The Voice: No Country for Ol' Gwen

We’re still weeks away from The Voice‘s Season 9 Battle Rounds, but Tuesday’s episode included a tense showdown between cantaloupes and raisins.

Indeed, we all knew what was up after the show presented back-to-back auditions in which the contestants’ backstories revolved around produce-aisle staples — returning contestant Ivonne Acero’s family makes its living harvesting the world’s most frequently tapped* melon, while newcomer Gage Navarro hails from the dried grape capital of California: Only one could survive.

Well, to be more accurate, savvy viewers knew Gage would go the way of Christina Milian’s Sprint Skybox residency, seeing how he was following Ivonne’s two-chair turn, effectively stealing any thunder from his pre-audition package.

Tuesday’s episode also found Adam Levine continuing a multi-season quest to steal away a coveted country contestant from Blake — one that finally bore fruit (sorry) at the very end of the two-hour telecast. Meanwhile, Pharrell and Gwen (who’d also turned their chairs for Ellen DeGeneres Show vet James Dupré) waved their white flags, then waited for their honorary certificates of participation from the Academy of Country Music.

Look, I’m not saying a contestant with twangy tendencies shouldn’t zag hard and choose the woman responsible for “Hollback Girl” or the guy who’s up all night to “Get Lucky,” but if we’re being honest, that’s more of a Season 17 story arc, no?

With that said, let’s count down Monday’s eight Battle Rounds-bound vocalists from least- to most-promising:

8. Blind Joe, “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” (Team Blake) | Touching backstory aside — though, to a certain degree, aren’t all the backstories touching? — the blind North Dakota native’s clipped phrases and wobbly breath control make it unlikely he’ll survive Blake’s deep country bench.

7. Zach Seabaugh, “Take Your Time” (Team Blake) | Perfectly coiffed teenager possessed the face of a CW supernatural drama, but the voice of someone who hadn’t yet figured out how to handle the quick cadence the verse on the song he chose. The performance got better on the chorus — when Zach had a chance to open up and belt — but methinks there’s too much work ahead for him to emerge as a win candidate just a few months from now.

6. James Dupré, “Let Her Cry” (Team Adam) | Scored the end-of-episode pimp slot and a coveted Four-Chair Turn, but to me, the one-time Ellen Show fave’s tone was as indistinct as a navy blue Gap polo shirt (no disrespect, I own three). I’m not sure Blake should really be upset he lost this fella to Adam.

5. Emily Ann Roberts, “I Hope You Dance” (Team Blake) | When Emily kicked off her Lee Ann Womack cover, I thought the verse seemed pitched a tad high for her comfort level, but the chorus soared like a raptor leaping off the edge of the Grand Canyon. (Sorry, Carson Daly’s hyperbole is contagious!)

4. Ivonne Acero, “Style” (Team Pharrell) | There was a hint of nervousness percolating through the teenager’s Taylor Swift cover, but if Pharrell can make the most of her rich lower register and slinky phrasing, she’s a potential dark horse. Adorably enthusiastic family won’t hurt her appeal to voters, either.

3. Evan McKeel, “Typical”/”Overjoyed” (Team Pharrell) | Tuesday’s episode was sickeningly sweet with saccharine-coated tales from the contestants’ pasts, but Evan singing for Alzheimer’s patients in Richmond, VA still managed to be uplifting. And while his tone wasn’t entirely distinctive during an otherwise passionate rendition of “Typical,” his response to Pharrell’s request for a few bars of Stevie Wonder exposed him as a soul singer whose voice can move like water through the crevices of even the trickiest melodies.

2. Regina Love, “Rock Steady” (Team Adam) | I may be somewhat biased by Regina selecting one of my favorite funk jams of all time — and by “may be,” I mean “definitely am” — but the Atlanta radio DJ’s groovaliciousness and vocal boom-boom-pow are the kinds of ingredients that we need in the live voting rounds, no?

1. Ellie Lawrence, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” (Team Gwen) | Aside from her A+ reimagining of an uptempo ’80s classic, Ellie’s emotional connectedness and dynamic range — ooh la la, her rasp is lovely — have me thinking that perhaps my prediction about a Gwen Stefani win in Season 9 may not be totally absurd.

On that note, I turn the mic over to you. What did you think of Night 2 of The Voice Season 9? Vote for your favorites in our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

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