Not all of The Voice‘s Battle Rounds are created equal.
Inevitably, coaches wind up pairing off two perfect apples — in the hopes that one gets stolen for a competing team — and then cooking up showdowns between two tangerines who’ve already passed their competitive expiration date.
It’s enough to make a singing-competition junkie like myself wish that exec producer Mark Burnett would borrow a construct from NCAA’s March Madness and seed the coaches teams 1-12 (based on their Blind Auditions), then force the lowest rated singers to work doubly hard to upend their more heralded rivals in 1-vs-12, 2-vs-11, 3-vs-10 matchups.
Yes, I know, nobody really wants their music bogged down by numbers — and maybe there’s a magic in the process of watching tw early front-runners emote and hollerate and still be a Knockout away from the public’s vote. That certainly seemed the case on Tuesday’s Tamar/Shalyah ad Hannah/Maya matchups.
While you ponder that thought, let me rate the Battles:
BATTLE ROUNDS (Rated Least- to Most-Promising Winner)
6. Team Xtina: Kata Hay defeats Chelsea Gann on Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” | Sure, the ladies delivered this one with enthusiasm, but there was so much off-pitch screaming, it conjured up images of Melissa Etheridge’s hand getting stuck in a blender.
5. Team Adam: Nate Butler defeats Natalie Yacovazzi on Tori Kelly’s “Hollow” | There’s no other way to say it: I’m simply not going to remember this performance by the time the Knockouts begin — which probably means Nate will be used as montage fertilizer to help grow the dreams of one of Adam’s more hyped contestants.
4. Team Pharrell: Nick Hagelin defeats Jessica Crosbie on MGMT’s “Electric Feel” (Jessica stolen by Adam) | Nick’s got a lovely tone, but his heavy reliance on his not-quite-perfect falsetto made him the clear loser of this battle against Jessica’s supple, groovy delivery and physical connectedness. Was this one of the many documented cases of Pharrell choosing his lesser team member in the hopes that the superior one might get stolen? That’s the only way I can make sense of the unjust result — which Adam thankfully helped to remedy.
3. Team Blake: Mary Sarah defeats Justin Whisnant on Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty’s “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” | This was a fairly mismatched duo, with Justin’s workmanlike effort eventually getting swallowed by Mary’s showy upper register. It’s clear from the way she works the stage without every sacrificing breath control that Mary’s a real pro, but she’ll need to dig deeper than a surface-level lyric reading if she wants to survive the deep Season 10 bench.
2. Team Pharrell: Hannah Huston defeats Maya Smith on Sia’s “Elastic Heart” (Maya stolen by Xtina) | Slow clap for both Hannah and Maya for managing to sound terrific on perhaps the most difficult ditty tackled by a contestant in Voice history. The shifting tempos and tricky wordplay of Sia’s jam might’ve tripped up a lesser vocalist — if not technically, then at least emotionally. But Hannah actually seemed to thrive on the challenge, using her versatile instrument to nail the lilting high notes, then swooping down into her lower range to complete a mesmerizing performance. Maya may have been a tiny bit less accurate, but her muscular growl made her rendition slightly more distinctive from Sia’s original — and made her a most worthy candidate for Pharrell’s Steal (one that Carson repeatedly telegraphed (because The Voice hates suspense).
1. Team Xtina: Tamar Davis defeats Shalyah Fearing on LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” (Shalyah stolen by Pharrell) | I’ll admit, I didn’t really understand the Shalyah hype during the Blinds, but she brought so much grit to this week’s show I felt like I’d fallen face first into a New Orleans gutter (and I mean that as a compliment). Tamar, though, exhibited such exquisite control of such a rangey, lyrically specific jam, I actually felt she earned the right to grab the mic alongside Xtina and advisor Patti LaBelle (who’s a really astute instructor, I might add).