Ali Caldwell the voice

The Voice Battle Rounds Recap: Smells Like Team Spirit

Like an undecided voter in the presidential race — how much more do you really need to see, people? — I’ve always experienced maximum ambivalence when it comes to aligning with a particular coach’s team on The Voice.

After all, as you’re downloading a contestant’s track and adding it to your dinner-party playlist — yes, this is how I introduce people to Season 8’s Kimberly Nichole and Season 9’s Jeffrey Austin — does it make a blind bit of difference which superstar mentored ’em?

Season 11, however, has made me understand, if not succumb to, the NBC singing competition’s relentless emphasis on team, team, team, team, team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never vote for or against a contestant based on their coach. But there’s a tiny part of me (less than one half of one half percent, to be technical) that’s rooting for newbie panelists Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys to defy expectations and make it a second straight win for a female coach, following Xtina’s Season 10 triumph.

Their unabashed, unbelievably endearing enthusiasm for the Voice process has somehow reinvigorated my own interest level in a show that, sans its latest reinvention, might be tipping more toward Monday-night habit than genuine start-of-the-week necessity.

In any event, let’s break down this week’s half-dozen Battle Rounds from least- to most-promising winner — bearing in mind I’ll be updating this URL with more detailed performance reviews (one at a time) overnight. [Update: Full reviews for every Battle have now been posted!]

6. Team Adam: Riley Elmore defeats Natasha Bure on “Cry Me a River” | Riley stayed in tune more consistently than Natasha, who skidded around the melody like a blindfolded toddler in rollerskates. But Riley’s interpretation of an American songbook classic contained less flavor than a day-old piece of Melba toast, underscoring the sad fact that his talent needs several years of incubation if there’s a hope of advancing beyond the “third place in the high school talent competition” level.

5. Team Blake: Sundance Head defeats Dan Shafer on “Feel Like Makin’ Love” | There wasn’t even a whiff of sexual longing or seductiveness in the vocals of onetime Idol hopeful Sundance or former jingle vocalist Dan — and that’s problematic when you’re belting out the frenzied mating call that is “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” The tunefulness of Sundance’s metal-spoon-against-the-bottom-of-the-wok howl made him the easy choice over Dan, who clumsily lifted the mic stand in a desperate attempt to upgrade from karaoke to cool. But neither one presented like an artist destined to go any farther than the Live Playoffs.

4. Team Alicia: Christian Cuevas defeats Jason Warrior on Adele’s “Hello” (Jason stolen by Adam) | Regardless of who you think won the Battle, both of these fellas showcased an appealing blend of gritty tone juxtaposed with Scrubbing Bubbles-level spotlessness. To my ear, though, Jason’s spectacular scooped note and his attention to detail in the rumbly opening verse proved slightly more impressive than Christian’s palpable sincerity and scratchy elegance. Granted, there’s still a small charisma gap between these dudes and their flashier Season 11 compadres, but isn’t that the kind of issue that good coaching is supposed to fix (at least theoretically)?

3. Team Adam: Billy Gilman defeats Andrew DeMuro on “Man in the Mirror” (was it just me, or did Andrew outsing Blind Audition standout Billy?) | Billy was pretty close to perfect in his Blind Audition, but I winced at his overshot upper register two or three times during his rendition of a Michael Jackson song that could really use a vacation from the reality singing space. The less-rangey Andrew had more work to do reaching for the top end of his range, but he never lost control of his instrument, which — along with his superior grasp on the song’s intricate rhythm — made him the winner. The Voice, however, loves itself a “second chance at fame” backstory, which means Billy is probably a mortal lock for a Top 5 finish.

2. Team Alicia: Wé McDonald defeats Lauren Diaz on Janis Joplin’s “Maybe” (Lauren stolen by Miley) | We’re only in Round 2 of Season 11, but let’s not try to undersell it: The heaviness of Wé’s tone and the broadness of her vocal range make her not only a big threat to win the whole enchilada, but also to become an artist whose lifespan in the public eye lasts well beyond the show’s season finale. Not only does the teenage contestant have a Malbec-ian richness to her lower register, but her falsetto interlude flitted upward like a chickadee gliding over a sunflower field. (Too much? Listen to Wé’s performance again, then tell me I’m wrong!) Lauren, on the other hand, matched her younger rival in both pitch and power, but she needs to mix up her bombast with more discernable character and below-the-surface emotion if she wants to make the most of her second chance on Team Miley.

1. Team Miley: Ali Caldwell defeats Courtnie Ramirez on “Hit or Miss” (Alicia steals Courtnie) | I’ll admit it: I’d never before heard Odetta’s “Hit or Miss.” But it’s hard to fathom the ode to individuality being delivered with more soul, sass or sophistication than we heard from Ali. The way she mixed guttural gorgeousness with flirty falsetto, the dexterity with which she handled the tempo, the confidence with which she worked the stage — it had me wondering if she might be a potential Season 11 champ, despite the lack of a four-star tragic backstory. Courtnie was rock-solid, too, but she brought a strain to more than a few big notes, making her a curious choice for one of the eight coveted Steals this round.

