Carson Daly had a big job on tonight’s “The Voice.” As the show entered the Battle Round, he had to come up with the perfect eight-word description of each and every contestant, parsing several minutes of footage and whole lifetimes of experience into just one phrase that will now be who this person becomes for the rest of their “Voice” tenure. It leads one to wonder, what would Carson call Carson? I’ll contemplate that as I recap tonight’s proceedings.
Who doesn’t love the Battles? After the Blind Auditions start to get weary, this is the first moment we get to see each contestant’s real personality and ability. It’s how we can tell if someone’s audition was a fluke, or if someone had slipped by under the radar but capable of much more than we thought. And as Cee Lo Green put it, the Battles are “the fight to destiny.”
The coaches also bring in mentors for the Battles. Christina Aguilera worked with Ed Sheeran, whom only the 16-year-olds seemed to recognize. Cee Lo worked with Miguel. Adam Levine brought in Ryan Tedder, one of the better advice-givers. And Blake Shelton bizarrely joined forces with Cher. He said he was inspired to work with her after her performance last season. That’s funny, after her performance last season, I was inspired to shave the sides of my head and dye my new Mohawk hot pink. To each his own.
Team Adam: Grey vs. Nic Hawk
The first pairing of the night put a wedding singer up against a flamboyant Gumby of a guy who hit on Adam during his audition. Or as Carson says, “a versatile wedding singer looking for her big break,” vs. “the supportive son with a big voice and personality.” They both lived up to those reputations. Grey took on “Domino” like she’s been singing it every week at a formal event, which she says she has. Nic was an explosion of energy, and danced kind of like those blow-up guys that wave their arms in the wind at car dealerships, sometimes dressed like Uncle Sam. Is there a word for those? Their battle was really good. Grey’s voice has a great tone, and soars more than Nic’s. Blake liked Nic’s “own little disco” though. Christina preferred Grey for staying “really steady.” Cee Lo was definitely a soul mate of Nic’s and liked him better. The Result? Adam chose Grey. Nic’s crying and thanking Adam, when suddenly Blake pushes his button for the first Steal of the night! He asks Nic to teach him how to dance.
Team Christina: Amber Nicole vs. Timyra-Joi
Christina pits two of her younger contestants against one another, 17-year-old Amber and 15-year-old Timyra. They’re excited about Ed Sheeran, who says he is really nervous because it’s his first time. So he basically gives no feedback at all the rest of the time. Christina, though, doesn’t need his help. She’s got this. Both girls have insane power and they get an insanely powerful song to use it: “Listen.” Amber is a little sweeter in tone, but Timyra’s deep and possessed voice is just crazy. It’s quite a match. All the coaches are pretty shocked at Timyra’s vocals. Adam says her voice is “a lot taller than you are.” But Christina picks Amber. Surprise! I thought Timyra had it. No one steals her. Cee Lo is slow on his button tonight!
Team Blake: Justin Chain vs. Shelbie Z.
Blake gives the outlaw country artists a duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” It proves to be a bad move. A song not written as a Battle, but as a duet where both singers support one another, and take a back seat to one another, doesn’t really showcase both fairly. And the performance was pretty faithful to the original. So naturally, the “pageant queen with the powerful voice” had more moments than the “inspiring vocalist with a new lease on life.” The coaches all think the two would make a good duet team in general, but for “The Voice” purposes, only one could move on, and Blake deemed that singer to be Shelbie. One last thought: Cher’s Day 2 orange hair? Yay.
Team Cee Lo: Anthony Paul vs. Caroline Pennell
Caroline, you may remember, is one of those girls with a “unique” (aka “indie” affectation) voice. Anthony, well, you just may not remember. I don’t. But Anthony, we learn today (thanks, Carson) is in show choir and keeps getting told he’s oversinging in rehearsal. That could be because no one would be mistaken for undersinging next to Caroline Pennell, who is basically just talking to music. They get “As Long as You Love Me” – the Bieber version, not the Backstreet version, sadly. But it’s cool, and strange. Anthony is super smooth, and Caroline’s on her own planet. It’s pretty much a given from the start, though, that Cee Lo will pick Caroline. Leaving Anthony open for a Steal from Christina! She says she was impressed with his vocal control.
Team Adam: Donna Allen vs. Tessanne Chin
Round two for Team Adam and time for him to shave one vocal powerhouse from his team. Donna was a backup singer in Miami Sound Machine, and Tessanne is from Jamaica. They get “Next to Me,” and I gotta say, it’s scary. They are stomping all over one another in a way that, as Cee Lo put it, was inappropriate. Sure Donna sounded amazing, and earned comparisons to Tina Turner. But Tessanne didn’t make the veins in my head pop out just from watching the effort. For that reason, probably, Adam picked Tessanne.
Team Xtina: Briana Cuoco vs. Jacquie Lee
Only on music competition television do they make a 24-year-old seem over the hill, but that’s just what happened when they matched Briana to 16-year-old Jacquie. Christina assigned them “House of the Rising Sun,” the indie-sounding version that played on promos for “American Horror Story,” and now just gives me the shivers. Both girls use some of the indie inflections, and both take the elevator up to their notes. It’s not super genuine, especially when a 16-year-old sings about being a ruined boy. But Jacquie still gave a better performance—just more youthful, really. Cee Lo picked up on that in his commentary. Briana, who luckily traded “celebrity sister’s assistant” for “former dancer” by Carson, struck a chord for Blake, though. And after Christina selected Jacquie to move on, both Cee Lo and Blake pushed their buttons to steal Briana. Cee Lo pitches her with a beautiful poem of a compliment about having true grit in her voice. “Beat that,” he tells Blake. So Blake smiles and points his finger at his head, and it’s a done deal. “Do not make direct eye contact with those dimples!” Adam warns, but Briana still chooses Blake. Blake climbs up on to Cee Lo for a big hug, and it looks like Cee Lo is waving a bedazzled personal battery-operated fan. Which I’d really like to Steal.