The Voice Recap: Shake, Battle and Roll

I’m not trying to score TVLine a quote on an upcoming promo for The Voice, I promise. But every season, when the Battle Rounds arrive, all I can think is, “This damn show has too much damn talent.”

How else can Gwen Stefani declare one of Team Pharrell’s showdowns her favorite Battle in show history, then leave the loser hanging without a coveted steal? And why is it that nine seasons in, declaring a winner in any given head-to-head matchup feels more challenging than ever?

If I were a less cynical recapper, I might wind up like Pharrell’s adviser Missy Elliott, hiding beneath a bucket hat and wiping away my tears. (Oh who am I kidding? I’d never wear a bucket hat.)

Here’s hoping we get at least one instance of “Missy got somethin’ to say…” before these Battles conclude, yes?

OK, OK, before I’m compelled to turn this recap into an ode to the woman who gave us “Work It” (or waxing poetic about Cher’s cover of “Walking in Memphis” that was inexplicably not referenced in the episode’s final matchup), let me get to ranking tonight’s Battle Rounds in order from least- to most-promising winner:

6. Team Adam: James Dupré defeats Dustin Monk on “Fortunate Son” | The cricket clinging to the passenger side window of our car during a weekend road trip to my mom’s house showed 10 times the grit and determination during his 90-second run than James did at any point in his cover of CCR’s protest anthem. Granted, Dustin probably wouldn’t have made it through the Live Playoffs, either, but at least he put a little stank on it. With Adam bestowing on James some damning praise — “When he gets comfortable, he’s really gonna shine” — I don’t love his chances in the knockouts.

5. Team Blake: Zach Seabaugh defeats Tyler Dickerson on “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” | Considering all the notes Blake gave Tyler on making sure he didn’t phone it in on a super-familiar song, wasn’t it really weird when Tyler went ahead and… phoned it in? It’s not entirely fair to say Zach won by default — his glory note was clear and piercing, and he sang the words like he meant ’em — but I’m not sure I’ll really remember his performance by the time Season 10 rolls around.

4. Team Blake: Barrett Baber defeats Dustin Christensen on “Walking in Memphis” (Dustin stolen by Adam) | Blake is right that Barrett’s got a tone that can cut right through a crowd and make you pay attention — but his demeanor and facial expressions are hammier than the female lead on The Muppets (sorry, Miss Piggy!). Dude has got to find a way to bring more authenticity to the stage — and promise never again to tell us all that because he survived a plane crash, he has a better grasp on the value of life than most people. (Um, dude, you don’t know any of us, any of our life experiences, or any of our hearts. Thanks.) I actually preferred Dustin’s warmer, richer tone, but his heinous choice of hat was like a blaring neon sign telling the world he’s not quite sure he actually wants musical stardom.

3. Team Adam: Jordan Smith defeats Regina Love on “Like I Can” (Regina stolen by Gwen) | The night’s opening Battle may have also been its most closely matched — as neither Jordan nor Regina hit a single bad note in their duet, and reminded us they’ve got truly enviable range. Regina might have scored a slight edge in terms of translating the passion in her voice all the way to her eyes, but I liked that Jordan never looked intimidated standing opposite a more experienced, charismatic presence. I’d like to see them both dial back on the bombast by 10-20 percent, but they’re legitimate Top 10 threats.

2. Team Gwen: Ellie Lawrence defeats Tim Atlas on “Sweater Weather” (Tim stolen by Pharrell) | Just when I became completely convinced that Ellie was the clear choice to win, my husband turned to me and declared, “I really like this guy’s voice!” — a sentiment echoed by Blake and Adam. That’s OK? I stand with Gwen in preferring Ellie’s scratchy tone and elegant phrasing, but with Pharrell’s save, Tim (who got the dreaded Montage Treatment in the Blinds) will have another chance to prove to me he’s better than just OK.

1. Team Pharrell: Mark Hood defeats Celeste Betton on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” | I expected this Battle to be a blowout — as I adored Mark’s Blind Audition, but was underwhelmed by Celeste’s. So much for preconceived notions, though, as Celeste raised her game immensely, using her smooth, silky instrument to execute daring runs and unexpected ad libs that brought the lyrics to vivid life. Unfortunately for her, she was paired against a guy who brought the house down with a pitch perfect, multilayered vocal performance — a dazzling staccato bridge, soaring falsetto, raggedy lower tones — that never slowed down, not even when he was doing a funky side-step or throwing in a “yep, I’m this much of a star!” spin. Pharrell made the right call, yes, but everyone else failing to press a button (or call for a rule change) messed up badly.

OK, your turn. What did you think of Night 1 of The Voice‘s Season 9 Battle Rounds? Who were your faves? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Andres says:

    Ellie and Mark have a legit shot at taking the crown. The way Mark commanded the stage was breath taking, and ellie has a really beautiful tone with right amount of rasp in it. I am happy that tim was stolen. I wish celeste was stolen over regina.

    • Andres says:

      I take that back. I am happy regina got stolen

      • JT says:

        We know Slezak has a bias against Blake and his team, but dumping on a guy because the producers play his backstory more than once and you don’t
        like his facial expressions? And dismissing the other because of his hat?

