‘The Voice’: Julio Cesar Castillo & Terisa Griffin Do Gloria Estefan’s “Conga”
We start The Battle Rounds: Part 2 with a confession: I cannot count or add or perform whatever mathematical skills are needed to correctly identify the number of performances that have occurred in previous Battle Rounds. Please forgive any past mathematical errors, and know that fingers and toes were both used to correctly count tonight’s performances.
In any case, on night three of the Battle Round, or “Battle Rounds: Part 2” (The Voice has addition issues as well), coaches Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine pair up some feisty, some perfect and some downright hilarious battles as they continue to narrow down their teams.
Team Blake, Bout 4: Julio Cesar Castillo vs. Terisa Griffin We are beginning to suspect that Blake might actually have a fantastic sense of humor. Not so much because he calls Adam a “jackass” and laughs, or pulls out his AMA and laughs, or even attempts to construct a joke and laughs: Blake Shelton creates undeniable humor by mismatching both duet partners and performers with songs. Case in point: Monday’s first bout begins with Mariachi singer Julio Cesar Castillo and 42-and-fabulous soul crooner Terisa Griffin giving it their all with Gloria Estefan’s “Conga.” Mentor Michael Buble foreshadows one of the many challenges this song will present when he says “no one in the history of the world ever really knew the words.” History was not made tonight.
Though Julio and Terisa attempt valiantly to memorize those words, everything is just off. It’s hard to come across as anything but out of breath when you sing Ms. Estefan’s hit. Terisa dances around like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and Julio alternates between slow, powerful singing and speedy, frenetic terror. Maybe he’s afraid of Terisa’s dancing? Who knows? Christina laughs the entire time and has no comment after the performance. Adam is at a loss for words. Cee Lo says it’s “cool,” but opts not to elaborate much further on that. Blake is left to decide who sounded less ridiculous. He selects Julio.
Somehow, after that goose egg of a performance, both contestants make it through. Prodded by a chanting crowd, Cee Lo uses his final steal to take Terisa, even though he previously compared her to all of his ex-wives, girlfriends, sister and mother. A match made in heaven, no doubt.
Team Christina, Bout 4: Dez Duron vs. Paulina Handsome Dez Duron takes on singularly titled and previously un-televised Paulina in Christina’s first bout of the evening. The two perform Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” which Dez fears is little high-pitched for him. Paulina, unfortunately, has a harder time recognizing that her vocal acrobatics are too high for most human ears. Both Billie Joe Armstrong and Christina tell her to cool it with the ad lib; and when Christina Aguilera calls you out on ad lib, red flags should wave. Paulina, instead, decides to store the advice “right here,” (while gesturing to her mounds of hair). Maybe that’s why her hair is so big: it’s full of advice.
Paulina must have washed her hair in between the rehearsals and the performance, because she doesn’t tone down the vocal acrobatics at all. They just get crazier. Handsome Dez, on the other hand, hits the feared high notes smoothly, and moves to the next round easily. No one steps in to save Paulina, but they are all confident she’ll get better with age. Because being a pop star is a career you age in to. Right.
Team Adam, Bout 3: Benji vs. Sam James Former race car driver Benji faces off against new (to us) face Sam James. Sam’s performance style is considerably more understated than Benji’s; Benji is on a mission with every syllable out of his mouth. Adam selects Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” for the two, and Sam appears truly resentful that he has to sing Bon Jovi on national television. Mary J. Blige tells him that if he can’t hit the high notes, he should hit them with emotion…which we interpret to mean “No, seriously: hit the high notes.” Adam cautions Benji to tone down his growl and scream, which is his go to move that he goes to just a little too often.
During the performance, Sam comes out of his somber shell and succumbs to the power of Bon Jovi like a New Jersey groupie. Benji tones down the growling, but still rocks it. Christina compliments Sam, saying “you’ve got an Adam Levine thing in your voice” (at least we think that’s a compliment), but she, Blake and Cee Lo all enthusiastically endorse Benji. Not enthusiastically enough to scoop him up when Adam selects Sam, however, so Benji growls his way off stage.
Team Cee Lo, Bout 4: Nicholas David vs. Todd Kessler We thought we were so clever in dubbing Cee Lo’s matchup of Nicholas David and Todd Kessler as The Battle Of The Beards, but then both Nicholas and Todd make the same immediate observation. Instead, we’re going to have to stick with The Battle Of The Serial Killer Eyes. Less catchy, but still startlingly accurate.
Cee Lo selects “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates for Nicholas and Todd, and the two harmonize beautifully. A fast bromance develops between the bearded ones, to the point that Nicholas admits that he does not want to compete with Todd. Suck it up, weird beard: even Cee Lo and Rob Thomas will tell you that there are no alliances on The Voice.
Nicholas and Todd are flawless together in the performance, but rules are rules, and Cee Lo picks Nicholas. Perhaps it’s because, as Blake so randomly put it, “you look like Jesus, and people like that.” Todd, who does not resemble any known biblical figure, is sent packing. On his way out, Cee Lo gives him a hug and says “You call me, we’ll talk.” Oddly, we do not see an actual exchange of cell numbers.
Team Blake, Bout 5: Lelia Broussard vs. Suzanna Choffel Blake pairs the two indie ladies on his team, Lelia Broussard and Suzanna Choffel, and selects Florence + the Machine to match their vocal strengths. Lesson learned from Conga-gate, maybe? As anyone who has failed a karaoke attempt of “Dog Days Are Over” knows, the song navigates up and down the octaves and has no mercy on any performer.
Suzanna is stunted in rehearsals by her music teacher background, hyper-focusing on technique, but not quite letting loose as a performer. Lelia, on the other hand, attacks every note with the presence and confidence of a true New Yorker, which evokes death stares from the once peaceful Suzanna. It’s on. The two belt it out on stage, but Suzanna wins over all of the coaches and lives to see another round.
Team Christina, Bout 5: Joselyn Rivera vs. Sylvia Yacoub In the final bout of the night, seemingly shy Joselyn Rivera takes on siren powerhouse Sylvia Yacoub. Christina selects Beyonce’s ballad “Best Thing I Never Had,” which could bring out the pop diva in just about anyone. Especially Sylvia. If you thought Beyonce had some crazy runs in the original, Sylvia’s “Best Thing I Never Ha-a-a-a-a-a-d” 2.0 gets a little out of control in rehearsals. Or, as Joselyn sweetly says, “annoying.”
Neither pop diva acknowledges the other as they make their way to the stage. This is how pop rivalries begin, and we love it! Though shy in the auditions, Joselyn demonstrates her powerful voice in the performance. Sylvia is a powerhouse, and again: an ad lib queen. Their overall performance is the most fun we’ve had all night. After struggling to make a decision, Christina chooses Sylvia, because she identifies with her fire.
Not all hope is lost for Joselyn, however, as both Adam and Blake swoop in for the steal. Neither really respond to Joselyn’s direct question about what they specifically like about her, but Blake says “I love you,” and that creeps her out enough to select Adam.
After another night of battles, the teams are shaping up and the steals are running out. Both Adam and Cee Lo have used both of their steals, Blake has used one, and the ever-selective Christina has two steals going into the second half of the Battle Round.
Speaking of upcoming battles, we’re thinking of calling the Commission on Presidential Debates to tell them we have a surprisingly good moderator for them: Carson Daly. Sure, he seems to utterly zone out when anyone is talking, but he snaps back into it each and every time the time has run out to debate the contestants with, “Coach: who is the winner?” It’s perfectly timed and exactly on cue! And if you can cut these four off easily…