There were so many impossible matchups on this week’s Voice “Battle Rounds,” with our four coaches selecting some of their most-promising acts for head-to-head vocal duels, that I half-wondered if other painful choices were imminent: Cut either crazy Cee Lo or his ridiculous fluffy cat. Pledge allegiance to Adam and his comfy sweater (somebody tell me they sell it at Target!) or Blake and his Hank Hill drawl. Join #TeamXtina’sLeftBreast or #TeamXtina’sRightBreast.
It didn’t have to be this way, of course. I mean, why did Blake have to pit Charlotte Sometimes against Lex Land just because both ladies have sultry-eerie voices? Why did Adam feel he could only take one big-voiced diva into the live shows? Why not more apples against oranges?
Only the show’s producers know for sure. Maybe they want a diverse mix of genres and voices for when the live voting rounds begin. But I can’t shake my belief that there’s a problem with a competiton that’s found room for last week’s underwhelming Cheesa but has already axed the marvelous Jamie Lono. Know what I’m saying?
Anyhow, let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner — while bearing in mind that all six contestants that advanced this week have a legit chance at the Season 2 crown:
Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms d. Sarah Golden
I wish Sarah had used a little more of the country yodel we’d heard in rehearsal for her rendition of “Stay With Me,” but when she abandoned that tactic on game day, it became a “no brainer” (as Xtina noted) to choose wailing banshee Juliet. The latter contestant, meanwhile, has a massive, sandpaper-inflected instrument, but her “retro rocker” styling — with the leather rompers and faux fur collars and hippy headbands and knee-high boots — seems a wee bit contrived, like she’s spent more time on the artifice than the artistry. Whatever the case may be, neither of these ladies matched up with Skylar Laine’s “Stay With Me” rendition during American Idol‘s Top 12 ladies night just a couple weeks ago. So for those keeping score at home, a point for the good folks at Fox.
Team Xtina: Sera Hill d. Geoff McBride
If we’re to believe the show’s tag line — “this is The Voice!” — then, in all honesty, master blaster Geoff, who almost knocked down Lionel Ritchie with the full power of his instrument, probably should’ve won this “Chain of Fools” duel. But, of course, there’s more to singing than volume, as Jewel pointed out to Sera. And it was Sera’s saucy delivery, the way she mixed performance with vocals, the way she took more chances with the rhythm and melody, that led to her victory over a rival who had the edge when it came to vocal control. That said, Sera will need to hit more notes per minute if she’s planning on surviving once the live voting rounds begin.
Team Blake: Charlotte Sometimes d. Lex Land
As much as I’d have loved to hear how Lex’s sensual-kitten voice would’ve fit into a reality singing competition, I can’t blame Blake for heeding to Charlotte’s philosophy that “you can’t win against a Jersey girl.” Indeed, Charlotte has her own unique sound — a haunted, ethereral cry — that proved a little stronger and a little more steady on “Pumped Up Kicks” than Lex’s silky quaver, and that probably made the difference in what was certainly the episode’s most evenly matched bout. (Charlotte’s fierce “night sky” dress didn’t hurt, either.) That said, I’m a little concerned that Charlotte’s already getting the “annoying edit,” what with her pre-performance booty shake and her too-much/too-soon declaration that Lex had the “better boobs” and her later admission about wanting to “destroy” Lex. As someone who’s still dealing with the horror of having had Snooki and JWoww take up residence within walking distance of my apartment, I hope Charlotte tones down her “quirk” and realizes residents of the Garden State could use a little good P.R.
Team Adam: Kim Yarbrough d. Whitney Myer
I was pretty sure after her audition to Alicia Keys’ “No One” that Whitney was a shoo-in to make the live shows, and that opinion didn’t change when I saw she’d been paired with Kim (whose “Tell Me Something Good” audition wasn’t particularly original.) But whether or not Adam had matched up these ladies thinking Whitney would be the obvious victor, I had to give him credit for recognizing the knockout punch that happened in front of his eyes on this duet to “No More Drama.” This isn’t to say Whitney didn’t sound great in some spots, but she didn’t follow through on Alanis Morissette’s advice to stop clipping her phrases, and her opening note was flat as an assembly-line pita pocket. Kim, meanwhile, got out the machete and the machine gun and absolutely murdered it. As Blake noted, “I felt like I was watchin’ one of those Diva concerts.” And in this case, Kim was the Aretha, while Whitney was the Shania Twain, so to speak. Props to the latter woman, though, for a gracious concession speech: “I’m glad for Kim. She deserves it, she really does. She worked really hard.” Here’s hoping Whitney gets another chance — on The X Factor or Idol or one of the other umpteen reality singing competitions that’ll air between now and this time next year.
Team Xtina: Lindsey Pavao d. Lee Koch
I liked thay we got to see some legitimate mentoring for both contestants — take note, X Factor producers! — with Xtina and Lionel Richie offering pointed suggestions to improve Lindsey’s tage presence, and Jewel and Xtina working with Lee on enunciation and the best practices for riffing on a melody. The results, as Adam noted, were “delightfully creepy” — and reminded me a little of Season 1’s Rebecca Loebe covering “Come as You Are.” In the end, though, Xtina noted that Lindsey’s voice was probably the more versatile of the two, and wisely awarded her a berth in the live rounds.
Team Cee Lo: Jamar Rogers d. Jamie Lono
Adam was right: This Battle Round featured three losers: Himself, Blake, and Xtina, since none of those coaches selected Jamar on his awesome “Seven Nation Army” audition. And while Jamie’s “Folsom Prison Blues” was my first download of The Voice season, I had to agree with Cee Lo that former Idol contestant Jamar dominated this duet of “I Want to Know What Love Is” like Meryl Streep facing off against Tara Reid in a dramatic reading. No lie: I got a little choked up when Jamie broke down in tears and said that maybe his reason for being on the show was to let an “awesome person” like Jamar get one step closer to victory, but maybe the latter guy could dial it back just a hair with bon mots like “If I win this, it’ll be a victory for anyone that’s ever overcome anything.” Dude can sing his face off, but I’m not ready to buy his book of inspirational quotes just yet.
What did you think of the second week of Season 2 Battle Rounds? Hit the comments with your thoughts!