Hallelujah! We’ve made it to the final week of battle rounds, and after a torturous month of obvious choices and lackluster match-ups it couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Carson promises we’re in store for an evening of “big changes, unexpected challenges and the most shocking battle yet when country meets hip hop!” Plus Cee-Lo will cry! So let’s get to it.
First up, Cee-Lo pits mini Jersey Boy James Massone against old-school R&B crooner Wade on Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” Cee-Lo believes that since both guys are young and ambitious it’ll be a fair fight. James is concerned because he doesn’t know the song, and he’s clearly overwhelmed during the first rehearsal. Wade explains he plans to put heart and soul into the song. Cee-Lo warns them both that “it’s not just someone’s lyrics, it’s your life on the line.” Apparently he’s been reading “The Hunger Games.”
James gets Ne-Yo as an advisor and he’s both psyched and nervous since he’s “been singing Ne-Yo songs since high school” (yeah you’re young, we get it!) and he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself. Oops, too late! Ne-Yo thinks he’s too nervous and reminds him: “You wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t some greatness in there, you’d be at home watching…wishing.” Um, thanks? Wade meets with Babyface who thinks Wade looks like a 12-year-old but–amazingly–sings like an adult, specifically Luther Vandross. Cee-Lo admits he feels closer to Wade because the “same energy that’s alive in me is alive in him”
At the final rehearsal, Cee-Lo feels James is improved, while Wade is “such a natural.” “It’s disappointing to know I have to say goodbye to one of them,” Cee-Lo says before breaking into tears. “Knowing that we touched Cee-Lo in that way will stay with me for the rest of my life” says James. No doubt the same goes for anyone who touches Cee-Lo.
During the battle James doesn’t look but sure does sound nervous, or maybe the shaky high-pitched thing is just his style. Wade is less cloying and at least a little soulful, but kind of dull. All the coaches say they would pick James, but the choice is up to Cee-Lo. Cee-Lo says James “blew him away” and notes Wade’s talent is “inherent, it can not be severed from you, but I gotta be honest you were nervous today.” Cee-Lo’s heart is broken because he had plans to take Wade all the way to the end, but as the audience cheers for James, Cee-Lo picks the contender the show has been pimping: James.
Next up: Adam, who pairs classical pianist Nicolle Galyon against nursing student Mathai (her rather adorable parents hoped she’d stick with medicine over singing but now that she’s on TV they’re kind of thrilled). They’ll face off on Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” which Adam calls “a piano song with a fun swagger.” Mathai says she’s scared because Nicolle is so sweet, while Nicolle just wants to know if she can start the song at the piano.
Nicolle’s advisor is Robin Thicke, who promptly declares he’d take her to prom because she’s adorable with a voice like “morning coffee on a veranda.” Mathai’s advisor Alanis Morissette reminds her that she has a “natural ability almost taken for granted.” Mathai now realizes she has to give every note its full respect. When they get to the final rehearsal Adam decides he’s completely over Nicolle at the piano. He tries but fails to push the piano off the stage in a moment sure to be immortalized in an animated GIF. Mathai believes Nicolle losing the piano could work to her advantage.
The battle begins and it’s immediately obvious this won’t be one for the ages. Nicolle probably did need her piano. She seems just a little off throughout. Mathai does pretty much exactly what she did with Adele’s “Rumor Has It” in her audition, and I’d say the sing-songy little girl act will get old fast if it didn’t already feel ancient.
Blake thinks the battle comes down to breathing and Mathai has mastered it! Christina asserts that it’s a hands down no-brainer: Mathai. Cee-Lo observes Nicolle’s cut and dry approach to singing is generic. Adam wasn’t happy with the battle in general and thinks the rehearsal was better. He was let down, but the winner is (surprise!) Mathai.
Now on to Christina who is down to her final two picks: hip-hop MC Moses Stone and country duo The LiNE. Most! Shocking! Battle! Yet! They’re assigned the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Everyone seems a little confused by Christina’s “little experiment” but they promise to give it their all.
During auditions, all four coaches turned their chairs for The LiNE, but it seems like the female half of the duo — Hailey Steele — is already regretting going with Christina. “I would’ve preferred a song that was maybe a little more country, this seems straight up rock n roll,” Hailey says, proving she knows how to make an obvious point.
