Last week”s rapid progression through the Battle Rounds was appreciated, but baffling. Why was the show in such a rush to reduce the field to forty contestants when it had a full three hours this week in order to wrap things up? Well, the answer is tonight”s presidential debate, which cuts “The Voice” in half for this one instance. That makes the remaining twelve slots make sense: the show can lock down six per night this week, then start the Knockout Rounds next week. (Unless they drag this out within an inch of its life. Which is possible, but I”m trying to be an optimist here.)
With only two steals remaining, those won”t be as omnipresent as they have been over the past two weeks. But both Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera are in a position to land a strong singer in this final week via this season”s twist. Adam Levine and CeeLo Green have both used up their two steals, and might find some strong talent pitted against their squad down the line.
8:00 p.m. “We haven”t had a bad battle yet,” says Shelton to the camera. Well, except for the ones shown in montage form, I”d wager. Those probably weren”t very good.
8:02 p.m. Let”s kick things off with Team CeeLo, with a battle featuring Alexis Marceaux versus Daniel Ross. You”re not gonna believe this, but they are both big fans of mentor Rob Thomas. Their song? Adam Lambert”s “What Do You Want From Me?” Interesting song choice, one with enough bombast to translate well into a vocal battle. Marceaux”s classic training puts her at a slight disadvantage during the first rehearsal, with Ross” raw talent coming through more distinctly at this phase. Still, Ross” confidence issues are the wild card here.
8:04 p.m. At the final rehearsal, Marceaux has decreased her over-enunciation, while Ross” butterflies have him unable to finish individual phrases. Ross” comeback story is tailor made for “The Voice”, but his nerves actually start to get on Green”s nerves. When he expresses a desire to avoid going for the high notes, unwilling to risk missing them in front of an audience, Green nearly shouts back, “What ARE you willing to risk to win this, Daniel?”
8:10 p.m. Battle time is here. Daly refers to Ross as “the emotional vocalist”. That”s adorable and yet awful, all at once. Ross and Marceaux both offer a unique vocal spin on the song from Lambert”s original, but Ross stumbles through the chorus fairly badly. Still, he”s so raw that it almost works in his favor. There”s nothing studied about his performance, but there”s nothing particularly auteur about it either. There”s drama in watching him singing for his life, but the drama comes from watching him not fail, versus watching him succeed. However, from my couch, Marceaux won that via a war of attrition versus a knockout vocal performance. So it could go either way come decision time.
8:14 p.m. Levine appreciates Rosa”s emotive performance. Shelton opts for Marceaux over Rosa, with Aguilera suggesting Rosa aim his performance outward towards the crowd rather than inward. (She”s right, but come on, Xtina: the poor dude was scared to death up there.) Green says that Rosa”s voice affects him in a personal, guttural way. Well, that can mean only one thing: the winner of this battle is Daniel Rosa. I stand by my earlier assessment, but as long as Rosa actually finished the song, Green was going to pick him. Just look at his voting track record this season. Silly me for forgetting that trend. I do wonder what will happen when Green”s team of misfit vocal toys starts sparring with each other onstage? Will they cancel each other out, or keeping pushing themselves further?
8:17 p.m. Backstage, Rosa is crying during his confessional, and Green sneaks up behind him to offer a hug of congratulations. If nothing else, Green picks his team in a way no one else would, and in a way that pleases him at the end of the day. Can”t be mad at that. (Mostly because I”m not one of the vocalists that he has dismissed.)
8:22 p.m. Levine and mentor Mary J. Blige prepare for the next Team Adam battle: Brandon Mahone versus Nicole Nelson. Both had strong auditions, which makes this combination a prime candidate for a steal. Their tune? “Ain”t No Mountain High Enough”, a duet tailor-made for a Battle Round performance. Mahone finds no flaws in Nelson”s initial rehearsal, which freaks him out a bit. But his own performance wows both coach and mentor regardless, even if he has Daniel Rosa-levels of nerves while performing it.
8:25 p.m. In a one-on-one session with Mahone, Levine implores him to start believing more in his own talents. Mahone reiterates that he”s there to help bring his family out of poverty, a story with which Blige connects to her own journey towards stardom. In the final rehearsals, Mahone feels like a different performer. Nelson worries that her decade-long experience advantage over him may no longer be a factor in the ultimate competition.