Individual Rankings Based on Battle Round Performances
9. Riley Elmore, “Cry Me a River”
8. Courtnie Ramirez, “Hit or Miss”
7. Sundance Head, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”
6. Billy Gilman, “Man in the Mirror”
5. Lauren Diaz, “Maybe”
4. Christian Cuevas, “Hello”
3. Jason Warrior, “Hello”
2. Wé McDonald, “Maybe”
1. Ali Caldwell, “Hit or Miss”

What did you think of Night 1 of The Voice Season 11 Battles? Who did you like best? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

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. Tim says:

    Hahahaha how in the world is Wé at 2?????? I threw a shoe. I slammed a door. It was perfection.

    • The Beach says:

      She’s way ahead in the readers’ voting though^^

    • davmon says:

      Well, I consider We’ and Ali equals. Both have lovely vocal instruments. The diff is Ali is mature and more professional, while We’ is young and precocious. We are charmed by We”s youth and freshness. But it is too early to know if We’ can have steady nerves in the Lives. But from this pool, only these two seem worthy of going deep. If steady, they can be Top 5.

  2. Michael H. says:

    So it wasn’t just me that thought Andrew dominated that battle! I love Billy, but Andrew brought everything including the kitchen sink to the song. However, Ms. Wé and Ali just slayed the night for me. I’m so glad that we get to keep watching those two on this stage for a while now.

    • LADY_in_MD says:

      I really thought he would pick Andrew he was much better
      Wé slayed it could see her and Ali making it to the finale

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Agreed on every single word in your post. I thought Billy would kill Andrew, but Andrew flat out won that IMO. Ali and We also dominated the night.

    • Mike says:

      Adam said exactly why he picked Billy. He said he was picking someone he thought could win. And with the many followers Billy’s already got…think(may she rest in peace) Christina Grimmie….he’s got a shot to get into that top 3 or 4. And that’s not to take from her talent, but she had a TON of followers.

    • The Beach says:

      Andrew deserved a steal.

      • Meme says:

        Apparently the other judges agreed with Adam about the winner. Had it been the other way around, all 3 judges probably would have wanted that steal.

    • davmon says:

      Everyone is right! Andrew made it far more competitive than expected. But I remember Billy turned 4 chairs; and presumably in practice he showed more talent and range. I can only assume Adam saw a lot more than we did. At Blinds, I thought Billy could go deep like a Jeffrey from 2 seasons back, who came in 4rh. Andrew matching him, made me less certain of that; still, he should make it through the Lives. If he does, he might get to 6 or 8.

  3. Alan Dvorkis says:

    You thought Andrew straining his way through the song out sang Billy’s effortless beauty? Strange. I did think Dan out sang Sundance Head whose jarring vocals were sheer torture and did not allow us to often hear Dan’s gorgeous tone.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Billy wasn’t so effortlessly beautiful on some of those higher riffs. It got a bit cacophanous and downright frightening on a few of those phrases.

      • analythinker says:

        A little biased toward Billy, but I thought Andrew won that. The latter really pushed himself, but I kinda get why Adam picked Billy (for the long[er] run).

      • Alan Dvorkis says:

        Upon a 2nd listen, I think cacophanous is a bit too strong. He definitely dropped a notch but to me because he had no edge to his singing. It got a bit too poppish. I did not enjoy Andrew at all. That is what makes the world go round. Cheers.

    • Dan Levin says:

      Sundance is going to get far in this competition , he outsang dan , and he is brilliant singer , slezak doesnt know what he is talking about

      • davmon says:

        Dan had a rich texture and lots of character in voice. Sundance just belted with no nuance, no rough-hewn beauty. Not much there. In a weak field of country talent, we may see more of him than he deserves.

    • christopher bee says:

      That´s what i´ve thought too.

      I know my Paul Rogers tunes very well and Dan just reflected the pure and soulfull melody. Sundance oversang it a lot.

      • Alan Dvorkis says:

        Shame that Kosoff was a drug addict. Can you imagine how good Free would have been? Agree that Sundance over sang. I used the word jarring. Loved Dans beautiful tone and despite Sundance trying to sing over him, I still heard Dans beautiful harmonies. I must be listening to something different than most. The song did not suit Dan at all, yet he is all I remember. listening to Sundance belt is sheer torture to my ears.

    • danin says:

      Me too. I loved all the unexpected places that Dan’s voice went to via his ability to drip into that tenderness. You can tell the man has mucho experience. I loved Dan’s voice.

  4. JMark (formerly JM) says:

    First, I want to congratulate Miley for picking a song (Hit or Miss) that I’ve never heard and was pleasantly surprised by. (Will be looking up the original and listening to the battle again). Especially since Adam picked the done-to-death ‘Man in the Mirror’. Refreshing to see some originality for a change.
    Second, way to throw Dan under the bus, Blake, by picking a song that completely didn’t suit him.
    Excited for We and Ali–love them both!

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      Okay, so I listened to the original version of ‘Hit or Miss’, and the battle version is waaaaay better.

