – and the more we see of them, the more it confirms for me that Blake may not have the best ear for this (Christina is whipping him and how.)

After we get the full footage of Charlotte vowing to destroy her opponent – which, after an extended mentoring package featuring Blake and Miranda Lambert trying to give a shaky Lex confidence, comes across like Charlotte is drop-kicking a kitten – the battle finally begins. And maybe I’m just not understanding the mystique of these ladies, but I give up. Charlotte is jazzily slurring her lyrics so that I can’t understand a damn thing that she’s saying (but she’s on-key, so that’s nice), and Lex veers from her breathy lower register to an off-key high note (Lex, honey, we talked about this). To me, the most entertainment value comes from the fact that they clearly, actively dislike each other; at the end of the performance, Carson puts an arm around each of them and it’s as close as they come to the standard sportsmanship hug that concludes most battles. Blake picks Charlotte, who I was actively rooting against, and Lex wanders wordlessly offstage, introverted to the end.

Next up is Cee Lo’s team, and Purrfect the Cat will be taking on Christina’s shiny plate hat in an epic death match. (The hat is studded, that might actually be a fair fight.)  Kidding, rocker Juliet Simms will take on folksy Sarah Golden to Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me,” a song that I hopelessly adore. (I also wouldn’t know a Ne-Yo song if I accidentally wandered into his concert. I’m not exactly of my time, music-wise.)

Anyway, the Rod Stewart-ness of the song suits Juliet perfectly; she’s got a raspy growl compared to Sarah’s “country yodel” (her words, not mine), and while Sarah’s making the song her own in that twangy kinda way, she’s just not built to hit the big notes. And it’s a shame, frankly; although it may just be a matter of taste (country flavor or original), it seemed like Sarah never had a fighting chance. In the end, Cee Lo chooses Juliet to advance, though Blake shockingly admits that he liked Sarah’s rendition better. (Get out!) Meanwhile, I must mention Juliet’s styling, as, to quote the wise and powerful Tim Gunn, “I question her taste level.” She’s wearing a kinda-jumpsuit that end in hotpants – they look like pleather granny panties more than anything – and a sequined headband thing that encompasses most of her head. Juliet, there’s “rock ‘n roll” and then there’s “utterly ludicrous.” Tone it down a bit before we get to the live shows, okay?

Our next battle will be a battle between Whitney Myer and Kim Yarbrough, two ladies assigned by their coach Adam to sing Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama.” Clearly, Adam is gunning for his own Divas Live moment. Whitney is mentored by Alanis Morisette – who is wearing a sparkly blazer that I quite like, by the way, in case anyone is interested in sending presents – and Kim, in my hands down favorite moment of the night, sees that her mentor will be Robin Thicke and freaks out, shouting “THICKIE, THICKIE, THICKIE!!!” (In her confessional, not in person; she’s not a psychopath.) Robin Thicke encourages Kim to sing like Mary J., as if she’s “singing on the edge of a cliff and might fall off at any time,” and for the record, I would watch that reality singing competition in a freaking heartbeat. Amazing idea, Thickie.

Whitney begins the battle with questionable stage presence, looking like she’s presenting a business plan more than a classic R&B song, but she warms up quite a bit, showing a lot of funk. But Kim/Chaka is effortless, and makes Whitney look like she’s working twice as hard. The duet portions are gorgeous; the “no…more…DRAMA” phrases are really powerful and well harmonized. After the judges’ deliberation, Adam (inevitably) picks Kim, but it was a much closer battle than I would’ve thought; frankly, my early prediction would have been Kim vs. Cannon Fodder, but Whitney brought it.

During the commercial break, my roommate and I have an extended discussion about what we would do if we were one of the Voice contestants, and walked in to be mentored and didn’t know who the hell the mentor was. Just as an example, before this show I couldn’t choose Miranda Lambert out of a police lineup, and it’s still pick ’em whether I could now. We both agree that we might talk to Robin Thicke about Growing Pains more than his own music career. Would that be weird?

Our next pairing is Lee Koch and Lindsey Pavao, and Christina assigns them “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana. The rehearsals do not foretell greatness; when Lee sings before Jewel, she kinda grimaces, then advises that he pronounce the words more and learn the structure of the song (other than that, though, totally great performance).

The battle performance is much better, though; Lee opens appropriately creepily and Lindsey sounds stronger than I thought she did in her original audition. They both do a perfectly nice job, but it’s not really a song you can do a whole heck of a lot with, as evidenced by Cee Lo attempting to groove along and failing mightily. In judging the performance, Adam calls it “creepy” and Christina chimes in with what a perfect description that is (I typed it first, I swear on Cee Lo’s cat), and Blake mentions that he’d never heard the song before, causing Adam and Cee Lo to momentarily lose consciousness. Christina chooses Lindsey, even though she praised Lee more, and above all, I learn how unfair it is to pair together two contestants whose first names start with the same letter, because you know poor Lee’s heart stopped when Christina said, “it’s gotta be Luh…”

Moving on to our last battle of the night! The previews make it look epic, as we see a contestant sob uncontrollably. As will I if I don’t get to go to bed soon. Just FYI.

The final battle of the night will be between Jamar Rogers and Jamie Lono, who have used their twelve seconds in LA to become BFF, and have been assigned Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Cee Lo, just one week after he have another group a Bonnie Tyler song. Well played, my pajamed friend. Jamie is sporting bright red glasses that are distractingly large and, more importantly, is an awful fit for this song; his voice is folky, and not nearly powerful enough to hit the notes he needs to. Exhibit A: During rehearsal footage, I look down at my laptop to make notes and think “Wow, Jamie got really good all of a sudden!” before I realize that it’s Cee Lo singing the other part to help Jamie practice. It’s such a wreck that poor Jamie gets the one-on-one therapy time with Cee Lo and Babyface, and I’m stunned to report that Babyface isn’t casually sipping a Starbucks beverage.

In the ring, as predicted, Jamar blows Jamie right out of the water, though their harmonies are quite lovely. But try as he might to make the song his own, Jamie comes off as Jamar’s backup singer; it’s a stark difference, since Jamie wanders aimlessly around the stage while Jamar completely owns it. The song ends with a lovely hug between the two buddies though, which is rather adorable. Blake says that he’s never seen anything like Jamie before, so apparently in addition to no Nirvana songs, there are also no hipsters in Oklahoma. (What other states’ populations can I tick off today? Anyone?) Cee Lo acts like it’s a toss-up, but honestly, duh. Jamar moves on.

Before we leave, we get a recap of who’s moved on so far, presented in American Gladiators-style grids. Adam is sending Chaka Khan 2.0 Kim Yarbrough and Mouseketeer Tony Lucca; Blake has advanced Jersey girl Charlotte Sometimes, pitch-issue-laden RaeLynn and bundle of nerves Jordis Unga (ye gods, Blake); Christina has chosen funky Sera Hill, wispy Lindsey Pavao, opera hunk (I said it) Chris Mann and battle royale victor Jesse Campbell; and Cee Lo has picked rocker Juliet Simms, why-God teen Cheesa, and Jamar Rogers.

Next week, we apparently get to see our old friend Pip in mortal vocal combat! Oh, how I’ve waited. Until then, b-rollers.

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