What do you do when the first two installments of your new singing show earn record ratings? If you’re NBC, the answer is simple: In Episode 3, change the show’s format completely and shuffle it into a later time slot. Tonight, we bid both the blind auditions and the 9-10PM hour adieu as The Voice began its next stage — the Battle Rounds. In this heat, each coach pairs two teammates and challenges them to perform a duet. When the music stops, the coach must decide which singer stays and which one is sent packing. Battles will continue until Cee Lo, Christina, Blake, and Adam have each cut their teams in half.
After the excitement and novelty of the audition rounds, I was worried that Stage 2 of The Voice would feel dull by comparison. Luckily, Tuesday’s show proved that even when they’re not pushing those big red buttons, The Voice‘s coaches are a lot of fun to watch — and the artists they’ve chosen are seriously talented. Evidently, the series should be able to keep viewers interested even after dispensing with its best-known gimmick… though I do wonder whether the additional celebrity mentors are truly necessary. Maybe they’ll make a bigger impression in weeks to come, but as of now, I’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint what any of the four new faces added to The Voice.
The show’s first hour-long broadcast was split into four segments, each of which followed two vocalists as they prepared to perform before the Voice tribunal. We began with Team Christina, which might as well be called Team Diva (And Justin Grennan). The star started things off with a bang by asking Frenchie Davis and Tarralyn Ramsey — two women with the combined vocal power of a dozen gospel choirs — to trade verses of “Single Ladies.” Though Tarralyn claimed to be a Frenchie fan, there was clearly tension between the two from the moment they were matched. As La Davis passive-aggressively put it, while Tarralyn “attacks” everything she sings, “I’m more focused on tone, pitch, and face.” Saucer of milk, Table 2!
Tarralyn and Frenchie’s rehearsal footage was pretty great, mostly because it featured Christina belting out the first few lines of Beyoncé’s song and then replacing “don’t pay him any attention” with “bah-bah-whatever-the-words-are.” (“I never worry about the words,” she later cracked.) Coach Aguilera told her protegees to really punch the notes, but still have fun with the song.
And the resulting performance was fun — though at times, both divas sounded alternately shrieky and breathless. Tarralyn, who admitted that she had been holding back during rehearsals so that she could catch Frenchie off guard, overcompensated (especially at the end of the first verse) by trying to sing too high. Frenchie, in turn, blew a big note at the beginning of the song’s bridge.
All in all, I thought Tarralyn gave a better performance — though her lows were lower than Frenchie’s, her highs were also higher, and she sounded much more confident toward the end of the song. I also loved the way she refused to stop singing, eking out one last run even as the audience began to applaud. Alas, Christina disagreed; after conferring with her guest mentor Sia, she elected to keep the ex-Idoler over Tarralyn. At least T got some consolation in the form of a tweet that briefly appeared onscreen. She’s a #fighter indeed, Xtina.
NEXT: And I keep burning, keep, keep burning love