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      Thank you, Michael, for telling me the original singer was Odetta. When I looked up ‘Hit or Miss’ on You Tube, I got some kid on a bike, who is apparently popular with the tweens but sounded terrible. Odetta’s version was much better. Check it out, people!

  5. Florence+TheMachineRulez!!! #TeamMariah says:

    OMG, Ali, Lauren, and Wé snatched my edges and wig off!!! 😂😂😂 but damn, they were SANGIN!!!!! Ali can really do damage with the right song!!! She has it all!!! And Wé, that high note? YASSS MAM!!!!!! And Lauren was channeling some inner XTINA/Janis and that was INSANE too!!! Overall GREAT night!!! ❤️❤️❤️👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  6. dj says:

    I agree with everything except I liked Billy better on Man in the Mirror. His voice is so pure and clear, and it commands my attention.

    I absolutely loved the ladies’ battles tonight–so good.

  7. John says:

    How did Christian and Jason come in at 3 and 4 individually but their battle came in 4th? Christian made some really interesting and effective choices, he’s an important talent.

  8. Seth says:

    While there’s no clear favorite this season so far, I felt Wé was the frontrunner coming out of the Blinds. She further cemented that feeling for me after the first night of Battles. Ali was very good as well.

    I enjoyed the heartfelt passion from Christian & Jason but wonder if they have any other tricks in their bag. The rest of the field really didn’t do much for me.

    • The Beach says:

      We’s (don’t know how to do the accent mark) voice sits right in that beautiful sweet spot that I love listening to. Slezak may be right. If given the right direction and if she can catch a few breaks, this girl could be a star.

  9. Kimmy Moores says:

    Hit or Miss and Maybe oh my heavens why did I miss tonight? I’m sitting here fanning myself after slapping stuff at those battles.
    Courtnie and Lauren are holding it the hell DOWN for the latinas this season lawd.
    We and Ali slayed beyond compare though, I just cannot. Omg.

    • Florence+TheMachineRulz!!! #TeamMariah says:

      OMG YASSS!!! We missed u so FREAKEN much Kimmy!!! Yes all the women slayed!!! Especially Ali and Lauren ❤️❤️❤️😭🙌🏽👏🏽

  10. Voice Fan says:

    You can tell the coaches deliberately set up the battles so their strongest singers go forward and their weakest go home and that behind the scenes the coaches make deals for the steal. They give it away with comments like “Billy is the best singer in the competition” and “You are brave going against We” and “Wow Sun Dance you blew my brains out and Dan you showed me you are a performer.” We, Sun Dance, Riley, Christian, Billy, are clearly the top singers in the competition. Alicia and Miley exchanged singers and Adam snapped up Jason. I suspect Sun Dance, We and Billy may end up in the finals.

  11. Karen Anderson says:

    “Maybe” was originally done by the Chantels. Janis recorded it with the Kozmic Blues Band in 1969 and performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show.

    • The Beach says:

      And “Cry Me a River” was first a hit for Julie London, probably before Buble was even born and covered by many other female vocalists. The coaches acted like they were throwing them a curve ball by giving them a guy’s song. I, too, wish they would give due credit to the original artist.

  12. Loiszb says:

    We is a star. Amazing. Astounding. Perfect. Riley has that star thing too. Ali has a killer voice. Man in the Mirror was pretty darn good, both of them. And all the rest were super duper. Great show.

  13. Barry says:

    Great night for the most part, not much suspense but really enjoyable. Agreed with Micheal more than usual, Wé and Ali slayed the night, really excited about both of them; the “Hello” battle was pretty even, would have gone either way TBH; wanted to love Lauren more but Wé ate her alive; Andrew beat Billy to me also, and Billy was one of my faves, but I cringed on his higher notes, I think Adam said something along the lines that he would pick the one who could win this show, so maybe he thought that Billy got outsang as well but picked him because he could win, wish someone saved Andrew instead of Courtnie; really wanted to love Sundance more but I agree with Slezak; and that Riley kid… No.

  14. Peachy says:

    Well, for once, “The Voice” fooled me.

    I thought the producers would be pushing Natalie Bure. She’s young, and her mom is a celebrity with an inexplicablely sucessful sitcom.

    Yes, Ms. Bure is a weak singer. That hasn’t stopped “The Voice” producers/coaches from pimping the cute contestants before.

  15. Meme says:

    Go Billy, We Mc, and Ali! I would listen to these 3 all day and not get tired.

  16. Sve says:

    I think the contestants are going to regret being in team Miley. She picks her songs vased on HER preferences and desire to make a statement. As always it is always only about her.

  17. Toba7 says:

    I think that Miley Cyrus is wonderful. She’s a great coach and is fun. An asset to this show!!!

  18. Melissa Stallings says:

    Y’all should of picked Nathan

  19. Jack No Slack says:

    You forgot Natasha in your ranking and polls!

  20. Amerigo says:

    ☆☆☆I know Janis Joplin sang Maybe…but the original recording artists are the Chantelles☆☆☆