The Voice Recap: Duet Till You're Satisfied

The Voice - Season 5 Tessanne Chin Donna AllenThis just in…a deficit of Blind Audition screen time is not an automatic death sentence in the Battle Rounds on Season 5 of The Voice. The term “mismatch made in heaven” may have been coined specifically for the pairing of Blake Shelton and a saucy gay contestant. And everything’s better with a little Cher. (Yeah, I know, that last part’s not exactly breaking news.)

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Perhaps most exciting of all, though, was the fact that of the nine artists tonight who either won their Battles (or snagged coveted Steals), it’s not hard to imagine more that half of them still being in the mix long enough for viewers to be measuring their calendars with the term “shopping days till Christmas.” In other words, we may be shaping up for season with no clear and present Chosen One — or at least a season with a deep enough bench to keep the producers’ fave from sneaking up the chimney with somebody else’s prizes.

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Not quite as exciting? NBC’s reality singing competition once again proving that while it has no upper age limit during the Blinds, that rule doesn’t exactly apply once the coaches’ chairs are turned and it becomes clear whether or not a vocalist falls outside the upper end of the advertiser-desired 18-49 demo (or whether somebody’s got a superfamous sibling in the audience).

But let me not turn this into a post about ageism in the music industry — and instead rank each individual Battle from least- to most-promising winner:

6. Team Adam: Grey defeats Nic Hawk (with Nic stolen by Blake) on Jessie J’s “Domino” | Considering Adam said he was looking for “spirit and energy,” I was pretty certain he’d choose Nic, who was undoubtedly the spicy seared tuna of the entree (compared to Grey’s parsnip mash). Yeah, sure, This! Is! The! Voice!, but while Grey proved her superior power and control, she didn’t manage to showcase a distinctive tone or any real connection to her lyrics. She’s the formal living room couch everybody’s afraid to sit on; Nic, with his energetic strut and rapid-fire delivery, is infinitely more appealing, even if his voice got a little narrow in places. Ah well, at least Adam’s double mistake — No. 1 was his failure to pair Grey vs Tessanne and Nic vs Donna — allowed Blake to get the funniest line of the night. When Carson asked why the country coach stole Nic — and honestly, their partnership should make for damn fun TV — Blake replied, “Why is Adam such an idiot? Why don’t you ask me that?”

5. Team Blake: Shelbie Z defeats Justin Chain on Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” | In another example of a Woman of a Certain Age not getting her due, none of the coaches declared Blake’s advisor Cher the winner of this Battle — despite the fact that the Oscar winner’s insightful critiques and general good humor will be the only part of this Battle we’ll remember in six months’ time. OK, maybe that’s a litte harsh. Shelbie (despite going badly awry on one of her big ad-libs) and Justin definitely have skills — but their duet was more of a rental situation rather than either one of them experiencing true ownership of the song in question.

4. Team Xtina: Jacquie Lee defeats Briana Cuoco (with Blake stealing Briana, only after battling it out with Cee Lo…neither of whom came to Donna’s rescue…what? why? HUH?) on The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” | I understood Ed Sheeran’s note that — given the ubiquity of “HOTRS” — it was important for Jacquie and Briana to take some melodic risks, but the Animals’ classic ballad is more than the sum of its glory notes, and I’m not sure either of these chicas really captured the full sense of loss and regret woven into the lyrics (which made Carson’s excessive hype over the performance a tad perplexing). That said, despite some initial nervousness, Jacquie definitely dominated the proceedings just by nature of her brute vocal strength. Briana, meanwhile, despite showing improvement off her iffy audition, didn’t stick every landing on the big notes and revealed a tendency for hinky pronunciations. No, girl, “mother” isn’t pronounced “Moy-tha” — unless you’re in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, maybe.

