We”re slightly more than halfway through the Battle Rounds on “The Voice”. With only three steals remaining, there isn”t much in the way of strategy left for the four coaches. Then again, “strategy” hasn”t been the name of the game thus far in this phase of the competition. Still, there have been a surprisingly high number of good pairings thus far, with the lesser ones shunted off into montage-form for our benefit. Tonight”s one-hour installment will take us that much closer to The Knockout Rounds. Early favorites in that round already include Trevin Hunte, Amanda Brown, and Nicholas Davis. Will anyone join that upper tier tonight? Only one way to find out. As always, I”ll be recapping the show in real time.
8:00 p.m. I wouldn”t mind seeing a Battle Round between coach and mentor. Just for funsies. We really haven”t learned why any of those four pairings exist thus far in the show. While this show isn”t about them, feeling like there”s a history between the pair would help their coaching sessions.
8:01 p.m. Tonight”s episode starts with a Team Blake battle, featuring Liz Davis versus Nicole Johnson, a battle between two country artists in Shelton”s arsenal. Their song? Miranda Lambert”s “Baggage Claim”. His wife”s song? Alrighty then. That”s one way to find the best country artist on his team. Johnson feels she”s the underdog, with Davis” age and experience giving her the edge here. Given that we don”t actually hear Johnson sing, I have no idea if this is true or not.
8:05 p.m. In the final rehearsals, Shelton calls out Davis” nasal pronunciation. (To be fair, he calls himself out for having the same tendency.) While Blake enjoys Johnson”s performance, he worries about her ability to stay in pitch during the final performance. The editing here emphasizes this battle as Davis” make-or-break moment in her overall career, which is either foreshadowing or a misdirection.
8:10 p.m. Liz Davis looks so much like Laura Vandervoort that it”s freaking me out.
8:11 p.m. Both have clean, strong voices, but neither have much in the way of stage presence. That shouldn”t matter in a show called “The Voice”, but we”ve seen plenty of instances already in which on-stage charisma have gone a long way towards winning or losing at this stage. It”s a perfectly fine performance, but not a top-tier battle compared to those that have come before. I can”t really call a winner, because neither stood out enough for me to have a horse in this particular race.
8:13 p.m. The judges seem sleepy, with no one really saying anything remotely interesting when evaluating that performance. Shelton notes Davis” laid-back attitude during the performance, which surprised him. Also surprising him? Johnson”s breath control while singing. In the end, the winner of this battle is Liz Davis, for the sole fact that she never lost her breath mid-song. I”m not sure that”s a strong reason to decide a winner, but Davis” biography is ultimately more compelling in the long run.
8:15 p.m. Backstage, Shelton comforts Johnson during her confessional. Turns out she left the stage without actually saying goodbye to him, and he didn”t want her to leave without a few words from him. It”s a sweet moment, albeit one that felt like Blake trying to avoid looking like a bad guy. On one hand, that”s nice. On the other hand, this is a competition. No coach should feel bad about any decision, unless they can”t justify that decision to themselves. Shelton”s wishy-washy choice for this battle might be gnawing at him.
8:21 p.m. Over on Team Adam, Levine pits Alessandra Guercio versus Kayla Nevarez. I had a soft spot for Nevarez in the blinds, so let”s see how she does versus another strong member of her team. Their tune? Katy Perry”s “Wide Awake”, chosen by Adam to give them both moments to stretch their pop vocal skills. Guercio”s perfection hinders her in the first rehearsal, with Mary J. Blige and Levine both imploring her to stop over-pronouncing the lyrics. “I”m just looking to see who can keep it together in a high-pressure situation,” Levine tells the camera, suggesting this is less of a singing competition and more of a psychological test.
8:24 p.m. In the final rehearsals, Levine points out some sharp moments within Nevarez”s performance. There”s no other sense of how either one has really progressed since their initial meeting with Blige. “The Voice” is somehow stretching out these battles as much as possible while simultaneously not providing any context to their progressions from start to finish. I understand deep biographical insight will only come when the teams are more sparsely populated, and that we can”t get to know eliminated contestants with any real depth. But it”s too bad this show doesn”t see (or, more accurately, doesn”t have time for) the inherent drama in this rehearsal process. Just seeing each artist try to master these songs would give insight into their personality, demeanor, and work ethic. It”s a small thing, but one that would pay dividends down the line as well as in the present moment.
8:29 p.m. Battle time! Guercio attacks the beat, while Nevarez stays within it. Neither approach is wrong, but it definitely helps delineate each performer. With Guercio playing to the crowd, Nevarez tries to keep up her opponent”s energy. But both are shaky, especially in the higher registers. It feels like their initial adrenaline rushes wore off about halfway through, with each struggling to make it through the end.
