The Battles concluded tonight, and while it should have been a time for The Voice to ramp up this season’s energy, I couldn’t muster a celebratory mood (and not just because Morgan Frazier was absolutely robbed — more on that to come). Something has been weighing on my mind, dear readers, but I’ve waited until after the Battles were over to share my suspicions with you. Here they are: Team Gwen is being dealt a bad hand this year. After 10 episodes, it’s become obvious something’s up.
Here’s my beef: 18 Battles were aired over the last two weeks — the other six were montaged. Of those 18 to make it to TV, six belonged to Team Adam. How many featured performances from Team Gwen? Three. Adam’s team ended up with literally twice the airtime as Gwen’s. Each hour-long episode consisted of three Battles, so that’s an entire extra episode of just Team Adam. And it gets worse. Team Adam didn’t have a single Battle montaged this entire season, while Team Gwen had three — that’s fully half of her Team that didn’t get to show America its talent.
Shafting Team Gwen is nothing new this season. During the Blind Auditions, the pattern was the same: Team Adam had just a single audition montaged, while Team Gwen had three. (For the record, none of Team Blake’s singers were montaged during auditions. During the Battles, Team Blake got five aired performances, and Team Pharrell had four. Those are the amounts they still would have gotten were the Battles divided evenly between the four coaches.) When we add it all up, it’s impossible to ignore that Team Gwen just isn’t getting a fair deal. And on a show where contestants’ fates are eventually determined by popular vote, being seen matters. A lot.
I’ll leave the statistics alone for now, but I promise to keep an eye on this situation as the season progresses. Now, on to the final three Battle performances!
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First to share the stage are Amanda Ayala and Shelby Brown of Team Adam. When Amanda arrives in rehearsal and spots John Fogerty, she tells us her mom is a big fan. No further proof is needed that The Voice could stand to get a little hipper. Thank God for Rihanna next week. Actually, just thank God for Rihanna, in general. Adam gives Amanda and Shelby “Edge of Seventeen” by former Voice advisor Stevie Nicks. Both these girls are 17, so it’s a cute enough gimmick, but I always wish the coaches would err more on the side of what’s current in music today, considering today is when these girls could potentially get a record deal, not 1981.
Shelby’s wheelhouse is country, so she knows she’ll have to step up her game to defeat aspiring rock star Amanda. During their Battle, it doesn’t take long to see that determination paying off. Amanda has a grungy tone that’s a good fit for ’80s rock, but it becomes monotonous as the song progresses. Shelby’s voice, sweet and commanding by turn, dominates the performance. Shelby herself seems ready to dominate as well. She has one of the most combative stage presences of the season. Her coach feels that spark, and chooses to let Amanda go.
NEXT: Just one steal left… [pagebreak]
Next up on the Voice stage, Amy Vachal and duo Jubal and Amanda square off. Their coach, Pharrell, recognizes that Amy has a folk edge, while Jubal and Amanda skew country, so he marries the two with…the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody.” Yes, the Bee Gees, beloved champions of disco. But, with an original arrangement, the song works. It just works much better for Jubal and Amanda. Amy’s soft, smoky voice loses much of its flavor when forced into three-part harmony, whereas the duo naturally shines in that setting.
But, the night of the Battle, it’s Amy who ends up stealing Jubal et al.’s thunder. Had the couple, like Andi & Alex, sung in unison the whole way through, they might have won out. Instead, Jubal and Amanda sung as individuals at various points, and neither one of them has a voice as special and different as Amy’s. Special and different are exactly what Pharrell looks for in his contestants, so there was little chance he was going to let Amy go this early anyway.
At this point, Carson’s voiceover steps in to let us know the results of three montaged Battles: Pharrell keeps Darius Scott over Daria Jazmin, Blake chooses Nadjah Nicole over Cole Criske, and Gwen picks Summer Schappell over Hanna Ashbrook.
And just like that, we’re on to the very last Battle of season 9. It’s between Team Blake’s Emily Ann Roberts and Morgan Frazier, two blondes from Tennessee. It’s meant to be the show’s big finish, but some of the suspense is ruined by the fact that Pharrell still has one steal, and he has to use it. Both Emily Ann and Morgan are totally safe.
There were other Battles (Celeste Betton vs. Mark Hood; Braiden Sunshine vs. Lyndsey Elm) where that guaranteed save would have been welcome. But these girls are not as evenly matched as those other pairs. From the start, Emily Ann’s alto sounds thin and ordinary next to Morgan’s rich, effortless voice. Morgan has six years on her teenage competitor, so it’s not exactly a fair fight, but Emily Ann does herself no favors by letting go of notes and not capitalizing on signature moments. After the performance, Blake compares Morgan to Carrie Underwood. But then, the Oakie pulls a fast one, and names Emily Ann the winner, saying, “I have to go with the person I can make the biggest difference with.” Anywho, Morgan barely has time to get her thank yous out before Pharrell is chiming in with his requisite steal. It’s a milquetoast way to end the Battles, but Rihanna’s coming next week, so I ain’t even mad.
- Pharrell is often viewed by both the contestants and the viewers as the most forward-thinking, contemporary coach. Yet, three of his four Battle song selections were from 1967. The other was from 1973.
- In fact, just three of the 18 songs to air during Battles came out in the last decade. Not a single one debuted this year. Did I mention how excited I am for Rihanna to show up next week and breathe some life into this thing?
- Blake’s final bald jokes: Adam got compared to a member of the Blue Man Group and to Mr. Clean.