Midway through its eleventh season, there are certain things we’ve come to expect from The Voice.
Carson Daly will spoil any “Steal” at least 14 minutes before it happens. Adam and Blake will engage in some insults that resemble my morning coffee — light and sweet — before eventually hugging it out. And a four-chair turn will always crush a one-chair turn in the Battle Rounds.
OH BUT SLOW YOUR ROLL, MR. DALY! Newbie coach Alicia Keys apparently never got the memo about that last Voice cliché.
And that’s why Tuesday’s showdown between unheralded challenger Michael Sanchez and heavy favorite Dave Moisan — both of whom absolutely, 100 percent deserved to advance to the Knockouts — ended with an upset that most viewers, not to mention Alicia’s fellow coaches, never saw coming.
Can we pause to slow clap for the “Empire State of Mind” vocalist? Yes we can! (Or at least we should.)
While you keep the Standing O going — for Michael and Dave, for Alicia, for the hope that Mark Burnett will invite Tessane Chin or Sawyer Fredericks or Amber Carrington back to perform new music this season — let me break down tonight’s trio of 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: This recap his been updated with full performance reviews.
3. Team Miley: Sophia Urista defeats Lane Mack on “Money” | There were moments in Lane’s performance where I wasn’t sure he’d have been able hit the note cleanly if it had been strung up like a piñata. Those gaps in technique by the howling bluesman left the door wide open for Sophia, who threw in a few killer ad-libs during Lane’s verse — and sealed the win with a killer glory note on the phrase “Lear jet.” Still, she’ll need to bring more oomph to the party if she expects to have any shot in the voting rounds.
2. Team Blake: Courtney Harrell defeats Ethan Tucker on John Mayer’s “Gravity” | Courtney may have delivered the showier vocal, but Ethan’s was markedly more pleasing to my ear, if I’m being completely honest. Not only was his gravelly tone and languid phrasing a welcome retreat in a genre that typically rewards bombast, but he was also more consistently in tune than Courntey. Sure, there were flashes of glory as her voice swooped over and under Ethan’s vocal like a great bird of prey, but there was also troubling turbulence in her upper register.
1. Team Alicia: Michael Sanchez defeats Dave Moisan on The Zutons’ “Valerie” (Dave stolen by Adam) | Dave’s rendition of “Valerie” — which benefitted greatly from Alicia’s slowed-down arrangement, if not so much from her insistence that the guys swap positions behind the keyboards — was an airy and ethereal thing, part Justin Timberlake, part John Mayer, with accurate falsettos and an undeniable sense of rhythm. Michael’s counterpoint, though, was so raw and muscular — and imbued with such a distinctive tone — that Alicia was left with no choice but to declare him the winner, thus redefining the one-chair turn as a legit contender for the Season 11 crown. Call him Rick Moranis-esque all you want. But if his fashion upgrade in the Battles is matched by a less-dated pair of glasses for the Knockouts, dude coud be a household name by the time you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.
Individual Rankings Based on Battle Round Performances
4. Sophia Urista
3. Courtney Harrell
Ethan Tucker (oh wait, he didn’t advance!)
2. Dave Moisan
1. Michael Sanchez