Reality Check: Best of the Battle Rounds! Plus: Are the Coaches Screwing Up the 'Steal'?

It was the best of the Battle Rounds and the worst of the “Steals.” With apologies to Dickens, that pretty much sums up last week’s activity on The Voice.

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On an all new installment of Reality Check, my cohost Melinda Doolittle and I dish the awesomeness of Caroline Pennell, the sudden and delightful emergence of Ray Boudreaux as a major contender and the power and control of Tessanne Chin.

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But our commentary isn’t all sunshine and glory notes. Melinda and I are both concerned that the coaches aren’t using their Steals to correct injustices, but instead doling them out in casual and capricious ways. It’s enough to make a commentator want to rewrite The Bible or at least shout out accusations of ageism. (C’mon, that’s the only reason Donna Allen’s not in the Knockout Rounds, right?)

So press play below for the full Reality Check experience, then hit the comments with your thoughts on the latest Voice proceedings!

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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72 Comments
  1. Jon says:

    I think what we’re seeing is–more often than not–the coaches are strategically using their steals, not to right an injustice, but to advance the singers already on their team that they know they want around for the live shows. Anthony Paul is probably going to go up against Matt Schuler or Jacquie Lee (who Christina has already demonstrated a great love for), just so Christina can have an easy decision on those. It sucks, but the coaches have an endgame in mind I guess that certain people just aren’t fitting into.

    • Tyler says:

      Well, Adam hasn’t used any of his steals yet so he may be our last hope to correct injustices. I think it was wrong to steal contestants like Nic and Brianna. There’s no way either of them have a chance to win. But it’s obvious that Blake is more concerned with popularity than voice quality. That’s the only explanation I can find for him to steal Nic and Brianna. That–and maybe the coaches know that the frontrunners won’t be available to be stolen so they’re going to get the “popular” ones. It remains to be seen if Blake’s country music voting public will support even mediocre singers like Nic and Brianna. Then we’ll know this competition is a farce.

      I can see why no one stole Donna. Her voice has past the expiration date. It’s just not contemporary enough. There’s a reason only 2 chairs turned around for her.

    • HTGR says:

      I actually wouldn’t use Anthony as an example of a bad steal. I thought that was actually the best steal.

  2. Lumplestilskin says:

    It may be ‘unfair’, but each coach wants to win the show. And they already know from experience that the older singers don’t sell anything in the iTunes store. Tessanne Chin is 10 times the singer that Caroline Pennel is, but no one buys Tessane’s singles. If I were one of the other coaches, I would not have stolen Donna Allen either. A nervous, sweet, young, inexperienced singer (like Caroline or Danielle Bradbery) will always sell more than an older more sophisticated entertainer (like Judith Hill or Donna Allen).

    • Annie says:

      Exactly!

    • Tyler says:

      Well, Tessanne is only 28 years old so I don’t think she’s over the hill yet. And it’s probably hard for Tessanne to sell songs like Next To Me that is a gospel song. How many young adults do you know are running out to buy gospel songs? I hope Adam suggests more marketable songs to Tessanne.

    • HTGR says:

      Yeah, probably a lot of truth to that.

    • Teeny Bikini says:

      To be fair, Caroline Pennell is just more current. Her music is on the radio right now. Power singers a la Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, etc. have been out of vogue (and by that, I mean off the radio) since the 80’s. Yes, Tessanne, etc. are older, but they their style of music is ancient, by comparison.

  3. sara says:

    this show has destroyed any shred of integrity it may have had left by keeping Briana Cuolco around. Completely ridiculous.

    • Becky says:

      Brianna should not have been saved. What those two are thinking is her sisters fans will vote for her. They want to win.
      Nic Hawk made Grey better with his energy. Gosh he is fun, so I totally understood that save. Besides Blake is not suppose to win this time so he may be enjoying his time. And Nic with Cher would be so much fun. And tv time will not hurt Nic. I think he will be getting something out of it if he gets passed the knockouts. Love his energy and personality.
      iTunes determines an artists success. The guy that won xfactor is not doing well. He isnearly 40. Fifth harmony is rocking it. The oldst is 20.
      Why they did not turn for the 15 year old is beyond me. Those girls are incredible.
      Donna Allen is incredible but their faces when they turned around showed she was not going far.