8:32 p.m. Often during these battles, I”m typing as furiously as possible in order to keep up with the musical action. But here? I sat back and simply enjoyed the pair sing together without the burden of having to come up with instant judgments. I particularly appreciated the way that a previously restrained Nelson decided to put her vocal foot to the floor during the bridge, lifting the whole performance into the stratosphere. If there”s no steal here, I”d be shocked.
8:34 p.m. Shelton appreciates Mahone”s stagecraft, but gives the edge to Nelson. Aguilera wanted more pyrotechnics from Nelson, but gives her the round all the same. Green awards the win to Mahone on the basis of his onstage swagger. Levine gives props to both singers for executing the goals set forth for them during the rehearsals. But in the end, the winner of this battle is Nicole Nelson. Once Levine started emphasizing Mahone”s experience, that seemed like a foregone conclusion. Levine still makes a point to go onstage and hug Mahone before Daly does his hosting duty. And…no steal. That feels like a travesty. Levine agrees with me. Well, not with me. With the camera. Still.
8:38 p.m. Montage time! We learn that Loren Allred defeated Brian Scartocci, Cassadee Pope defeated Ryan Jirovec, and Joe Kirkland defeated Samuel Mouton. Was that as good for you as it was for me?
8:44 p.m. It”s time for the final battle, hailing from Team Christina, in the form of Devyn DeLoera versus MarissaAnn. Or, as I like to call it, “The Battle To Break My Spellcheck”. Aguilera gives them a song they can both attack: En Vogue”s “Free Your Mind”. “This is a rock song,” says Billie Joe Armstrong. “If you spit on us, that”s OK!” This is a perfect song for Aguilera to coach, since it allows her to encourage her team members to scream sing.
8:47 p.m. As the youngest competitor still left, MarissaAnn asks Aguilera and Armstrong during her one-on-one what she can do to stand out. Aguilera suggests that MarissaAnn ignore her age and simply focus on her singular experiences. In the rehearsal, Aguilera and her ubiquitous bandana listen to her protégées vocally spar with each other. Xtina likens the rehearsal to a “cat fight”, and she”s not wrong. The two are working to top one another rather than work in concert with one another. But that”s the inherent problem with the name “Battle Rounds”. Helping each other isn”t always these singers” first instinct.
8:53 p.m. Well, neither are stage-shy, that”s for damn sure. On one hand, it”s silly that a show called “The Voice” has a battle round involving two performers that would have no trouble making it on other singing competitions. On the other hand, they both have chops to spare. So while I couldn”t help but notice the form-fitting outfits each wore to help sell their performance, I also spent a lot of time closing my eyes and seeing if the vocals held up. Aside from showy runs on the part of both singers, the answer was yes. Did this battle deserve the final slot of the hour? Only because Blake Shelton is about to steal one of them, I”d wager.
8:55 p.m. “Nice…battle!” says Daly, with an unintentionally hilarious pause between those two words. Green and Shelton throw their respective weight behind MarissaAnn, with Levine siding with DeLoera. Aguilera has positive things to say about both, calling both “superstars”. But she can only choose one, and the winner of this battle is Devyn DeLoera.
8:58 p.m. And, on cue, Shelton presses his button, making MarissaAnn the newest member of Team Blake.Predicting that steal had everything to do with TV logic, which should take nothing away from MarissaAnn”s performance itself. Aguilera has the last steal of the competition, which could either be a function of her fussiness or savviness. We”ll see when/if she steals someone tomorrow. (OK, let”s not kid ourselves: of course she will. See “TV logic” above.)
Updated knockout round rosters, with steals in italics:
Team Blake: Terry McDermott, Collin McLoughlin, Gracia Harrison, Julio Cesar Castillo, Suzanne Choffel, Liz Davis, Cassadee Pope, MarissaAnn
Team Adam: Bryan Keith, Amanda Brown, Melanie Martinez, Sam James, Joselyn Rivera, Kayla Nevarez, Michelle Brooks-Thompson, Loren Allred, Joe Kirkland, Nicole Nelson
Team Christina: De”Borah, Aquile, Celica Westbrooke, Dez Duron, Sylvia Yacoub, Laura Vivas, Alessandra Guercio, Devyn DeLoera
Team CeeLo: Diego Val, Trevin Hunte, Cody Belew, Caitlin Michele, Teresa Griffin, Nicholas David, MacKenzie Bourg, Mycle Wastman, Daniel Rosa
What did you think about the fifth night of Battle Rounds? Happy to have them over, or angry about how many have played out in montage form? Did Shelton use his last steal wisely? Did anyone else deserve to be stolen tonight? Sound off below!