What once was an exercise in frustration — watching the coaches pair up their team members in head-to-head sing-offs, then too often sending the wrong contestants home — became something that was equal parts thrilling and satisfying with the addition of “The Steal,” in which competing coaches can hit a button and add a total of two Battle Rounds losers to their teams before the live shows begin.
I’m so stoked by this development, in fact, that I’ve written a celebratory ditty to the tune of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” And it goes a little something like this…
But now they’re stealing, reeling
The unjustly booted squealing
A brand new button, for rebuttin
I just can’t get enough
This ep did not move slow, you surely know
I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it
They flipped the Battles upside down and I think I like it
I’m so excited, The Steal delighted
And who knows, who knows, who knows, who knows what they’ll do
I know, I know…that was cheesy, and not even Cee Lo pressed his button. So let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner:
Team Cee Lo: Diego Val defeats JR Aquino | It’s important to keep in mind that the coaches still have to look forward to the “Knockout Round,” during which they’ll pair their 10 contestants who’ve survived the Battle Roundds in another set of head-to-head matchups. Instead of tackling duets, though, the Knockouts will feature each contestant performing a solo number of his or her choosing, and then the coaches declaring five separate winners who’ll serve as their team for the live shows. In other words, while Diego certainly outperformed “YouTube sensation” J.R. (who finished his big notes with all the strength of a newborn baby’s sneeze), the Peruvian dude (who suffered from a “he didn’t prepare enough in rehearsals” edit) has the look of definite future cannon fodder. I mean, why else would Cee Lo force these cats to sing “Jessie’s Girl”?
Team Blake: Terry McDermott defeats Casey Meussigman | Blake may be the least “spectacle-oriented” of the Voice‘s coaching lineup, but here’s hoping he stages a full-scale hair intervention before Terry has another chance to terrorize America with his shaggy, straggly mullet. (Fun “fact”: A similar ’80s-era scalp, attributed to Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, was appraised as being worth nearly $7,500 on a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow.) All kidding aside, though, the evening’s first Battle Round was also its least suspenseful: As Blake’s advisor Michael Bublé noted, Terry’s full-throttle wailing — and occasionally daring choices with the melody of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” — were reminiscent of “an awesome ’80s rock singer,” leaving Casey’s solid-but-unspectacular pipes as nothing more than dust in the wind.
Team Blake: Gracia Harrison defeats 2Steel Girls | Xtina said she’d give Gracia the edge because she showed “a little more playfulness,” but let’s be honest, a death-row prison guard probably looks less menacing than the younger half of 2Steel Girls did on this performance of “Sin Wagon.” (Why the face?!) Gracia, for her part, didn’t nail her vocal quite as precisely as she did in the blind auditions, but in her defense, there’s not much room to bring the yodel on the Dixie Chicks’ rollicking, rapid-fire ditty. Plus, her final glory note had more power behind it than her mother-daughter competition combined.
Team Adam: Bryan Keith defeats Collin McLoughlin (Collin stolen by Blake Shelton) | To be fair, Bryan pretty much wrapped up the win over Collin the moment Adam assigned to the duo Sublime’s “Santeria,” a boast of a song with a cool, islandic tempo that seemed completely at odds with the latter singer’s acoustic-strumming earnestness. Collin’s attempts to get his swagger on — “you came out with beastly intentions,” was how Adam described it — seemed as natural to me as Jim Lehrer moderating a debate between Kim Kardashian and that tree stump she married (and split from) last year. Which is why I sort of understood Blake and Cee Lo pressing their “Steal” buttons on Collin’s behalf, even if his performance seemed inauthentic. I mean, doesn’t he deserve half a chance to prove himself on a song he might actually choose in real life? Blake, meanwhile, said he noticed a couple of pitch problems in Bryan’s performance, but I thought the dude’s vocal was spot-on — and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still in the competition well after Election Day.
Team Cee Lo: Trevin Hunte defeats Amanda Brown (Amanda stolen by Adam Levine) | I wish there was a symbol on my keyboard that could accurately sum up the intense display of holleration Trevin and Amanda gave on “Vision of Love.” I mean, come on, this duo treated Mariah Carey’s very first hit like it was an Olympic volleyball match: They lobbed it, they spiked it, they served it hardcore. My favorite part of this pairing was the way Trevin and Amanda clearly respected and admired what the other one was doing from rehearsals all the way to the final run of glory notes right there in the Battle Rounds boxing ring. (Bonus points to Trevin for cheering backstage as Amanda found herself courted by all three of Cee Lo’s competitiors.) A close runner-up was Adam reassuring the pair right away that he planned on hitting his “Steal” button no matter which one Cee Lo rejected. Most importantly, though, the addition of the “Save” meant that we Voice fans didn’t have to endure what Cee Lo himself admitted was a foolish move: Not realizing Amanda’s ability to ride a ballad like those blue folks on the giant bird creatures in Avatar, he treated her like cannon fodder to clear the way for his clear favorite Trevin. “I shouldn’t have paired ya’ll together. I’m mad,” he admitted, once Amanda tipped her enormous instrument during rehearsals. Now that both singers are advancing, though, we can find out if they’ll be aaaaa-aaaaa-aaaa-aaaaa-aaaa-lllll that they’ll turn out to bee-eee-eee-eee-eee-uhh-ohhh-uhhh-eeee-uhhh (or something like that).
Team Christina: De’Borah defeats Nelly’s Echo | Good editing job by The Voice producers, who ramped up the suspense and had me believing that church singer De’Borah, with her lack of knowledge about secular hits, would self-destruct trying to nail “Message in a Bottle” — and disappoint Xtina and her adviser Billie Joe Armstrong. Both pros gave De’Borah solid advice: Xtina advising her to figure out how exactly she wanted to attack the melody, then learn to be consistent doing it, and the Green Day singer sagely telling her that even her mistakes in rehearsal sounded pretty good. Once she hit the stage, though, De’Borah took the Police composition in new and unexpected directions, adding some crazy-good ad libs and an avalanche of soul. (I may or may not have let out a “work, woman!” as she hit the chorus.) The dubiously named solo act Nelly’s Echo, meanwhile, tried way too hard to put his own stamp on the track — and stamped his own chances into the ground in the process. (Uff da, those opening high notes were rough.) As if De’Borah’s win wasn’t satisfying enough, we also were treated to shots of her super-enthusiastic/tearful dad going wild in the audience for his little girl. She’d better bring him to the live shows: The guy has to be worth at least a few thousand votes, no?
And with that, let me turn things over to you: Who were your favorites from The Voice‘s initial Battle Round of Season 3? Did you dig The Steal? Were there any moments that made you blind with fury? Hit the comments with your thoughts!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV