Tuesday, October 15, 2013

“The Voice” – The Battles (Part 1)


“They’re all so talented. It’s this explosion on stage.”
-Christina Aguilera

Just as the name suggests, the contestants compete in a vocal battle against each other, with the winner staying and the other going home (unless another coach steals them). As my first year of watching The Voice, I found The Battle Rounds energetic, entertaining, and sad. Every one of the contestants is so talented, it was hard to see some of them go.

Before the Battle Rounds, the coaches, with assistance from some expert advisors, train each competing artist for the battle before they hit the stage. Christina recruited Ed Sheeran to help her coach her team. CeeLo got the help of Miguel. Adam had Ryan Teddler, and sitting beside Blake as he coached his team was Cher. We don’t get to see much of the coaching, but that’s not the main event. So how did last night's Battle Rounds play out? If you haven’t seen the episode yet, STOP reading here. Review and results ahead.

First up last night was a Team Adam battle between Grey and Nic Hawk. Adam put two very different stage personalities up against each other. As he pointed out, making two opposite people on stage work is rather important in the industry... and they did really well together performing “Dominio.”
Right from the start, Grey had a small edge over Nic. She has performed the song many times during her career as a wedding singer, but Nic is unique and has amazing energy on stage. As both of them worked into the song, Grey seemed to feed off of Nic’s energy, and although she didn’t really physically work that energy, she started to shine on stage. She didn’t need to do much more that what she did to draw your attention to her. They both sounded amazing, but my point for the round went to Grey... and Adam agreed. Blake, however, did use one of his steals and picked up Nic Hawk, so both continue on.

Adam’s second battle paired Donna Allen and Tessanne Chin to sing it out. Donna definitely out-powers Tessanne, but Tessanne has a nice pop/rock tone to her voice. This is a battle of soul vs pop. They took the stage and got right into “Next to Me.” Donna seemed to be trying too hard to out-perform Tessanne. There were many parts of the song and many of the notes that Donna just pushed too far. While it showcased her power, it just didn't work with song choice. Tessanne Chin, on the other hand, pushed herself and the song just enough. She had the power and the pitch, giving Tessanne the round, both by myself and by Adam. We said goodbye to Donna Allen as no coach used a steal.

Team CeeLo started his battles off with Anthony Paul against Caroline Pennell. CeeLo picked “As Long As You Love Me” for them to duel with. Anthony, a last second button push by CeeLo in the Blinds, is a solid vocalist but very mainstream. Caroline, on the other hand, has a unique voice, but is still a little shy on stage. The battle started, and Anthony’s performance was strong but common. He did have a few pitch issues, but overall put out a solid performance. Caroline’s voice conveyed so much natural emotion that you couldn’t help but forget she was singing with someone. She took a popular song and made it completely new and very unique... she made it hers, and it worked. Even with the touch of shyness, she still managed to be playful. Her voice is so different than other artists that she adds a whole new level to any song. She may not win The Voice, but with her vocals and her personality, she is going to go very far. The win, for me, in this battle was Caroline, and CeeLo agreed. He described her best when he said she made him “dream with my eyes open.” Christina used one of her steals to grab Anthony for her team, so no one goes home this round.

Team Blake began his battles with Justin Chain going up against Shelbie Z. This was an obvious pairing, as they are both powerful country singers. They took the stage and performed the duet “Don’t You Want To Stay.” I’m not sure I understand the logic behind Blake’s choice. This is suppose to be a battle, but how can you battle a song together if the song is meant to be sung together? Justin’s vocals came so natural you would think he has been doing this his whole life. Similarly, Shelbie’s performace seemed effortless and like second nature. During the harmonies, both blended so well, it was as though the song was written for them. It was tough to pick a winner, but Justin had just a little bit more of an edge and was my choice for who won the battle. Blake, however, picked Shelbie. No coach used a steal, which very much surprised me. But like Adam said, “Sometimes people have to go home who don’t deserve to go home.” Nonetheless, I have no doubt that you will see Justin Chain showing up in the country music world.

Team Christina’s first battle of the evening put Amber Nicole against Timyra-Joi. Unlike Adam’s first pairing, Christina opted for a battle of similarities. Both Amber and Timyra-Joi are extremely powerful and soulful singers, and it really showed during their rendition of “Listen.” Timyra-Joi started off low and solid, while Amber showed her powerful vocal strength. However, as the song moved along, Timyra-Joi caught up. This was a true battle of voices, as both of them showed their determination and vocal power. It was a tough fight, but I had to give the win to Timyra-Joi. Christina, unfortunately, didn’t agree and awarded the win to Amber Nicole. None of the other coaches chose to steal, so we said goodbye to Timyra-Joi.

Christina’s second battle was between Briana Cuoco and Jacquie Lee... a pairing that put me on the edge of my seat. Christina chose “House of the Rising Sun” for them to sing, creating a rock and soul inspired battle. Both are amazingly strong vocalists, and both looked stunning as they took the stage. Jacquie came out of the gates with her full power, but there were a few moments where she faltered just a little. Briana gleamed with confidence, and that transcended into her performance, and it turned into the best battle of the night... by mid-song, both of them owned that stage, and those few mis-steps in the beginning by Jacquie became a distant memory. By the time they finished, it was very obvious that whomever wasn’t chosen was going to be stolen. Both were amazing, but by a really small margin, I gave my point to Briana. Christina, though, chose Jacquie... and Blake used his last steal to take Briana, which was the best steal of the night. Neither one deserved to go home, and neither one did!

Overall, Monday’s premier of the Battle Rounds was intense, and they were not what I expected. For some reason I figured each round would have an obvious winner, but that was nowhere near the case. Everyone was so talented and gave it their all. I did NOT envy the coaches at all in having to make those decisions.

I may have lost one of my original top twelve, but after seeing Jacquie Lee’s performance last night, I may have to re-evaluate when I make my top ten after the battles. First impressions are important, but watching how each artist grows and seeing what they can become will change things.

See you tomorrow for part two of The Battle Rounds.

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