Hello, b-rollers! Welcome to week 17 of the battle rounds, or as Carson Daly calls it, “the most exciting phase of The Voice!” Don’t we still have one more phase after this? Apparently the live shows will be a letdown. Also, good news, folks: for those of you who are just dying for a peek at another of the eight Snow White movies this year, The Voice will premiere the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer later in the show. This is helpfully reinforced with a graphic superimposed over two-thirds of the screen at several points during the show, which is not-at-all distracting. Let’s begin!
First up is Adam’s team, and we will finally, finally get to watch our suspendered-friend Pip, who will be singing Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” against a Bieber-bowl-cutted young man named Nathan, and I think I speak for everyone when I say (aloud), “Who the hell is Nathan?” Turns out, Nathan (Parrett) – who, incidentally, dresses like he’s co-starring with Pip in Our Town – is a former competitive swimmer who was disowned by his father after coming out of the closet, and I can’t BELIEVE the producers held that story back until now.
Anywho, our mysterious little Nathan gets some coaching from Alanis Morissette, who utters a phrase that should be tattooed onto the wrists of budding vocalists everywhere: “I think restraint is so exciting.” PREACH, Alanis. Meanwhile, Robin Thicke coaches Pip on stage presence while Adam just says “Pip” repeatedly (I think that he, too, is shocked that someone would voluntarily choose a name that sounds like an animated rodent in a Disney film). When they actually get to the singing ring thing, “swim champion turned rocker” (nice, Carson) Nathan starts a little shaky, while Pip sounds fairly good, and displays a more confident stage presence. Nathan gets more comfortable and shows a big voice, but Pip is solid and soulful the whole way through, and Adam chooses him to move forward. Bye, Nathan. We really, honest-to-God hardly knew ye.
Next up is Cee Lo’s team, and I must ask: Any other Friends fans in the audience? Remember that huge, tacky dog statue that Chandler and Joey owned? Cee Lo bought it or a damn good replica, and has placed it next to his coaching chair as if it were a real, live animal. So that happened. Cee Lo pairs Erin Martin (bouffant girl, remember?) with The Shields Brothers, the Virginia farm boys, to the tune of “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” It’s an odd match: Erin’s got a quiet, whispery voice (which nicely masks the fact that she can barely sing), and the Shields boys are loud rocker-types.
The mentoring sessions foretell a trainwreck: Babyface says the first run-through with the Shields boys was “challenging” and made him think of Wayne’s World, and Ne-Yo tells Erin, “I see you. You’re cute. What else you got?” The mentors are SLAYING it tonight, people. (Also, did anyone notice that Erin’s hair seemed to get larger in each b-roll interview? She’s going to have a Marge Simpson beehive in no time.)
In the ring, Carson introduces Erin as “trying to prove she’s not just another pretty face,” an ironic description since she’s wearing a playboy bunny outfit with some sort of football shoulder pad accessory. The battle begins, and confirms that Erin cannot, in fact, sing very well; her voice is distinctive but so thin, and she can’t hit any big notes (and tries to hide it by squealing in a rocker-chick kinda way instead, which is decidedly unsuccessful). The boys are better, harmonizing well (for the most part) and generally kicking her ass, but I think Adam Levine sums it up best when he says, repeatedly, “That was so weird!” Cee Lo describes the performance in a manner that is far too complimentary, then rationalizes picking the beautiful girl who can’t sing because he thinks he can “work with her voice.” And if he can find a song with only five or six notes in it, sure, they should be golden. So we shall see Erin again, folks. Brace yourselves.
At the ad break, we get a commercial for Fashion Star, which reminds me: This show is deeply boring. I checked it out as a possible substitute for Project Runway, but it was a fail. Just FYI, if you’re on the fence.
Our next pairing will come from Christina’s team: Ashley De La Rosa versus Jonathas, and they’ll sing the Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown duet “No Air.” (An actual duet – how refreshing!) Ashley is nervous and very rough, which makes Jonathas rather confident. In coaching Jonathas, Christina duets with him to give him a “female energy,” and Jonathas flirts with her in a way that is wildly uncomfortable given that we got a recap of his “doing this for my family” audition footage.
Ashley and Jonathas march in to practice in the death arena for an underwhelming rehearsal, and then we finally get to their performance. In the ring, Ashley looks calm and confident, which surprises me given her rehearsal footage; Jonathas is his steady, Usher-ish self. The harmonies are not superb and Ashley’s pitch is inconsistent, but she takes some chances, and Christina rewards her by sending her through in an upset. It’s “PYT” night on The Voice, apparently.
