NBC has put out clips explaining what the heck Tuesday (May 10) night’s “The Voice” is going to be like, how these alleged Battles are going to work. I’ve skipped those clips, because I want to experience the bloody, musical gladiatorial combat with fresh eyes. Also, I enjoy being confused.Â
Click through and we’ll experience The Battles, Part 1 together…
10:01 p.m. We start with Christina Aguilera, who has to choose her first Battle pairing. There will be two artists singing the same song on the same stage. The mentor will have to determine who sang better. In the first Battle, Â Tarralyn Ramsay will face off with Frenchie Davis on “Single Ladies.” Christina explains that they can hold their own with each other. And clearly it had nothing to do with pairing zaftig African-American women. Clearly.Â
10:05 p.m. Enter Sia, as Christina Aguilera’s advisor. How many people does it take to mentor two singers? In the first rehearsal, Christina tries singing “Single Ladies” for them, but she doesn’t know the intricate lyrics. “Don’t worry about the words. I never worry about the words,” Aguilera giggles ridiculously. See, it’s funny, because she botched the lyrics to OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM in front of a billion people worldwide. Never you mind, Christina.Â In private advising, Sia and Christina tell Frenchie that she has a tendency to sing sharp, which is news to the “Idol” bootee. They have no such useful advice for Tarralyn.
10:07 p.m. In their first on-stage rehearsal, there’s tension between Terralyn. “It’s not anything negative. It’s just business,” Tarralyn says. Christina tries making peace with her ladies, referencing her own Grammys slip-and-fall, saying that sometimes you need somebody — Jennifer Hudson in her case — to pick you up. “The Voice”: Where Christina Aguilera’s Public Humiliations Are Ground Up Into Pellets of Wisdom. Next week? Life lessons to be learned from public intoxication.
10:08 p.m. Here it comes… BATTLE No. 1 Between Frenchie & Terralyn… Oh right. Carson Daly is on this show and for tonight, he’s pretending to be Michael Buffer, setting the stage for the shouting match. Does anybody want to point out that a good duet is complimentary, rather than competitive? That’s why you sing a duet? In this case, we have Frenchie and Tarralyn each trying to out-diva the other, even when they’re supposed to be doing supporting and backing vocals. There are some big moments, there’s absolutely no nuance here, just bellowing. Naturally, Christina Aguilera approves.
10:12 p.m. “Wow, I enjoyed that so much,” Cee-Lo says. “The best thing is when you forget it’s a singing competition. And I forgot,” Adam Levin says. I didn’t forget. Blake Shelton compares it to “Rocky,” saying that Frenchie was like Apollo, but Terralyn was Rocky. “I don’t want to pick this one,” Christina says. “I’m clueless,” Sia contributes.
10:16 p.m. We had to sell product before getting results. “I think Frenchie took it tonight,” Christina announces. Maybe she didn’t understand Blake’s boxing movie analogy?
10:16 p.m. Blake Shelton’s first battle will be pairing Patrick Thomas and Tyler Robinson on Elvis’ “Burning Love.” Tyler is worried because he doesn’t know this song. Blake says that he paired them because of their confidence. Or something. Blake’s got Reba McEntire serving as his assistant mentor, as they try to teach Tyler that he shouldn’t compensate for not knowing the song with pointless runs. In their private session, Reba advises Patrick that he should sing the song to a hypothetical girlfriend. Patrick’s embarrassed. The same advice can’t be given to Tyler, which may be why we don’t get to see his private session.
10:25 p.m. On to… BATTLE No. 2 Between Patrick & Tyler… This Battle track has been arranged so that Patrick and Tyler don’t need to work together very much. Patrick’s version sounds more Elvis-y. Tyler’s version sounds better. And when they start singing together at the end, it just sounds like a cacophonous mess. That’s not the way music is supposed to be made. Sorry. “Wow. I was not expecting that,” Christina says. “Both of you guys are both surgically technically great singers,” Cee-Lo says, before picking Tyler. Adam agrees that he would go with Tyler. Blake consults Reba, who says that they both rocked it. We’re not getting any substantive judging on this show, are we? Blake praises Tyler — a nerdy, bearded John Krasinski — for turning the runs down a bit, but also has nice words for Patrick.
10:29 p.m. Well screw Cee-Lo and Adam. “Patrick,” Blake says, rendering his verdict. Bye, Tyler.
