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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 4

March 27, 2012

Image edited from original by Mr. Fink’s Finest Photos via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

OK Voice fans, we are at part four and the hopeful conclusion of this round of battles. Once the show is done with this round it will have 24 contestants, which will still take a lot of time to get through. Will more battles follow or will another oddly effective gimmick take its place? Will the show make good on its promise of live shows next week? Sometimes I suspect this show keeps throwing in crazy gimmick rounds because it knows that as soon as the public voting starts, it’s basically Idol with a trimmed staff and more diverse contestant base. Anyways, let’s get this party started!

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 Cee Lo: James Massone vs. Wade – “True Colors”
Dammit Cee Lo, stop trying to do these gimmick battles. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” sucked last week because neither contestant could really touch it. Poppy James and Stax-y Wade are both way too fun for this inspiration-bait song. Creighton Fraker crashed and burned when he did this on Idol and I don’t have high hopes for these two guys. They’re both so good otherwise. Wade sounds a little better in his practice session while James sounds a little too shrill, so I predict a Wade win. Nonetheless, if James wins he could go pretty far with his very current R&B sensibilities.
The little vamping is kind of off. Throughout the performance James sounds like he’s about to teeter off the cliff. Wade just can’t those high belty notes when this should totally be his thing. I think the big problem is that this song doesn’t really go anywhere. Neither singer can really build to something so they’re left running in place. Wade especially wants to build to something so bad and he ends up in a crazy mess. James didn’t take as many risks, so he comes off better.
Winner: James (Yay! While I was rooting for Wade, I respect where James is coming from and expect good things from him. Also, the UN needs to haul Cee Lo Green’s ass to The Hague, because once again he’s been committing war crimes in a battle.)

Team Adam: Nicolle Galyon vs. Mathai – “Love Song”
Ooh! Shouting song! I associate this song with a bunch of drunken spontaneous singalongs from my second year of grad school. That may not translate well to on-pitch performances. Nicolle can really work the human connection thing, while Mathai can punch through the tension with her belting. The winner will be upbeat to the point of just shy of obnoxiousness. The song has a very deep, warm quality too it and the sound of Nicole’s voice might fit better, so I predict a Nicolle win.
Mathai’s having better luck with her runs but as predicted Nicole sounds better when she’s straight up singing. I wish Nicolle brought out more power, especially at the end. I wish Mathai would pace herself so that her big sing-off was more earned. The whole thing hits the skids when they try to harmonize, for it’s about as welcome as Rick Santorum at a Scissor Sisters concert. Wow that was horrendous! It wasn’t enough to kill the performance on its own, but that endeavor as a whole was fair to disappointing.
Winner: Mathai (Meh! She rocked in her audition round but the more I hear her singing the more I fear her voice will combine with Erin Martin’s to break all the glass in the world. If she dials her intensity back she’ll be great!)

Team Xtina: Moses Stone vs. The Line – “Satisfaction”
Oh snap! It’s the battle of the leftovers. If Christina really wanted to do something to challenge both country and hip hop artists, she could have picked something by Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy, or even Everlast. I’m nervous about both artists, since The Line is a duo and gets an unfair advantage, while Moses is novel for a show like this but sounded sloppy in his audition. I’m rooting for Moses, but I predict a Line win since their built-in harmonies will fill out the big loud show that is this song.
You know it’s a good sign of a performance when I can’t bring myself to type anything until the song is done. This has the potential to be one of the best performances this episode. The song was arranged in such a way that both sides got to vamp a little and play to their strengths: The Line got to harmonize a bunch while Moses got a reworked verse and drum break that was conducive to some moderate speed rapping. To their credit, both sides took a few risks and succeeded. Moses actually sang pretty damn well and took Christina’s belting lessons to heart. Both Line members struck out to sing on their own and showed that as they deserve to be here as individual talents, not just as a duo. I was nervous about this one, but props to all performers and Christina Aguilera for a fabulous show!
Winner: Moses (Yay! Again, both sides were great but I’ll take the individual act over the duo anytime. I also want Moses to be the gateway act that gets other rappers interested in competing in reality competitions.)

