the voice Aaron Gibson SaRayah

The Voice Recap: Good, Better, Bette

Bette Midler. Cher. Patti LaBelle. Reba McEntire. Stevie Nicks. Jill Scott. Joan Jett.

These legendary divas have all brought keen-eyed critique and unflinching honesty to The Voice Battle Rounds, but relegating them to a couple weeks of guest mentoring makes as much sense as having Usain Bolt on your Olympic roster and sticking him on the synchronized swimming squad.

Imagine, then, if you will, a summer edition of NBC’s reality singing competition in which a quartet of the aforementioned divas call the shots.* OK, so maybe exec producer Mark Burnett would lose a few nights of sleep stressing about whether or not the 18-34 demo would stay loyal to the Peacock Net’s biggest reality franchise as it became overrun by women old enough to be Miley Cyrus’ grandmother. (*Yes, Voice-a-loonies, that was a callback to Season 10 standout Hannah Huston’s finale single.)

But c’mon now. With Miley herself going back — waaaaaaay back — into the dusty jukebox to dredge up Melanie’s “Brand New Key” this week, it’s not as if the show is all X Ambassadors and gnash and Rae Sremmurd** all the time anyhow. (**Names of three artist pulled at random from the current Billboard Top 40 singles chart. #PardonMyCulturalIrrelevance)

So if you want to turn the comments section for this Monday-night recap into an online petition to greenlight The Voice: Legends of Summer Edition, you’ll get no objection from me.

Season 11, however, is shaping up pretty promisingly, too, so allow me to break from my unapologetically gay flight of fancy and break down tonight’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.

6. Team Blake: Gabe Broussard defeats Christian Fermin on “The Reason” | Like the late Whitney Houston, I believe that children are our future. But I also don’t think they’re all meant to make a living in the performing arts. So instead of picking apart 15-year-old Gabe and fellow teen Christian’s iffy vocals, let me instead encourage them to explore the exciting worlds of medicine, finance, engineering or whatever other non-singing pursuits might appeal to their youthful sensibilities.

5. Team Adam: Nolan Neal defeats Johnny Rez on “Sledgehammer” | More puzzling than the mystery of how Johnny kept his tiny hat affixed to his impressive curls was why Miley and Blake called this Battle in his favor. Granted, the choice and arrangement of “Sledgehammer” were irrevocably anchored in the ’80s — making it tough for either contestant to truly stand out — but the appealing gruffness of Nolan’s tone made him the indisputable winner against his boy-band whiny rival.

4. Team Blake: Josh Gallagher “defeats” Blaine Long on “Stranger in My House” | I know there’s one episode left of the Battle Rounds, but I’m not convinced it’s too early to declare Blaine’s premature ejection as the biggest shock of the season. Dude’s rich, layered bluesiness wasn’t just fuller-bodied and more nuanced than Josh’s country-soul scratchiness, but Blaine also was far more consistent when it came to singing in tune. Still, Adam’s whole argument that there was “more to be discovered” with Josh played into the all-too-common Voice narrative that younger = more coachable (aka better). Ugh.

3. Team Miley: Darby Walker defeats Karlee Metzger on “Brand New Key” (Karlee stolen by Blake) | Without a doubt, the ethereal beauty of Karlee’s lilt was more than worthy of advancing to the Knockouts. But to my eyes and ears, the self-admittedly shy gal got steamrolled by Darby’s outré stage presence, risk-taking riffs and ability not to wobble tremulously while reaching for the top of her register.

2. Team Alicia: Kylie Rothfield defeats Josh Halverson on “House of the Rising Sun” (Josh stolen by Miley) | Slow clap for Blake — for pointing out that Josh’s ominous facial expressions belong in a (particularly harrowing) western film. But it wasn’t just Josh’s visage that appeared possessed; his mumbly, guttural opening verse sounded so haunted, I was ready to call Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones & Co. and request some actual ghostbusting. (I mean that in the best possible way.) Kylie’s voice, meanwhile, kept shredding and floating above her duet partner’s low-level rumblings — the catch in her tone gave me shades of the tragically underrated Joan Osborne — and set up a situation in which Miley was able to use her trademark tongue to activate the “Steal” button. Hooray for happy endings — and on to the Knockouts!