3. Team Xtina: Amber Nicole defeats Timyra-Joi on Beyoncé’s “Liiiiiiiiiiiiisten!” | There’s no other way to say it: These girls were the Nic Cage and John Travolta of the Season 5 blinds, because they literally sang their faces off. And before you accuse ’em of showboating vocalization in the third degree, let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about a Dreamgirls soundtrack ballad that doubles as the “A-Ha! Moment” of the whole movie, and to do it justice, a couple of lesser organs — tonsils, gall bladders, perhaps spleens — should be ruptured or at least rearranged by the time the final glory note is executed. That ridiculous sentence out of the way, I will add that I was pleased with Xtina’s final verdict, seeing how Timyra didn’t quite process her mentors’ notes and began the number in full quaver mode. Amber, on the other hand, delivered a vocal that was just a little cleaner, a little more nuanced and contained just a few more dynamics than her younger rival — and was appropriately rewarded (even though her Blind Audition was reduced to clip-montage mode).

2. Team Adam: Tessanne Chin defeats Donna Allen (because Adam figured this was the only way to toss his 54-year-old diva without a national outcry) on Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me” | Hands down the night’s most infuriating moment was Adam critiquing this sensational upgrade of a snoooooozy song by telling Tessanne and Donna that “you both could win” Season 5. UMMMM…DUDE…THEN WHY DID YOU FORCE THEM TO GO UP AGAINST EACH OTHER THIS EARLY IN THE COMPETITION? (Sorry…I’ve been suppressing that rage all night…it had to get out somehow, somewhere.) Anyway, it’s a testament to both women that my notes for the entire performance amount to the following: “Tessane’s high note! [diagram of an arrow squiggling upward] Donna’s holleration…OMFG!” Translated into actual critique, I’d agree with Cee Lo that Tessanne managed to conjure up more control and poise with her rendition, but also agree with Blake that Donna was the one who drew me into the ditty with her blunt-force rasp and soul. Enraged (and unsurprised) as I am by Xtina, Cee Lo and Blake failing to bring justice to Season 5 and save Donna, though, I’ll admit the combatants’ parting hug — and Tessanne’s tearful declaration that “[Donna] made me a better singer — was like a Listerine Breath Strip to wash away some of my percolating bitterness. Who knows: Maybe once Tessanne gets the Amanda Brown treatment and goes home in late November, she and Donna can form a power duo and take the Billboard charts by storm?

1. Team Cee Lo: Caroline Pennell defeats Anthony Paul (with Anthony stolen by Xtina) on Justin Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me” | A couple weeks ago, my Reality Check cohost Melinda Doolittle chastized me for underrating Caroline following her Blind Audition, and all I can say now is, “You were right, girlfriend!” Seriously, the rise and fall of Caroline’s voice, the unexpected and yet completely organic choices she made with the melody, the way she took possession of Baby Bieber’s hit while still maintaining a solid groove — all of it was fantastic. And while Caroline’s audacity made her the clear winner, I couldn’t be mad at Xtina for stealing Anthony, not when every one of his runs was completely on point, and not when he took his notes from Cee Lo and Miguel and really reined in the oversinging for his live performance. I still don’t understand how the mentors stepping away from the contestants during rehearsal constituted a “vision board,” but whatever. There was apparently a method to Cee Lo’s madness, so I’ll just zip my trap and call it a night!

And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of the first set of Season 5 Battle Rounds? Did Donna or anyone else get mistreated? Were you shocked that Briana got saved? Who gave the best overall vocal of the night? Sound off below!

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. Annalisa says:

    Don’t claim that it’s all about the voice when Bri is stolen and Timyra-Joi isn’t, because I call total B.S. on that!!!

