The Battle Rounds of The Voice make up my favorite portion of the show’s (overly drawn-out) elimination process. It’s during these weeks that we get to learn what all the sparkly new singers can really do, before they’ve had a chance to grow repetitive or for obvious front-runners to emerge. Going head-to-head on one song is also the closest we’ll come to a fair comparison between different performers.
There are two kinds of standout Battles: The first is when two contestants forego the camera-ready, lovey-dovey schlock on stage and actually square off against each other. We didn’t see anyone really gunning for their competition tonight. But we did get to experience the other type of exceptional Battle: Two singers sounding like they were always meant to perform together.
The first pairing of the night went to Team Adam’s powerhouses, Jordan Smith and Regina Love. In promoting itself, The Voice often tips its hand. Jordan was the contestant who, during the premiere, was given the Very Special Blind Audition (the audience couldn’t see who was performing). It’s doubtful the show would have made such a fuss over Jordan if he were to be sent packing the very next round.
Adam’s advisor is John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Regina is pleased to meet the man who wrote “Proud Mary.” She and Jordan take on Sam Smith’s “Like I Can,” a song that’s a natural fit for Jordan’s higher voice. Adam tells both his charges their challenge will be to find the emotional center of their song. During their performance, it’s Jordan who’s able to better follow this advice. Regina retains all her gospel-y goodness, and though beautiful, each line sounds heavy and takes a little too much effort. It’s a tough call, but Adam chooses to keep Jordan on his team. Regina has nothing to worry about, though. She gets stolen by Gwen.
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Next up are country crooners Tyler Dickerson and Zach Seabaugh of Team Blake, who are assigned “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” by Travis Tritt. Tyler obviously knows the song better than Zach, and Blake warns him not to get lazy just because he’s in familiar territory. His advisor, Brad Paisley, agrees. Tyler has years of experience performing, whereas, at 16, Zach is just getting into the business. At the end of their first rehearsal, Blake admits Tyler has the edge on this one.
But during their performance, it’s a different story. Zach comes out swinging, his passion evident in the care he takes with his verse. Tyler, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be trying particularly hard. He loses steam as he goes, and by the end Zach is showing his partner up. During the judges’ comments, Adam calls Tyler out, saying he threw away some notes. Blake gives the win to Zach.
Following Tyler and Zach come Ellie Lawrence and Tim Atlas of Team Gwen. Tim’s audition was one of the six that we skipped, so this is the first time the audience gets to hear him sing. He and Ellie have remarkably similar voices: modern and raspy, with an edge. But as similar as they sound, they couldn’t look more different during rehearsal. Ellie has a big, bold presence, and Tim, who’s used to playing backing guitar, has difficulty making himself stand out. Gwen forces him to ditch the guitar and teaches him a few classic Stefani poses. Bam, he’s suddenly a rock star. (Compliments from Gwen’s advisor, Selena Gomez, don’t hurt either.)
During their Battle, they duet on The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather,” and Ellie maintains her advantage. She’s louder, and her vocals are more compelling. Gwen goes with her girl, but Pharrell steals Tim, who lives to sing another day.
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