Either The Voice has the sweetest contestants in the history of reality television or its editors are disciples of the Mary J. Blige Center for No More Drama.
Seriously, tonight’s Battle Rounds (Pt. 2) featured six pairs of vocalists sent once again into head-to-head musical combat, with only one contestant from each pair guaranteed to advance to the live voting rounds.
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You’d think, given the pressures faced by the contestants, that there’d be at least an occasional flash of side eye, a few backhanded compliments, or maybe just a touch of psychological warfare in the instances where we saw duos forced to choose from lists of three songs brainstormed by their judges. And yet in every instance, the energy was less Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and more Barney and Friends (except for with much, much better singing).
Maybe it’s something in the water at Voice HQ. Or maybe the water’s been replaced by whatever Blake Shelton puts in his cup. But it makes the addition of a second set of Battle Rounds feel mercifully less stressful than you’d expect. Nobody cries about their dreams being crushed; instead, they thank their coaches for helping them improve their craft and express gratitude for the chance to play for more than 10 million NBC viewers (and potential fans).
Speaking of these gracious, gentle up-and-comers, let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner:
6. Team Blake: Audra McLaughlin defeats Megan Rüger on “The Climb” | What good is hitting 95 percent of the notes when you don’t bring anything unique or expressive to the material? That’s the question that stuck in my brain after booming-voiced Audra nailed a bunch of big, scoopy runs, but failed to make me feel much of anything on Miley Cyrus’ teen-treacle ballad. Still, I think she earned the win, seeing how alleged rocker Megan’s performance, while also tuneful, was as sterile and unexciting as a pack of Handi-Wipes.
5. Team Shakira: Patrick Thomson defeats Josh Murley on Bryan Adams’ “Run to You” | Wait, Patrick won this battle over Josh based on what, exactly? Granted, the bearded fella’s croaky tone is more easily identifiable than Josh’s smoother instrument, but the latter singer did a much better job conveying the tale of a straying man and his desire for a dangerous chica. Patrick, on the other hand, could’ve replaced the lyrics with the contents of his grocery list and I’m not sure it woulda mattered.
4. Team Usher: T.J. Wilkins defeats Cierra Mickens on “Get Here” | Not one of Usher’s fellow coaches was willing to go out on a limb and name a winner — but in this case, I couldn’t blame ’em. Yeah, Cierra rushed the opening verse just a tad, and sure, T.J.’s tone can get a little nasal in spots, but that’s just me being nitpicky. This was a Battle Round where I’d have given a solid B+ to each party. That said, if T.J. expects to survive the Live Playoffs, he’s going to have to ramp up his personal charisma — or at least work on getting his personality to pop on camera.
3. Team Adam: Christina Grimmie defeats Sam Behymer on “Counting Stars” | The night’s most lopsided battle found YouTube sensation Christina proving so superior that she might just have well strapped Sam to a mop handle, doused her in warm soapy water and wiped the floor with her. Sam practically lost me from Word 1, anyhow — with her “quirky” pronunciaton of “lately” — but even worse, when the young woman’s voice breaks with emotion, it almost inevitably veers into a shrill wail. Christina, on the other hand, may not have the most memorable tone, but the former opening act for Selena Gomez has got stage presence, crazy high notes and 411,000 Twitter followers at her disposal. And that’s no small thing.
2. Team Blake: Jake Worthington defeats Tess Boyer on “Have a Little Faith in Me” (Tess stolen by Shakira) | I understand why Blake chose Jake as the winner. The kid’s got a lovely, expressive voice and a soft-spoken, aw-shucks personality that the voting public is going to devour like sharks to a piece of chum. (Not that Jake is chum! That’s not what I meant!) But vocally, Tess was the clear-cut winner here, thanks to a smoky, supple tone that wrapped around the song’s simple melody — not to mention a more daring approach that saw her take bigger chances and execute some of the sweetest runs we’ve heard on the show this season. As a result, it couldn’t have been more satisfying watching Adam, Usher and Shakira all hit their buttons to try to score a Steal. Tess, proving an astute judge of sales pitches, made the right choice with the wildly enthusiastic Shakira, whose “I’m gonna kill for you!” was phrased more as a matter of when than if. Jake, beware if it’s you and Tess in the finals; Shakira never lies!
1. Team Adam: Delvin Choice defeats Josh Kaufman on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” (Josh stolen by Usher) | OK, so we’re now 2-for-2 in terms of totally righteous steals in the Battles (Pt. 2) — and one step closer to me making it through a week of reality singing competition telecasts without flying into a blind rage. (Lies!) Yet while Josh went in as the favorite, I had to agree with Blake that Delvin successfully dialed back on the vibrato and brought a newfound condfidence to the Voice
stage boxing ring. Josh, who possesses one of those rangy, genre-spanning voices, got a little behind the rhythm on the verses — but me pointing that out is the equivalent of getting a four-course meal cooked for you by a loved one, then complaining you don’t like said relative’s floral-print napkins. With that said, can we just all agree that it’s awesome both Delvin and Josh made it one step closer to the finish line? Both dudes feel every word they sing — and are exciting performers to boot.
And now, your turn. What did you think of Battle Rounds (Pt 2)? Did anyone deserve to get the Save and didn’t? Who gave the best overall vocal of the night? Take our poll, then sound off in the comments!