Here's what went down in the sing-off ring this week:
These two very young girls from Team Xtina dueled on Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World," in hopes of being the only girl to emerge unscathed. But both girls had their pitch problems (even Christina acknowledged this), so this turned out to be one of the more underwhelming battles of the season. I preferred Julia, who had the more mature and what Xtina called "cleaner" voice, but Raquel looked like she was having more fun on that stage (or, more specifically, in that boxing ring), and her youthful energy suited the poppy song. Christina went with Raquel, which I suppose was unsurprising and smart considering this nation's current obsession with extreme youth (see: Willow Smith, Greyson Chance, Justin Bieber, Jackie Evancho, this year's top two "Idol" finalists). But 16-year-old Raquel still has a lot of growing up to do. She is not nearly as developed a singer as Christina was back in her "Genie In A Bottle" teen years.
Dia has been one of my early favorites on the show, despite my frustration over her bizarre failure to ever mention that she was a member of the rather popular indie duo Meg & Dia. (Then again, Serabee doesn't mention that she once had a deal with Universal Republic, the same label that's giving a record deal to the eventual "Voice" winner, so go figure.) Anyway, I definitely questioned Blake's reasoning when he pitted soft-spoken singer-songwriter Dia against fiery Southern belter Serabee. I expected Serabee to mop the floor with Dia's indie-girl shag haircut on the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love," and she kind of did; as a duet, this absolutely did not work, as Serabee loudly sang runs all over Dia. Even the eccentric Cee Lo said he thought this diva-vs.-Dia pairing was "bizarre." Serabee was technically the stronger singer, yes, but her excessive belting bugged me; I preferred Dia's softer, Feist-ier tone. Blake's decision to go with the mousy Dia was probably an unpopular one, but I ultimately agreed with him. Dia's just COOL.
Okay, this is the decision that should be truly unpopular with "Voice" viewers. After I saw Rebecca's first audition, an inspired gothic-folk remake of Nirvana's "Come As You Are," I was convinced that she was one of this season's finest and most original contestants. Meanwhile, lapsed medical student Devon's underwhelming audition of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" made me think he'd be better off staying in school; I actually thought he was Team Adam's weakest link. When I learned Tuesday night that Adam had picked Radiohead's "Creep" for this odd couple's battle song, I assumed Rebecca had the competition in the bag. Once the two started singing, I was pleasantly surprised by how much better Devon was than he had been at his first audition, but still...Rebecca was clearly the winner here. Her operatic Kate Bush/Tori Amos vibe sounded amazing on this song. That's why when Adam seemed so agonized over which singer to pick, hemming and hawing, I was flabbergasted by his indecisiveness. And then Adam chose DEVON. Huh? This was even lamer and more disappointing than that time Blake picked boring cowboy Patrick Thomas over the infinitely more entertaining bow-tied Tyler Robinson. I can only assume the reason Adam ousted Rebecca was he didn't want any stiff competition against his pet team member, frontrunner Javier Colon. Even so, this was a really bad call.
WINNER: Devon. Boo!
In the final girl-powered showdown of the night, former "American Juniors" sister act Tori & Taylor went up against YouTube starlet Kelsey Rey on Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten." The Thompson twins (okay, they're not really twins) sounded horrible in rehearsal, but they pulled it together for battle. I still found their voices a little unimpressive separately, but their harmonies together were really nice--and that gave them an edge (perhaps an unfair one) over the competent but not exactly mind-blowing solo Kelsey. Cee Lo chose the Thompsons, and while I still think they're kind of grating, I do think Cee Lo might have an interesting master plan for these two down the road. I will be curious to see what sort of material and advice he gives them when it's time to compete for America's votes.
WINNER: Tori & Taylor
So turn in next Tuesday, when the last four "Voice" Battle Rounds go down, and four more contestants' dreams go down in flames. And let's hope Adam chooses more wisely next week.
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- Blake Shelton