Anyway, as we were saying, The Voice adds even more superstars to the line up, with mentors Mary J. Blige, Michael Buble, Bille Joe Armstrong and the unparalleled talent of Rob Thomas (Are we “Back 2 Good,” yet, Rob?). With their help, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green must now narrow down the teams they spent weeks building.
Team Blake, Bout 1: Terry McDermott vs. Casey Meussigmann
You may remember Terry as the Scottish rocker with a semi-mullet, or perhaps as the performer who blew judges away with his “Teenage Wasteland” rendition. And you may remember Casey as “that cowboy who slapped his own butt around stage” — or, as Carson Daly awkwardly announces him, “former overweight college wrestler.” Do we need to point out the underdog here?
With help of Michael Buble, Blake prepares the two to take the stage with Kansas‘ “Carry On Wayward Son.” Casey adjusts to Michael’s note that he started off too country, but Terry still outshines Casey with a stronger voice and endless range. Also, Terry’s outfit fits, and Casey’s jeans are tighter than Christina’s dress. Cee Lo tells Casey, “You definitely sounded great,” which is the the “it’s not you, it’s me (but really it’s you)” of The Voice rejections. Blake chooses Terry, and Casey rides off into the sunset, too sad to slap his butt even a little.
Team Adam Bout 1: Brian Keith vs. Collin McLoughlin
Are we the only ones interested in staging a fashion intervention on The Voice? Collin is still wearing his Dawson’s Creek necklace, Brian’s hat makes him look like a guy perpetually stuck outside a club and Adam is wearing my snowflake cardigan from 7th grade. Can someone from Bravo stop by and just fix this so we can focus on the performances?
Anyway, Brian, who turned all four chairs during auditions, has the rasp and edge needed to carry Adam’s song choice: “Santeria” by Sublime. Collin, who’s mom is still mad at him for dropping out of NYU, is a little too coffee shop for reggae. Mary J. says it best (she always does) when she tells Collin he needs to create pain. But can he create pain in one day?
No, he cannot. Collin sounds too happy about popping a cap in Sancho, which is hard to digest. Only Blake is sold on Collin as the better performer, but everyone else agrees that Brian owned the tune. Adam says that Collin came out “with beastly intentions” (the nice way of saying “a beat and a half too early”), and selects Brian.
Blake and Cee Lo immediately jump in for the first steal. As Carson will remind us (often), the steal is a real game changer. Suddenly, Blake’s earlier praise of Collin reeks of strategy. Collin joins Team Blake. Backstage, Brian tells the camera, “America, you’re going to see so much more of me, so get ready,” which makes us want to a.) vomit and b.) vote Brian off ASAP.
Team Cee Lo Bout 1: Diego Val vs. JR Aquino
Peruvian crooner Diego Val faces off against Alaskan YouTube sensation JR Aquino to see who can channel the best Rick Springfield. Both contestants politely act excited to be in the presence of the former Matchbox Twenty frontman, who mentors alongside Cee Lo.
Forget all the other sad background stories from other Voice contestants: Diego grew up deprived of Rick Springfield, and for that we shed tears. Having only just heard “Jessie’s Girl,” he struggles through practice with his non-prescription lenses and dramatic hair, and we are not confident in his chances as he takes the stage.
Diego never does fully learn “Jesse’s Girl,” but the loose interpretation he performs satisfies Cee Lo. Although JR’s voice was smoother, Cee Lo decides “I think that I could do something stranger with Diego.” To Cee Lo, strange equals winner.
Team Christina Bout 1: De’Borah vs. Nelly’s Echo
Christina starts the Battle Round with two poor decisions: new blue tips in her hair and pitting all star contestants De’Borah and Nelly’s Echo against each other. Both wowed at auditions – De’Borah with a soulful “Hey, Soul Sister,” and Nelly’s Echo with his political refugee backstory and powerful “Ain’t No Sunshine” rendition.
Both adorn “Message In A Bottle” by The Police with ad libs, blowing mentor Billie Joe Armstrong away. He doesn’t have much sage advice to share, telling Nelly, “Even the mistakes you’re making sound amazing.”
We worry about De’Borah during practice, as she struggles with the timing of the lyrics, but she has it down by the time she gets on stage. Nelly’s vocal acrobatics sound messy against De’Borah’s controlled powerhouse. Christina picks De’Borah, followed by a surprising emotional reaction by Adam after seeing De’Borah grow so much already. Tears flow all around, and we predict he’ll try to steal her if he ever gets the chance.
Team Blake Bout 2: 2 Steel Girls vs. Gracia Harrison
Blake pits 2Steel Girls, the mother/daughter duo, against Gracia Harrison, the one that yodeled. The three country gals all prepare to sing the Dixie Chicks‘ “Sin Wagon,” and we’re ready for a real barn burner. Blake casts an ominous shadow on 2 Steel Girls when he says they “don’t mesh together right now” during practice, but remember that Gracia could always break out an inappropriate yodel.
Blake and Buble fail to advise the ladies that subtly is key in stage theatrics if you cannot act. Therefore, an interpretive “boy is mine” style stage battle between 2 Steel Girls and Gracia ensues, and, needless to say, it’s way awkward. Fast-moving “Sin Wagon” isn’t the right vehicle for Mom Allison’s soulful voice, and the ill advised attitude dancing doesn’t help. Gracia stands out even more so than in her audition, shows increased confidence and sails to the next round.
Team Cee Lo Bout 2: Trevin Hunte vs. Amanda Brown
As always, The Voice saves the best for last with Cee Lo’s all-star team members. It becomes clear that we all grossly underestimated “Valerie” singer Amanda Brown, who is a surprising star of the night. After hearing them practice Mariah Carey’s “Vision Of Love,” Rob Thomas correctly predicts it will be the performance of the night.
Trevin and Amanda set the bar. They work together and harmonize, building one another up throughout the song. There is no awkward acting or on-stage dissing, and their “Vision Of Love” sounds even better than Mariah Carey’s (which must thrill Nicki Minaj).
They were, together and alone, the best performers of the night. Cee Lo chooses Trevin, but not before all of the coaches commit to taking on whoever he doesn’t pick. Adam steals Amanda, and it’s the win of the night. Incidentally, Trevin cheers Amanda on backstage. This kid has class.
We must admit, we’re sold on the “steal” rule, as it’s keeping the four coaches on their toes, the talented contestants in the game and the bickering alive for at least another round. This comes as quite a relief to those worried that Blake might have uttered his final “jackass” at Adam in the Blind Auditions. Rest assured that there will be plenty more sparring to come when the Battle Round picks up tomorrow.