Last night saw the first series of Battle Rounds that involved “The Steal,” and it certainly made this phase of “The Voice” more enjoyable than in past seasons. If that twist does nothing except set up a potential finale involving Trevin Hunte and Amanda Brown, then this addition has done its job. Without that twist, we”d have a sour taste in our mouths after CeeLo Green chose Hunte. Instead? We have a ready-made storyline that can potentially carry into the final moments of the season. If you think producers won”t do everything humanly possible to keep those two around, you”re crazy. That”s not to say the show will be rigged. But keeping these two as far apart as long as possible will only create buzz around the possible rematch down the line.
But for now, we must continue through the Battle Rounds themselves. We have only seen six of the thirty-two battles that will unfold over the next few weeks, and six steals are still in play. Let”s see what Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine have planned for their teams in tonight”s one-hour installment. Let”s get tonight”s live blog going. As always, I”ll be jotting down my thoughts in real time.
8:00 p.m. We get a quick recap of last night”s steals. In all the excitement of the finale 15 minutes, I forgot about Shelton”s “Blah blah blah” before stealing Collin McLoughlin. That was amusing.
8:01 p.m. Oh man, we just had a Domo sighting! Prepare yourself for some crazy, all.
8:02 p.m. Our first battle of the night comes from Teem CeeLo: Cody Belew versus Domo. Well, there”s a contrast in styles. It”s “Bam Bam” versus “Cray Cray”, essentially. The pair meet with Green and mentor Rob Thomas to learn what song they will perform. It”s Lady Gaga”s “Telephone”, a choice that seems to heavily favor Domo”s performance style. But Belew”s inherent theatricality should also come into play in this number as well.
8:05 p.m. Green hopes to see which one of them will reveal themselves as “the total package”, with each person”s weakness serving as the other”s current strength. We hear Rob Thomas sing several bars of “Telephone”, which means I can now cross THAT off my bucket list. Both Thomas and Green offer up solid advice for each contestant. Last night”s mentor/coach sessions served up many platitudes, but little in the way of concrete advice. This is a nice change.
8:05 p.m. “My problem is that I look like a rock/pop star, but I can sing like Mariah Carey.” Never change, Domo.
8:06 p.m. Belew gets some one-on-one time with Green and Thomas, and asks his coach point blank how to get Green”s attention away from Domo”s curves during the performance. Ha. I tremendously enjoy Belew both on- and offstage. Thomas feels Belew actually has an advantage, since he can employ the element of surprise in a way Domo can”t.
8:07 p.m. At the final rehearsal, Domo and Belew reveal that they have been working on some choreography together. Uh oh. Green repeats his concern that Domo is more about the performance as a whole than the vocal itself. Gee, ya think? Still, that didn”t stop Diego Val from winning his Battle Round last night. So I”m not sure Green has anyone but himself to blame at this point.
8:09 p.m. Alright, it”s Battle Time. Domo is wearing something out of “Rhythm Nation 1814” by way of “Angry Birds”. Unlike many songs thus far this round, “Telephone” is ready-made for two performers, so the interplay between the two is already built into the song itself. Vocally, both are fine, with Belew having more noticeable trouble in the higher registers. While their energies meshed well, I”m not convinced the pair brought out the best of each other vocally. It was fine, but the most memorable thing about this come tomorrow will be Belew spanking Domo mid-performance.
8:11 p.m. “There”s damn sure no stage presence problem with these two,” starts Shelton, without actually weighing in on who delivered the better vocal. Aguilera praises Domo”s restraint during the performance, having worried that her blind audition energy might be Domo”s baseline. (Christina is right: Domo was showy but in control during the number.) Levine concurs with Aguilera, noting that she freaked them out during the blinds. Wow, I almost feel bad for Domo at this point. Wait, let me read that quote about Mariah Carey again. OK, I feel a bit better.
8:12 p.m. “Since neither of you were able to [transcend the song], it just boils down to personal preference,” Green says. And that preference is a bit surprising, as the winner of this battle is Codey Belew. Green enjoys choosing the wilder of two paths, and while Domo performed well tonight, there”s a ceiling to what she can do. Had she brought something new to the performance, Green might have gone with her. Instead, Belew moves on. But Domo doesn”t, as no one decides to use a steal on her.
8:18 p.m. It”s time for a Team Christina battle, with this one featuring Aquile versus Nathalie Hernandez. The pair meet Billie Joe Armstrong in the first rehearsal, and come prepared to practice James Morrison”s “You Give Me Something”. Aguilera feels the song melds well with their laid-back vibes. Armstrong thinks Aquile”s first take is better than the original. That”s a bit much, but Aquile does sound great. Hernandez sounds like the second coming of ColbieCaillat, which works well for the song but may not give her much wiggle room long-term. (She”s also painfully shy, which reminds of Season 1″s Xenia. That poor girl always looked like she was only performing because “The Voice” was holding her family at gunpoint offstage.)
8:22 p.m. Aguilera stresses how much she wants the pair to work together during the performance. I agree, but all this talk of cooperation versus competition has me thinking that maybe we need a different name for this phase other than “Battle Rounds”. Oh well. That ship has long sailed. In the final rehearsal, Hernandez wows Aguilera with her growth over the rehearsal process, while Aquile has focus issues that worry his coach.
