This week's "Voice" Battle Rounds (the suspenseful stage of the game in which the show's four celebrity coaches pit their own teammates against each other, in sing-to-survive duet duels) continued. This meant the show continued to move away from its original premise--let's face it, factors other than JUST the contestants' voices mattered here, with showmanship, image, and potential marketability also unavoidably coming into play. But, "The Voice" continued to be awesome, too, so I'll stop complaining. The Battle Rounds are just awesome, period. Just imagine how much more exciting "American Idol" would be if Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart got in a boxing ring together!
While I for the most part agreed with the final decisions of the individual team coaches (Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Christina Aguilera), I disagreed with how some of the singers were matched up in their respective battles. My biggest gripe was with Cee Lo's silly decision to make two of his strongest teammates, Nakia and Tje Austin, face off against each other. (He'd already lost strong singer Niki Dawson last week after her having her battle the even-better Vicci Martinez, so this seemed like another foolish move.) Seriously, after this, I suggest the phrase "Sophie's choice" be changed to "Cee Lo's choice."
But then again, when it came to one of the other matches--the one orchestrated by Adam Levine--it was such an unbalanced fight that there was no suspense at all. So which is worse? Pitting two really good singers against each other, knowing that one of them will sadly have to take an undeserved, premature fall? Or making it glaringly obvious that some contestants are pure cannon fodder, by having them battle frontrunners they clearly could never beat? I just don't know. "The Voice" is complicated that way.
Read on and find out who survived this week's battles...
NAKIA vs. TJE AUSTIN
As I mentioned, for his team's singoff this week, Cee Lo made the stupidest reality TV move since "American Idol" hired Ellen DeGeneres, and forced Nakia and Tje to sing against each other. Eff you, Cee Lo! Yes, OK, so this made for good TV, having such worthy opponents battle it out--but I just couldn't get excited about this showdown, knowing I would soon have to say goodbye to one of these great guys. The song they battled on, Ne-Yo's "Closer," was actually more suited to Tje's smooth neo-soul voice, and he exhibited a lot of charisma (he's quite a cutie). But Nakia's gruff vocals were more distinctive, and he's the kind of underdog contestant viewers love to root for. (I've already perhaps prematurely predicted that it'll be Team Cee Lo's Nakia vs. Team Adam's Javier Colon in the "Voice" finale.) So it was no surprise, and ultimately a good call, when Cee Lo picked Nakia, who will probably be more fun to watch on the live shows. But I still think Tje got robbed, and I know if he'd had the chance to compete for America's vote, he would have given a few of the singers on the other teams some stiff competition. I bet Adam, Blake, and Christina were real happy to see Tje go.
ELENOWEN vs. JARED BLAKE
This battle wasn't nearly as suspenseful. Going into this round, I mildly sided with the newlywed duo of Elenowen, as opposed to second-chancer Jared (who'd actually been rejected at his first "Voice" audition). But once the battle started, I figured this team's coach, Blake Shelton, might as well have just tossed a coin. Their song, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," started off weak, with growly rocker Jared obviously extremely out of his element and struggling due to his vocal limitations. And at first, Elenowen seemed to have an advantage warbling a classic love duet together, not to mention having two voices to work with. But then Nicole (the female of the duo; their band moniker comes from their parents' middle names) hit a pretty sour note. This was odd, since I'd previously thought Nicole was a stronger singer than her husband, Josh. So then I wasn't sure who to root for. Eventually, Blake picked Jared. I personally think Elenowen were a little more interesting, potentially, than Jared, whose performance style seemed dated to me...but after the giant letdown of seeing Tje go, I couldn't get too worked up about the loss of Elenowen.
JAVIER COLON vs. ANGELA WOLFF
OK, talk about a lack of suspense! Angela, another second-chance contestant who was also rejected at her first audition, never stood a snowball's chance in Hades. If she'd been up against last week's Casey Weston or Tim Mahoney, or medical student Devon Barley--all weaker members of Adam's team--she might have had a shot, but up against this show's ultimate frontrunner, she faced a losing battle indeed. Even the song Adam picked for these two, "Stand By Me," seemed perfect for Javier. Javier's voice was like buttah...and Angela's was more like margarine. She had to know she was doomed. But I will say, she did put up a good fight, and was a good sport.
WINNER: Javier. Duh.
BEVERLY MCCLELLAN vs. JUSTIN GRENNAN
This also seemed like an unfair match, at least at first: One of the strongest members of Christina's otherwise relatively weak team, competing against the Team Xtina member who'd received the least screentime up until now. Even Beverly seemed pretty confident that she had this in the bag. But then I got to hear a little bit more of Justin's voice, and I began to think Beverly needed to worry just a little. Justin actually exhibited a powerful set of pipes...plus, I started to wonder if Christina would be willing to cut the ONE male singer on her team, this soon. So this was a battle, people. These contestants came out hungry, sprung like animals out of cages, ready to blast each other's faces off with the sheer power of their vocals. Beverly and Justin got the most challenging song of the night, the Who's "Baby O'Reilly" (just ask Roger Daltrey, who can barely handle singing it live anymore), and their duet made for a truly exciting end to this episode. I really wished Christina would have called it a draw--couldn't she have gotten rid of Raquel Castro or Lily Elise instead?--but she decided to stick with an all-girl team, and chose Bev, her team's great bald hope. I think Beverly will make for more interesting television than Justin (whom Blake Shelton snarkily likened to a bank teller), so ultimately I agreed with Xtina's choice. But Justin is definitely a better singer than some people who have already made it through to the next round.
Turn in next Tuesday, when four more "Voice" Battle Rounds go down, and four more singers' dreams go down the drain. And let's hope Cee Lo chooses more wisely next week.