1. Team Miley: Aaron Gibson defeats SaRayah on “I’ll Take Care of You” (SaRayah stolen by Alicia) | Had Aaron not looked so nervous as SaRayah shimmied up against him, I’d have begged Miley to call an audible, reimagine the rivals as a duo and dare her fellow coaches to find any individual artist who could close the gap on Aaron and SaRayah’s combined fanbase. The pair benefitted tremendously from Miley’s impressive ability to unearth lesser-known songs that possess range and raw emotion — the Artist Formerly Known as Hannah Montana is good at her new job! — but it would’ve been nothing without SaRayah’s gorgeously restrained wailing and Aaron’s Phillip Phillips-ian smoke-and-crackle gruffness. If I’m being completely honest, SaRayah owned the slight advantage when it was all said and done, but Season 11 politics aside, maybe we should all just cosign Alicia’s words of post-performance encouragement: “I’m proud you are both alive and singing on this Earth.”

What did you think of Night 3 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. Mge says:

    No contest, Sa’Rayah was the best of the night. She had it all- tenderness, power, performance, vocals, everything. It was a crime that she didn’t win her battle.

    • davmon says:

      Honestly, it wasn’t close! SaRayah was first by a lot! Kylie was second, Darby third, and Josh H fourth. The rest were not that interesting. Sure, Aaron was gruff and diff; but as quirks go, Darby and Josh Hi were more worthwhile.

    • scott says:

      I agree, at least top 3

    • david7118 says:

      Why oh why saddle Aaron with a guitar when that was the perfect song that the two could have “flirted” and played off of each other. Perhaps because Aaron was so visibly nervous?

  2. Jobless says:

    The Asian guy got robbed.

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      Gotta disagree. Gabe did really well with a song completely outside of his comfort zone, while Christian was just competent with a song completely INside his zone.

    • Davey says:

      Agree. Gave was so generic.

    • James says:

      Disagree. (Can we call “the Asian guy” by his name?) Christian has a lovely tone and excellent pitch, but to me, he is the one who is a bit generic. Think he needs to mature more. Gabe is more mature as an artist in a weird way. Want to see him sing absong that is a better fit for him.

    • davmon says:

      Name was Christian Fermin, Filipino-American. He WAS better than Gabe; but he was no great shakes. At least the guy got a TV slot tonight. Remember Katherine Oh, Asian descent, last season lasted 3 rounds but never was shown.

    • analythinker says:

      I think they were both out of the pocket. I waited and waited until they’re matched with the band but even in the second verse they’re still struggling.

  3. JMark (formerly JM) says:

    Anybody else think Blaine beat Josh? And did anyone understand the utterly ludicrous ‘logic’ that the other judges gave Blake, i.e. Pick Josh cuz he’s country, you’re country, and you just match well together. What the what???

    • Mge says:

      Yes, I’m entirely shocked that Blaine is already out. He had one of the very best blinds and he certainly didn’t let up in the battles either. I predict that Blake will bring him back as his comeback artist in the live shows. Or at least I hope that he does.

    • Justin says:

      I thought Blaine was actually the second best of the night after Kylie.

    • Svea says:

      I was rooting for Blaine and I think Blake was too. But Blaine really didn’t seem to have his heart in the whole process. He’s been doing his own thing for too long. That Mildhao song is a beauty. He should have aung the hell out of it. Am not happy Josh won, but he did.

      PS another person whose heart doesn’t seem to be in the process is Blake himself. He seems frustrated and unhappy. I think he is the heart of the show and if he is unhapoy then something is missing for me. All Miley and Alicia’s enthusiasm can’t make up for it.

      • davmon says:

        My observation is that Mylie and Alicia are suddenly the heart of the show. They are excited, doing well, introducing different songs and coaching techniques. Suddenly, Blake and Adam just seem tired and passe’. They are not bringing it! Except the same tired old schtick!

        • Eurydice says:

          The producers are choosing to put all the focus on Miley and Alicia. During the performances the camera goes straight to Miley and then Alicia, but seldom to Blake and Adam.

          • Sun says:

            Yes. Very true. And I don’t like it. Why would I want to see Miley standing up and mouthing the words to the songs when I want to see the performers. It’s obnoxious.

    • toba7 says:

      Loved Blaine! Bad call by judges!

    • scott says:

      Absolutely, hands down. But it was a foregone conclusion as to who Blake was going to select. Blake is thinking about the ‘country vote’ and we know how that story goes.

