The Voice Recap: Battle Stars' Exactitude

kayla nevarez alessandra guercio the voiceIf a Voice contestant falls in the Battle Rounds, but we only see 0.821 seconds of his performance, did he ever really make a sound? That was the question floating through my mind after Tuesday’s pre-debate installment of NBC’s surging reality competition.

Because while, on the plus side, there wasn’t a single weak link (or serious pitch problem) among the six vocalists who were prominently featured during the one-hour telecast, we also saw flashes of an additional half-dozen contestants that were so brief, I honestly couldn’t tell you if they were singing actual songs, or merely giving dramatic readings of Cee Lo’s dry-cleaning bill. (Come on, live parrot + white silk pajamas = one heckuva long receipt.)

I’m not sure what these blink-and-you-missed-’em contestants did to earn such snubs — scrawling snarky messages in blood-red lipstick on Xtina’s dressing-room mirror? making cruel backstage remarks about Adam looking better when he’s got a little scruff on his face? — but the show’s producers should realize that a screentime deficit for any given singer is usually a solid, suspense-killing signal that the person will be a goner by the end of the next round. And given the number of mini recaps The Voice crams into a mere 60 minutes, surely some fat-trimming initiatives could be undertaken to allow these quick-hit showdowns to be expanded to at least a minute apiece, no?

Anyhow, enough kvetching from me for now; let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner:

Team Cee Lo: Mackenzie Bourg defeats Emily Earle | There’s nothing that bums me out more than a Battle Round in which one contestant’s audition comes with a life-or-death backstory, and the other’s gets as much airtime as the Green Party candidate in the latest Presidential Debate — especially when Ms. Green Party sounded a lot smoother and more soulful* on Owl City’s “Good Time” than the major-party representative. (*Or as soulful as you can sound on Owl City’s “Good Time,” anyway.) And while Adam and Blake both called the race in Emily’s flavor, somehow Cee Lo went all “hanging chad” on us, and picked Mackenzie’s croaky tone and relentless “arm punching the air” shenanigans as the winner. Not to say that Mackenzie didn’t hit most of his notes, but personally, I think the kid could use a few more years of polishing before he’s ready for the big show. Then again, at least he comes with an insanely enthusiastic dad, who has an affinity for shouting words of encouragement/Adam Sandler movie titles — “You the man! That’s my boy!” — when he’s overexcited.

Team Adam: Kayla Nevarez defeats Alessandra Guercio (the very promising Alessandra stolen by Christina Aguilera) | At the end of the Blind Auditions, I’d ranked Kayla at No. 5 and Alessandra (who wins the award for best dress of the Battle Rounds) at No. 39, so needless to say, I was expecting Kayla to totally dominate. When the ladies hit the stage, though, it seemed as though Mary J. Blige’s advice to Alessandra — not to be “imprisoned by being perfect” — really took root, and the underdog tore in to Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” like a hawk into a defenseless prairie dog. Like the other judges, I loved the grit that emerged in her voice throughout the tune, but even more importantly, this wasn’t a case of cranking her vocals up to 10 and staying there; Alessandra picked her spots to go full throttle, showing a real ability to bring emotion and nuance to the table. Kayla, meanwhile, never really seemed to find her comfort zone: As Cee Lo pointed out, her upper register is sweet, but her voice never really opened up during the whole performance. I think Adam relied more on Kayla’s audition — and her “We better win this” aside — to pick his winner than he did on what was happening before his ears. Thankfully, his misfire turned out to be a coup for Xtina, who picked up on Alessandra’s inexperience and promised to help her fine-tune the voice within.

Team Blake: Liz Davis defeats Nicole Johnson | To me, this duet on Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim” was the episode’s closest matchup, as both Liz and Nicole were spot-on in terms of pitch and phrasing (although Liz’s “behind every woman scorned is a man who made her that way” ranked as my favorite single line of the number). And while Blake was correct that Liz’s enunciation is a little less polished than Nicole’s, she nevertheless managed to bring a little more of the “no you dit’nt” attitude he was looking for, and that was enough to push her over the top. I just hope once they get to the live shows, Blake (or perhaps his wife) can discourage Liz from aging herself by 15 years with that peculiar ’60s secretary beehive she keeps perpetrating atop her pretty head. The sparkly booty shorts paired with black blazer weren’t helping either, although girlfriend does have legs that extend from Revolution to 30 Rock. (How’s that for a synergistic NBC metaphor?)

Also advancing (though shown only briefly): Laura Vivas over Beat Frequency; Michelle Brooks Thompson (who sounded really great in her snippet) over Adranna Duru; Mycle Wastman over Ben Taub.

And with that, let me turn things over to you:

Who were your favorites from The Voice‘s fourth night of Battle Rounds? Were there any decisions with which you disagreed? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Chuck Finley (AJ) says:

    The blonde that won on Blake’s team is super hot. We have a winner lol

    • Mitchell says:

      Blake chose the wrong singer in that battle. The blonde might be hot (to some), but the younger girl was a better singer. There’s a reason the blonde hasn’t made it in Nashville after all those years.

