At long last, it’s the last week of battle rounds! Welcome, welcome, b-rollers.
Before we jump in, a quick note: I think we may have found The Voice‘s achilles heel. There are only three phases, all of them endless, and in two of them, we have to stare at Christina’s head-scratching (literally) fashion choices for weeks on end. That hat plate was delightfully eccentric in week one, and now I’m ready to heave it like a discus out of my field of sight. Anyone else? Even Carson Daly’s voiceover sounds utterly delighted about moving on to the live shows next week.
Our first battle tonight will feature Cee Lo’s team: Boston mechanic James Massone will take on Wade (this “no last name” trend must be stopped, particularly for those with names as common as “Wade”) to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” Because who loves the ’80s? CEE LO LOVES THE ’80s.
Two things stick out in rehearsal footage: Neither of these guys are terribly comfortable with this song, which does not a memorable performance make; and James is wearing a headband. In mentoring session, James gets Ne-Yo, and he “doesn’t want to make a fool out of myself in front of Ne-Yo” (still wearing the headband, so too late). Wade gets Babyface, and shows a lot of improvement, bringing an unexpected gospel-y tone to the song. In their final rehearsal together, both are so nervous that they’re vibrating like hummingbirds, but their duet is good enough to make Cee Lo cry. “Wow!” you might say, but it’s not that overwhelming; Cee Lo’s bar for weeping is pretty low tonight. More on that later.
For their performance, James marches into the arena wearing that letterman’s jacket – again – but it has his initials on it, and silvery arms so shiny that I wonder if they were the product of a tin foil challenge on Project Runway. I am pleased to report that, in the duet itself, James has finally learned the words to “True Colors”; I am less pleased to report that it still sounds like he is singing directly through his nose and into the microphone. I’m hoping Wade will be better – he showed promise with Babyface! – but his pitch takes a nosedive. On the upside, he’s improved his stage presence since his audition, in which he stood in one spot, petrified. The moral of the story: This is a battle in which the term “winner” will be used loosely, and it’s certainly not worthy of a good cry. And yet Cee Lo nearly starts again – while explaining that he kinda stacked the deck because he wanted Wade to win, but James (barely) outsang him – until Carson abruptly cuts him off. It’s fantastic. James moves on, which is not.
Next up is Adam’s team, and he pits piano country girl Nicolle Galyon against the nursing student whose parents wish she was still in college, Mathai. They will sing “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, which he picks specifically to showcase Nicolle’s piano chops and Mathai’s jazzy flair. In mentoring, Robin Thicke screams “I want to take you to prom!” while Nicolle is mid-phrase (credit to her for singing through the madness), then compliments her by saying her voice is “morning coffee on the veranda.” (Note to producers: Thickie might need his own show.) Meanwhile, Mathai is still trying to twist the notes in a Duffy-type way, and Alanis Morissette encourages her to lengthen her notes. At the final rehearsal, Adam decides to ixnay the piano because he doesn’t want Nicolle worrying about it, when in reality, taking her binkie away is more likely to shake her confidence than boost it.
On to the performance! And it’s another rough one. Nicolle is battling some hellacious nerves, and though she opens sounding respectively Bareilles-like, she starts to fall apart. Mathai struts around the stage doing her Adele-wannabe thing, but I’ll be honest: She’s not nearly as good as she thinks she is. The judges love her, though, and put Nicolle through the ringer, calling her “generic” and saying the choice is a “no brainer,” but the spectacle turns to farce when Cee Lo compares Mathai to Christina (who politely says “Thank you!” rather than turning into a fire-breathing dragon, which would have been justified). Adam ends the madness by acknowledging that the whole thing kind of stunk, but he sends Mathai through. Her parents hug her enthusiastically, with nary a word about med school.
And now, we segue to Christina’s final group battle: MC Moses Stone (I still don’t know what the hell that means, but he’s basically a rap/singer hybrid) against country duo The Line. They look surprised to be paired, but since they’re the last two left in Christina’s jungle fever living room, it can’t be a shock. They will sing “Satisfaction,” which is a choice that perfectly suits neither of them; in one of my favorite moments of the night, The Line wish aloud they had gotten a country song, rather than one of the all-time greatest songs in the history of human civilization, and I officially join Team Moses.
