Yes, folks, after two stellar episodes (and zero egregious errors) to kick off the show’s Season 3 Battle Rounds, Monday night’s two-hour telecast featured a couple of serious stumbles (if not full-on face-plants) by Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine.
And even though I think it’s safe to say that no potential Voice champions were harmed in the scoring of tonight’s Battle Rounds, I’m nevertheless scratching my head wondering how the inexperienced and wobbly Joselyn Rivera managed to inspire a “Steal” from Adam Levine, while the vastly superior Lelia Broussard, Todd Kessler, and Benji got left like the proverbial cheeses from “The Farmer in the Dell”: Standing alone, untaken, wondering how the heigh-ho-the-dairy-o their reality-competition dreams met such a quick and undignified ending.
Either way, let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner:
Team Xtina: Sylvia Yacoub defeats Joselyn Rivera (Joselyn stolen by Adam Levine)| “Sometimes it was a little too much,” said Adam, meekly describing the duo’s caterwaulingly catastrophic cover of “Best Thing I Never Had.” Talk about an understatement! That’d be like rinsing one’s mouth out with battery acid and then declaring it a wee bit harsh on the gums and teeth. Despite Xtina and Billie Joe Armstrong’s solid advice, Sylvia didn’t leave a single note of Beyoncé’s breakup anthem unpunished by a run or an ad lib or a botched note. By comparison, Joselyn’s vocal was simpler and more pleasing to the ear, but not really on-point enough that she deserved to grab one of the season’s eight “Steals” after Xtina declared Sylvia the winner of the matchup. You can find me at the corner of Baffled and Bewildered if you want to discuss this result any further.
Team Blake: Julio Cesar Castillo defeats Terisa Griffin (Terisa stolen by Cee Lo Green) | I couldn’t blame Terisa for thinking Blake’s choice of “Conga” was a strategic move to flush her from the competition. In fact, I was surprised Julio didn’t have the same exact response. Because at the end of the day, is there a singer on the planet who could pick up additional fans for the voting rounds by covering Gloria Estefan’s rapid-fire 1983 ditty that should only be played in 2012 at wedding receptions (and possibly not even there)? Wonky song choice aside, though, it was nice to see Terisa bring a little hip action to the stage, throw in a rolling “r” sound, change up the melody a little — even if she lost control of her pitch on occasion. Meanwhile, by my highly scientific assessment, Julio hit only 62 percent of his notes, and exhibited 11 percent as much charisma as his more experienced rival. So unless Blake was simply fishing for some Knockout Round fodder, this was yet another dubious call. (Cee Lo stealing Terisa, though, I’m okay with — based on her fantastic audition alone.)
Team Xtina: Dez Duron defeats Paulina | I’m sure that casual Voice fans just tuning in for the Knockout Rounds will wonder if Dez made it this far because he is absurdly handsome, with hair so expertly coiffed it could easily book a three-episode arc on the final season of Gossip Girl. After all, his voice isn’t especially powerful, nor is it particularly distinctive. But that damning praise aside, his vocal on “Just the Way You Are” clearly outshone 16-year-old beauty Paulina, who made Xtina nervous with “ad-lib situations” in rehearsal that only got worse on the live stage. The girl took so many strange liberties with the melody, I half-expected Bruno Mars to file a harassment report with The Voice‘s H.R. department. Now, though, the real question becomes: If Dez remains underwhelming in the Knockouts, will Xtina advance him to the voting rounds anyway, where his ability to rock a white v-neck, rolled jeans, and a leather jacket may prove irresistible to speed-dialing fans more interested in slash fiction than actual music downloads? Based on Xtina’s Season 2 ouster of easy-on-the-eyes Jonathas, I’m guessing Dez is going to have to raise his vocal game, but then again, maybe Sylvia’s Battle Round win was all about providing him one more low bar to clear before America takes over. I mean, you know the Lady Aguilera wants to win this thing before Shakira borrows her spinny-chair for Season 4.
Team Adam: Sam James defeats Benji | It’s hard to know deep down whether Sam or Benji has more commercial and artistic appeal, seeing how neither seemed particularly well-suited to “You Give Love a Bad Name.” (Side note: In this reality junkie’s heart, that song will always and forever belong to Blake Lewis.) Both were pretty solid pitch-wise, but Benji’s tendency toward affected pronunciations (“nay-eem” instead of “name,” just to name one example) made him sound a little like he was auditioning for a Cher cover band — at least when he wasn’t showing off his patented/impressive rocker wail. (Side note: How come no one ever covers Cher on reality singing competitions?) Sam’s more low-key approach was, as Xtina, Blake and Cee Lo pointed out, a little less dynamic, but his vocal tone reminded me a little of Curtis Stigers, so I can’t be too, too indignant about Adam’s selection, now can I?
Team Cee Lo: Nicholas David defeats Todd Kessler | This was a Battle Round where both artists seemed more interested in catching the groove of a song, digging into the lyrics, and playing off of each other’s voices, than in laying waste to the competition. Perhaps that’s why I felt so relaxed — and not at all stressed out about Cee Lo’s decision — while Todd and Nicholas passed the baton on “She’s Gone,” with the former displaying a real clarity of tone, and the latter infusing the track with a little more soul and grit. To me, Nicholas’ voice proved a little more interesting, and so I was happy to see him advance. But while I support artists being able to express their personal style on stage, dude seriously needs to groom his wayward moustache — really, a little trim would do wonders! — if he’s going to stand any chance of inheriting Jermaine Paul’s crown and sash. (Obviously, however, Blake would disagree. “You look like Jesus,” he said to Nicholas. “People like that!”
Team Blake: Suzanna Choffel defeats Lelia Broussard | I loved the mutual respect these ladies showed for each other in rehearsal, but loathed the fact that — by virtue of Lelia’s blind audition having barely been shown — there was almost no suspense regarding the outcome of this matchup. That was a shame, really, because based on what Suzanna and Lelia did with “Dog Days Are Over” in the “boxing ring,” this was the closest matchup of the night. Suzanna — who may or may not be Courtney Thorne-Smith under an assumed identity — brought an almost hypnotic quality to her voice, with a rasp that proved simultaneously sexy and world-weary. Lelia, on the other hand, made more eclectic choices with her phrasing, but looked just slightly less engaged than her competitor. Once Blake picked Suzanna to advance, I kept waiting (and waiting) for a competing judge to enact the “Steal,” but nope, Adam was waiting for something — intuition, his afternoon Red Bull, the sound of a Voice producer’s voice? — to kick in and make his choice for him. All I can say is if Adam’s intuition prefers Joselyn to Lelia, then his intuition should spend the rest of the season in a holding pen being “interviewed” by Christina Milian.
And with that last bit of bitchery, let me turn things over to you:
Who were your favorites from Night 3 of The Voiue‘s Season 3 Battle Rounds? Were there any decisions with which you disagreed? Hit the comments with your thoughts!