True love, at least the way I see it, isn’t about accepting your partner’s ridiculous flights of fancy, but embracing them. And thus, even/especially in the moments when reality television confounds and befuddles me, I reach out and embrace it. (Occasionally, I even clap along, because that’s what I wanna do.)
So how does this apply to tonight’s installment of The Voice?
Well, we had coach Adam Levine very seriously delcaring that he’s “trying to perpetuate the idea that singing is the ability to engage a crowd.” (If so, go forth and download Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly’s duets album!) We had Blake Shelton delivering some of his worst line-reading in his six seasons of reality TV “panelization” by telling us the Audra McLaughlin-vs.-Alaska-&-Madi Battle Round was “the toughest decision maybe I’ve ever made.” (#sixofone) We even had Golden Retriever puppies frolicking in a field of wheat at sunset — and it made me feel some type of way.
Before I get too far down that road, let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner. (And bear in mind I’d have ranked this MUCH differently if Music Box and Tess Boyer had rightfully won their showdowns.)
6. Team Blake: Audra McLaughlin defeats Alaska & Madi on Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved” | Like a really terrible fourth-grade classroom with an innefective subsititute teacher, this Battle was noisy and hectic to the point of cacophonous. Was Adam being serious about wishing he’d had a steal left to salvage whichever act went home?
5. Team Shakira: Deja Hall defeats Music Box on The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” (Music Box stolen by Usher) | Deja had some sweet moments, but Shaki’s advisor Miranda Lambert was right: The teenager’s sound is still immature. Music Box — who needs to rethink that absurdist-comedy stage name, especially now that Blake is refering to her as “Miss Box” — dug deep into the performance even when it wasn’t her turn to sing — and thankfully reaped the rewards via Adam’s steal. The “cry” in MB’s voice and her palpable connection to the lyrics has me wondering if she might exceed early under-the-radar expectations. Her last-place position in TVLine’s poll, however, has me thinking otherwise.
4. Team Usher: Bria Kelly defeats Tess Boyer on Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” (Tess stolen by Blake) | Hands down, Bria was in my Top 5 vocalists from the Blind Auditions — and I’m happy she advanced tonight, based on that “Steamroller Blues” performance alone. That said, the teenager turned the oven up to 500 for the entirety of “Piece of My Heart” — resulting in moments of aggressive overbaked-ness that lacked the dynamics and gut-wrenchingness of Janis’ incomparable original. Tess — whose acknowledgment of her own inherent pageanty-ness made me kind of adore her — really put some unexpected gusto into her vocal, without hitting some of the questionable notes that Bria did. Which of these ladies will wind up going further? It’ll be interesting to find out — especially since each of ’em ended up with the right coach for her skill set.
3. Team Usher: Madilyn Paige defeats Tanner James on Taylor Swift’s “Everything Has Changed” | The Provost, Utah-based teenagers delivered terrific, innocent romantic chemistry on La Swift’s dreamy ditty — and mentor Jill Scott gave the kind of deft play-by-play that makes me think she deserves a second look at filling Cee Lo’s char in Season 7. Madilyn’s combo of ethereal mood and powerhouse pipes could turn her into a major dark horse, but it’s a shame that Tanner, who faced an uphill battle by getting saddled with the harmony line for almost the entire chorus, didn’t earn a reprieve from Shakira.
2. Team Adam: Josh Kaufman defeats Austin Ellis on Pharrell’s “Happy” | A total blowout in terms of pitch, tone and passion. I’m not sure the rhythmic vibe of Pharrell’s smash totally suited Josh, either, but his high note coming off the bridge and that final set of harmonies were Rated D…for Dayum!
1. Team Adam: Dawn & Hawkes defeats Josh Murley on Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” (Josh stolen by Shakira) | Blake pooh-poohed the lack of “oh my gosh moment” in this Battle, but I really dug the languid beauty of Dawn and Hawkes’ vocal blend. (Or maybe I’m just a bigger fan of “Stuck in the Middle” than I thought?) There’s just something smooth and warm and slightly intoxicating about ’em — like brandy (the alcohol, not the uni-monikered R&B chanteuse). And while Josh didn’t leave as much of an impression, Shaki’s last-second steal provided him with a sweetly humanizing moment, so I’m not gonna argue his being salvaged.
And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of the third 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!