The Voice Recap: Head(-to-Head) Trips

gwen sebastian erin willett“The most exciting phase of The Voice continues!” host Carson Daly declared at the top of Monday’s episode, focusing on the third set of Season 2 “Battle Rounds.”

Of course, one man’s “most exciting” is another’s “most frustrating.” Tell me you didn’t curse Blake Shelton, The Voice producers, NBC, and the entire reality TV genre after Gwen Sebastian — arguably the strongest vocalist we heard during the entire two-hour telecast, got unceremoniously dumped without so much as a consolation box of Rice-a-Roni.

Stranger still, the show continued its trend from last week of giving pretty wretched edits to several eventual Battle Rounds winners. I mean, even if you liked Model McCutestuff’s high-pitched squawking, can you really feel good about voting for her after a prolonged display of petulant diva behavior?

Anyhow, let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner — while vowing to support @gwensebastian in her future singing endeavors:

Team Xtina: Ashley de la Rosa d. Jonathas
Oh, sly Xtina! Choosing Jordin Sparks’ “No Air” for a couple of singers who’ve got trouble with breath support? You really should’ve borrowed guest mentor Alanis Morissette from #TeamAdam for a mini “Isn’t it ironic?” break. In all seriousness, though, I was glad Xtina chose Ashley, who at least made a few attempts to take some liberties with the melody, unlike Jonathas, who played it safe — and under the melody — from start to finish. Then again, is Ashley really trying to win a record deal, or second runner up at the Miss Osage County pageant? “I’m one step closer to my dream of giving back to the community”? Yes, she did.

Team Cee Lo: Erin Martin d. the Shields Brothers
In defense of this duet, Cee Lo really seems to have a knack for finding songs that suit none of his contestants’ voices, and this pairing was like making a sandwich using two sponges as the bread and a bag of feathers as the meat. Which is to say it made no sense whatsoever. The Shields Brothers seem like nice kids — but Adam was right, they haven’t evolved beyond two kids jamming out in their parents’ garage. Erin — clad in garters, knee-high tights, a bustier, some inflatable bat wings, and 43 lbs of affectations — was probably the right choice to advance, solely on the basis of attempting a Missing Persons-esque squeak, and noodling around with the rhythms. Nevertheless, shouldn’t her spot on the live shows belong to Jamie Lono? Think about it: Jamar Rogers could’ve crushed Erin, and Jamie could’ve dusted the Shields Brothers, and everything would be right in the world. Instead we have a former model in the house who interrupts her mentor, takes unneccessary pot shots at her competitors, and expresses “100% confidence” in her ability to win even though she can’t sing on pitch.

Team Adam: Pip d. Nathan Parrett
I didn’t have much of an opinion on who “won” this duet to “You Know I’m No Good.” Pip certainly had the edge had this been an audition for Amy Winehouse: The Musical, while the understated Nathan brought a slightly more distinctive tone to the table. I guess I’d have probably voted for Nathan, since he didn’t obnoxiously talk about how his audition set his personal bar oh-so-high, and because he’s not a uni-monikered dandy. Let’s just hope Pip keeps heeding Alanis’ advice: “Restraint is so exciting!” (So are last names.)

Team Blake: Jermaine Paul d. ALyX
We already had a “Pip,” so you kind of knew there wasn’t room for an “ALyX” this season, too. But the latter contestant’s fate was pretty much sealed when she exited Day 1 of rehearsals and lied that she was “having fun,” which drew this awesome retort from Blake: “I don’t think she’s having fun.” Granted, it can’t be all that easy to ramp up the enthusiasm when you’ve been assigned a novelty hit like “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” but Jermaine played the role well, devouring up the melody like a high-powered Roomba, playfully tossing his fedora into the audience, and generally managing to look like someone with at least a smidge of star potential. ALyX’s vocal was more tentative, and her bizarre end-of-performance ad-lib — “Sometimes you just gotta say ‘What the hell?’!” left me saying, well, “What the hell?” Blake chose wisely this time around, even though my guess is Jermaine should probably have taken Kelly Clarkson’s number; my best guess is a backing vocalist gig might not look too bad by the time The Voice’s second season is over.

Team Adam: Katrina Parker d. Angel Taylor
I agreed with Blake that Angel has a gorgeous break in her voice, and a really cool tone, but at the end of the day, she really does struggle with pitch on the live concert stage. And in this case, Adam’s decision really was that simple. Katrina shook off the “cobwebs of terror” (as Alanis so poetically put it), nailed the melody, and scored a victory that left her in a state of tearful surprise. Yep, the gal with a penchant for vintage flowy skirts might be one to watch in the competition.

Team Blake: Erin Willett d. Gwen Sebastian
No disrespect to Erin, who displayed serious chops and an understated elegance on “We Belong,” but in my mind, this duet belonged to Gwen. As I said a couple of times last week, this Battle Round highlighted the key weakness of The Voice format: On a night featuring a dozen singers, the two strongest had to compete in a head-to-head battle to advance to the live rounds? That’d be like having Djokovic and Federer play in the first round of a Grand Slam. I loved the rasp in Gwen’s vocal, the way she took real risks with Pat Benatar’s almost operatic melody, the fact that she brought a maturity and wisdom to the lyric. Alas, though, it’s not as though Erin wasn’t a worthy rival, and given that she chose to stay for the battle round rather than rush to her dying father’s bedside, Blake probably wouldn’t have been able to live with the decision to send her home. “I couldn’t have lose to a better person,” said Gwen, classy till the last. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard from her, eh?

What did you think of this week’s Battle Rounds? Did you agree with the judges decisions? Sound off below!