8:28 p.m. The (extremely mellow) battle begins! Now, I don”t wanna say it”s weird that a 40-year old is serenading a 15-year old, because that wouldn”t be fair to either of them. This isn”t Michael Bluth and Maeby Funke singing “Afternoon Delight”-levels of weird. So let”s push past that and enjoy what”s a lovely little duet between the pair. Unlike Domo/Belew, this vocal pairing makes lots of sense. Even though Aquile can soar higher, Hernandez owns the grittier aspects of the song. The contrast makes the performance very enjoyable, especially when they find middle ground during the harmonies and create a unique hybrid that sounds like the best of both worlds.
8:31 p.m. “It was just such a pleasure to watch you both sing,” Levine says, while noting that Hernandez”s inexperience isn”t her fault. “I was a zit at your age!” he follows up. Shelton praises Aquile, but takes time to praise Hernandez”s courage at taking on Aquile on a national stage. I”m pretty sure we can feel which way the wind is blowing here, especially when Aguilera praises Hernandez”s “raw voice”. So it”s no surprise to learn that the winner of this battle is Aquile. Aguilera seems surprised that Shelton didn”t try and steal Hernandez.
8:38 p.m. Wow, a Battle Round montage? Given the rate at which these Battle Rounds have unfolded (ie, only slightly faster than continental drift), it”s a shock to get quick glimpses of Celica Westbrooke versus Lisa Scinta (singing Kelly Clarkson”s “My Life Would Suck Without You”) and Charlie Rey versus Rudy Parris (singing Daniel Powter”s “Bad Day”). Apparently neither battle was particularly memorable, and thus didn”t deserve full treatment. The winners of these battle are Celica Westbrooke and Rudy Parris. It”s back to the smog mines with Charlie, I guess. Poor Lisa Scinta. Part of a montage in the Blind Auditions, and part of another one here.
8:40 p.m. OK, I”m really looking forward to this Team Adam battle, which features Caitlin Michele versus Melanie Martinez. Both impressed me during the blind auditions, although I do wonder if this pairing will take both to new levels or actually be too much of a good thing. Both meet with Levine and mentor Mary J. Blige to rehearse Ellie Goulding”s “Lights”. “You both do really interesting things, but within a pop context,” says Levine, explaining his pairing decision. By blowing through those two weaker battles, “The Voice” allows some much-appreciated onscreen time for the four artists to interact with each other. I could watch an hour of these piano-only rehearsals and feel like it was time well-spent. While I enjoy the full performances just fine, seeing how each musical decision is made is equally (if not more) fascinating.
8:42 p.m. In the final rehearsal, Martinez seems tentative and flat. “Never catch yourself phoning it in,” says Levine, who seems frustrated with the output of both contestants. “We all have off days, but I want them to be artists now,” he says to the camera. Post-rehearsal, Martinez is crying, worried that she”s blown it already. If this weren”t the last performance of the night, I”d be prepared for a train wreck. But Reality Television Logic dictates these two should pull it together. Otherwise, they would have been in the montage.
8:48 p.m. Martinez skips her way onto the stage for the battle, and it”s adorkable. (Sorry, this isn”t “New Girl”. My bad.) Michele is all power, and Martinez sounds so frail that a slight breeze might blow her away. But there”s power in that frailty that reveals itself as the song progresses, and the counterpoint of vocal dynamics offers a push/pull that amps up the drama of the song”s sparse arrangement. It”s not even in the same ballpark as last night”s final number, but it”s strong all the same.
8:51 p.m. “You guys don”t fit under your own category, and I can”t think of any other artist in any other genre that you are like,” swoons Shelton. “It was the prettiest and most moving performance of the day,” says Aguilera, following up Shelton by not picking a winner. Green praises Martinez”s breath control and Michele”s power, ultimately siding with Martinez as his personal winner. Here come the steals in 3…2…1…
8:52 p.m. “The good news is that these judges all want you,” says Levine, understanding all three were being strategic in their praise and not tipping their hands before he announces the winner. He”s happy that both overcome a lackluster final rehearsal to deliver the goods onstage tonight. “I”m so over the moon…that this is going to suck even more,” he moans.
8:56 p.m. Back from commercial break, we learn the winner of this battle is Melanie Martinez. That wasn”t quite the drama of Hunte/Brown, but this decision certainly weighed heavily on Levine before he made it. Green and Shelton move in to steal Michele within moments of Martinez leaving the stage. “My full name is Unique CeeLo Green,” says Michele, stating his case. Levine tries to push her towards Shelton, but in the end, Caitlin Michele is the newest member of Team CeeLo. That seems only fair, since Levine stole Brown last night.
Final results and updated knockout round rosters, with steals in italics:
Team Blake: Rudy Parris defeated Charlie Rey(Knockout Round Team: Terry McDermott, Collin McLoughlin, Gracia Harrison)
Team Adam: Melanie Martinez defeated Caitlin Michele, who was then stolen by CeeLo Green (Knockout Round Team: Bryan Keith, Amanda Brown, Melanie Martinez)
Team Christina: Aquile defeated Nathalie Hernandez; Celica Westbrooke defeated Lisa Scinta (Knockout Round Team: De”Borah, Aquile, Celica)
Team CeeLo: Cody Belew defeated Domo (Knockout Round Team: Diego Val, Trevin Hunte, Cody Belew, Caitlin Michele)
What did you think about the second night of Battle Rounds? Are the judges making smart pairings, or are they actually hurting their teams” chances overall? Which battle was your favorite? Sound off below!