      • Montavilla says:

        Susan Boyle is also rocking it. In her own, middle-aged cat lady way.

        • kavyn says:

          Susan Boyle gained some serious momentum because her audition went viral. The country guy from XFactor (don’t even remember his name) isn’t even comparable to her… I still don’t understand how he got Top 2 each week.

          • Becky says:

            Tate Stevens. Personally I could not stand him. All that posturing with what he gave up to raise his family. Everyone makes a choice. He isn’t unique but he was the only country guy and country fans tend to vote. Not purchase. But vote.

        • SamSmith says:

          Susan Boyle is the exception. Most likely to be break out stars are the younger set. Teens or early mid twenties.

      • HTGR says:

        Fifth Harmony (and Carly and half of the others) were also a lot better than Tate too though.

        • HTGR says:

          Susan Boyle was both far better than Tate too as well as a unexpected sort of revelation and that also gives one a ton of extra momentum.

      • Teeny Bikini says:

        Nick + Cher! Oh, that might be worth the save. Thanks for the reminder. He is the only save that I can see, but the others? No. How that little girl who sang her face off is not there, let alone Donna Allen – is crazytown. But Nick? I love me some Nick :)

    • Teeny Bikini says:

      Oh sara. This show never had integrity. Now, that they have an extra steal to use – we actually get to see them do something really dumb – twice. The battle rounds are this show’s greatest flaw.

  4. Jess says:

    One thing I absolutely love about the Voice, is how much grace its contestants have when they don’t make it to the next round. They’re always so amazing, especially compared with some other reality shows.

    I’m actually less mad at the judges about Donna Allen not getting a steal than I am about Timyra-Joi not getting one. Because the producers were definitely talking in their ears about Donna, saying that The Voice needs to get at least one chart-topper pretty darn soon (so I’m mad at the producers, not the judges). But I don’t get Timyra-Joi not getting a steal. She’s a young, pretty girl who is an amazing singer, and isn’t that what sells in the business? I just don’t get it.

    And as much as I love Kaley Cuoco, her little sister did not deserve a steal that neither Donna nor Timyra-Joi got. (Is Big Bang Theory on the same network?)

    • Nancy says:

      No Jess the Big Bang is on CBS, And I have to agree with all of you that I don’t think that Kaley Cuoco’s sister is that good of a singer.

    • JON says:

      I was surprised Timyra-Jo didn’t gets tolen too. She should audition for American Idol next year.

    • Eidi says:

      After that Ashly Williams was eliminated in X Factor, I started thinking all these jurors are simply racist.

      • HTGR says:

        What about Kendra Chantelle EASILY winning her battle and not getting sent through though and looking at who has won AI season by season.

        • Jasmine says:

          Ooh, let me tell you something. I have NOT forgot about that injustice season 10 when they sent home Kendra Chantelle! I was so mad that they sent her home. She clearly sang the heck out of that song, my only criticism being that it was too short. I wish she could’ve sang the whole thing. Uhhhh, that moment on the show still to this day has a bad taste in my mouth…one of the biggest injustices in idol history….She needs to come back on some singing show, whether it be American Idol or the Voice. I would say the X Factor, but that show has turned into a joke…Anyway…still think of Kendra Chantelle from time to time. Hope she’s doing well.

  5. Ron says:

    I COMPLETELY agree with you guys that the steals were wasted big time. Melinda’s thought on Christina’s steal is my exact thought: I can understand why she stole that kid and I’m not mad at her for it, but in the long run I don’t think he was worth a steal. Blake took BOTH his steals, threw them on the ground, stepped on them, sent them through the shredder, threw the shredded pieces out the window to be taken by the wind, let them land in the middle of the nowhere for birds to fly over and poop on. Point is, NONE of Blake’s steals were worthy of stealing — he’ll release both of them during the knock-outs. It’s just so frustrating that great people were let go just so Blake could steal Brianna and Nick. Did Brianna improve from her blind audition? Yes, I think she did. I think Christina was able to help her improve. Was that improvement enough to advance her/warrant a steal? Hell to the NO! Is Nick fun? Sure, why not. I find him grating at times, but kinda fun. But after a couple minutes his voice becomes hard to listen to. Nick didn’t warrant a steal. I think it’s time to force Blake to sit a season out. His logic is — oh wait, he has no logic. His choices are, for the most part, inane.