In mentoring, Lionel Ritchie tells Moses that he has a wonderful singing voice and is more than just a rapper; this is not entirely true, but Lionel’s enthusiastic and Moses gains confidence, so awesome. The Line rehearses with Jewel, who wears a sour, disgusted look and basically calls them a wedding band. Looks like our mentors came to play, folks! The Line talks about all of Jewel’s helpful advice, though I’m not sure “don’t be a wedding band” is super-helpful. At the final rehearsal, Christina is inexplicably coaching while holding a bright red, self-styled microphone, and I can’t figure out for the life of me why she brought her own mic, but…oh, it’s so she could jump into the fray and show them how it’s done. That was predictable. Those pesky, actually-need-rehearsal-time contestants can’t have all the fun.
After the ad break, we duel! The female member of The Line – I apologize, I don’t know her name, but I suppose this is better than “blond girl” – is rocking a tambourine, since they apparently took her guitar away. Moses is a little weak vocally, but he’s got a ton of energy – which he clearly inherited from his mother, who is bounding along in the audience – and his rap breakdown mid-song isn’t as blasphemous as I would have expected. The Line’s harmonies aren’t bad either, and Line Girl (better? no?) actually shows a pretty cool, raspy grit when she gets to sing solo. Overall, it’s not terrible, though the fundamentally different styles didn’t work in perfect harmony. Christina rationalizes picking the non-singer by saying “The Voice does not have to be a big voice!” which, sure, but it also doesn’t mean “can’t so much sing.” The Line look defeated, then outright pissed, as Christina chooses Moses. And they have a point, but they should’ve chosen Blake as their mentor when they had the chance.
Now that her team is completed, Christina sits back and sips a Starbucks latte. No, really. Here are the six singers that she will be sending through to the live shows, in descending order from “could totally win this thing” to “not a chance in hell”: R&B stunner Sera Hill, battle royale victor Jesse Campbell, cute teen Ashley De La Rosa, quirky Lindsey Pavao, MC (seriously, what does that mean) Moses Stone, and opera tenor Chris Mann.
Next up is Adam’s final pairing: folky Karla Davis versus soul-y Orlando Napier. At first, he assigns them Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl,” which Orlando doesn’t know (“Go get the song in iTunes!” Adam yells. Is Apple a new sponsor? “Then listen to it on your iPhone, and Facetime me with your thoughts!” he follows up, in my mind.) However, iTunes purchase or no, the song clearly isn’t working, so Adam settles on Lionel Ritchie’s “Easy.” Karla – who I have no recollection of whatsoever – shows a nice sense of humor in her mentoring session. To help her hit the high notes, Adam and Alanis create “Bertha,” the “big girl inside” Karla who can hit high notes, and when “Bertha” successfully hits one, Karla takes a victory lap around the piano. Robin teaches Orlando to project using vowels, and my roommate is stunned: “These are actually useful!” Indeed. Welcome to the anti-Idol. The water is warm, my friend. Hop in.
They take the stage in the battle ring, Karla wearing her nicest spangled plaid shirt (I like her, but jeez, dress the part a little). I was hoping Carson would introduce Orlando as “the bluesy jailbird,” but we can’t always get what we want. Orlando starts strong, soulfully, though he doesn’t interact with Karla at all; he also gets the entire first verse and chorus, and considering these performances are 90 seconds long, I’m wondering if Karla will get to sing, or if she’s only there for moral support. But Karla jumps in on the second verse with a nice, bluesy tone. They end nicely, with good harmony, and I think they’d be a good duo; hell, let’s keep ’em both. Christina wishes the performance was more dynamic, though it’s not really a dynamo of a song, remember? It’s easy like Sunday morning, and kind of inherently dull. Cee Lo talks for a while without saying anything, until Carson cuts him off with “OkaythankyouCeeLo. ADAM.” Ladies and gents, the winner of this battle is Carson. Actually, it’s Karla. I would’ve picked Orlando, but then I’m not wearing an ugly headpiece or stroking a cat or driving a Kia, so I’m ineligible.