At the rehearsal, Christina defends her choice by humble bragging that one of her favorite people to ever share the stage with was Mick Jagger and that a duet is all about eye contact and connection. The LiNE (or at least Hailey) still have their reservations. Moses is gung ho. He’s assigned Lionel Richie as advisor but Christina dominates what we see of the mentoring session by challenging Moses to a sing off. Between those patented Xtina runs she reminds us that Lil Wayne has a song that’s half singing, half rapping and she wants Moses to explore his vocal ability. Lionel warns “if he pulls himself together and gives us Moses the hybrid, he’ll hurt you!”
Things don’t go so well for The LiNE and their advisor, Jewel. As soon as they start singing, Jewel looks like someone showed her the ratings for that Bravo show she did with Kara DioGuardi. It’s rough, but The LiNE (or at least Hailey) isn’t making it any easier with their obvious irritation at the song selection. They seem defeated even before Jewel compares them to a wedding band. Brutal. According to Jewel, “If they can’t show America why they’re artists they’re gonna go home.”
Christina believes The LiNE has great harmony and vocals but they need to have fun as performers, while Moses was pushing himself too hard and she needed to take him down a notch. As they prepare for battle, Moses promises to “leave his heart on the stage” and show the world he can do more than hip-hop. The LiNE think it would be heartbreaking to lose and it’s their battle to win!
During the battle Moses is charismatic and comfortable, he owns the stage. The LiNE simply can’t keep up. Haven’t they seen Sugarland perform with Beyonce? Cee-Lo thought the performance was great and Moses is his man. Adam says he admires Moses’ skills but because the show is called The Voice, he’d go with The LiNE (apparently rappers can’t sing). Blake thought it was weird but agrees with Adam and would go with The LiNE. Christina explains that The Voice doesn’t mean power singing (yes, Christina Aguilera said that). She uses some of those patented Xtina acting chops (shout out “Burlesque”!) to pretend it’s an agonizing decision and then makes the decision everyone — including The LiNE — knew was coming… Moses wins.
Hailey is so upset she won’t even talk to the camera after. She’s probably not running out to rent “Burlesque” either.
Next, Adam pits shy country artist Karla Davis against bluesy jailbird Orlando Napier. Karla frets that the one person she didn’t want to face was Orlando, but Adam chooses “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates and Orlando doesn’t know it. At rehearsals, neither Karla nor Orlando are really feeling the song. Adam says it would be a disservice to not try something else, so they switch to “Easy Like Sunday Morning” by The Commodores. Orlando is relieved and thinks the song favors him because it’s a soul tune, Karla says she freaked out a little bit but thinks the change will be good.
Karla gets Alanis Morissette as an advisor but during the session it’s Adam who advises Karla to “find Bertha, the big girl inside you” who can hit the big notes. Karla gets in touch with her inner Bertha and does a happy little jog around the piano to celebrate. Pretty cute. Orlando meets his advisor, Robin Thicke, who says Orlando is a “painter, the Picasso of the group” and “his style makes him special.” Robin advises Orlando to use the vowels in the lyrics to project. Orlando admits he’s never had vocal lessons so meeting with Adam and Robin is especially helpful.
Before they head into battle, Karla opines she had met with record labels who wanted to turn her into something she’s not and promises she’s bringing Bertha with her on stage. Orlando understands he still has rough edges but he’s ready to take his shot.
During rehearsals, Karla was really likable and Orlando was really cocky, but on stage they’re both fun to watch and listen to. Why didn’t Adam put one of these two up against Pip and spare us the indignity of more bow ties and suspenders?
Blake loves Karla’s voice but think Orlando had a better overall performance. Christina thought it was lackluster but Karla was a little more entertaining. Cee-Lo likes Orlando’s blue-eyed soul and attitude. Adam says Orlando has a very specific vibe but Karla has started to blossom. He’s believes in both of them but the winner is… Karla.
