Well glory be: it’s time to wrap up the second coming of the Battle Round on The Voice. With no Knockout Round standing between now and the playoffs, it’s just a matter of time before America gets to start voting, right?
Wrong. So wrong. Though viewers were given the great responsibility of voting beginning with the Top 20 in Season 5 (which was up from the Top 16 in Season 4, but down from the Top 24 in Season 3… why stay consistent, right?), the power will not go to the people this season until Blake Shelton, Usher, Shakira and Adam Levine reduce the field to the Top 12. It’s probably punishment for abusing the instant save or something.
Anyway, before we get any further into the topic of the Top 12, let’s see how the coaches did rounding out the Top 20 (baby steps!) on Monday night (April 7).
Team Shakira: Dani Moz vs. Clarissa Serna
Shakira gives herself a tough choice when she puts powerhouse singers Dani Moz and Clarissa Serna in the same battle. Shakira warns Dani, a former publicist, to watch the pocket in the duo’s performance of Pink‘s “Perfect,” and tells Clarissa to dial back the drama. That’s right: Shakira is telling someone to cut back the on stage drama.
As if to say, “To hell with your drama ban!” Clarissa makes a dramatic entrance rocking a Tessanne Chin-esque fauxhawk look. Blazer-clad Dani doesn’t need to stand out visually, as her powerful pipes do the talking for her. Both women start off a bit shaky, but ease into a strong chorus.
“Suppressing the nerves and hiding that is important, because we’re all nervous all of the time,” Adam advises them.
“Clarissa you have this poise when you’re on stage that I really enjoyed,” says Blake. “Dani, you have a really soft voice, but it’s so strong at the same time.”
Usher favors Dani, telling her, “You were unwavering. That’s something that can’t be taught,” says Usher.
“Clarissa, you have that poise and you’re always in command,” says Shakira. “Dani, you have that register that is just insane.”
Faced with a tough choice, Shakira advances Dani.
Team Adam: Kat Perkins vs. Dawn & Hawkes
Well here’s a weird combo. Adam pairs rock ‘n roll nanny Kat Perkins against folk duo/lovers Dawn & Hawkes. Adam tells the duo, who note that they had a really hard time performing in the first Battles because they couldn’t gaze at one another throughout the song (true story), to go crazy with that onstage love this time around.
Although the setup seems to put Kat in a third wheel position, the battle of KT Tunstall‘s “Suddenly I See” favors her immensely. Dawn & Hawkes gaze into one another’s eyes quite a bit, but they primarily take on a backup role, allowing Kat to take center stage.
“As good as Dawn & Hawkes sounded, I found myself watching Kat,” says Blake. “It’s almost like they were backing her up,”
“The one suggestion I would have for Dawn & Hawkes is take command of the stage more,” says Usher.
“You sound like one. That’s what love does,” Shakira tells Dawn & Hawkes (gag). “Kat, on the other hand was engaging me from the beginning.”
“This song doesn’t exactly give you the room to do all the things you can do as an individual,” Adam tells Kat. “I thought if anybody could step up to this challenge it was going to be you, and you did that.” He adds that Dawn & Hawkes, while wonderful and in love, have not lived up to their Blind Auditions chemistry since.
Adam advances Kat Perkins. At least Dawn & Hawkes have each other.
Team Usher: Melissa Jimenez vs. Music Box
Usher puts Music Box the person, a steal from Team Shakira, against powerhouse Melissa Jimenez. The pair choose Alicia Keys‘ ”Girl On Fire,” which many strong Voice contestants have underestimated over the years. “The trick is to pretend that you wrote it,” says Chris Martin. “It will add that five percent more.”
Another trick is to pick a different song, because it is damn near impossible to get this one right if your name’s not Alicia Keys. While they both give it attitude, they don’t quite nail it. Music Box struggles with breath control, and Melissa is noticeably shaky. Usher has a huge smile the whole time, but it could very well be because his raccoon hat is tickling his neck.
“I thought this was a battle that had great moments, and moments that weren’t that great,” says Shakira.
“You could feel that you guys wanted to do more,” says Adam, “I think that Melissa had more good moments.”
“You embellished it in a way that made me think, ‘I’m taking ownership of this song, and I’m doing it my way,’” Usher says of both women.