        Petty, very petty…

        • Diane Raetz says:

          Thanks. I loved the Walking in Memphis battle. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks Slezak is being very very petty

          • Puzzled says:

            Yes, I didn’t like they Michael wrote that. Many of the contestants do need work on their stage presence and could benefit from a makeover. Even though it is the “Voice” they need all the help they can get in all departments.

          • Puzzled says:

            “the way” Michael wrote that….

        • Angie_Overrated says:

          I found his facial expressions very offputting as well. Seeing singers pretend to have emotions while singing instead of just having them is a pet peeve of mine (see Angie from Idol), and I feel like he was doing the former.

        • analythinker says:

          Maybe he shouldn’t have watched but opted to listen to it instead.

  2. Kim Moores says:

    Absolutely no damned reason for Celeste to have gone home. That battle was just so beautiful and excellently pulled off. The song choice made me think it’d be a flunk, but the final product was just soulful, in sync, and wonderful. Both deserved to continue on and I think Pharrell made the better decision investing in Mark. He’s got potential, which isn’t to say Celeste ain’t right there. Seriously, why the hell wasn’t she stolen?

  3. peedie504 says:

    According to spoilers the ain’t no mountain high enough battle was one of the last battles filmed and all the steals were gone by that point

    • Jasper says:

      I hope that’s the reason.

    • JM says:

      That better be the reason, because she was amazing. That also explains her song at the end–it sounded like a farewell song, and I was wondering why when she could be stolen.

      • TJ says:

        She seemed to know she wasn’t going to get stolen too. They do show the performances in different order of how they were filmed. This way they have two or three powerful ones per episode.

  4. Mary says:

    Loved Ellie again…

    Jordan is great…but I think he peaked already and won’t sustain momentum.

    Tyler Dickerson gave it away….sad really.

    James and Dustin were my bland duet of the night…

    • JM says:

      I disagree about Jordan. I thought he matched Regina’s power and showed her he wouldn’t be intimidated. Something Dustin C. needs to learn if he wants to continue on the show.

    • Timmah says:

      Far from peaking, I think Jordan’s just beginning to show us what he can do. I just hope Adam doesn’t stick him with a bunch of bad song choices, though it’s probably inevitable because that’s what Adam does.

      • Puzzled says:

        Yes, Adam’s song choices always scare me. He was totally responsible for Sarah Simmons not going further on the show in Season 4. I am saying a little prayer that he doesn’t do that to Jordan and Shelby.

  5. Mike says:

    Really Michael? Cher’s version of Walking in Memphis? There is only one version that matters and it’s the original written and sung by Marc Cohn.

    • tvlover44 says:

      memphian here, and i gotta disagree – the cher version is dope! anyone who hasn’t heard it should get to you-tubing it, stat! (i’m starting to sound like slezak here…)

  6. Anandasky says:

    Absolutely can’t believe Celeste went home – that duet was amazing!!!! Keep rewinding it to watch it. Can’t they find a loophole to bring her back or simply send those two on the road right now. Amazing!

  7. Fifi Lahkay says:

    My favorites were Jordan and Regina. I’m glad Regina was stolen, but I liked Jordan a bit more.

  8. JM says:

    Ellie, Mark and Jordan were the standouts tonight. So sad about Celeste. Dustin has a good voice too, but he needs more confidence. And he needs to take off the hats! His hair looked fine to me so why the hats? It’s like he’s hiding.

  9. davmon says:

    Pharrell has the strongest team again. He edges out Adam. Gwen’s is real weak; poor thing! What a great Pharrell team battle: Celeste vs Mark. I chose Celeste [I scored her at 10] over Mark [9.5]. Maybe his stage presence was better; but her vocals were exquisite–and his were right there, too. So…how is it that no other coach selected Celeste for a Steal? This must have been a setup. Something at home, a sick child [She has three.] or something. Such that Pharrell HAD to choose Mark–and that would explain why the other coaches did not steal….Because otherwise it makes no sense. She was best of the night. And she was not really on my radar before tonight. Oh well, she is history it seems.
    Adam’s two teams were both tough matchups. I expected Jordan to top any competitor easily but Regina was at least as good, tonight; I gave them both an 8.5. They might have done better with a better song. Am glad Regina got new life from Gwen…And James [8.5] vs Dustin M. [8] on Fortunate Son was good song and well sung, but james was slightly better.
    Blake had one tough match and one easy. Barrett vs Dustin C was tough. Both were very good, but Dustin may be great. But I knew Blake would favor the tall, good-looking Barrett who mainly sings country. Glad DC was snapped up and went to Adam….The other pair was easy because both Zach and Tyler had decent voices but were pitchy []both 6.5]; so it came down to Zach being 16 yet exuding mature confidence–and good looks.
    Gwen had her best singer Ellie going against Tim, who was edited out of Blinds. She was 8.5 and kinda interesting; he was a mediocre 7. So I was surprised when he was saved by Pharrell


  10. analythinker says:

    I seem to have watched a totally different show. While Mark & Celeste’s battle was entertaining and they made the song sound rather current, I think Mark overdid his runs and Celeste was pretty generic when she sang alone (there are plenty of singers like her). My favorite battle of the night was Walking in Memphis, it’s done tastefully.

