On the first night of “The Voice” battle rounds, we gained two “steals” and we lost 2Steel Girls. We said goodbye to a wrestling cowboy, a YouTube singer (whatever that means), and a Nigerian refugee. And we were re-introduced to a couple of knockout talents.
Here’s how it works. Just like in past seasons, coaches pit two of their team members against one another in a sing-off. Then the coach chooses which of the pair stays and which one goes. Only now, the other judges can “steal” the cast-off. If more than one coach pushes their button, the contestant decides, a la blind auditions.
Tonight’s two hours saw six battles, and the first two were without surprise, with both coaches deciding to go with the contestant with more experience. First up was Team Blake; he paired Casey Muessigmann, the formerly overweight wrestler with a twang, against Terry McDermott, the 35-year-old Scottish dad. Blake assigned them Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.” And though Casey was pitched to us as a fighter throughout the intro video, Terry was a far more seasoned singer. In the end, Blake Shelton said, “Terry knows what his voice is a little bit more,” and chose Terry.
Then Adam Levine gave “Santeria” to Bryan Keith and Colin McLoughlin. Bryan was Adam’s first win in the blind auditions, the raspy guy whose dad has a couple of Latin Grammys. Colin is the young business school dropout with perfect pitch but awkward stage presence. Again, Bryan was more seasoned (and better suited to the song), and Adam chose him over Colin.
But wait, there’s more! Blake and Cee Lo both pushed their buttons for the steal (despite Cee Lo saying just minutes before that he would have chosen Bryan). But Colin and Blake are a match made in heaven, and Colin chose Blake to continue on the show with.
Cee Lo Green’s battle was a bit less predictable, pairing YouTube singer JR Aquino against Peruvian Diego Val on “Jessie’s Girl.” Of course, Cee Lo favored the one who was less polished, more of a loose canon, but far more stylish: Diego. “I think I can do something stranger with Diego,” Cee Lo said about him after the battle. No one tried to steal JR and his supposed 44 million YouTube hits.
But things really took off when Christina Aguilera paired up preacher’s daughter De’Borah with Nigerian refugee Nelly’s Echo on “Message in a Bottle.” Both of them were insanely good; it was definitely a battle performance to remember. Nelly started off stronger with a lengthy featured solo and super-smooth notes, but then De’Borah came in with her totally Season 1 Vicci Martinez-style warrior moves, and she ate that ring up. All three other coaches said they would have chosen De’Borah, and that’s just what Christina did.
Then Blake put 18-year-old yodeler Gracia Harrison against mother-daughter duo 2Steel Girls, who were having a hard time syncing with each other (a problem faced by all prospective duos on this show so far). They faced off on Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon” and, as is usually the case when a solo artist goes up against a duo, Gracia stood out for a variety of reasons. She didn’t have the difficult challenge of trying to be both distinct and in perfect harmony with the other half of her act. And when up against two, she became the underdog. You just wanted to root for her to beat the family act. And that she did.
Finally, the best battle of the night put a much needed spotlight on Amanda Brown, one of Cee Lo’s contestants who made it in with a last-minute button-push from her coach (and no pushes from any others). Cee Lo matched her with Trevin Hunte, the guy whose grade school teacher told him he’d never amount to anything. Cee Lo figured Amanda wasn’t that great, and she’d just be a casualty to Trevin. But then she started singing in rehearsals of Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” and her voice was insane. The former Adele backup singer actually sang circles around Trevin, but Trevin, in a kind of red circus ringleader jacket, was really solid himself. At the end, all four coaches were on their feet. Adam was actually standing on his chair. And when Carson Daly asked him for his opinion, he said he’d try to steal whomever Cee Lo didn’t take.
If there was ever a guy to win over by wearing a red circus ringleader jacket, it’s Cee Lo, and Trevin did just that. “I want to be a part of Trevin’s journey,” Cee Lo said, sticking to his original plan of letting Amanda go. Immediately, the other three coaches pushed their buttons. Blake said he wanted Amanda “because I want to win this thing.” Christina told her that she wants to learn and grow with her. But Adam, always the best at getting what he wants, compared her to Mariah, Aretha Franklin, and, wow, even Christina Aguilera. Ding ding ding! Amanda chose Adam.
- Was that a Starbucks cup next to Adam’s buzzer? I saw a green straw, but don’t think they’re an official sponsor.
- The coaches did change their clothes tonight but you could hardly tell. Blake traded in the black blazer for gray, Adam traded in the t-shirt for an ill-fitting button down, and Cee Lo went from white satin to white cotton. Christina covered up slightly in a tight fitting multicolored dress, but what she lost in cleavage she made up for in eyelashes.
- Guest coaches were the most useless that I’ve ever seen on this show. I’m pining for the days of Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. Michael Buble (Team Blake) and Mary J Blige (Team Adam) gave hardly any advice at all. Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas (Team Cee Lo) was only a little more hands on. But Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong (Team Xtina) is Green Day! Who cares what he says! It’s Green Day!