  6. Babybop says:

    I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Brianna Cuoco for a while… Famous siblings = people will vote based on said sibling and not based on her voice.

  7. Marcie says:

    Donna didn’t make it because she used her voice as a bludgeon against her opponent rather than an artistic tool to interpret the song. She assaulted all of our ears and she deserved to leave.

    • StupidPeopleShutUp says:

      Donna is the most commercial and most dynamic singer this season and letting her go is a travesty. You know which singers are the only ones guaranteed to sell tickets these days? Patti LaBelle and Aretha. Bettye LaVette sells out >2000 seat halls. Donna fills a niche that people always want. I am shocked she’s gone. If you don ‘t think she can sing, you’re an idiot.

      • Fan says:

        Donna’s purple hair looked horrible hanging in front of her eyes.

      • Mary says:

        Sorry totally disagree with you. Donna style of music is not popular with the 18-49 demo, heck it is not even popular with over 50 group. Yes she was good, but commercial don’t think so. I did not take what Marcie said as her not being able to sing, just that is was too much. Some of us believe less is more. Name calling is not needed to prove your point.

  8. AJ says:

    spot-on comments on Ray. love his style!

  9. Ace says:

    That was a serious tennis reference.

  10. Britt says:

    I agree with the whole “steals” situation. I think the producers have way too much say so in who stays and who goes. Plus the judges most likely want the people they selected to go through over the ones they stole, so they pick people who most likely won’t win to begin with.

    • JON says:

      Not really. In the previous seasons, didn’t the coaches usually steal artists who they turned for in the blind auditions but went with another coach?

      • The Guest says:

        Blake’s never advanced one of his steals to the live round (but there’s a rumor going around that one of them from this season made it, and it’s not the one with the celebrity sister). The only steal of note who has gone far is Sasha from last season.

        • jeremy.hudson says:

          And the amazing Amanda Brown!!!

          • The Guest says:

            Forgot about Amanda Brown.

            I do remember Adam saved Caroline Glaser only to have her go one-and-done in the live rounds. The same thing happened to the Nina Dobrev lookalike that I think went with Christina after the steal.

  11. Is anyone really that surprised that the coaches wasted their Steals? Adam is the only one of these coaches who has actually used his Steals to improve him team, the rest just use them as Knockout Round fodder. I am interested to see if any of them beside Adam actually Steal someone who could go far during the Live Shows or just pick someone who will not be a threat to advance above one of their original four contestants. I will not be surprised at all if they just Steal back singers they cut loose in the Battles: Blake will Steal back Monika, Christina will Steal back Briana, and Cee-Lo will, well, he will just probably Steal the first hot chick who loses their Knockout Round.

  12. JM says:

    Ageism definitely came into play with Donna AND Tamyra-Joi. Donna being too old and Tamyra too young. I didn’t mind either one, because IMO, Donna is in NO WAY a reincarnation of Tina Turner! And Tamyra’s voice, while good, will be great given a few more years and practice. So many kids try out too young and really should learn some patience.

    My beef is that Jacob went home. His duel with Michael was the best one by far, and why he didn’t get stolen is beyond me. Blake definitely blew his steals!

    So glad Carolyn and Tessanne went through as they are favs.

    I’m looking forward to next week as some of my favs are coming up, like Jonny Gray. I’ve been checking out some of the singers on YouTube, and this guy is talented! Check out D.M.F.D., an incredible song that he wrote.

    James Wolpert and Preston are good too.

  13. sophie says:

    Matt, can you just get over Donna already? Read the comments from your review, most people weren’t upset about her not being stolen, she oversang the song big time.
    Personally I think she has talent and a great voice, but we already have a Tina Turner, we don’t need another one. Also, her performance lacked emotions, while Tessanne just killed it.
    I agree that most of the steels were undeserved, specially sad about Timyra-Joi not getting another chance.

  14. StupidPeopleShutUp says:

    Tina Turner will be dead soon. People are pissed because Donna has twenty years of live sellout shows in 2000 seat halls ahead of her. She might not sell much on itunes, but she ‘ll sell two hundred thousand dollars a night in concert halls 150+ nights a year. I decide what you see. I am in the business. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Luke says:

      Donna would be lucky to sell out cabaret cafés for her future. I really don’t think she is going to be the one carrying Tina Turner’s torch.

