Summary: The face-offs are more one-sided as the coaches try contrasting pairs on the second night of the Battle Rounds.
** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**
In a contrast with last week’s show, in this second grouping of the Battle Rounds of The Voice, the coaches made a concerted effort to pit team members of differing styles against each other. To that, they chose a more eclectic mix of songs – including one of the (relatively) more odd numbers even seen or heard on a singing show.
In fact, it should be noted how varied the catalog of approved songs is for The Voice, quite possibly the widest of the competitions out there. Oh, it never strays too far from pop, but who could’ve imagined some of these tunes on a show 5 years ago. But then, of course, there is Foreigner and you never feel too removed from a Wednesday night at the local watering hole.
Battle #1: Team Xtina – Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill, Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”
The evening kicks off as well as the last one ended and, frankly, it’s a bit of a shame that the highlight of the night comes so early. Contrary to the statement at the top, Christina wisely pairs two of her most soulful singers on a song tailored to their powerful styles. However, in the end, she’s left with as wrenching a choice as we the audience. The most immediate impression is how well these two sound and work together, even as they try to outdo the other. They both never waver on putting the song first and it’s a brilliant duet. Adam makes comment that, while Sera put on a “good show,” Geoff seemed to be telling more of a story, and personally I agree. Neither should have gone home, though, but this is the format.
Cee Lo and Adam both side with Geoff while Blake gives the edge to Sera. Christina is torn but leans her girl’s way.
Winner: Sera Hill
Battle #2: Team Blake – Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land, Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”
I have to confess that I am in the minority that doesn’t find the appeal of Foster the People or this song in particular, so I’m not immediately bowled over by this battle. That said, Blake’s only battle of the night personifies the statement at the top. Though they share a bit of an odd kitschy factor in their voices, Charlotte and Lex couldn’t be more different in temperament. Charlotte is bold, outlandish, and looking always to “entertain”. Lex is shy and reserved and during the rehearsals it’s still unclear why she was chosen. Even when the battle begins, Lex’s voice is fine enough but kind of small and her presence is too inward. Charlotte’s bravado, by contrast, is almost garish but she stands out. Lex gets better as the song goes along and, as Blake notes, she actually takes more risks with her vocals than Charlotte, landing them more often than not. Charlotte’s assertiveness is too much to overcome and this one seems decided fairly early on.
Christina doesn’t offer a clear preference but Cee Lo and Adam both side in Charlotte’s favor. Blake appreciates Lex’s effort but his choice is clear.
Winner: Charlotte Sometimes
Battle #3: Team Cee Lo – Juliet Simms vs. Sarah Golden, Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me”
The choice of song in this battle is almost laughably lopsided, skewing so heavy in favor of Juliet’s voice and delivery that you have to wonder what Cee Lo was thinking. In the same turn, so many singers run up against songs that are so “easy” for their voices that they get lazy who too showy, allowing overconfidence to cause them not to work. In this case, Sarah does have to work and Cee Lo and guest adviser Babyface stress to her that she doesn’t have to try to outdo Juliet but she find the song in her voice and go with that. It’s exactly what she does and, just like Juliet boasts about in the rehearsals, she gets swallowed up at points. Christina pointed out that during the verses she was holding up well but that her voice and style got overwhelmed by the chorus. Ultimately, Juliet’s gravelly delivery overpowered her.
Adam and Christina both pull for Juliet, but Blake gives the advantage to Sarah because he felt it showed her versatility to compete at all. Cee Lo struggles momentarily but goes with the stronger of the two.
Winner: Juliet Simms
Battle #4: Team Adam – Kim Yarborough vs. Whitney Myer, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama”
Again bucking the differing styles, the contrast here is in age and experience, though the elder Kim is still fill of a zest for life that works so well in her favor. Whitney has the quote of the night when comparing the two powerhouses: “Her house is bigger than mine.” She couldn’t be more right, though. Whitney has a strong voice but her focus is so external that it serves to psyche her out. Guest adviser Alanis Morissette gives her a note to be present that all but sinks her during the actual battle. The note is actually a good one but Whitney’s translation of it fails in the execution. The coaches gave the pair a lot of praise for the overall song – Blake insisting he felt like it was one of those VH1 Divas concerts – but it seemed pretty clear that she was pushing throughout the song to keep pace with Kim. It was bad but it was shaky in the way someone trying to bench press slightly too much weight struggles. Their voices do blend well at various points but Kim’s is naturally more assured.
Blake feels he couldn’t make a choice between the two but Christina and Kim both feel Kim stood out exceptionally. Adam agrees.
Winner: Kim Yarborough
Battle #5: Team Xtina – Lee Koch vs. Lindsey Pavao, Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”
Here it is! By far, the oddest song choice perhaps ever seen on a mainstream singing competition. That’s not to say Nirvana hasn’t become part of the mainstream – we’re seeing more and more of the band’s songs appearing on these shows – but the lyrics, structure and tone of the song make this one quite unique and a distinct challenge. Lee has the most challenge as he’s severely unfamiliar with the song, having been years since the last time he heard it. Lindsey, though, is quite a fan of Nirvana and feels she can own the song. Guest adviser Jewel and Christina impress on Lee just spending time getting to know the song and also to work on his pronunciation as his one-of-a-kind slurring delivery is losing the song. With Lindsey, Lionel Richie tries to get her out of her head and just tell a story, as she’s relying too much on her vocal tricks and not investing in the lyrics. Going into the battle, it’s not clear either is going to turn out a very good performance and while the song is far from perfect, the odd pairing actually makes it work. The dissonance of the song and their individual styles makes for a striking performance that’s better than the sum of its parts. Mixed with the dramatic lighting, this is one of the creepier numbers seen in this kind of setting.
Cee Lo and Adam both felt Lee brought a better overall performance, while Blake, who had never heard the song before, felt Lindsey was stronger. Personally, I felt Lee brought more to the table but Christina felt that Lindsey offered more versatility.
Winner: Lindsey Pavao
Battle #6: Team Cee Lo – Jamar Rogers vs. Jamie Lono, Foreigner “I Wanna Know What Love Is”
Here are two who could not be more different from each other, in voice, in style, in background. The great thing about programs like this is it offers the opportunity to bring people together who would never have met in life, including a former heroin addict from New York and a sandwich shop worker from Chicago. The two became fast friends and while each is resolute in their reason for being here there is still the tough prospect of having to knock a friend out of the game. From the get-go, Jamie was having problems, his voice cracking as he tried to reach higher notes that Jamar was hitting with ease. What Cee Lo and Babyface found was that Jamie was not only not connecting with the song but foregoing his confidence comparing himself to Jamar. Jamar, on the other hand, wasn’t allowing the song to open up and flow, according to guest adviser Ne-Yo, relying to heavily on his personal growl and inflections when he should tap more into the emotion of the song itself. It’s a note he takes to heart and makes a stronger effort when they actually perform in the battle. Jamie seems to have more confidence, too, as the song starts out with a beautiful harmony between the two. Soon, though, Jamar’s confidence pushes to the front and Jamie gets lost along the way.
There’s near unanimous approval for Jamar amongst the coaches. Most importantly, Cee Lo feels he stood out.
Winner: Jamar Rogers
Overall, it felt like the battles this night were a bit more one-sided than during the first night. One hopes we have a few more shocks and surprises as the battles continue.