Well, “Voice” fans, phase one of Season 5 is officially over with the blind auditions firmly a thing of the past. It’s time to move on to the next portion of America’s favorite singing competition: The Battle Rounds. You know what that means. Coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green must pit one artists from their team of 20 against another, with only one left standing. (Unless another coach steals, in which case, everyone keeps on standing.) Let’s get to it!
Battle #1: Team Adam’s Grey vs. Nic Hawk
Adam and guest mentor Ryan Tedder coach the “eclectic and diverse” pairing on Jessie J‘s “Domino,” a song Grey mentions she sings once a week with her wedding band. Nic continues his hammy schtick from his blind audition that, while once seemed charming, now comes off as mostly forced and over-the-top.
During the performance, both bring their A-game. There isn’t much to criticize, though Grey’s pure tone does edge Nic’s stylized voice out of the running a bit. She comes across as a bit more subdued, though studied and strong. “The value of somebody like Nic on this show is priceless,” Blake offers, while Christina praises Grey’s “consistent, focused vocals.” In the end, Adam opts to keep Grey.
Steal: “Oh, Adam, you screwed up so bad,” Blake says as he hits his button. Nic’s still in the game!
Battle #2: Team Christina’s Amber Nicole vs. Timyra-Joi
For her first battle, Xtina is pairing up two of her youngest R&B divas, perhaps realizing there’s only really room for one of them. She and guest mentor Ed Sheeran coach the girls on Beyonce‘s “Listen,” one of Amber’s favorites. Christina says she wants the girls to dig a little bit deeper on the ballad. In the first rehearsal, Timyra sort of shrinks, but she recovers at the second, however Christina still feels she’s holding back a bit.
The actual performance finds the two insanely young powerhouses on much more of an equal footing. Timyra’s performance feels a bit lacking when she isn’t singing. She seems unsure of what to do when it’s not her moment on the track, but that’s such a minor quibble. There’s very little here to find fault with. “If I was up and coming on the scene, I would be scared of you guys right now,” Christina says, in tears. That being said, she hands the win over to Amber.
Steal: No one goes in for the steal, which feels absurd. That said, Timyra’s youth and her talent combined? She will be a big name in no time.
Battle #3: Team Blake’s Justin Chain vs. Shelbie Z.
Sure, this battle is between Justin and Shelbie, but the big ticket here is that Blake’s mentor is the one and only Cher. “You’re a good boy and I want to give you a hand,” she tells him, laughing. “Seeing Cher sitting next to Blake was just incredible,” Shelbie gushes. While she coaches the two on Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean‘s duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Cher offers some sage advice, proving more useful than some of the other mentors this show’s seen. Woman knows her stuff. Throughout the rehearsals, the battling belters struggle with harmony, jumping all over the place. “They’ve got their work cut out for them,” Cher warns. She’s not wrong.
Justin kicks the song off, sitting on his melody line with the vocal perfection advertised in his blind audition. As the chorus sets in, it’s clear that any kinks in the harmonies between the two have been smoothed out, and Shelbie seems to gotten over her fear of letting people in. She soars on the lofty high notes, working in perfect balance with her adversary. Christina throws her support behind Shelbie, while mentioning that they’d make a perfect duo. “The best battles are the ones that don’t feel like that,” Adam notes, though he leans towards Justin because of Shelbie’s minor tendency to go sharp. In the end, Blake sticks with Shelbie.
Steal: Though Blake mentioned earlier that Adam’s dying to steal a country artist from him, no one moves to snatch Justin up and the crooner moseys on home.
Battle #4: Team CeeLo’s Anthony Paul vs. Caroline Pennell
It can’t bode well for Anthony that his blind audition was one that was shoved into a montage, compared to how much attention Caroline’s received. CeeLo coaches the two on Justin Bieber’s “As Long You Love Me” alongside his guest mentor Miguel. The coach hopes to rein in Anthony’s tendency to oversing. During their final rehearsal (And what was CeeLo wearing there? His pajamas?), Anthony returns having taken the coaching to heart, while Caroline stayed too far in her shell. CeeLo seems concerned that his easy save with Caroline might not be so easy anymore.
In the actual battle, the two challengers give one another a run for their money. Caroline remains aloof in terms of emoting with the singer standing next to her, but the muted tempo lends itself considerably well to her unique delivery. Anthony hits one or two bum notes towards the beginning, but his falsetto runs have such a soothing quality. With the fellow coaches torn on a victor, but united on their stance that it’s a standout battle round, CeeLo keep Caroline on his team, noting that her voice allows him to dream with his eyes open.
Steal: As CeeLo begs the others to hit their button, Christina moves in for the steal and keeps Anthony around.
Battle #5: Team Adam’s Donna Allen vs. Tessanne Chin
Why on Earth would Adam pair these two up, ensuring that one would either go home or to the arms of a rival coach? He tasks them to sing Emili Sande’s “Next To Me.” In the first rehearsal, Donna drives right over Tessanne, with Adam and Ryan advising that she find the moments when she can steal the spotlight back. Ryan says it’s not even fair that they’re singing against one another.
What is there to say about the battle itself? It’s stunning. These are two women who are at the very top of their craft. It’s wicked that they’ve been set against one another so soon because it only stands to deprive the viewer of a prolonged experience with both of them, should one get the boot. “It was epic,” Blake said. He hands it to Donna, while Christina falls the other way. After admitting he believes either could win the entire show (and quite a bit of waffling), Adam chooses to keep Tessanne around. Donna handles it with such a graceful aplomb. If she isn’t stolen…
Steal: No one steals Donna which is too dumb to comprehend.
Battle #6: Team Christina’s Briana Cuoco vs. Jacquie Lee
Christina pairs up Briana and Jackie on The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun” because they’re inspired by rock and soul, and she didn’t want to give them anything too safe. She coaches Bri to use blues inflections, while Ed advises both vocalists that finding any originality in the oft-covered track will be more than beneficial.
As advertised, the ladies kill it. There’s a little more character in Bri’s delivery, which may give her the edge, but Jacquie is a powerhouse in her own right. There’s such a strength in the entire performance,
it’s clear why it’s closing out the night. No one seems to know how to advise Christina. She admits they both won the battle before giving the win to Jacquie.
Steal: It didn’t quite matter who got the win because immediately, CeeLo and Blake go in for the steal. Briana isn’t going anywhere, so now the ball’s in her court. Whose team will she join? CeeLo praises the grit in her voice, while Blake appeals to her songwriting nature. She goes with Blake, leaving CeeLo wiping his fake tears.
And that’s the end of night one of the Battle Rounds. Were the right artists kept around, stolen or sent home? Let us know in the comments below.