And now for our rundown of Adam’s completed team, best to worst: Chaka Kim Yarbrough, Mouseketeer Tony Lucca, soulful cubicle worker Katrina Parker, our little buddy Pip, plaid-clad Karla Davis, and she-should-really-stick-to-med-school Mathai.
And now for Blake’s final battle, which will pit folky Rasta Naia Kete with country boy (emphasis on the “boy,” he looks about twelve) Jordan Rager. They will perform “a Jason Mraz song called ‘I’m Yours,'” Blake announces, as though we haven’t heard it eight zillion times. And yet Jordan is unfamiliar with the song, meaning he hasn’t listened to the radio at all since 2008. He also doesn’t know how to sing harmony, so this is shaping up to be quite the dogfight.
In rehearsals, Jordan’s attempts to harmonize make me say “oof” aloud. No way he doesn’t get the therapy session with Blake and Miranda and a complimentary Starbucks beverage. Naia gets to meet Kelly Clarkson, and comes to rehearsal dressed like an elvish princess. She impresses them, as she should; this song is kind of written for her.
In the battle ring, Jason starts the song by yelling, “C’mon, y’all!” just as I’m sure Jason Mraz does. And oh, you guys, the pitch. Naia’s terribly nervous, and Jordan’s not nailing his harmonies the way he was trying to, and yeesh. Naia busts out a little towards the end of the song, but pitch is still a problem. Blake goes after the pair of them with a polite but firm “what the hell, you guys,” before eventually selecting Naia, and Jordan shows more class and maturity than I would have expected from a middle-schooler.
And now for Blake’s roster: the awesome Jermaine Paul, nervous Naia Kete, even-more-nervous Jordis Unga, kinda obnoxious Charlotte Sometimes, sympathy vote-getter Erin Willet and green country girl RaeLynn. Jermaine has a great chance to win this thing; everyone else, thanks for playing.
After the break: Cee Lo cries. AGAIN.
Our final battle of the night will feature Broadway belter Tony Vincent versus raspy Justin Hopkins. Cee Lo assigns them “Faithfully” by Journey, and I honestly think that Cee Lo would trade his current career for the chance to front an ’80s cover band. Lord almighty. We recap Tony Vincent’s audition, which reminds me of the surprise I felt upon learning he was straight (he has a very pregnant wife, but wears a lot of eyeliner). Justin admits that he’s intimidated by Tony’s (huge) range. In his interview footage, Tony responds thusly: “Even though I come from a theater background, that doesn’t mean that I have a leg up,” he says, cocking an eyebrow like he’s pretty sure he has a leg up. In the first rehearsal, Cee Lo starts sobbing AGAIN, and at this point he’s either sleep-deprived or allergic to that cat. Because this is getting ridiculous; I didn’t cry this much at Toy Story 3.
Finally, the last battle begins, and my God, but Justin is pumped. He sprints through the tunnel and into the ring, while Tony struts out like he’s on a runway. I’m just hoping this is as good as the Glee version of “Faithfully” (my inner dork is showing). Tony sounds great, but then he should; he’s used to performing, he should nail this. Justin opens up and I love his raspy tone. He’s way outpacing his audition. They both sound terrific, and Tony’s tearing in like it’s his showcase number at the end of Act 2. (See above.) The song ends with Tony aiming for the big notes; it’s not pretty, as he makes faces like he’s being stabbed, but it’s on pitch. Cee Lo’s voice cracks as he begins to speak, and dear God, not again. But he holds it together and picks Tony; Justin looks politely devastated, and I feel for him. There is no loser in this battle. In interview footage, Cee Lo says that it breaks his heart to have to let Justin go while stroking the cat, so it seems somewhat less than heartbreaking, since I’m rolling my eyes heavenward.
And now Cee Lo’s team is set: our talented reclamation project Jamar Rogers, showtune king Tony Vincent, rocker Juliet Simms, headband-wearing Bah-ston boy James Massone, can-belt-but-needs-a-tuner Cheesa, and Lord-help-us Erin Martin.
Onward to the live shows! Who ya got, b-rollers? There will be TWO nights of this next week, so I think a live blog is in order, so that I don’t actually sleep through Wednesday. See you next Monday AND Tuesday!