In tonight’s most mind-blowing battle, the season’s first Blind auditioner went up against the season’s last auditioner and it was like they were belting into a 15-year-spanning mirror—The Voice does a lot of things well, but somehow creating a narrative within a show where people cover songs and say “this is my last chance” for 16 straight weeks is hands-down its specialty. And I think the new story line this year is that these coaches just love this show and the beautiful art of music so damn much that they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the most talented contestants in the competition.
At least Pharrell does, or so he seemed to be saying at the top of the show and demonstrating with his semi-selfless Battle picks that resulted in steals for the contestants he cut loose. It always takes away some of the drama when NBC flashes the big Clip Art 3-D “STEAL” letters across the screen before we go to commercial, but the coaches make it so obvious when they plan to steal someone (whether it’s one-someone or either-someone) that it’s not exactly a spoiler either. Gone are the days of keeping the Battle contestant everyone is coveting, and here are the new, Pharrell-infused days of letting go of the one you know can find a home on another coach’s team.
Actually, that’s nonsense, Pharrell is totally on his own on that altruistic spiritual island—it does earn him promising contestants like Hannah Kirby though—because as Blake and Adam proved in the final moments of the show, they’ll do whatever it takes to get the contestants they think will win, including pointing out that the other coach tends to foster a team of high-achieving losers, and telling the contestants their trying to woo that other coaches (who also happen to be their longtime friends) never wanted them in the first place. All in the name of cultivating musical talent!
No matter the drafting style, this season of The Voice is turning out to have talent in abundance. After a solid lineup last night, tonight’s show once again featured almost entirely impressive performances from start to finish…
Anthony Riley (winner) vs. Travis Ewing, TEAM PHARRELL; “Get Ready”
It’s interesting that this battle opened the show, as it was one of the tamer of the night, but Anthony and Travis’ talent cannot be denied. “Get Ready” is obviously right in Anthony’s wheelhouse, and Travis is concerned about being able to compete, but also thinks Anthony might not try as hard since he’s so used to singing this song. Indeed, Lionel Richie immediately hones in on a little too much confidence coming from Anthony, telling him, “If you’re really good, they’ll tell ya…don’t you ever tell them.” To me, it seemed like Lionel was pretty Team Travis throughout the rehearsal process, but after an evenly matched vocal performance with plenty of stage presence, Pharrell settled on Anthony. Perhaps because he knew…
STEAL! Blake told Travis all along that he was what made the duet a battle, never letting the style of the song get the best of him, and that’s what earned him the fighter’s spot on TEAM BLAKE
Ameera Delandro vs. Sonic (winner), TEAM CHRISTINA; “Masterpiece”
Ameera, a montage player from the Blinds, is open about her nerves from the beginning, and Sonic worries about the hearing impairment in her one ear keeping her from being able to sing well with a partner—and indeed, those are both things they struggle with in rehearsals on this pretty vocally tricky Jessie J. song. But Christina and guest coach Nick Jonas emphasize that this song is all about empowerment, and it’s obvious by the end of their performance that Sonic has most embodied that strength and confidence onstage. Not to mention, she nails the harmonies she worked so hard on and her unique tone was much more consistent here than it was in her original audition.
Hannah Kirby vs. Sarah Potenze (winner) TEAM BLAKE; “Gimme Shelter”
Oh boy—what a battle! I understand that Hannah and Sarah inhabit a similar space, but I can’t believe that Blake would be willing to give one of them up by facing them off against each other. He probably just wasn’t expecting Hannah to step so far up to the plate. Sarah is a Nashville veteran with a voice that could blow off Pharrell’s biggest hat, but her challenge in this classic song with lots of peaks and valleys was to not strong arm her way through the whole thing, while Hannah had to draw on her range in order to not be overpowered. And she did! And she did! This is the battle to keep rewinding, especially for that moment when Hannah—a truly unpredictable stage presence—bustled back over to Sarah from halfway across the stage to match her on a note. At the end, I wasn’t exactly sure what I had seen, but I was inexplicably out of breath.
NEXT: Nashville connections run deep…