Blake’s final battle is between high school preacher’s son Jordan Rager and reggae street performer Naia Kete. They’ll sing Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and despite it being a significant recent hit, Jordan is not familiar with the song at all. Blake says Jordan is “country as dirt” and admits the reggae pop song probably lends itself more to Naia but Jordan could blow people away.
In an audition flashback, Jordan tells Carson the main reason he wants Blake to turn his chair around is to get closer to meeting Miranda Lambert. Blake makes a dream come true and hooks Jordan up with Miranda as an advisor. Jordan gives Miranda a big hug while the producers insert an interview snippet of him saying, “I’d be lyin’ if I said Miranda wasn’t hot.” Be careful there Jordan, it’s pretty clear Blake could crush you under one cowboy boot. When he starts singing it’s clear that Jordan has confidence issues and Miranda tries to talk him through it like he’s a little boy who lost his parents in Wal-Mart. Naia’s session with advisor Kelly Clarkson is a less awkward affair. Kelly is impressed with Naia’s street-chic fashion and “committed melodies” but worries the bar might be higher since the song is right in her niche. Blake advises Naia to save the vocal tricks for the end of her performance and not to lose herself.
Before the battle, Naia is ready to “lay it all out there for the world” while Jordan is getting “more and more nervous.” On stage Naia is a stone cold pro and Jordan just looks so…tiny. But he’s got a nice smile and growing confidence, so maybe there’s some hope? Christina says Blake looked like a “nervous proud papa” during the performance. She thought Jordan was “solid all the way through” while Naia had a “natural groove.” She’d go with Naia. Cee-Lo thinks Jordan needed more confidence while the song was a natural for Naia, so he’d pick her. Adam applauds Jordan for going outside his comfort zone, but he too would go with Naia. Blake is surprised Naia was as nervous as she was, he heard her miss some notes, while Jordan stepped up but had some “pitch things.” He says it was an “even performance” from both, but sides with experience and picks Naia.
For the big finish we’re promised more tears from Cee-Lo. He’s got Tony Vincent versus Justin Hopkins — both family men and rockers — taking on Journey’s “Faithfully.” Tony knows that they both sing rock but cautions that their styles are different, while Justin hopes he can’t touch people’s hearts. Tony doesn’t believe his theater background (he starred in the Queen musical “We Will Rock You”) necessarily gives him a leg up.
Cee-Lo is in awe at their first rehearsal and breaks down into tears again. Tony meets with his advisor, Babyface, who says “Tony’s a pro, he’s not gonna go at anything half way.” Tony appreciates the feedback he’s getting from the “A-game of music and production.” Justin’s advisor Ne-Yo thinks The Voice is the perfect competition for singers like Justin: “If you close your eyes and listen, that’s all you need.” Justin thinks working with Cee-Lo and Ne-Yo is “surreal.” Cee-Lo calls Justin a diamond in the rough who sings straight from the gut, but predicts the battle will be a toss up because he appreciates both men.
The battle begins and I’m still not a fan of Tony’s theatricality — he’s like Adam Lambert filtered through the mind of Clive Barker. Justin comes across more effortless, but I’m not wild about him either. Adam likes the dirtiness in Justin’s voice and although he felt Tony was equally energetic, he’d go with Justin. Blake thinks the song choice and pairing has Cee-Lo written all over it. He thought Justin was more solid. Christina was wowed by Justin’s tone but believes Tony has versatility and the full package for the future. Cee-Lo says Christina’s sentiments mirror the way he feels. He’s touched by both men and their families, but he sees Tony as someone more “adaptable and ambiguous.” Cee-Lo says it was “the toughest one for me” but Tony takes it.
As he reflects on his decision, Cee-Lo and his kitty cat apologize to Justin’s family. Tony is happy with the “bittersweet victory” and proves he’s just as much of a family man by making out with his very pregnant wife. It’s supposed to be sweet but Tony makes everything at least a little creepy.
After all the tears and the laughter, we’ve got our top 24 and now it’s time for America to vote. Blake promises “blood and guts,” so I guess they’re trying to tap into the “Walking Dead” phenomenon? We’ll find out next week…
Which coach do you want to see cry next? Wouldn’t it be better if Adam had sacrificed Pip to one of the actually talented singers he eliminated? And who do you think deserves to be The Voice?