8:31 p.m. Shelton praises each singer for their respective strengths, with Aguilera suggesting both hone those strengths to truly make them stand out as individual artists down the line. Green praises Nevarez”s softer tone, but thinks it may hinder her long-term in the competition. It”s a fair point, even given my admitted bias here. “Vocally, it still felt trained,” Levine tells Guercio, while also noting the same pitch problems with Nevarez that everyone else undoubtedly heard.
8:35 p.m. Levine spends a lot of time discussing the psychological makeup of each contestant, begging Guercio to believe in herself more and making sure Nevarez eats a little humble pie after her comments to him during the blinds about insisting he help her win the entire competition. The latter makes sense when we learn the winner of this battle is Kayla Nevarez. That clarifies Levine”s humble pie statement: It”s clear he has reservations about that pick even while acknowledging her potential.
8:36 p.m. Aguilera follows up on Levine”s point about Guercio”s confidence, and decides to give it a boost by electing to steal her. That was a nice bit of television right there, with Christina making her first steal of the Battle Rounds in dramatic fashion. What felt like a pep talk turned into an oddly feminist moment. That was surprising on multiple levels. In any case, Alessandra Guercio becomes the newest member of Team Christina. “You can teach her a lot,” says Levine, who comes over to Aguilera”s chair. “Good job.” Good job, indeed.
8:38 p.m. In montage form, we learn that Mycle Wastman defeated Ben Taub, Michelle Brooks-Thompson defeated Adanna Duru, and Laura Vivas defeated Beat Frequency. Duly noted. Dear singing duos: You are not welcome on “The Voice”, apparently. Also, under pain of death, I couldn”t tell you a thing about any of these six contestants without consulting the show”s website. Maybe “64 team members” is too darn many.
8:44 p.m. It”s time for Team CeeLo to step back up to the battle plate for the final pairing of the night. This battle features Emily Earle versus MacKenzie Bourg. Green selects Owl City”s “Good Time” for the pair. Earle tries to mimic Carly Rae Jepsen”s performance on the record, but both Green and Rob Thomas urge her to stay within her own style. For his part, Bourg is worried about performing without his guitar. Thomas offers up advice from when he started out with only a microphone in his hand.
8:48 p.m. Bourg tries to put on his guitar during the final rehearsal, prompting Green to call the instrument his “pacifier”. Ouch. Every Battle Round episode has ended with a steal thus far, but we just saw one. I”m guessing this will break the streak. That”s not pre-judgment about the singers so much as the rules of reality television.
8:52 p.m. Both take the stage with a personal fear to overcome. (For Earle, it”s the song”s genre. For Bourg, it”s his lack of musical blankie.) Bourg”s lack of polished stage presence is actually endearing, and something that will definitely improve over time. By contrast, Earle looks like she”s been doing this her whole life. Luckily, both sound great, to the point where I wouldn”t mind if they both fronted a band together. They could be like Buckingham and Nicks, except without all the drugs and acrimonious break-ups.
8:53 p.m. Bourg”s dad is both adorable and intimidating. May I never meet him at a bake sale or in a dark alley.
8:54 p.m. Levine didn”t enjoy the chemistry between them, giving the edge to Earle. Shelton calls Bourg”s voice “squeaky” on occasion. (Wow, I didn”t hear the same thing at all, but maybe it played differently in-house.) Aguilera ends up siding with Bourg, purely in terms of his energy.
8:56 p.m. Green thinks Bourg is more of a multi-faceted performer, while pointing out Earle”s discomfort during the number. (Again, I disagree. Whatever misgivings she had didn”t really seem to come out in the performance itself.) Is Green going to choose the solid country star, or a dude who looks like he”s one scar away from Harry Potter cosplay? C”mon, you know the answer, and the winner of this battle is MacKenzie Bourg. Green will have fun within his team, but I”m not sure how this approach will yield him a winner in the end. (Then again, maybe he figures he”ll take Trevin Hunte all the way, and everything else serves to amuse him in the meantime.)
8:58 p.m. Only twelve slots left for the Knockout Rounds after tonight.
Updated knockout round rosters, with steals in italics:
Team Blake: Terry McDermott, Collin McLoughlin, Gracia Harrison, Julio Cesar Castillo, Suzanne Choffel, Liz Davis
Team Adam: Bryan Keith, Amanda Brown, Melanie Martinez, Sam James, Joselyn Rivera, Kayla Nevarez, Michelle Brooks-Thompson
Team Christina: De”Borah, Aquile, Celica Westbrooke, Dez Duron, Sylvia Yacoub, Laura Vivas, Alessandra Guercio
Team CeeLo: Diego Val, Trevin Hunte, Cody Belew, Caitlin Michele, Teresa Griffin, Nicholas David, MacKenzie Bourg, Mycle Wastman
What did you think about the fourth night of Battle Rounds? Is the pace satisfying? Would you speed things up to get to the Knockout Rounds more quickly, or slow things down to heighten the drama of each battle? Which team seems strongest at this point? Sound off below!