      • StupidPeopleShutUp says:

        You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

        • Mary says:

          Well I guess since your an expert, she doesn’t really need The Voice. So @StupidPeople if you are in the “business” make it happen. Since she was not picked she can get a head start on selling out those live shows.

  15. Luke says:

    You close by saying that steals shouldn’t be wasted on people with no hope of placing higher than 10th place. That is exactly what Donna is. As good as she may be (a bit over the top for me), she would never do well once votes kick in.

  16. Shaun says:

    The steals are obviously being used for fodders for the next round. The coaches are more likely to keep their original picks for the longer run.

    And why is anyone wondering why Donna wasn’t picked. The video pretty much summed up everything. 1) Ageism. 2) not part of the demographic of the show. 3) Oversang the song compared to opponent. Sure it can be classified as an ‘injustice’ but The Voice is hardly a courthouse.

  17. Carol says:

    I’m dying with the tennis reference. Who knew Slezak, who knew.

  18. Olive says:

    It may have a little to do with Donna’s age (but not entirely…Susan Boyle, hello?) but I suspect her style of singing is the real problem. Yes, she can do big Aretha/Tina type tunes and has a ridiculously good voice, but that’s not what’s current, on the radio or being downloaded.

    They (coaches and producers) want a viable winner who will actually place on the charts. In a world where Miley, Kesha & Britney reign supreme, there is more to an artist than just the voice. Remember the 1st season winner of X-Factor (back when people watched that show?) Melanie something and she was never heard from since. She was the same kind of singer as Donna…giant ballads etc.. that really seem outdated in today’s market and you couldn’t picture her doing anything else.

    It’s easy to criticize the Producers, but if my money was on the line, I wouldn’t back Donna either…despite her flawless vocals.

    • Olive says:

      And yes, I realize how hypocritical it sounds when the show is called “The Voice” but if we’re all being honest, there is so much more to a performer than just the vocals. Most of us have at least one singer we “love” or would want to emulate in some way or another… and the pool of people who would feel that about Donna is smaller than with other contestants. Michael Slezak made the same point when he said people would vote for Briana just because they liked Kaley. Others vote for the coach they like best, not the performer. Well, if you want to make money and have success, you need to find someone the public will support that same way.

  19. Betsy says:

    Enjoyed that, thank you!! And I’ll be downloading Melinda’s song, thanks for the heads up!

  20. Pat says:

    Quit hating on Grey!

  21. Shawn says:

    Here’s the thing about Blake wasting his steals. Since they brought in the steal for the battle rounds Blake has never taken a steal to the live shows. Blake just picks steals as fodder for the knockout rounds. How much you want to bet that Blake will put on of his stolen contestants against someone he advanced in the battle rounds that he wishes to take to the live shows? I think( and correct me if I am wrong) that the only coach so far that has taken a stolen contestant to the live shows is Adam (Amanda Brown). Adam (who I think is a terrible coach) is the only one who will actually give a second chance. The others coaches just set up their stolen contestants as fodder for the knockout rounds.

  22. dj says:

    It was definitely a weird week on the voice, and I agreed with Michael and Melinda about the coaches screwing up both who they pit against each other in the battles and who they steal. It makes me mad when good singers go and so-so singers stay. But I dislike even more how much time they are wasting on the shows and then they show just snippets of other battles. I would like to see all the battles, or at least be able to see them online. I would like fewer previews of what’s coming up, fewer recaps of what just happened, and absolutely no whole shows devoted to what’s already gone on.

  23. Clayton says:

    What everyone is posting makes sense and I think I might be the only person in the world that doesn’t think the judges made horrible decisions. The steals are meant to be more spontaneous than strategic. If the coaches weren’t allowed to steal the contestants til after the battle rounds, then that would be different, I’m sure they’d all pick different people. Taking Nic Hawk for example, I didn’t find his performance something special. It was fun. They haven’t had a personality like him on the show before and that made Blake feel something in the moment, so in the moment he used his steal on them. That’s how they’re designed. You could say that these judges steal people just to keep someone on their team through to the live rounds by sacrificing them in the knock-offs – but that’s such cynical, negative thinking. I don’t know what goes on their heads, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Also. Blake has already won 3 times. I’m sure he’d love to win again and he could possibly. I feel like he might not though since every coach has been hinting as a loss for Blake. But at the same time, since he’s won 3 times he’s probably just wanting to have fun this time around. He’s already won 3 seasons, he doesn’t have anything left to prove, why not go out of his element with someone like Nic? Or choose someone who is trying to make a name for herself – though probably enjoying the support from her sisters fans – like Brianna?

