The Battle Rounds commenced on "The Voice" Season 5 this Monday, and while I enjoyed the episode, I still had a few gripes. Blake Shelton foolishly dumped a player that very well could've won this whole show. Briana Cuoco continued to be overhyped. And there was not enough Cher.
You see, this season, Cher is one of the guest mentors, assisting Team Blake (Adam Levine is being helped by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Christina Aguilera by Ed Sheeran, and CeeLo Green by Miguel). I was very much looking forward to Cher's eye-popping assortment of Halloween Superstore wigs and backless Bob Mackie unitards, not to mention her withering one-liners. (Maybe during rehearsals, she'd even slap a a jittery contestant and holler, "Snap out of it!" — Moostruck-style.) But tragically, Cher received less screentime this Monday than some of the montaged contestants got during the Blind Auditions. And she only wore two wigs, both in relatively normal styles and colors.
Boooooo. Fix this, Mark Burnett. Yes, I know I always say this show should be about the contestants, but in this case, I'd like NBC to "turn back time" and re-edit this episode to include approximately 78 percent more Cher. Or, heck, NBC should just give Cher her own show.
Anyhoo, here's how the Battles Rounds went down this Monday:
TEAM ADAM: Grey vs. Nic Hawk
The Battles kicked off in wild style, Cher or no Cher, thanks to Broadway-baby showboater Nic. He was paired with pleasant wedding singer Grey, because supposed strategist Adam wanted to put two polar opposites in the ring, for some reason. While their song assignment, Jessie J's "Domino," suited them both in different ways (Grey is a polished professional with a big range; Nic is a total pop prince giving some Sam Sparro/Jake Shears realness), Nic made the tune sound so much more interesting. Yes, technically, Grey was the better singer. But Nic brought the energy, the fun, the sass…and some crazy-good vocals as well. Blake, who amusingly expressed jealousy over Nic's shameless flirting with Adam during the Blind Auditions, said, "The value of someone like Nic is priceless. He's got his own little disco going on." Christina, on the other hand, preferred Grey's "consistent, focused vocals." Adam sadly dumped Nic and broke his heart (and mine). But before I could draft my "Bring Back Nic Hawk!" petition/boycott the show/shoot out the TV screen Elvis-style…Blake swooped in for the Steal. Huzzah! "If there ever was an odd couple, it's me and Nic," laughed Blake. I think there's a new bromance on "The Voice," and now it's Adam's turn to be jealous. But more importantly…does this mean that Nic may also GET TO WORK WITH CHER? I will faint and topple over like a domino myself, if that happens.
STEAL: Nic moves to Team Blake
TEAM XTINA: Amber Nicole vs. Timyra-Joi
This was one of the more intense Battle Rounds in "Voice" history. In one corner, we had Amber, a contestant who received little screentime up until this week (her Blind Audition was only part of a montage, bizarrely), and in the other corner was child prodigy Timyra-Joi, who seemed like a frontrunner from the start. But this was no David/Goliath situation. When these girls, two of the youngest contestants of this season, entered the ring and belted Beyoncé's "Listen" with total Sasha Fierceness, they were a very even match. I had no idea how Christina, who was literally crying during this Battle, would make her pick, although the older Amber had a little more presence onstage, which gave her an edge. "You guys should be so proud of yourselves, because I saw you lay your hearts out there," Christina said, before going with her gut and ultimately choosing…Amber, the former underdog whose first audition never even aired. This was probably the right decision, but it was still a tough one. Timyra wasn't stolen, surprisingly, but she's young, so the onetime "Kidz Star" contestant will likely have a bright future regardless. Hey, there's always "American Idol" or "The X Factor," right?
TEAM BLAKE: Justin Chain vs. Shelbie Z.