  2. Johnny says:

    GREY vs. NIC: I would have made the same decision, to keep Grey. I’m not sure why you hate her so much, because she has a powerhouse voice and the potential to do some amazing things. I find Nic’s voice to be irritating, even though his personality is contagious and awesome, and if we’re judging on the voice, Grey was the clear winner.
    AMBER vs. TIMYRA-JOI: Wow, I totally thought Amber won the battle and was shocked when Xtina agreed, since Amber got no air time and Timyra was touted as “amazing 15-year-old.” I was a little surprised that Timyra wasn’t stolen, but honestly, while very talented, I didn’t find her voice to be particularly appealing, especially in comparison with Amber’s.
    SHELBIE vs. JUSTIN: Snoozefest. I think Blake made the right decision to keep Shelbie based on this battle, despite Justin’s cool tone and potential to be great, and I’m glad the other three coaches saved their steals for later.
    CAROLINE vs. ANTHONY: When it comes to the quirky, raspy tone, I feel like Holly (Team Blake) beats Caroline by a clear mile. I loved both Melanie Martinez and Caroline Glaser, so this kind of voice appeals to me, but I really felt like Anthony won that battle. His creepy stalkerish stare at Caroline toward the end was a bit weird, but vocally I felt like he sang circles around her. Nonetheless, I’m glad that both got the chance to stick around, because they both have a lot of potential.
    TESSANNE vs. DONNA: I thought Tessanne definitely won, but I was stunned that no one stole Donna. Perhaps they showed these out of order and this was actually near the end? Otherwise, I can’t think of any reason why someone would use a steal on Nic Hawke but not on Donna Allen, other than because she’s older and therefore possibly less likely to have pop potential?
    JACQUIE vs. BRIANA: I totally expected Briana to be favored because of her X-factor (her sister, not her performing ability), but I was pleasantly surprised when Jacquie won, as she was one of my favorites in the audition. She has a fantastic smoky tone, and I hope she really continues with her forward progress, though hopefully in the future with better songs that she can actually connect to. I don’t know that I would have stolen Briana, but I’m sure the producers want to keep Briana in this thing because of the Kaley factor.

    • MC says:

      I agree with all of your conclusions about the winners of the battles, but “better songs that she can actually connect to?” Young singers have done well with HOTRS. There’s Haley’s version and, most recently, fifteen year old Danie Geimer delivered a fine interpretation of it on the X Factor. The lyrics are more adult. It is not a bubblegum love song, but younger artists can handle it.

      • alecia says:

        Eh no– Haley was 20 and had a little more life experience. I didn’t feel Jacquie’s version, and the X-Factor is a joke.

        • MC says:

          I actually agree that Jacquie’s version was not great and Brianna was close to awful on that one. The more I listen to Danie, the more I believe that she can win the X Factor this season. I can’t help it if you’re not open-minded enough to check her out. That’s your loss. As for the age of 20, I guess it depends on your perspective, but 20 is still very young imo.

        • MC says:

          I just checked out Holly Henry’s version of HOTRS on YouTube. It is really good and I recommend that one to you as well. She also does very memorable covers of Seven Nation Army and Your Song (Elton John). This is the best cover of Your Song that I’ve heard from anyone. It’s just great. Holly will be one of the stars of this season.

  3. OtterChaos says:

    Unlike Blake I’m not coocoo for Cuoco

  4. Go Go says:

    As of right now, Caroline’s single As Long As You Love Me is the only one on the top 100 at 39th.

  5. dj says:

    I agree that Adam paired Donna with Tess so he could get rid of her. I felt sad that the other coaches proved to be just as shallow by not snapping her up. I hope that she had enough exposure from being on the show to get some kind of music career going for herself.

  6. JON says:

    Is it just me, but when someone sings House on the Rising Sun, I always think of Haley from AI?

    Shame that Timyra Jo and Donna didn’t get stolen, they deserve a spot more than Brianna.

  7. Denise says:

    Sorry to see Donna go but I’m sure happy to see Tessanne stays. Thought that was bad paring on Adam’s part. Guess he thought Donna would have been stolen. Oh well I’m for Team Bread and Butter =Team Tessanne Chin = Team Bread n Butta = Jamaican Spice

  8. gailer says:

    @carolinepennell you are the winner, @CeeLoGreen don’t screw this up :)

  9. sallysue says:

    I so disagree with you re Donna.. I thought she was too screechy and if she couldn’t pull back on a song like this.. then, she would not have won many followers who are not into that screeching thing.. I think she’s an amazing singer but she needs to learn how to harness that power and use it judiciously

  10. David says:

    Donna’s not the first older powerhouse vocalist to fall prey to this pairing. Let’s be fair, though. She was given the note to show some restraint. She had trouble doing it. P.S. I am in the minority that think that Anthony blew Caroline out of the water. Kudos to Xtina for stealing him.

  11. Pérola Cardozo says: