It’s time for The Voice Battle Rounds to come with a warning label: “Please ‘Steal’ Responsibly.”
Actually, maybe the show ought to consider rotating multiple kinds of cautions, like “Please Don’t Match Up Two of Your Best Singers (Then Whine About It Later).” And to the good folks at NBC, perhaps “Please Don’t Spoil for Viewers When There’s a Steal Coming Up After the Break,” as well as “Please Give Us More Than Six Complete Battles in a Two-Hour Installment (We Can Handle It!).”
Still, despite some clunky structural woes — and the heinous snub of DeShawn Washington (which I’ll keep referencing for at least six weeks) — the overall architecture of Season 6’s initial Battle Rounds was solid. There was a glory note so enormous that it might be cast as Godzilla’s rival in a Summer 2016 blockbuster. There was Jill Scott’s dubious facial expression upon hearing the evisceration of Steve Windwood’s “Higher Love.” And we even got Adam Levine keeping a 35-year-old woman on his team. (Just when you think you’ve seen it all…)
Anyhow, while you work on strongly worded Tweets to get DeShawn back into the competition, let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner:
6. Team Usher: T.J. Wilkins defeats Biff Gore on The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (Biff stolen by Blake) | I was actually leaning toward Biff — whose tone is grittier and whose connection to the lyrics ran deeper — until the older fella broke out the squats and the high kicks and the wedding-singer dance moves. Then I just stopped caring who won. Still, I can’t believe Blake wasted his “Steal” here — when he coulda had the vastly superior DeShawn later in the episode.
5. Team Blake: Jake Worthington defeats Lexi Luca on Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This” | Jake might never turn out to be a world-class vocalist, but he’s just so gosh-darn sweet — the way he hugged and comforted Lexi after their showdown, awwww! Oh, sorry, lost track of this paragraph. To be fair, the kid has a solid sense of pitch and some real authenticity in his delivery. If Blake can find ways to improve Jake’s diction and improve his stage presence, he could go deeper into the competition than one might predict on first glance.
4. Team Usher: Stevie Jo defeats Jake Barker on Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” (Jake stolen by Adam) | This was a decent round, but hardly the show-closing extravaganza Carson Daly promised — although the wickedly astute Jill Scott’s resting expression of dismay (pictured) was a pretty major moment. I agreed with Usher that Stevie’s potential may not yet have been fully tapped, though the richness of his tone and his palpable enthusiasm made me root for him over Jake’s peacock-esque runs and oddly glum body language. In other words, Usher got it right; and whatever prompted Shakira, Blake and Adam to attempt to steal Jake remains a mystery to my ears.
3. Team Shakira: Dani Moz defeats DeShawn Washington on Emeli Sande’s “My Kind of Love” | And the award for Most Frustrating Battle Pairing (and Result) goes to… Mmm-hmm, I am crestfallen (with a side of enraged) that DeShawn showed such incredible growth in terms of pitch, magnetism, stage presence and believability from his “Twistin’ the Night Away” audition to his Battle — and yet nobody threw him a lifeline as he got sucked into the Season 6 undertow and disappeared. Don’t get me wrong: Dani showcased impressive pipes, passion and vocal control — but her tone wasn’t nearly as distinctive as DeShawn’s. In fact, I was convinced Shakira gave her the win because she figured DeShawn would get snatched up by a competing coach. Here’s hoping the end result stung the Colombian coach as much as it did the audience.
2. Team Adam: Kat Perkins defeats Patrick Thomson on Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks’ “Whenever I Call You Friend” (Patrick stolen by Shakira) | Patrick started off a little shaky on the opening verse, but seemed to pick up confidence and acuracy once Kat joined in the fun. Ultimately, though, the rocker nanny dominated the duet, hitting her big notes on the bridge with a cleanliness and precision that Patrick simply couldn’t match when he reached his upper register. It was sweet how excited Kat got when she heard Patrick being stolen, but methinks the dude is probably bound for disappointment come Knockouts time.
1. Team Blake: Sisaundra Lewis defeats Paula Deanda on Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want” | Holy hell, this matchup was like putting a lion in a teacup poodle display down at the local pet store — not right on any level. And while Paula did a reasonably good job coloring within the Gaga/Xtina template, it was Sisaundra who took a match to the template, tossed it into the fireplace and created a raging blaze that raised the temperature in the room by several degrees. Was her approach wayyy over the top? Yeah, sure. But “Do What You Want” is the kind of madcap/obsessive jam that can support such theatrics. I’m seriously looking forward to Sisaundra’s epic glory notes, along with her shimmy-shimmy shakes, in the Knockouts and beyond. As Blake noted, “Sisaundra stands alone” — and seems pretty humble about it, to boot.
And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of the first set of Season 6 Battle Rounds? Did anyone deserve to get the Save and didn’t? Who gave the best overall vocal of the night? Take our poll, then sound off in the comments!