      • Chuck Finley (AJ) says:

        The other singer was ok, but she can’t pronounce words correctly. She is kinda shoe horned into country only because of that unfortunately.

  2. David says:

    The only battle I wish we could have seen in its entirety was Laura Vivas vs. Beat Frequency. As for the ones we did see, there weren’t any surprises for me.

    • Edward says:

      Me too.I was upset that Xtina chose Laura when Beat Frequency completely nailed it.I don’t know why they bother with singing duo’s anymore.

    • Taylor says:

      They wouldn’t even air a fraction of the song because Beat Frequency is so good there is no way they would have chosen Laura. The producers call all the shots… this was all pre filimed anyway. Its really unfair for those who are truly trying to make a name for themselves.

      • Jacob says:

        I know it’s supposedly common knowledge that “reality TV is fake,” but very few people seem to have any idea of what that might specifically mean. In this case, you’re wrong – while the producers do call a lot of shots (which is their job), they do not decide who is picked in the Blind Auditions, who wins the Battles or the Knockouts, or who advances during the Live Shows. Anything that actually effects the outcome of the show is exactly as it’s presented.

        • JoJo says:

          @Jacob – I’m a little late in my reply, which is really a question. What makes you say the “[the producers] do not decide who wins the Battles or the Knockouts, or who advances to the Live Shows?” Do you have connections to the show or know someone who does. Just curious, would really like to know.

          • Jacob says:

            I do! I’d rather not go into more detail than that, but I’ll say that I respect the way this show is made and presented – which is, for the most part, honestly. All reality shows do have certain things that are staged, either for camera or sound or editing purposes – but on this show, nothing is staged that effects the competition itself. I can’t speak for the other singing shows out there, but I imagine they are also mostly honest in that regard.

          • FreeHaley says:

            AI seems to have gone rather less than honest at times so I’m not so sure you can say that about all the shows.

          • JoJo says:

            @Jacob – thanks! I like having some authentic inside scoop about the integrity of the choice/decision-making process with this show. Next time I’ll check the “notify” box so I can acknowledge kind and timely replies to my questions – sheesh!! :)

  3. Markus says:

    Wow, maybe I would make a terrible coach. For the three main battles, I would have chosen the person that the coaches didn’t choose. The song choice for Emily and Mackenzie was miserable, but of the two, I thought Emily had more potential. Kayla’s audition was one of my favorites this season, and I pegged her at once as a potential winner, but her voice sounded strained and out of sorts tonight, so I would have gone with Alessandra. Alessandra could be the big comeback story arc of the season, as she was doubted even by Adam after her first audition and then stolen by Christina for pity. Nicole beat Liz, in my opinion, although I actually preferred Emily to either of them. Also, Liz doesn’t look 25 – she’s gorgeous, but she looks older than 25.
    As for the others: Don’t remember Lauren Vivas, but I do remember that Beat Frequency was terrible- neither will win. Liked Michelle Brooks-Thompson in her initial audition, and she seemed like she dominated that other chick in her battle, all four seconds of it that we saw. I only remember Mycle because of the weird way he spelled his name. Also, who is Ben Taub?

  4. T says:

    I think the last line was supposed to be “who were your favorites from the 5th episode of season 2 of “The Voice”???? Come on Michael, we know you can’t wait until tomorrow but first things first :)

  5. VCI says:

    No real stand outs for me tonight. I agreed with the coaches decision, but am still happy Alessandra got stolen she’s a good fit for Christina and stepped up her game tonight. I didn’t like her audition.

    My top five going forward: Deborah, Aquile, Trevin Hunte, Bryan Keith, and Amanda Brown.

    Looking forward to live rounds.

  6. Rachel says:

    I agree the clips of the battle rounds of some of the contestants ticked me off completely. Either show them or not show them at all. What the sense of having them on the show if they just play a 5 sec clip. It’s unnecessary and unfair to the contestants. For one thing they can cut back on the preview clips before the battles, We already know what they sung before and if not google it. Another thing they can do is to cut back on the commercials a bit.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      Well the network makes money from the commercials so cutting back will not happen.

      But cutting the intros to the next section before going to commercial and the recap when they come back from commercial, like the audience is incapable of remembering what just happened 3 minutes ago, might be a good ideal. That would add another 3-4 minutes to the show. Also, cutting the rehearsal session/preperformance jitter session (the minute just before they go on stage.)

      • Snsetblaze says:

        Ooops I did not finish my thought before posting.

        I meat cutting the rehearsal session/minute before they went on stage down a bit might help. Some of the contestants do get shorter ones than others anyway. Not all of the contestants are shown sitting with their coach and mentor “the next day” after learning the song, getting advice.

