Well, you know what they say: As go the battle rounds, so goes The A.V. Club coverage. It has been a thrill ride reviewing this show for you all, between its thousand and one rules, CeeLo’s increasingly confusing metaphors, Blake’s aw-shucks approach, Adam’s disarmingly earnest critiques, and the evolution of Christina Aguilera: Teen Girl Squad Leader. So, what the hell; while we’re here, let’s break down every last one of this week’s battle rounds.*
(*I am fully aware this may not be impressive, seeing how we only got six full battles this week thanks to the debate cutting Monday’s episode in half. Just…let me have this.)
Monday opened with Team CeeLo pitting Alexis Marceaux, the classically trained singer from New Orleans, against comeback kid Daniel Rosa. Alexis has a lovely voice, but even The Voice can’t resist a classic comeback story, so it’s obvious from the beginning that Daniel’s got this one despite his nerves. The endearing thing about Daniel is that he isn’t typical for The Voice; he doesn’t make it look easy. As Daniel confessed, “Whadda You Want From Me” was just out of his comfortable range, but he won by virtue of pairing his unusual voice with his unwavering determination. Plus, the judging panel obviously adores him. If Daniel makes it through the knockout rounds (and more on those later), I’ll be surprised if the public doesn’t show him the same kind of affection.
Next, Adam throws Vermont powerhouse Nicole in the ring with diminutive teen Brandon to sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” or as Adam calls it, “one of the greatest duets of all time.” This only confirms my suspicions that Adam doesn’t actually give a shit about strategy; he just wants to be responsible for some awesome performances.
Now, my instinct toward “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” tends to follow the American Idol model. You know, how as soon as auditionees say they’re singing that song Simon Cowell’s eyes practically roll out of his head and under the door where Ryan Seacrest is waiting to interview their sockets? But trust The Voice to make me remember that in the right hands, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” really is a classic, soulful song. Brandon steps outside of his comfort zone to do some impressive riffs, but I suspect Nicole bought her ticket to the live round with her first “Hallelujah” performance, and so she gets the win. Brandon breaks my goddamn heart when he walks offstage and tells his parents, “I messed up.” It keeps breaking as his parents hug him and tell him how good he was and how proud they are and then they’re crying and I’m out of wine and bawling into the bottle right with them and why isn’t Carson taking us to the commercial already?!
(Sometimes, I really miss the reality TV days of The Hills when you could just watch and never be in danger of caring.)
We then montage through not one, not two, but three battles. The fact that I’ve now sat through weeks of battles and am still mad at missing two of Adam’s makes me reach what was probably an inevitable conclusion: Somewhere along the way, I accidentally joined #TeamAdam. I blame Shelton.
Monday’s final battle features two more of Christina’s teen idols who almost literally tackle “Free Your Mind.” Because it was the last battle of the night, Blake had a steal left, and I’ve seen this show before—it was clear he was watching this battle with an eye to use his last steal. If we’re talking in Friday Night Lights metaphors (and we should always be talking in Friday Night Lights metaphors): Devyn has a real Lyla Garrity vibe that would feel right at home on team Blake, while MarissaAnn’s more aggressive, Tyra Collette performance should have kept her on Team Christina. As far as I was concerned, MarissaAnn’s stage presence should have kept her on Team Christina. But Christina is nothing if not contrary, and so she sent Devyn onward and Blake scooped MarissaAnn up for his own.
Tuesday opened with another Christina-sponsored battle of the belters. Jordan Pruitt has a shared Disney-youth experience and the Jonas brothers on her side, which makes Adriana understandably nervous. Adriana seems very sweet, but I didn’t understand it when all four judges turned for her in her blind audition, and I don’t understand it when Christina picks her over Jordan, whose control made me briefly forget I hate Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” with a passion I usually reserve for Will Schuester. But again, Christina has made it her business this season to polish the rough edges of promising female belters with whom she relates. Adrianna fits the bill. While I was glad to see Blake save MarissaAnn, Jordan would have made a better fit for his team if he had had another steal. Ah, well. At least Blake has that first guy he stole…whoever he was. I want to say he was tall?
Then we’re onto Blake’s last battle rounds. Kelly Crapa and Michaela Paige are 15 and 16, respectively, and I will never forgive them for making me briefly relate to Michael Buble (“Ugh, I’m old!”). Kelly’s take on “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is surprisingly strong, showing signs of Carrie Underwood — no small feat for a tiny tween with hair impressions. But Michaela’s voice has the maturity and depth of someone twice her age, so she and her towering Mohawk move onto the knockouts.
We finally wrap up this season’s battle rounds with Team CeeLo. The second I saw the flashback to Avery Wilson’s blind audition, where he was so immediately impressive he may as well have emerged from behind a fog machine, I knew the show had been saving him for last all along. You can practically feel The Voice’s producers salivating as Avery humbly shrugs his shoulders, smiles, and tells CeeLo he’ll do his best. The worst part is, I can’t even fault the edit’s blatant favoritism: The kid is just that good. And because this was the last battle and Christina had a steal left, I didn’t even feel badly for Chevonne, the Lady Gaga singer with a bustier of gold. This battle was going to have a happy ending all around, so I just settled in and enjoyed the ride. Avery isn’t my favorite contestant of The Voice, or even of this season, but the second he starts singing, he has an undeniable radiance that makes him impossible to ignore. He’s interesting in exactly the opposite way that Daniel Rosa is; more than anyone, Avery makes it look like second nature.
And so each team is down to…eight. Yes, after all this time, we still have 32 singers left in the competition. The best part? My opinion as to how this season will shake out hasn’t changed a bit from after the end of the blind auditions. Adam has the best team, but you only need one singer to win…and CeeLo has Avery Wilson.
Next week introduces yet another new element: the knockout rounds. While Carson’s voiceover insisted they will be the “most important rounds of The Voice so far,” these seem to essentially be extra battle rounds to whittle down this season’s inflated teams. Oh, but the singers will also choose their own songs, so the knockout rounds are totally more “sudden death” than the battle rounds. Silly me.
- No sign of Purrrfect since CeeLo slammed a white limo door in his face. Fame is weird, you guys.
- As relieved as I am to see the end of the battles, I can’t be more relived than Carson. His battle intros, which seem to aim for both information and punch, were getting to the ridiculous point of no return.
- Jordan, on the trials and tribulations that led her to The Voice: “I experienced success at such a young age and I feel like this is my second chance.” For...more success?
- Loved CeeLo sending Alexis off with a heartfelt, “you’re still my teammate.” An unexpectedly sweet take on the coach-mentee relationship that made me realize I'll actually miss this weirdo next season when Usher takes his seat.
- Your Adam Levine Sparks Teen Girl Fan fiction line of the week: “It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It was like, a musical pillow fight.”