Team Adam: Karla Davis vs. Orlando Napier – “Easy”
Adam did kind of a cool thing in the practice rounds by acknowledging that his original pick “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates didn’t work for either singer. Rather than letting the performance go on and subjecting us all to a possible shitshow, Adam changed the song to this Commodores number. Neither singer really impressed me in the auditions. Orlando had slurred delivery while Karla got so little time she seemed like cannon fodder. Based on producer screen time allotment, I predict an Orlando win.
At the start of the performance Orlando dominates the track for better or worse. His singing is about as good as Nicole’s this round. The performance gets interesting when Karla gets her moment. Her singing tone is soft and idiosyncratic without being annoying. At her best I want her to cut a few soul singles with Jamie Lidell. Then she tries to hit the high notes and all hopes are dashed. Orlando is worse at straight-up singing, but his belts aren’t cringe-inducing. I hate to come off like Randy Jackson, but I think that if Karla took fewer vocal risks she would have come across better.
Winner: Karla (Yay! She had lower lows, but she shows way more promise than conventional ol’ Orlando. She needs to get a better feel for her range if she wants to make it out of the top 24.)

Team Blake: Jordan Rager vs. Naia Kete – “I’m Yours”
“I’m Yours” is probably one of my least favorite Jason Mraz songs. It’s so damn mellow. Nonetheless, the syncopated singing built into the song might make for a good round. As the practice clips imply, this battle is Naia’s to lose. The hippie vibe in the Mraz original fits perfectly with Naia’s acoustic guitar street performer aesthetic. Jordan could make the song if he could put in a little menace and twang on it, kind of like RaeLynn only earned. Alternately, he could go supertenor, channel his inner “jerk with an acoustic guitar,” and surprise everyone. Nonetheless, I predict a Naia win. She’s like Dia Frampton Part II, and Dia was the top vote getter on Blake’s team last season.
First, props to both Naia and Jordan for some really effective harmonizing! The singers really knew when to push forward and when to support each other. Jordan had a more commanding vocal performance in the verses, as his singing style is richer overall. Still, Naia’s no slouch and where she slips a little on the vocal tip she makes up for on the scatting bridge. When it comes to the reggae folk action, she’s a pro doing her thing.
Winner: Naia (Yay! I was rooting for her, but I concede that Jordan totally got robbed. He tried his best under the circumstances, but based on his 5-second audition package he was probably cannon fodder. Poor guy.)

Team Cee Lo: Tony Vincent vs. Justin Hopkins – “Faithfully”
This could be a great battle. Both Tony and Justin are great belters, and Journey is a great band to belt to, whether it’s a ballad like this or a chugging rocker. Justin has a warmer quality to his singing, so he might be better at connecting with the audience. Tony has stronger pipes can project like whoa, so he’ll win by wowing the crowd and putting them in awe. Justin has fewer obstacles to victory, as it will be easier to Tony to go off the rails into the imaginary chasm of shrillness, so I predict Justin will be the last contestant to make it into the Top 24.
This was the other performance that was so good I couldn’t type anything until both contestants were done. Tony delivered on his potential by wowing the crowd with his passionate singing right before the big arrangement kicked in. What’s more, he made an emotional connection. You see that pained look in his face? That’s love so hard it hurts. I was welling up. Then Justin came on and kicked it like a pro. You could feel the warmth and earnestness in his movements and his belting. He looked so happy to be there singing this song. Fuck…they’re both so damn good! Not since Jessica Sanchez annihilated my expectations covering Whitney Houston on Idol have I been reduced to tears like this.
Winner: Tony (Yay! Hot damn I can’t wait to see what this theater supervillain can do! I really hope Justin goes on to some great things because he needs to keep at it and share his talents! You just may have redeemed yourself for earlier tonight, Cee Lo.)

While this episode wasn’t as good overall as last week’s, it had two superb performances that really engrossed me. As far as team mixes go, here is my ranking, along with whom I’m rooting for on each team.
1. Team Xtina: Ashley, Chris, Lindsey, Moses
2. Team Blake: Erin, Jermaine, Jordis, Naia
3. Team Adam: Katrina, Kim, Pip, Karla
4. Team Cee Lo: Jamar, James, Tony

The battles are over! The voting rounds begin! I’m sure excited, if only because the solo performances might bring with them the Unintentionally Funny Backup Dancer Group. See you next week!

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