A lot of The Voice‘s round three battles are a collective exercise in plucking away the low-hanging fruit of each coach’s team trees, and they’re not exactly subtle about it, either. By doling out lopsided song assignments that virtually ensure the early favorites will advance over the so-so blinds selectees, the coaches’ apparent plan goes off without a hitch … well mostly. There are a couple of stragglers who manage to beat all expectations and earn a steal, but overall, tonight’s leg of the pre-live shows felt rife with outcome predetermination.
Here’s who’s headed to the knockouts from tonight’s batch of battles and why.
Team Adam: Johnny Rez vs. Nolan Neal
“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel
If it weren’t for the fact that it does some small service to the rich rasp Nolan Neal displayed in his audition, this song would be absolutely inexcusable for this kind of duet play. For starters, it’s probably only ringing bells of familiarity with the extreme ’80s junkies of the crowd all — two of them. Plus, it’s really, really quirky and way too chaotic for these guys to attach any real inflection or personality in their performances without ramping up that inevitable oversell factor. Without Peter Gabriel’s signature sound and the synthetic accompaniment of the recording studio, this thing’s a mess with two distinct voices trading it back and forth between them with zero harmony to speak of between them.
Johnny Rez and Nolan Neal each do their best with this lemon, but there was just no saving it for either fella. Nolan deserves the win, based on his microscopic edge tonight, but this tune was kind of like the busy work you’d get on a substitute teacher day in middle school — slight on substance, heavy in time-killer filler, and thrown right in the garbage after it’s done.
Winner: Nolan Neal
Team Miley: Darby Walker vs. Karlee Metzger
“Brand New Key” by Melanie
Miley Cyrus also gave her first battlers of the day a downright doozy when she stuck them with this bonkers number that really has no business being covered anywhere outside of some hipster commercial or the hold music of a low-rent cable company. Darby does try to carry over her little Florence Welch impersonation bit into the hectic number, and it’s good enough for Miley to land on keeping her, but Karlee at least tried to turn this song into something better than it was. Blake heard what he needed to wisely tap his steal button and give her a well-deserved shot at the country genre instead of whatever just happened to her with this song (as Adam puts it, “that was the Miley-est thing ever”), and chances are, she’ll fare a lot better with him in the knockouts round than here with whatever Miley’s trying to do here — so much for her acquisition pitch of being the epic song selector of the season. Hook this woman up with a Sara Evans jam and let the girl live, Blake!
Winner: Darby Walker
Steal: Karlee Metzger to Team Blake
NEXT: That feeling when they both deserve to win …[pagebreak]
Team Blake: Blaine Long vs. Josh Gallagher
“Stranger In My House” by Ronnie Milsap
Blaine Long was promising enough during the blinds auditions, but whatever magic he was working with back then couldn’t be duplicated for a second cover effort. He writes his own music and doesn’t have every note memorized verbatim the way his competitor here does, Josh Gallagher really isn’t hiding the fact that he’s doing his darndest to become the audio doppelganger of George Strait, and tonight, it works well enough to earn him the checkered flag for this race considering he was practically born to sing the assigned country rock song (another chin-scratcher, that).
Blake chooses Josh because he can imagine hearing him on the radio, but maybe the reason that’s happening is because Josh is a practical carbon copy of a dozen who already are. Josh really might want to start thinking outside of the jukebox for his next number to bring something new to audiences if he ever does decide to stand apart from the pop country crop.
Winner: Josh Gallagher
Team Alicia: Josh Halverson vs. Kylie Rothfield
“House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals
The Voice isn’t a team sport by any means, and it’s likely no one could’ve predicted that these two, of all the people on this show, would mesh so well together, but they do. They’ve got that The Civil Wars dynamism and darkness going on in their duet and harmonize extraordinarily well. Plus, they’ve both got this self-possession and intensity about their individual notes, and so they’re able to handle — interestingly so, in some parts — what Adam describes as a “song [that] is as tall an order as it gets” and leave people ready for more. They both deserved to win, really, especially compared to some of the other shows of the night, so this steal-save was the right call.
Winner: Kylie Rothfield
Steal: Josh Halverson to Team Miley
NEXT: Blake’s team gets an ear-bleeder …[pagebreak]
Team Blake: Christian Fermin vs. Gabe Broussard
“The Reason” by Hoobastank
Guys, he gave them a Hoobastank song. HOOBASTANK. Not since Jessica Simpson’s “I Wanna Love You Forever” has the pop scene ever produced something so ear-piercingly unfit for repetition. Based on the painful rehearsal process, both guys are riding the struggle bus right onto the stage with this one, but they manage to clean it up a little before show time. Bette Midler tells them that the key to making the song work is showing the audience ~the reason~ for its meaning (anyone else feeling nauseous during that bit?) through their performance. Gabe wins it because he’s not as inconsistent as Christian, but let’s be honest; the real losers of this round were all the viewers who had to endure five whole minutes of that mess. WHY.
Winner: Gabe Broussard
Team Miley: Aaron Gibson vs. Sa’Rayah
“I’ll Take Care of You” by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart
Aaron Gibson’s got a great sound for the Dave Matthews Band faithful and all, but this is the Sa’Rayah show all night long, folks. If she looks like a star and she sounds like a star, she’s probably a star. It’s not that Aaron’s bad; quite the contrary, he sounds decent for those few and far between moments where can actually be heard above Sa’Rayah’s stadium-filling sound.
Maybe Miley suspects Aaron could be another fast food-ish favorite like Phillip Phillips from American Idol; maybe Miley actually knows that Sa’Rayah’s better suited for Alicia Keys’ team and made a backdoor trade deal with her before the performance (they’ve hinted that they do discuss these match-ups ahead of time, so ya never know); or maybe she just dozed off from focusing on Aaron’s repetitive background performance here and lost track of what was actually happening on the stage just now. Whatever the reason, Sa’Rayah’s going to be in better hands on Team Alicia, so she gets a whole different kind of victory tonight.
Winner: Aaron Gibson
Steal: Sa’Rayah to Team Alicia
Team Blake dropped Tarah Layne after a bout with Dana Harper because he preferred the latter’s lower register work. Meanwhile, Belle Jewel survived a turn in the ring with Halle Tomlinson with some gothy rendition of “Benny and the Jets” (the HORROR), and Adam Levine hung onto Simone Gundy over Jsoul because she just had a little more magic to offer everybody in her battle.
Team Adam — Riley Elmore, Billy Gilman, Brendan Fletcher, Bindi Liebowitz, Simone Gundy, Nolan Neal, Ponciano Seoane III, Jason Warrior, Dave Moisan
Team Alicia — Wé McDonald, Christian Cuevas, Gabriel Violett, Michael Sanchez, Shannon and Whitney, Belle Jewel, Kylie Rothfield, Courtnie Ramirez, Sa’Rayah
Team Blake — Sundance Head, Dana Harper, Gabe Broussard, Josh Gallagher, Austin Allsup, Preston James, Courtney Harrell, Karlee Metzger
Team Miley — Darby Walker, Ali Caldwell, Sophia Urista, Aaron Gibson, Maye Thomas, Josette Diaz, Lauren Diaz, Josh Halverson
Tastiest coaching ribs of the night:
Adam: That was like the Miley-est thing ever.
Bette Midler: Blaine [Long] looked like an unmade bed.
Blake (to Josh Halverson): The look on your face is so good for a gunfight.
Adam (to Alicia Keys about Sa’Rayah): You didn’t say two words and she was already crying; Blake’s chances are so bad.