For our next crazy commercial, I bring you the new show Off Their Rockers, which is a Betty White-hosted candid camera show about old people punking youngins. This should really pull in the sexy demos. Remind me how NBC is doing again, ratings-wise?
Blake’s turn! We really need a good battle out of you, Blake. Turn this thing around. He pairs Jermaine Paul (ooh, auspicious!) with ALyX, a rocker who I’ve only seen mentioned in passing and remember because of her poor spelling and grammar choices. They will be singing “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” which is an off-beat choice that I kinda like.
In the rehearsal footage, ALyX has some real issues with the song, and she’s clearly a little unhinged (well, duh). Kelly Clarkson and Blake urge Jermaine to play to his strengths since they don’t know what ALyX will do onstage, and Blake even calls her a “loose cannon,” which makes it sound like she’ll be taking the battle analogy a little further than expected. Clearly, she’s crazy in the wrong way for this.
After Jermaine gets the episode’s obligatory “good luck” call via Kia, the battle begins. ALyX is wearing a gauzy poncho that might indeed be hiding a grenade launcher, so I wait for the performance to get REALLY interesting, but all that happens is that Jermaine, predictably, kills it; ALyX has a strong tone, but no vibrato with which to finish notes, and Jermaine is an absolute natural. Blake looks really pleased with himself, as he should; this is the first decent battle he’s had. At the end of the performance, ALyX screams, “Sometimes, you’ve just got to say – what the hell!” Is that a lyric, or just her life motto? Because I don’t know what she’s getting at here. But while I wait for Blake to board the pretty girl train and choose ALyX just to make my head explode, he does the logical thing and picks Jermaine. He also calls the performance “fierce,” and for those keeping score at home, Blake Shelton’s “fierce” < Christian Siriano’s “fierce.” aDIoS, ALyX.
Adam is next, and he pits Angel Taylor (sang Adele at the audition, had an abusive dad) with Katrina Parker (sidelined from singing for a while because of illness, wants to please her parents) to Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.” Throughout rehearsal, Angel does a strange bob-and-weave while she sings (we’ll get back to this) and displays pitch issues, while Katrina sounds far better than during her audition (which I thought was good but not spectacular).
In the arena, Katrina done a lovely job with the opening, and doesn’t look at all nervous (I was watching intently, since her main question to Alanis Morissette was, “How do I shake off nerves in the opening of the song?”) Angel’s awkward stage presence is distracting to watch, very hunched and choppy, and she’s again plagued by pitch issues. I’m surprised again by how good Katrina is; Christina even compares her to Adele, and while it’s a little overblown (even Katrina has a “shut up, no way” expression when she says it), it shows how thoroughly Katrina dominated the match. Adams hems and haws like the performance was more evenly matched than it was, and picks…Katrina.
Moving on to our final battle of the night: Gwen Sebastian versus Erin Willett, who have been assigned “We Belong” by Blake. I will only briefly mention what has been teased all night: Erin tearfully tells her mentor, Blake, that her father is dying, but she is staying to compete because that’s what he wants. The scene is very powerful, but please allow me to also say this: That the Voice producers would hold a girl whose father was dying to a “perform in the battle round or get kicked off the show” ultimatum for an episode that wasn’t airing live anyway is as unseemly as the fact that they promoted the situation about 18 times throughout the episode.
It provides a tough draw for Gwen, meanwhile, who is cute and sweet and talented and doesn’t stand a chance in hell after that exchange. In the battle ring, Gwen sings with a country twang (and is wearing a jacket that is overly sequined, like her bedazzling gun got away from her). The harmonies are good, and Erin gives a nice, restrained performance, though she doesn’t do anything surprising; Gwen, meanwhile, tries hard to, though her pitch wobbles on a few of the bigger notes. They share an emotional hug as the song concludes, and when Blake inevitably chooses Erin, Gwen is incredibly classy about it, saying that she couldn’t have lost to a better person.
So, we’re left with just one more battle round episode! Soon, we get to move on to the less-interesting Phase 3, people. And just as a teaser, we see footage of Cee Lo crying, meaning that next week, something really good or really bad happens. Oh my God, is the cat okay????
Until next week.