    I’m excited by the steals so far. This show just clearly demonstrates that not everyone can be pleased. I’m super stoked for Monday and I’m curious as to who Adam’s steals will be for.

    Also, I love E.G. Daily, anyone know if there is a way to see her full battle-round clip? Or is the clip-show they did as good as it gets?

  24. HTGR says:

    Agree with everything this week (other than I was a bit more impressed with Anthony, so i didn’t think that was a wasted save at all)! Man hearing the Donna clips again…. arrrrrrrrr. Something is rotten in state of Denmark for sure. What a disgrace.
    .
    And Timayra too, I mean how do they send TImarya and Donna with soooo many save slots open and what they did? And yeah Jacob cooulda gotten one too! Steals are messed this season. Don’t turn into AI! Look what happened to them when they went too far down these roads.

  25. Heidi says:

    I think the fact that no one stole Donna Allen makes a lot of sense, and not just because of ageism. It doesn’t make sense for a judge to have more than one “power voice” on their team. You don’t want your contestants to be competing for votes with their own teammates. Adam made that mistake last season and we’ve seen how well that turned out for him. All of the judges have at least one powerful singer already that they don’t want to ditch for Donna Allen. Makes sense, I wouldn’t either. I think that’s the same reason why Tamyra wasn’t snapped up. Why pick up a singer who will challenge a singer that you already have?

    I think that’s also why Blake snatched Nic. Nic is entirely dissimilar from any of his current contestants and he’ll also bring publicity to Blake’s team. I also think that Nic may go farther in the contest than Melinda thinks because when the public votes it isn’t just about their vocals, it’s about their appealing personalities. Gray has a nice vocal but there’s nothing about her that stands out. Nic stands out.

  26. Robert says:

    WWWWWOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW………….Sometimes I think that if, as a society, we could put even half as much energy, time, and thought that we currently use to analyze reality tv, into more pressing and concerning issues which our world currently faces….we would totally pulverize em’ and make some awesome sauce progress for the human race.

    le sigh…..but then again, some escapism is a most deffo welcome relief, and a great way to pass the time between finding solutions for world hunger, viral epidemics, social inequalities, and pollution. “The power is YOUR”S” (sorry couldn’t help meself!!! lol)

    I enjoy pretty much all the singing shows currently out there, but to be honest i rarely watch past the audition stages (one exception to that is NBC’s The Sing Off!!! cuz it’s AH-MAZE-ING!!!). There’s just something special about the pre-live show auditions i can’t seem to get enough of!!!

    Hmmmm seems i veered off a little from what i wanted to say …..which is basically just EVERYONE CALM THE FREAK DOWN PLEASE!!!! i love the voice as much as any yall do and usually enjoy reading the viewer comments which follow, but sometimes i swear theres a streak of meanness/anger/general angstyness that is unbecoming and kinda depressing!……i dunno…maybe i’m just a sensative kinda guy, but come on yall…lets spread a little love around? before we turn into that which we despise most…Internet Chat Trolls!!!! lol

    sorry, :) i think im being selfish cuz that felt DARN GOOD to get off my chest :)

    Maybe we should all take whatever Xtina is taking this season!! Compared to past seasons, she seems to have found her happy place which is awesome. Her advice and encouraging speeches have alot of impact on her team members who look up to her, and the fact that it seems to be coming from a genuine place is kinda cool to me…..Maybe she’s been stealing sips of whatever Blake keeps in that cup of his lol cuz that guy just seems to radiate contentment/confidence/happiness/awesomness all over the place!!

    Im keeping my fingers crossed for maybe Tessane or Caroline this season. Lots of talent this season for sure, but for me, i seem to gravitate to the control and individuality those ladies manage to convey in their performances :)

  27. cjc says:

    Catching up on my Reality Check. Slezak, your tennis analogy was HILARIOUS! “You don’t put Nadal and Djokovic against each other in the first round. You pair them with an over-matched Russian teenager. Or an American player.” HA!!!! Bravo for the sports analogy.

  28. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest of the
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