      • analythinker says:

        Yep. But every season, the thing that irks me the most is not the country contestants (as long as they’re good and can sing in tune, I’m ok), but the fact that Blake always highlighted how excited he is to have a diverse team, only to get rid of non-country singers as the season progresses. C’mon, Blake.

      • Sun says:

        I disagree. Blake isn’t that into the “new country.” I think he had hopes for Blaine, who just didn’t bring it. He had to be fair. Josh really rolled up his sleeves and did the work. Blaine phoned it in.

    • Lilly says:

      I think maybe Blaine had a attitude problem. There was a very awkward moment when Bette told him he needed wardrobe. He didn’t look happy at all. Maybe they all decided he couldn’t be coached?

    • Annie says:

      Just got a chance to watch. Blaine brought beautiful textures and nuance rather than sing your face off kind of energy. I’ve never before looked for more on the web from a country singer, but what he does is so special, I did. He has crazy talent and is a wonderful storyteller, too. It’s really too bad Blake didn’t take the time to help him grow in whatever ways he needs to make it to the big audiences. He deserves it and I’d love to hear more of him.

  4. akillesheel says:

    (Sa’Rayah stolen by Alicia)

  5. JMark (formerly JM) says:

    Anybody else notice that Aaron was REALLY uncomfortable with Sarayah putting her hands on him and leaning against him. It was a love song! He needed to lighten up and have fun with it.

  6. Kimmy Moores says:

    We did not deserve to get such a masterclass battle with Aaron and Sa’Rayah.
    But damn was it just….I can’t even describe the slay.

    • Florence+TheMachineRulez!!! #TeamMariah says:

      I am still in shock!!! OMFG!!! I love that song!!! And they destroyed it!!! OMG sarayah, Ali, Michael, we final four plz???

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

    Sarayah, Aaron, and Kylie owned the night!!!! OMG!!! That last battle was hands down the best of the season!!!! OMFG!!!!!!!!

  8. Aj Morales says:

    all steals came from Alicia and Miley’s teams.

    • davmon says:

      Yep, coming into the Battles, Alicia’s team was by far the strongest and Miley’s was second. Going to Knockouts, they are still one and two.

  9. dredredredre says:

    can we just acknowledge how annoying montages are? I wish i saw the bennie and the jets battle with Halle and Belle, but I was so disappointed.

    • davmon says:

      Absolutely, I thought that Halle Tomlinson was outstanding in the Blinds and would be Top Ten. Tonight, she was montaged off the show. Beaten by Belle. But we have no idea what happened….sigh…

  10. Blake says:

    Still trying to wrap my head around her voice!!!!! I want to know what song was playing when Alicia stole her

  11. Michael H. says:

    I’m biased forever towards Karlee but I still have her as my third favorite of the night. Sa’Rayah slayed my soul and Aaron matched her in every way except for a tad bit of stage presence. Let’s not forget Kylie either, as she delivered on House of the Rising Sun! Nolan was disappointing tonight. I expected more from him, as well as from Blaine. I think Blaine was hurt by Blake’s song choice thought, so I can’t blame him entirely.

    • scott says:

      Nolan is going to be ok, this was a case of song choice. I thought he did as well as one could expect with that particular song. He’s a rocker at heart and certain rock songs do provide a great degree of difficulty. Song choice will be key. Only problem is true rockers don’t usually end up in the top of heap on this show. I hope I’m wrong.

  12. John says:

    Miley’s song choice was brilliant for those singers. Blake’s song choices were lame. Adam’s selection of “Sledgehammer” was interesting since its one of the great rock songs, but it didn’t work in this venue.

  13. Music In My Bones says:

    Aaron Gibson and SaRayah gave me chills. I love that song, and their chemistry made it exciting and powerful. My favourite, so far this season! Next was Kylie and Josh, with the ‘House of the Rising Sun’…Great performance.

    • skrable2a says:

      Kylie and Josh did a fine job on “House …” but as I was watching it, all I could think about was Kimberly Nicole taking over The Voice stage — and how she was eliminated way, way too soon.

    • Cldahlman says:

      Josh just looked creepy with his facial expressions. Bad western or horror movie creepy

  14. Angie_Overrated says:

    The performance of the night I’m in agreement with everyone here. They both deserved to “win” that one, and as they both advanced, no tears need to be shed.
    The one I’m not in agreement with Slezak or the general consensus is Darby and Karlee. I thought Karlee won. Darby had the stage presence but Karlee had the better vocals and the far prettier voice. I suppose it matters what you’re looking for and if you value stage presence more, then sure, Darby won. Personally I’d rather have a deer in headlights with a prettier voice, but that’s just me.

