The Voice Recap: Pick Your Battles

jesse campbellXtina sat in her boudoir while her team listened up. But girlfriend did not serve magnolia wine. In the Battle Round heat, is where her singers began to freak. Gitchie, gitchie yaya da da. Gitchie gitchie ya ya here.

Oh-whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, apologies for the unfortunate riff on “Lady Marmalade.” But it was hard not to take the plunge after seeing the Lady Aguilera train her team for The Voice Battle Rounds in a brothel-esque chamber — complete with candelabras, velvet animal-print furniture, 10,000 ornate throw pillows, a taxidermized owl, and yet another “peeka–boobs” blouse from Xtina herself. (Enhancing the bedroom theme, Cee Lo showed up to coach his minions clad in violet silk pajamas!)

Perhaps all the sleepytime accouterments made our coaches a wee bit drowsy: They arguably got things wrong in four (maybe five) of the week’s six decisions in the segment of the competition where each coach divides his or her team into six sets of two, assigns a song to each duo, and then asks them to (as Adam Levine would say) “sing in harmony while secretly trying to destroy each other.”

(Side note: Does anyone wish that the coaches weren’t allowed to lay eyes on contestants after “turning around” in the auditions, meaning the Battle Rounds could still be a “blind” part of the competition? Perhaps the guest mentors could handle the training sessions at this stage of the game, leaving Blake, Adam, Cee Lo, and Xtina to make all their picks before the live rounds based solely on vocals. Just some food for thought.)

Anyhow, let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner:

Team Cee Lo: Cheesa d. Angie Johnson
I liked how Blake politely noted this duet had some good moments and some average ones, because honestly, that’s about as effusive as anyone could get over this not exactly stellar rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Angie definitley had a few more pitch issues in the opening third of the Bonnie Tyler classic, but by the end of the song, Cheesa sounded like a woman who’d just run a half-marathon in stilettos, and her appealingly husky tone had dissipated into little more than a gasp. I guess you could say she nailed the “now I’m only falling apart” part of the lyrics? It’s probably a moot point, since neither woman seemingly has the chops to go far once the voting begins, but I’d have sided with Blake and chosen Angie based on “clarity and diction” alone.

Team Xtina: Chris Mann. d. Monique Benabou
The pre-performance edit for Chris and Monique was definitely the most suspenseful. Would the untrained Monique use her raw passion to prevail on “The Power of Love,” or would it be classically trained Chris, who played the “pay myself a subtle compliment when I’m asked for my weakness” card and declared that he sometimes psychs himself out with his complete commitment to vocal perfection? (Insert eye roll here.) Jewel turned out to be a great guest mentor — playing back video of Monique’s audition to point out how her breathing led to pitch problems — but alas, it turned out that Monique won’t yet be able to make good on her dream to “retire my mom and dad.” (Anyone else conjure up an image of the Benabous being sent to a pasture behind Blake’s barn?) To my ears, Chris was absolutely abysmal — employing ridiculous amounts of vibrato and such violently strained passion that I actually started laughing mid-performance — but the chick with the bespangled veggie steamer strapped to her head disagreed, and for the time being, she’s making the calls around here.

Team Blake: RaeLynn d. Adley Stump
Blake’s wife, Miranda Lambert (herself a reality veteran via Nashville Star) gave great advice to RaeLynn: If you don’t have enormous lung capacity, don’t try to outbelt a belter. Alas, though, it wasn’t enough to prevent RaeLynn from being just under the melody for almost the entirety of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Adley, who didn’t impress me at all during her audition, showed massive improvement this round, employing finesse and restraint on the verses, cheekily pointing to Cee Lo on the line “all the bad boys,” and pretty much swallowing her rival whole on the chorus. How this led to Blake “believing” RaeLynn’s storytelling more than Adley’s is as much a mystery to me as whether or not he was coaching his team on an actual farm, or just an intricate Hollywood set made to look like a farm.

Team Blake: Jordis Unga d. Brian Fuente
In a reality genre where contestants rarely take ownership of their failures, I appreciated Jordis calling her performance of “Ironic” a “trainwreck,” even though I actually thought she sounded pretty solid on Alanis Morissette’s dippy ’90s hit. Still, even if Jordis didn’t exactly succeed in her mission to “become this song” — surely, she’d have needed bib overalls, a patchwork blouse, and a floppy hat to achieve the desired result — it would’ve been hard for her to lose to Brian, who performed the whole number as if he was Jordis’ breathy, pitch-challenged backup singer. Let’s hope that going forward Jordis treats The Voice less like a therapist’s couch to explore her personal and professional demons, and simply exorcises them by rocking out. If so, she might have an actual shot at winning!

Team Xtina: Jesse Campbell d. Anthony Evans Jr.
If you’re not a fan of over-the-top, Gospel-inflected holleration, then chances are you shut off this week’s Voice episode around 9:50 ET, and got an early start on your pre-bedtime reading. But in all honesty, even if the complaint hotline for Jesse-Vs.-Anthony was 1-800-Waaay-Too-Much, it was nevertheless an impressive display of raw, unrestrained vocal horsepower that nearly blew Xtina’s tiny hat off her tortured blonde locks. Anthony’s glory note was insane enough that it would’ve been locked in an English countryside attic by its dashing ex-husband (if it was in a ye-olde-times novel), but Blake was correct that “however Jesse said ‘baby'” sealed the deal in the one decision tonight that really can’t be disputed: Jesse may be a little cocky, but as long as he hits every note with Jeter-like proficiency, he can probably get away with it.

Team Adam: Tony Lucca d. Chris Cauley
Of all the night’s battles, this was probably the most difficult to call — especially since Tony and Chris’ voices often blended into a seamless harmony on their cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day.” All things being equal, then, you’d think Adam would’ve rewarded the singer daring enough to rock a pair of red pants, as opposed to the one who was dressed like the most stylish dad at a grade-school parent-teacher conference. Okay, okay…I’m kidding. (Not really.) But even though I knew from the second Adam announced the matchup that the former Malibu Shores/Mickey Mouse Club star was certain to win, and even though Tony was arguably the most talented singer to advance on Monday’s telecast, I’ll say that I was more impressed with Chris’ slightly more current, R&B take on the U2 hit.  I guess that’s the frutstrating part of Battle Rounds, though: The judges can think you’re the second-most-talented person from a group of 12 singers, and you can still wind up getting cut.

What did you think of the first week of Season 2 Battle Rounds? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

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