“What would the fox say?” quips Blake during Usher’s deliberation, a dad joke about Usher’s hat that he’s certainly been pocketing for this very moment.
Usher sends Melissa through, and Music Box gives a heartfelt thanks to Usher and her son.
Team Blake: Kaleigh Glanton vs. Ryan Whyte Maloney
Ryan Whyte Maloneymay have many defining characteristics, but The Voice is stuck on the fact that he used to be a garbage man. Despite the fact that Ryan continues to wow and advance, Carson Daly still introduces him exclusively as “former garbage man Ryan Whyte Maloney.” While there’s nothing wrong with being a garbage man, perhaps if he makes it to the playoffs, we can learn something else about him?
Ryan is up against Kaleigh Glanton, and the two pick “Easy,” as originally performed by Rascal Flatts and Natasha Bedingfield. Ryan’s raspy voice overpowers Kaleigh’s, which suffers a few breaks during the song.
“Kaleigh, I felt like you were at times a bit nervous, and you pulled back,” says Usher.
“Maybe because it felt a little more effortless on Ryan’s voice, I would choose Ryan,” Shakira says.
“With Kaleigh, I’ve seen nothing but improvement, but there’s something about Ryan, to me, that I’d want to stick with,” says Adam.
“You both have very powerful rangy voices and you’re capable about doing many things,” says their coach, but he uses the first Battle Round, where Ryan performed “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” as a tie breaker. “Ryan performs a Tina Turner song in Tina Turner’s key,” he says, advancing him based on overall consistency.
Team Adam: Jake Barker vs. Brittnee Camelle
Adam pulls a Shakira and puts his two Team Usher steals, Jake Barker and Brittnee Camelle, against each other. The two don’t shy away from a challenge, and choose their former coach’s “Climax” for their battle.
During the big performance, Jake hits the falsettos with no problem, but he’s certainly no Usher. Brittnee struggles with staying in the pocket, but stays on pitch.
“When he goes into that falsetto and still maintains that gravely raspy song while he does, it’s just really unique,” Blake says of Jake.
Usher shows them how it’s done with a quick burst of song from his chair, but refuses to pick sides. “It was a great performance, in my opinion.”
“I think Brittnee’s voice cut through and was really great,” says Shakira. “What Jake did with all those falsettos and all those trills, I really didn’t expect that.”
“Brittnee, your voice cuts really sharply. There were a couple of notes that were just really unbelievable,” says Adam. “Jake, you sound like someone who’s been singing his whole life,” he adds.
Wanting to hear more from the novice performer, Adam advances Jake.
Team Usher: Bria Kelly vs Madilyn Paige
In the (for real this time) final battle of the season, Usher puts his two youngest team members to the test. Young’ns Bria Kelly and Madilyn Paige each try to channel their best Chrissie Hynde in a performance of “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders.
Despite Chris Martin’s efforts to help Madilyn chill on the shoulders-in-ears nervous posture, and Usher’s comments for Bria to work on her voice control, they both make these same mistakes from rehearsals in the actual performance. Madilyn looks meek and terrified the entire time, and Bria’s voice seems to have been possessed by a goat.
“Bria, I noticed that you really worked your dynamics through the song,” says Shakira, adding, “Madilyn, you were very comfortable in your own skin.” Shakira clearly zoned that performance out.
Adam, notes that he was, “left desiring more,” and Blake agrees.
“I’m not saying it was bad, but I definitely don’t think anybody really stood out,” he says. Ouch.
“While the performance may have not been the greatest, I think that you have learned a lot,” says Usher.
Despite the thumbs down reviews from the coaches, everyone’s a winner in this final battle of the round. Usher advances Bria, and will ideally exorcise that goat out of her vocal chords for the playoffs. Blake, who has yet to use his final steal, takes Madilyn.
So bid a final farewell to Usher’s hat, and get ready for the “New Playoffs,” which start tonight. In this new round (which sounds a whole lot like the old rounds…), the coaches will each cut their rosters from five to three. Then, and only then, will America be asked to vote. Unless they change the rules again. Which is entirely possible.
Who do you think has the strongest team going into the “New Playoffs,” and what do you think of these new rules?