Twice the celebrity coaches and twice the vocalists: The Blinds are transitioning into Battles on The Voice, and have they mentioned that Meghan Trainor cried? Well, she did. And good for her, because we’re about to get down to some really moving stuff—both of the party and emotional variety, resulting in a doubly entertaining episode of The Voice. I know some fans don’t like the Battle rounds because they can seem a little unfair to talented contestants who get poorly matched, but for me, the Steals alleviate a lot of the flaws in the system; if they can’t make it through the Battles, even with the second chance aspect of the other coaches’ steals, then they probably weren’t going to be able to make it anyway.
And with two steals in effect tonight, you know they were pulling out a lot of the heavy hitters for the premiere of the Battle Rounds—but first!—the finale of the Blind Auditions. Did they really need that two-hour recap episode last Wednesday? Definitely not, but who cares, I kind of liked the first round of auditions rolling straight into the second round of auditions; it kind of made it seem like the coaches change their clothes from day to day for the first time in Voice history. And according to Carson, this is “the greatest night of the season,” so let’s get down to it (and subsequently be prepared to be utterly disappointed by the next 10 weeks)…
THE FINAL BLIND AUDITIONS
Nathan Hermida, 17; “Sure Thing”
Nathan is a geeky high schooler (you know this because he wears glasses and his cool, print shirt buttoned all the way to the top) who thinks his sound might surprise everyone… and it does! It takes quite a bit of suave to pull off a Miguel song and Nathan has the chops, with the guitar skills and extra-pop twist to differentiate his tone. Adam and Christina fight it out for him, and even though Christina tells him his rhythm is seductive, Adam’s promise to make him the centerpiece of his team wins him over: TEAM ADAM
Paul Pfau, 26; “Fly Me to the Moon”
Paul has a last name that I want to say like a comic book exclamation; and, according to his mom, he used to be a pretty bad singer. But he decided he wanted to be a good singer, worked it out, and brought his pop rock style with a crooner mentality to the stage tonight. He also brought a demo that he was too nervous to deliver to Adam when he met him 10 years ago, but can deliver tonight because, while Adam was out of chair spins, Pharrell won Paul over by being ready to take on the “scary” aspect of his broad-ranging genres. TEAM PHARRELL
Vance Smith, 22; “Reach Out I’ll Be There”
Vance is an incredibly cute young man from Detroit with a killer smile who calls his single mom his super hero… he’s got the whole package even if his vocal delivery could use the refining hand of a fine coach. Some of it could be that the Four Tops are hard to cover on your own, but Vance definitely showed potential, and nailed his final note, spinning Pharrell and Christina’s chairs at the last second. The full-body roll he takes around the stage in excitement is confirmation that positive spirit that won Christina over on his vocal: TEAM CHRISTINA
Catilin Caporale, 23
I’m with Pharrell and rarely am able to handle those quivering-arm-in-the-air runs that are some diva belters bread and butter, but also like him, I thought Caitlin sailed right past overdone and into undeniably impressive territory. It was a risk to sing Christina’s own tune but when you can sing it as well as Xtina herself, why not? It was actually a little tough to focus on Caitlin’s audition vocal because the camera was zooming around the judges so much, but once Christina invited her down to her chair for a duet (since her team was full and she wished she could have drafted Caitlin herself), she showed off a crazy range with effortless power to back it up. TEAM PHARRELL
Hannah Kirby, 20; “The Letter”
Hannah is a whole of anomalies, and I don’t mean that she likes to play video games in her spare time. She speaks like a country artist, looks like a theater kid, and belts it out like an 80 power rocker. Hannah says herself that she’s all about raw power, and she isn’t kidding—she has a unique, raspy quality that is all power, and just in need of some fine-tuning to enhance her sound instead of piling on top of it. There was only coach left and he was the right one for Hannah: TEAM BLAKE
NEXT: Now That’s What I Call Battles, Part I…[pagebreak]
This was simply a great introduction to the Battle Rounds, with enough grit, power, and emotion to elicit two steals, one teary pop star, and at least six coach insights that peer directly into the contestants’ souls.
Ashley Morgan vs. Mia Z (winner), TEAM PHARRELL; “Put the Gun Down”
Pharrell has Lionel Richie helping him out with his team this season, and they both immediately hone in the pairs’ dynamics: While Mia Z has natural charisma when she performs, she lacks vocal technique, whereas Ashley has the opposite problem—this isn’t the first time she’s been told that her training is holding her back. But, as the good ones always do, both ladies work out their challenges and deliver a spectacular vocal extravaganza: Ashley comes out looking and performing like someone who’s ready to take center stage and Mia works her unique tone from all new angles, and one we’ve heard before: that crazy high whistle tone. The naturally antagonistic nature of the ZZ Ward tune makes for a perfect vocal sparring match, and even though Ashley doesn’t miss a note, Mia’s stage presence wins out.
But! STEAL: Ashley earns all three other judges’ Steal buttons and is a proud new member of TEAM CHRISTINA
Tonya Boyd-Cannon (winner) vs. James McNeice, TEAM ADAM; “P.Y.T.”
We never really met James during the Blinds as a result of the dreaded montage, and we don’t really get much of a chance to now, either. It’s just hard to go up against the sheer force and power that is Tonya. James sure did his best though, with guest coach Ellie Goulding giving him the pro-tip that smiling helps to not strain when reaching for the big notes. As Christina said, James pulled out every trick he had to “repeat after me” on “P.Y.T.” but Tonya, her huge notes, impeccable taste in blazers, and natural ease on stage, took Adam’s advice to work on her rhythm, and dominated the stage with a smile on her face.
Brian Johnson (winner) vs. Joshua Davis, TEAM BLAKE; “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
The pairing of vocals was like watching an episode of Parenthood: You know they’re trying to make you cry, but you don’t care because it just feels right. Brian sounds like pure pop and Joshua channels classic folk-blues, but they both have voices that evoke an emotional response as soon as you hear them: Blake’s co-coach, Meghan Trainor, nails it when she says Joshua’s “tone is ridiculous,” and Brian’s “soul is outstanding.” They have a little trouble mastering their harmonies at first, but when they hit the stage, it’s a sweet, smooth ride to the finish on a stripped down version of the Bob Dylan classic. Their voices are evenly matched but totally different, leading Blake to choose Brian with the knowledge that Joshua is in for a big ol’…
STEAL! Joshua is that sweet, soulful family man that Adam so loves, and hopefully they’re the perfect match because Adam presses his button and sprints up to the stage to claim Joshua for TEAM ADAM before anyone else can even consider it.
What did you think of the first Battle Rounds? Are the five—count ‘em!—victorious winners and steals heading into the next round potential finalists? Potential winners?!