Blake's had a good track record during the last three "Voice" seasons, but I have no idea what he was thinking when he pitted these two commercial, likable country singers against each other. Country artists have proven to be very popular on "The Voice," after all (last season, four of the top six — three of them mentored by Blake — were country crooners), so Blake definitely diminished his chances of a fourth consecutive "Voice" victory by placing either of these contestants at risk. Justin and Shelbie's cover of Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay" sounded professional and CMT-ready ("You would be a great duet pairing, for real," Christina said, and Adam called them a "great unit"), and I had a hunch that Adam, Xtina, and CeeLo were all primed to whack their buttons and steal whichever contestant Blake didn't keep. Blake decided to keep Shelbie in the end. AND THEN NO ONE STOLE JUSTIN. Whaaaaa? No Steal? I was shocked. I'm still shocked. Justin Chain is definitely Season 5's one that got away. Maybe "The Voice" needs a wild card, too.
TEAM CEELO: Anthony Paul vs. Caroline Pennell
I'll admit it: I was worried how these two voices would gel in a duet. It seemed like forcing Chris Brown to sing with Regina Spektor. No one wants to hear that, right? But it all came together in the ring and somehow worked much better than I would've ever expected. Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me" at first seemed like a better fit for soul singer Anthony than for quirky band-camp girl Caroline, but Caroline did things with the song that reminded me of Drew Ryniewicz's breakout Bieber moment on "The X Factor" Season 1. (Did those girls go to the same camp or something?) Anthony was more of a belter, but I was drawn to Caroline's hushed, intimate approach and her ability to transform the song into something else entirely. CeeLo was drawn to Caroline too, apparently, as she emerged from this Battle a happy camper. But so did Anthony…because in a total curveball move, Christina stole him for her own team. I never would've guessed that Justin Chain wouldn't get stolen, but that Anthony, a presumed fodder contestant whose first audition was montaged, would get a Steal…but hey, "The Voice" can be unpredictable that way. It's all part of the fun.
STEAL: Anthony moves to Team Xtina
TEAM ADAM: Donna Allen vs. Tessanne Chin
It was difficult to imagine that old-fashioned, fiftysomething Miami Sound Machine veteran Donna would prevail over the supercool, super-marketable, much younger Tessanne. In rehearsal, Donna oversang to the point of shouting, doing way more than this Battle's simple song (Emeli Sande's "Next to Me") required and sometimes even sounding downright unpleasant. Meanwhile, Tessanne didn't have to try; she was just cool, period. Thankfully, Donna toned down that brassiness onstage (until the screechy coda, at least), and this duet, which Blake described as "epic," mostly worked. There was no denying either lady's talent, but the effortlessly awesome Tessanne still seemed like the real star to me. Christina and CeeLo were rooting for Tessanne; Blake preferred Donna. But only Adam's vote counted, and Adam sided with Tessanne. I think he made the right decision, but Donna probably won't get another chance like this at her age, so it was sad to see her leave in tears.
TEAM XTINA: Briana Cuoco vs. Jacquie Lee
Briana wasn't all that impressive at her audition, but she landed on a team anyway. Whether or not that had anything to do with her famous sister, "Big Bang Theory" actress Kaley Cuoco, cheering in the wings, we may never know. (The conspiracy-theorist in me wouldn't put it past the producers to tip off the coaches.) Performing "House of the Rising Sun" in the ring this week (with Kaley watching again, this time in the audience), Briana was much improved — but Jacquie was still the stronger Team Xtina player, handling the mature song with ease and belting it with conviction. I didn't remember Jacquie the Jersey girl being this great at her audition. Christina eventually, wisely picked Jacquie, but there was still a big bang for Briana this evening, when CeeLo and Blake tried to steal her. Briana, the only contestant of the night to be stolen by more than one coach, elected to join Team Blake. I'm still not sure if Briana was truly Steal-worthy (especially since Blake used up both of his allotted Steals in one night), but Blake called her a "dark horse," so we shall see. I'm still rooting for Team Blake's other dark horse, Nic Hawk.
STEAL: Briana moves to Team Blake
Come back Tuesday for more Battles! And, hopefully, a lot more Cher.
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