10:30 p.m. Adam Levin’s first battle will pit Casey Weston against Tim Mahoney on “Leather & Lace.” Casey immediately whips out the underdog card against the far more experienced Tim, who you may recall Adam expected to be a girl when he pressed his buzzer. Adam has Adam Blackstone as his advisor. You may not know Adam Blackstone, but he wrangles the genius of Maroon Five, whatever that means. This is another duet where one singer — Tim, naturally — knows the song already, while Casey is learning it on the fly. Adam Blackstone says that Casey’s homework will be harmony, while Tim’s homework will be tone.Â
10:33 p.m. In their first stage rehearsal, Adam tells Casey to be “a bad bitch.” She says she’ll be “a bad brat.” He tells Tim to do some falsetto. Tim says he’ll take it under advisement.
10:38 p.m. Time for… BATTLE No. 3 Between Tim & Casey… This is at least a song that’s designed as a duet. Casey starts off strong, particularly if you happen to like her nasally twang and goat-vibrato. I’ve got no serious expectations. Tim may be the more experienced performer, but why has his experience not taught him not to make all of these “I’m singing hight notes” squint-y faces? Tim’s resemblance to a singing Russell Hantz is also distracting me. Casey’s actually the much more relaxed performer, while Tim sounds better. This is the first duet in which the contestants weren’t trying to bludgeon each other with big notes. Yay!
10:41 p.m. Blake calls certain aspects of Casey’s voice “addicting.” He tells Adam that he would choose Casey, because there’d be development with her. Christina calls their pairing “lovely.” Cee-Lo prefers Tim because he’s “strangely unique,” while Casey reminds him of “a young Stevie Nicks.” “I’m so happy with both of you guys. Honestly, such an incredible job,” Adam raves.
10:43 p.m. But the winner is… After the break.
10:46 p.m. OK. Now? Who won, Adam? “There’s just something about Casey Weston. I have to go with Casey Weston,” Adam says. Presumably he’s chosen her because she’s a long-legged blonde with potential for growth. Thus, he’s using the exact same criteria as they use on “Idol.” Way to be different.
10:48 p.m. Cee-Lo pits Vicci Martinez against Niki Dawson. His explanation is flimsy. I think he likes that their names rhyme. Cee-Lo’s got Monica as his adviser. They’re singing Pink’s “F***in’ Perfect.” After listening to them rehearse, Cee-Lo calls them sisters and says this is going to be the hardest part for him.
10:54 p.m. Time for… BATTLE No. 4 Between Niki & Viccy… Pink invites a certain amount of shouting, which makes this an appropriate Battle duet. They’re both pretty good, though the screaming becomes oppressive towards the end. I think Vicci sounds better than Niki, but I could do without Vicky’s “I’m a punk” stylings, which read more like a petulant child in need of a bathroom stop than like an actual angry person.
10:57 p.m. Adam calls this the best duet of the night. Blake says that Cee-Lo made a mistake in pairing these two. “I’m not saying crap,” Blake sense, of a preference. Cee-Lo loves Vicky’s “war dance,” which is *exactly* the thing that was irking me.
10:58 p.m. Cee-Lo’s selection… Vicci. I guess that’s the right choice.
11:00 p.m. Well that was a disaster. I want to begin by granting that most of those shout-duets were still better than whatever happens when two “Idol” contestants are forced to sing together (other than than one good Casey/Haley number). But so what? That was an hour of TV in which we saw a total of four shriek-y duets. We learned almost nothing new about any of the contestants and we only saw a scattered amount of mentoring from the stars. And we’re actually going to have three more shows like that? Why?
The biggest flaw of this flawed format: Nobody had any strategy. At all. This is a competition show, but the mentors put absolutely no thought into who they were pairing up and gave no consideration to trimming teams down to their best four. Similarly, the mentors who were at the Battles as casual observers, but still got to weigh in as judges, didn’t appear to be either judging constructively or judging strategically, trying to psyche their competition into picking weaker singers to boost the hopes of their own stars.
And the results? Well, we chose the first four singers for our live shows tonight. And without looking, I dare you to name the four people who got picked. I remembered Vicci, because she was last, and Frenchie, because she’s Frenchie.Â
What’d you think of Battle Night No. 1?