Regular readers know my column has been dormant lately because I've been on a much-needed post-"American Idol" Australian vacation, seeing my all-time favorite band the Cure play a one-off historic show at the Sydney Opera House. (Click here to relive that epicness.) But now I'm back in the Northern Hemisphere and ready to tackle my DVR.
While I was away, the final installment of "The Voice's" Battle Rounds--the stage of the game in which the show's four celebrity coaches (Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Christina Aguilera) pit their own teammates against each other in duet duels--took place. Here's what went down in the sing-off ring last week:
JEFF JENKINS vs. CASEY DESMOND
Okay, this was the least climactic showdown on "The Voice" since Adam Levine placed Javier Colon against some chick whose name I can't recall right now. (Oh, wait, it was Angela Wolff. I rest my case.) Come on, the country boy with the heart of gold and a recently departed mom, whom all four judges turned their chairs around for, against the fuchsia-haired weirdo whom only Adam picked (and who got hardly any screen time during the Blind Auditions)? Yeah, right. And then Adam chose the Elton John/George Michael duet "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" for their battle. I knew Casey was going down. But I held out hope, because, you see, I often root for the underdog, and I was actually rooting for Casey. I just always thought she was COOL, and while Jeff technically did have the stronger voice--and yes, this show is called "The Voice"--I still thought Casey was the better total package, artistically. (Check out her supercool, supercolorful original music video here.) I think even earnest Jenkins fans would agree that Casey totally held her own in the ring, but Jeff's big belty voice was way better suited for the song, and it was absolutely no surprise when Adam picked Jeff over Casey. If maybe he'd had them sing a Lady Gaga or Goldfrapp song, the outcome would have been different. Oh well.
XENIA vs. SARA OROMCHI
This seemed like a more even match, since these two young, shy brunettes seemed to traffic in the same style. But once again I questioned the judge's song choice here. Even Adam Levine questioned Blake Shelton's decision to have the pair sing the Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You," a huge power ballad recently popularized by "Idol's" Pia Toscano. It was all wrong for 16-year-old Xenia's delicate, smoky voice; Xenia had sounded great in her audition on the Script's "Breakeven," but not on this. Sara had the stronger voice here, but she too sounded shaky and nervous. Neither were at their best--both would have been better off singing a song by someone like Feist or Regina Spektor--and so this wasn't a particularly fiery or suspenseful battle. Happily Blake picked Xenia, one of my favorites on this show based on her first audition, but I hope he chooses more suitable material for her once we get to the live shows.
LILY ELISE vs. CHERIE OAKLEY
Cherie definitely seemed like a plant, a ringer, since she was singing right in front of Blake's advisor Reba McEntire, for whom she recently wrote the number one country hit "Turn On The Radio." (Reba claimed she'd never met Cherie before. Sure, sure.) But this was Christina Aguilera's decision to make, not Blake's or Reba's, and I think she did the right thing picking Lily. I was a little surprised, since Lily was a second-chancer who was passed over entirely in the Blind Auditions, but Lily did out-perform Cherie on the vivacious Kelly Clarkson classic "Since U Been Gone." She just had more sass and sounded less generic. Lily finally blossomed in that ring.
CURTIS GRIMES vs. EMILY VALENTINE
I was always a little surprised that Cee Lo chose Curtis, a traditional-style country crooner, for his team in the first place. Someone like the tattooed-and-peroxided Miss Valentine (aka Emily Wynne-Hughes, aka the onetime lead singer of punkabilly band Go Betty Go, aka an "American Idol" Season 8 also-ran) seemed more this eccentric coach's speed. But then Cee Lo paired these two on Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," it was obvious that he knew Curtis was the stronger candidate all along. Sure, like Casey Weston versus Jeff Jenkins, Emily was definitely the more interesting of the two, but her voice was all over the place, very pitchy and shrill. Country is just not her thing--she'd be much better off shrieking punky rawk 'n' roll like she did in her former band. Emily tried to funnel all of the emotion from her unlikely crush on clean-cut country boy Curtis into her performance, and while she did get a kiss from Curtis out of the deal, in the end she also got a kiss-off from Cee Lo.
So there you have it. For those of you keeping track at home, Christina's team consists of Frenchie Davis, Beverly McClellan, Raquel Castro, and Lily Elise; Adam has Javier Colon, Casey Weston, Devon Barley, and Jeff Jenkins; Blake has Patrick Thomas, Dia Frampton, Jared Blake, and Xenia; and Cee Lo has Vicci Martinez, Nakia, Tori & Taylor Thompson, and Curtis Grimes.
At one time I thought Team Xtina was the weakest team, but now I think Christina has chosen somewhat wisely, and has at least two powerhouses, Frenchie and Beverly, to work with. Cee Lo also stands to do well with Vicci and Nakia in his camp. At one time I also thought Adam had the strongest team, and he certainly stands a good chance with Javier and Jeff, but I'm still fuming over his earlier decision to cut the wonderful Rebecca Loebe. Still, now I really think it's Blake who has the worst team; so far I've not been impressed by either Patrick or Jared, and while I dig Xenia and Dia, I think they'll get eaten alive in the live competition rounds.
And speaking of the live competition...that starts up this week! And that means finally America, not the coaches, will have a say. Avenge Rebecca Loebe and Casey Desmond's eliminations, and vote accordingly, America! And see you then.