  7. mia says:

    it was a really boring night tonight, sad to say. Really liked Christina’s save though; her reasonings behind it.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I do to. I never saw an ounce of the lack of confidence that Adam saw … until Adam started saying she was unconfident. Then I saw her deflate. While I liked Kayla better in the auditions because of the quirky song she chose, I thought Alessandra performed and sang better. And I wasn’t impressed with her at the auditions. Kayla was boring last night.

  8. Taylor says:

    The same thing happened to Beat Frequency in The X Factor! The producers call all the shots and just pick the best drama story! They made it all the way too boot camp and they only showed a glimpse of them on t.v. because they are truly talented and would blow everyone away at theses bogus competitions. I’m so upset with the Voice looks like another bull crap competition thats rigged just like the U.S. Elections!

  9. Pat says:

    Mackenzie was horrible. That is all.

    • Rain says:

      Agreed. However, he was interesting in his audition so hopefully his next song will be something he’s comfortable with. That was a terrible song choice, worse than Conga from the night before!

    • Lois Benton says:

      I like MacKenzie. I think his voice is interesting. Blake maybe right though that he needs to measure out the breaks in his voice, depending on the song. It worked well for “Pumped Up Kicks.” I don’t think he can or should win, but he’s got potential.

  10. Christie says:

    I do NOT understand why everyone likes Alessandra so much! She was extremely pitchy and had weird stage presence. What is all the hype?

  11. Lee says:

    To Michael Slezak: You said in your article that you rated the contestants 1-60 after the auditions. Could you share that list? Now THAT would be something to talk about! After the auditions of Trevin Hunte, Aquile, Cassadee Pope, Nicole Nelson, Adrianna Louise … I was wondering how this young lady caught your attention to the tune of #5!

  12. theresa says:

    I thought it was kind of sweet when Blake followed the contestant he didn’t pick to the back so he could say goodbye and give her a hug. I can’t imagine the other coaches doing that.

  13. Lois Benton says:

    I wish the show hadn’t skipped over Adanna Duru. She’s the beautiful young girl who went up against Michelle Brooks-Thompson, which we saw a passing glimpse of. We saw a glimpse of Adanna singing “The Edge of Glory” in the blind auditions. In that brief glimpse, she impressed, so I listened to it, bought and it’s really good. Although I’m sick of Gaga’s version, Adanna brings a better voice and her own thing to it. If I were a singer, I’d never pick Adam. He lets all the contestants believe that they will be his biggest priority, packs his team with most of the best talent, and dumps them one by one. Of course, dumping them one by one is the point, but, as he did with the first season, he lets go of major talent for lesser singers so that his personal favorite has a better shot when the audience votes.

    • JoJo says:

      @Lois Benton – Totally agree! During the auditions, every time someone particularly talented was considering Adam, and especially if it was a woman, I kept saying “No! Pick Cee Lo (or Blake or Christina) – he’ll use you like cannon fodder to make sure his “pet” gets as far as possible.”

      He’s got all of the pretty words when he is convincing them to pick him, and a lot of edge and sex appeal, but IMO, he often abandons his singers after performances and drops bombs of “helpful criticism” at times when it is difficult for the contestant to process it or recover. In other words, use it to grow.

      I thought it was pretty low to choose the moment that she had completed her performance and was standing on stage waiting to find out if her dream would continue – in front of millions – to call Kayla on her “lack of humility” when she said after he had chosen her “Now we better win this thing.” And what was so arrogant about that to begin with – she was an excited 17 year old high on the experience of being so well received for her talent, adrenalin probably pumping overtime.

      The Voice is miles better in this regard than X Factor, but coaching and mentoring is a building process, not a tearing down process (at least in my view). If someone does need to be challenged about their skill or behavior, do it when and in a way that it will be a teachable moment, not a humiliation. Too often I see Adam promising the moon and creating the sense of specialness while getting them to choose him, then saying really ill-timed and unnecessarily harsh or inane things as he executes his strategy.

      Phew!! Glad I got THAT off my chest. :)

      • Lois Benton says:

        I agree with you about Kayla. I noticed her comment at her blind audition and thought she came across as too full of herself–always a bad thing when viewer/voter impressions matter. But it was wrong of Adam to remind the viewers about that at any point. It’s almost like Adam is playing a game show, not nurturing talent so much. I noticed last season that he had a harder time winning people over after Season 1 when he bizarrely chose some guy with a weak voice over Rebecca Loeb, and he even said on camera later, in so many words, that he was doing everything he could to make sure that Javier Colon advanced, even if that required removing Javier’s main competition when the audience vote kicked in. Last season, with the general talent not as good, Adam’s strategies, if he had any, were not as obvious and this year’s contestants may not be all that aware of Adam’s approach. I like Adam, and I’m sure he even offers good mentoring, but I wouldn’t choose him if I were a contestant who had a choice.

  14. p says:

    Am I missing something or did TV Line/Michael Slezak completely ignore one episode from the first week of the Battle Rounds? I don’t see a recap for the October 9th episode (the one with the Melanie/Caitlin battle of awesomeness) and only the elimination-without-a-steal of DOMO was mentioned in Reality Check.