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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 3

March 19, 2012

Image from [auro] via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Welcome Voice fans! We’re halfway through this round of the battles and I’ve been pleased with about half of the outcomes. Let’s see how this next group shakes out!

Extra Mentors:
Team Adam: Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke
Team Blake: Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert
Team Cee Lo: Babyface and Ne-Yo
Team Xtina: Jewel and Lionel Richie

Team Adam: Pip vs. Nathan Parrett – “You Know I’m No Good”
Oh snap? Not Adele?! This is a nice pick from Adam. Amy Winehouse’s range was low and dynamic enough that these guys will have lots of room to show their chops. The challenge will be to convey the damaged goods narration and not overdo it vocally. A good performance will elicit pathos through solid singing. Based on blind audition screentime, Pip will eke out a win. Nathan got maybe 2 seconds in his audition, so the audience isn’t likely as invested. Neither am I.
Pip pulls out the Broadway oversinging way too early in the song. He showing off in his belting and arm flailing. It’s inappropriate and clashes with the tone of the music. It’s incongruent enough that I actually end up rooting for Nathan by the end of the song (also the Andre 3000 ensemble isn’t doing Pip any favors.) He didn’t show off too much. If anything did him in, it was his hesitation before some of the big horn swells and his willingness to take on Pip directly in the belt-off at the end. Nonetheless Nathan sang solidly and seemed to better understand the song. In Glee terms, Pip is Rachel. Nathan is Santana. We all know who sang Winehouse better on that show.
Winner: Pip (Boo! Pip’s a great singer but he was not invested in this song. Nathan tried way harder and delivered the goods.)

Team Cee Lo: Erin Martin vs. The Shields Brothers – “What’s Love Got To Do With It”
This will be a crazy battle. The Shields boys are your basic pop-rock duo whereas Erin is super crazy and raspy. Neither has the pure vocal chops to directly take on Ms. Turner. Erin will have to project and the brothers will have to sing decently while not relying on each other to be the chorus. I predict an Erin win, as she seems like she has a little more vocal control and TV-friendly image. If the boys make it through, they’ll get eaten alive in the voting rounds.
Since neither performer can rise to the occasion of the Tina Turner original, the arrangement tries to split the sound to match both Erin’s twee quirkiness and the Shields’ meatheaded rockism. So half of the song is “Hey There Delilah” and half is “Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone,” and not in a clever mash-up way. Neither side can deliver vocally. Even their stage presence was like three drunk theater kids jostling for the mic at a karaoke bar. I think the blame for this shitshow lies at the feet of The Lady Killer. Also, cut the leering come-ons, Blake Shelton. That’s unprofessional! Sigh….
Winner: Erin (Meh! If that was a battle, Cee Lo Green should be tried for war crimes.)

Team Xtina: Ashley De La Rosa vs. Jonathas – “No Air”
This will be a tough battle! Both contestants had fabulous auditions, though Ashley’s was a little bit on the cannon fodder side. I’m not a fan of this song, though that’s maybe because Chris Brown performs on the original. I predict a Jonathas win based on his R&B chops and relatively higher screentime.
Early on Ashley is off key and anemic. Jonathas can’t quite sing on the off-beat rhythm and it’s jarring. He definitely has more stage presence and charisma, but when it gets time to go high-volume, Ashley kicks things into high gear. By the end of the song, it was clear that she was the better singer. I think Jonathas was more believable onstage, but I think Ashley has more long-term potential. Props to both of them for trying to play off each other.
Winner: Ashley (Yay! She certainly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and from one of the show’s probably chosen ones. Keep it up!)

Team Blake: Alyx vs. Jermaine Paul – “Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car”
….And we get the first fun song of the night, and it’s 80s cheese to boot! I predict a Jermaine win. He has the professional power and the Alicia Keys patronage. Plus Blake already picked one green teen for his team with RaeLynn (and she’s way more country than Alyx.) Who can belt? Who can convey effortless charisma? Who can make the performance feel more fun than Rock Band night at Jon Hamm’s house?
This is no contest. When Jermaine’s not doing nice little runs all over the place he’s doing subtle, popping dance moves and working the crowd. I appreciated his efforts! Plus he made Alyx look stiff, unpleasant, and way too serious about the whole proceeding – precisely the opposite of what I wanted to hear and see.
Winner: Jermaine (Yay! I appreciated his efforts to get the audience invested in the cheese! He also sang really, really well!)

Team Adam: Angel Taylor vs. Katrina Parker – “Bleeding Love”
Dammit Adam, this song is Ryan Tedder-penned midtempo claptrap! This is gonna be sad! That’s my bias though and it’s not the contestants’ fault. The challenge here will be to engage the audience without resorting to blunt vocal exercises or excessive whininess. I predict an Angel win, especially after Sera Hill’s win for Team Xtina. Adam will need an answer for a singer like that, even with Katrina’s TV-friendly second-chance backstory.
It’s clear that Katrina has more range than Angel. The tone of her voice takes up more of the empty space in the song and her parts feel riches as a result. I feel that Angel is trying harder to emotionally connect with the somber, grisly lyrics of the material, though her stiff stage presence may have been a little too much. If Katrina could improve on anything, it would be to take on a little more emotion and not come across so pageanty.
Winner: Katrina (Yay! She was so much more pleasant to listen to! She fought off an opponent skilled in the emoting trade and came out stonger.)

Team Blake: Gwen Sebastian vs. Erin Willett – “We Belong”
Wow, I think Blake made the best song picks tonight! I’m certainly shocked. Gwen is certainly more in Blake’s comfort zone, though Erin’s no slouch and her sad backstory may also help her cause. I predict an Erin win. Based on our Rock Band sessions, I think Kathy does a great Pat Benatar rendition. According to her, the keys to a good Benatar performance are to project on key with just a little attitude on the verses and fearless belting on the chorus. Her best songs are unpretentious, but they still demand that you sell them. They’re not ballads, but they demand vocal power! Let’s close this out!
This was some of the best harmonizing I heard all night. Gwen and Erin actually tried to play off each other and work together rather than dominate or oversing each other. The solo parts came in the quieter verses and both did a good job with those, too! Predictable Gwen was twangier and Erin was more soulful, but the end results are still solid. It’s ultimately a matter of taste.
Winner: Erin (Yay! While I was rooting for her, either singer would have been a good choice. Sob story or not, Erin has the pipes to show she deserves to be here.)

This was an entertaining episode! I was annoyed or disappointed with the first 1/3rd of the show, but then things really recovered. I expect to have a solid stable of contestants to root for in the voting rounds. Other than the first two picks turning out differently, the only other way this could have been better would be to replace Carson Daly with Mark Dacascos as the host of the show. He would make these battle rounds so much more theatrical!

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