    • Oksana says:

      I totally agree that Karlee had a much better voice. I was shocked that Darby was chosen.

    • Barry says:

      Hi Angie, I love you and I agree with you again, both Aaron and SaRayah stole the night, but I would have given the win to her. I thought that Karlee won that battle also, vocals should triumph over stage presence. What did you thought, of House of The Rising Sun? Kylie was a pleasant surpirise for me, they were no Hannah Huston, Haley Reinhart, but enjoyed that one.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        I wasn’t crazy about House of the Rising Sun. Neither of their voices really worked for me on that particular track. I think there’s probably a way to take a more subdued approach on that song and make it work, but neither of them really did that for me. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.
        Ah, Hannah Huston. I loved her. Totally forgot about her too. Haley Reinhart is doing really well these days! Postmodern Jukebox is becoming a real “thing.”

        • analythinker says:

          Ha. I thought I was crazy for not feeling anything for House of the Rising Sun! It was just… meh. Josh started soft and it was pretty good, but I kinda lost interest after that. Haley with PMJ is an acquired taste, not everyone will like it, but I do.

        • Barry says:

          Yeah I get what you are saying… I enjoy their individual voices, maybe a diferent song would have worked better? But I liked Kylie a lot. I’m still hardcore in love with Hannah, still listen to her recordings pretty often, that girl hits all my right buttons, and so happy that Haley is doing so well with PMJ, hands down in my top 3 Idols, I listen to her Can’t Help Falling In Love daily, just gorgeous…

        • I agree. I liked that it started subdued, but I started to get restless when it stayed subdued.

    • John Anthony says:

      Hi again Angie. We disagreed in the past and agreed at times but we both look to the future and try to fine a Voice super star. I do not see one this season! What do you think? I don’t see any Voice winners on the charts even Danielle with her two new singles.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        I guess it would have to be one of the younger ones. Unfortunately older ones simply aren’t marketable in the music industry.
        Maybe We? Dunno. We’ll see how this season shapes up.

    • Timmah says:

      I usually go for the quirkier singers, but Darby is just flat-out awful.

  15. Inisabus says:

    Alicias tactic seems to be to not to choose the one who she is sure will be picked up by one of the other judges (ex: Josh who is loved by all the judges, Dave who Adam loved and was disappointed wasn’t on his team)
    . (or she just have some of the best contestants on her team)

    • Mge says:

      I actually think that in every situation so far, she has chosen the person that should’ve won the battle. And I’m pleasantly surprised as a result.

  16. scott says:

    Looks like we got a lot of raspies this season…which is just fine by me. Now how long before they start cancelling each other out. Hopefully I get at least a handful of favs in the top 8. I know the show is fawning and pushing We`for the win when there are obvious better talents. Time will tell. Let’s just see how much producer navigation/manipulation we get this season.

  17. dman6015 says:

    So, who’s going to replace Cyrus when she walks? Xtina? Gwen? Pharrell?

  18. Criss cross applesauce says:

    Darby makes me cringe. Maybe I’m the only one. She’s really not that creative. Karlee did one of the best blinds and deserves to stick around longer.

  19. Sun says:

    Dear M. Slezak. You do remember Gabe’s backstory don’t you? He has a disease that may leave him blind soon. He is already partially visioned (thus the unfocused eyes). So his career opportunities are limited and singing/music, hopefully, will be his career. If not, he’ll have had a grand ride before the worst happens.

  20. Peachy says:

    A summer season of “The Voice”?!

    Two seasons a year is too much as is.

  21. Peachy says:

    What’s with Slezak not listing montaged performances this season?

    One of his favorites (Halle Tomlinson) was eliminated in a montage last night.

  22. moonriver22 says:

    A lot of people are saying Blake seems a bit off, but I think what’s happening is there’s so much camera attention paid to the girls (esp Miley) that we’re not getting to see him . For me, that sucks. I’m sick of looking at her, and it reminds me of Idol the season Minaj was one. We all know how that ended.

    For the first season ever, I’m fast forwarding through big parts of The Voice. I can take almost anything besides feeling like someone is being shoved down my throat.