    • Katie Killjoy says:

      Yeah…you’re just thinking all sorts of wrong lmao

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      I wasn’t crazy about Mark & Celeste’s either. I mean, it was one of the better ones, but to call it the best one ever is hyperbole and a half. Just off the top of my head I’m remembering Vision of Love with Trevin & Amanda, Stay with India & blandly handsome dude whose name escapes me, Man’s World with Biff & Sisaundra, etc. I’m sure there are many more too but those are my personal favorites.
      My favorite of the night was… hmmmm… none of them? I’m just not getting into this season. I hope it turns around soon.

      • analythinker says:

        Nothing really jumped at me yet, favorite battle doesn’t even mean that much at this point. We’ll see if it keeps getting better or worse.

        • Angie_Overrated says:

          I’m all in for the country girl from West Virginia. Me… rooting for the country girl. I know! I also love Austin Jeffery (spelling?… or is that even his name?). The guy who sang Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down. That was some glorious singing. The very last blind audition that Pharrell got also somewhat interests me, but I’m not sure if I’m rooting for her or for her adorable father with multiple sclerosis who broke down when Pharrell turned his chair.

      • Florence+TheMachineRules!!! :) #MariahSlays says:

        YASSS those are some of my favorite battles as well along with jesse vs Anthony in season 2 and Judith vs karina in season 4.

      • Timmah says:

        I’m kind of lukewarm on the season too, based on last night. And other than ANMHE those were some of the worst song choices for battle rounds that I’ve ever witnessed on this show.

  11. Betsy says:

    Does someone have a good reason why Pharell stole Tim other than he might have thought he needed fodder for the knockouts?

  12. TJ says:

    I feel Walking in Memphis was the best performance of the night. I would put Ain’t No Mountain High Enough second. I don’t think Walking in Memphis deserves to be forth.

  13. skrable2 says:

    As with what happened to Celeste (who deserved to stay), you can always tell which battles happened after the coaches have used up all their steals. Listen for Carson: If he makes no allusion to the battle loser being available to be stolen, it came after all the steals had been used.

  14. Dory Alex says:

    I can’t believe Celese Betton went home….big mistake!

  15. Jordan and Mark were awesome. Also loved Tims voice. Glad Pharrel saved him. Cant believe Celeste just went home!

  16. Allie says:

    Zach is ok but if my tween girl is any indicator, he is going to last far longer than he should because of his looks. I’ll do my part and hide her phone once voting starts.

    • Diane Raetz says:

      Zach’s looks and sound don’t match. You shouldn’t do ‘I’m going to be someone’ wearing a jacket and looking like you’ve just walked out of a country club

  17. Rumor has it Mark and Celeste’s battle actually was one of the last battles to occur and all the coaches had used all their Saves by then. Editing of this ep made it look like it was an earlier battle and the coaches were being careful with their steals.

    So while still a terrible tragedy that Celeste wasn’t stolen, might not be entirely the coaches’ fault.

    • Woodmeister says:

      If this is true, then maybe they should tweak the save a bit. Keep the save, but instead of using a steal after a particular battle, the coaches announce their saves until after all the battle rounds have been done. Might not be as dramatic as TV but fairer to all the singers.

  18. Brittany says:

    I really hope Dustin makes it to the live rounds. The battle was great, but when you go back to watch it again, Barrett really got all the best moments of the song. Blake was setting him up for a win. It says a lot how much Dustin shined despite that. I went and listened to his album, and there is actually some really great stuff. I think he could be something special.

    • Candace says:

      I disagree with you on Barrett getting all the best moments, I thought that it was really evenly divided with big moments for both of them. It’s just that Barrett delivered them better and more uniquely than Dustin did.

  19. escmcfadden says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Regina did just a bit better than Jordan?

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      No, you’re not the only one. Regina absolutely beat Jordan in that battle. And I say that as someone who loved Jordan in his audition and was not keen whatsoever on Regina.

      • Timmah says:

        In effect, Regina won because she no longer has Adam as her coach.

        • Angie_Overrated says:

          I don’t entirely disagree, but he did bring Joshua Davis to third place over the vastly superior Koryn Hawthorne in 4th, India Carney in 5th, and Kimberly Nichole in 6th. How he did that I’ll never understand, but he did it.

    • Florence+TheMachineRules!!! #MariahSlays says:

      not exactly. In my opinion, i think regina beat jordan just by a tad bit, maybe because I felt the most emotion from her.

  20. Lenora says:

    Pharrel made the best decision….! Mark Hood awesome!!!!

  21. Lori says:

    I changed the channel when the judges failed to keep Celeste. I was speechless when I saw that she was actually leaving the stage. What were the judges drinking??? I do not plan to watch the show this season. How they allowed a powerhouse to leave the competition is ridiculous!

  22. NotHardly says:

    Thought it was cute that Pharell and Missy Elliott were wearing their matching Skipper and Gilligan hats….