Christina Aguilera and Patti LaBelle clasped hands and squealed with glee on Monday’s episode of The Voice, and I don’t want to live in a world where there’s not an Emmy category to reward such a next-level historical event.
Xtina, the one Voice coach who’s not afraid to grab the mic and use a few bars to remind lesser divas that she is both the Alpha and the Omega of NBC’s reality singing competition, was uncharacteristically reverential as the “On My Own” legend joined her to guest-coach the Season 10 Battle Rounds. Thankfully, the soulful duo under these ladies’ tutelage did not disappoint, managing to somehow live up to Carson Daly’s hyperbolic promise of being “one of the greatest Battles in Voice history” and “one of the biggest steals of all time.”
The showdown between Bryan Bautista and Malik Heard was, in fact, so sublime that the first hour of the episode — dispensing with the last five Blind Auditions of Season 10 — played like a mere aluminum package for the sweet potato pie of the Battles.
To be honest, I’m not sure why the Blinds and Battles courses weren’t served separately — it’s not like The Voice is a problematic ratings performer that needs to be rushed along — but in any event, let’s get to recapping the action:
BLIND AUDITIONS (Rated Least- to Most-Promising)
5. Jared Harder – Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go ‘Round” (Team Blake) | And the last contestant selected by Blake Shelton shall be the first… to be sacrificed during Battles.
4. Jonathan Hutcherson – One Direction’s “You & I” (Team Pharrell) | Charismatic farm kid from Kentucky displayed some raw talent, but lacked the emotional oomph and grasp of pitch that might’ve come if he’d waited three or four years to audition.
3. Katie Basden – Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” (Team Adam) | Straight up the middle and impressively in-tune southern rocker — but I’m not sure if she’s distinctive enough to resonate with voters.
2. Ayanna Jahnee – Adele’s “Skyfall” (Team Xtina) | I liked the sense of theee-ayy-trrruhh that Ayanna brought to her big belty notes, but she’ll need to get control of her nerves — and her pitch — when she reaches for low, rumbly parts of her register if she wants to avoid being a Battles/Knockouts casualty.
1. Moushumi – Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” (Team Pharrell) | I’ll admit I always get antsy when a contestant shares with us how they gave up a respectable career (in Moushumi’s case, being a doctor) for a shot at reality singing stardom. But the way the erstwhile cardiologist glided across Chris Isaac’s melody — managing to be at once breathy and powerful — puts her in the top 5 or 10 contestants we’ve heard all season.
BATTLE ROUNDS (Rated Least- to Most-Promising Winner)
3. TEAM BLAKE: Paxton Ingram defeats Brittney Lawrence — Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer” | I liked that Paxton brought physicality and fire to the stage — and based on that alone, I think he was the right choice to advance over the solid but under-nuanced Brittney. In what’s shaping up to be a deep season, however, I’m not convinced dude’s got powerful enough pipes to go much farther in the competition.
2. TEAM ADAM: Ryan Quinn defeats Katie Basden – Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Katie stolen by Team Blake) | As Pharrell noted, Ryan’s got a gift for infusing every note with palpable emotion. And so while there were moments his voice scratched and strained in ways that Katie’s didn’t, the way he took control of the mood of the performance, leaving Katie looking occasionally adrift in the boxing-ring-style set, made him a much more likely candidate to make it to the live rounds. In other words, Adam got it right.
1. TEAM XTINA: Bryan Bautista defeats Malik Heard – James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (Malik stolen by Pharrell) | With nary a missed note, a whiffed rhythm or even an emotionally unconvincing sentiment to be found in either Bryan or Malik’s vocal, I can’t say Xtina was wrong when she declared herself the only loser in the showdown. (The audience, though, we won from the minute the guys began to belt.) Sure, I might’ve gone with Makik — to my ear, his sizzling runs brought slightly more feeling to the tune than Bryan’s soaring high notes — but the kid’s wise choice of Pharrell over Adam and Blake tells me he and Bryan could be around for some time to come…