The Voice Recap: Battle Stars' Exactitude

kayla nevarez alessandra guercio the voiceIf a Voice contestant falls in the Battle Rounds, but we only see 0.821 seconds of his performance, did he ever really make a sound? That was the question floating through my mind after Tuesday’s pre-debate installment of NBC’s surging reality competition.

Because while, on the plus side, there wasn’t a single weak link (or serious pitch problem) among the six vocalists who were prominently featured during the one-hour telecast, we also saw flashes of an additional half-dozen contestants that were so brief, I honestly couldn’t tell you if they were singing actual songs, or merely giving dramatic readings of Cee Lo’s dry-cleaning bill. (Come on, live parrot + white silk pajamas = one heckuva long receipt.)

I’m not sure what these blink-and-you-missed-’em contestants did to earn such snubs — scrawling snarky messages in blood-red lipstick on Xtina’s dressing-room mirror? making cruel backstage remarks about Adam looking better when he’s got a little scruff on his face? — but the show’s producers should realize that a screentime deficit for any given singer is usually a solid, suspense-killing signal that the person will be a goner by the end of the next round. And given the number of mini recaps The Voice crams into a mere 60 minutes, surely some fat-trimming initiatives could be undertaken to allow these quick-hit showdowns to be expanded to at least a minute apiece, no?

Anyhow, enough kvetching from me for now; let’s break down each individual battle — ranked from least- to most-promising winner:

Team Cee Lo: Mackenzie Bourg defeats Emily Earle | There’s nothing that bums me out more than a Battle Round in which one contestant’s audition comes with a life-or-death backstory, and the other’s gets as much airtime as the Green Party candidate in the latest Presidential Debate — especially when Ms. Green Party sounded a lot smoother and more soulful* on Owl City’s “Good Time” than the major-party representative. (*Or as soulful as you can sound on Owl City’s “Good Time,” anyway.) And while Adam and Blake both called the race in Emily’s flavor, somehow Cee Lo went all “hanging chad” on us, and picked Mackenzie’s croaky tone and relentless “arm punching the air” shenanigans as the winner. Not to say that Mackenzie didn’t hit most of his notes, but personally, I think the kid could use a few more years of polishing before he’s ready for the big show. Then again, at least he comes with an insanely enthusiastic dad, who has an affinity for shouting words of encouragement/Adam Sandler movie titles — “You the man! That’s my boy!” — when he’s overexcited.

Team Adam: Kayla Nevarez defeats Alessandra Guercio (the very promising Alessandra stolen by Christina Aguilera) | At the end of the Blind Auditions, I’d ranked Kayla at No. 5 and Alessandra (who wins the award for best dress of the Battle Rounds) at No. 39, so needless to say, I was expecting Kayla to totally dominate. When the ladies hit the stage, though, it seemed as though Mary J. Blige’s advice to Alessandra — not to be “imprisoned by being perfect” — really took root, and the underdog tore in to Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” like a hawk into a defenseless prairie dog. Like the other judges, I loved the grit that emerged in her voice throughout the tune, but even more importantly, this wasn’t a case of cranking her vocals up to 10 and staying there; Alessandra picked her spots to go full throttle, showing a real ability to bring emotion and nuance to the table. Kayla, meanwhile, never really seemed to find her comfort zone: As Cee Lo pointed out, her upper register is sweet, but her voice never really opened up during the whole performance. I think Adam relied more on Kayla’s audition — and her “We better win this” aside — to pick his winner than he did on what was happening before his ears. Thankfully, his misfire turned out to be a coup for Xtina, who picked up on Alessandra’s inexperience and promised to help her fine-tune the voice within.

Team Blake: Liz Davis defeats Nicole Johnson | To me, this duet on Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim” was the episode’s closest matchup, as both Liz and Nicole were spot-on in terms of pitch and phrasing (although Liz’s “behind every woman scorned is a man who made her that way” ranked as my favorite single line of the number). And while Blake was correct that Liz’s enunciation is a little less polished than Nicole’s, she nevertheless managed to bring a little more of the “no you dit’nt” attitude he was looking for, and that was enough to push her over the top. I just hope once they get to the live shows, Blake (or perhaps his wife) can discourage Liz from aging herself by 15 years with that peculiar ’60s secretary beehive she keeps perpetrating atop her pretty head. The sparkly booty shorts paired with black blazer weren’t helping either, although girlfriend does have legs that extend from Revolution to 30 Rock. (How’s that for a synergistic NBC metaphor?)

Also advancing (though shown only briefly): Laura Vivas over Beat Frequency; Michelle Brooks Thompson (who sounded really great in her snippet) over Adranna Duru; Mycle Wastman over Ben Taub.

And with that, let me turn things over to you:

Who were your favorites from The Voice‘s fourth night of Battle Rounds? Were there any decisions with which you disagreed? Hit the comments with your thoughts!