They’re getting it right—they’re really getting it right this season. The judges, no matter which collection of four, have said season after season that they’re looking for the most “interesting” voices. Many times, that just means they pick artists with quirky voices or a very specific look/genre/vibe. This year, they’re going with performers with potential, and it seems Pharrell, Christina, Adam, and Blake are making almost all the right moves with their choices and steals. At this point, it’s hard to keep up with everyone who’s flowed from the Blinds, to the Battles, and next, the Knockouts, but I think we’ll like what we see when we get there.
There is nothing like and underdog story and tonight’s round of Battles featured not one, but two singers who seemed completely overmatched when they headed into rehearsals, and came onstage to vocally equal their behemoth Battle partners and give us two of the best performances of the season. And two more Steals! Those especially evenly matched Battles had the coaches waffling even more than usual, and made us have to hear Carson Daly say this: “America, go pee, and we’ll be right back with Pharrell’s decision.”
Here was Pharrell’s decision: “We need a show. This is the jungle. This is The Voice.” Welcome to the jungle…
TEAM PHARRELL: Briar Jonnee vs. Caitlin Caporale (winner), “Fallin’”
I recall from their blind auditions that both of these young women were trying to get away from boring jobs and towns in favor of a music careers, but they certainly both already looked the part when they showed up to their Battle round. Both of their voices offered up huge pop star potential as well, but Briar was all nerves when she first started singing for Pharrell and Lionel Richie. Richie tells them it will come down to who can stand the pressure, and with Caitlin’s ability to ease in and out of the huge power of her voice, that turns out to be her. Though Briar showed a lot of growth in her time with Pharrell, he sees Caitlin as a potentially great R&B artist.
TEAM ADAM: Barry Minniefield (winner) vs. Jack Gregori, ‘Feelin’ Alright’
I wouldn’t mind if Barry and Jack just took this mismatched Blues Brothers thing on the road (and considering the relative lack of enthusiasm Adam showed for this Battle, they might be better off for it). I recall hearing Jack sing “Ring of Fire” for his audition and wondering if he could sing anything else. He seemed to wonder that a little himself in rehearsals, but with a little pushing, leveled up to Barry’s energy and range. These two were both stone cold professional performers onstage, but Barry’s infectious soul beat out Jack’s unique country tone.
TEAM CHRISTINA: Katelyn Read vs. Treeva Gibson (winner), “Addicted to Love”
I’m going to go ahead and blame this battle not being quite as good as it could have been on Christina’s song choice. The song itself didn’t see particularly well-suited to either Katelyn or Treeva’s sweet, melodic voices, but asking them to do the Florence and the Machine rendition was probably just a little too much of a challenge for the novice singers this early in the game. And while they don’t quite reach the haunting effect Christina was hoping for, they both showed off the unique tones of their voices, with Katelyn’s controlled whispery sounds losing out to Treeva’s more dynamic range.
NEXT: Two teenage girls willingly sing Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” over Iggy Azaelia’s “Fancy,” and we count that as a Voice win…[pagebreak]
TEAM PHARRELL: Kimberly Nichole vs. Lowell Oakley (winner), “Hound Dog”
I was sold on Kimberly and her tutus and her ferocity from the first minute of her Blind audition, but I was less moved by Lowell’s original crooner performance. But tonight, they both revealed that they have a lot more in them; Kimberly showed that she basically has a bottomless well of pop rock vocals, and Lowell showed that he knows (or at least he knows now) how to get down. From the moment that Lionel Richie reminds them that “Hound Dog” wasn’t originally sung by Elvis, but Big Mama Thornton, it’s clear that this is Kimberly’s vocal to win. And, indeed, Pharrell and Lionel barely give her a single note; but they have plenty for Lowell…and he takes every single one of them, serving up more grit, growl and attitude than anyone would have assumed he had inside his crooner persona.
As this was the #45MinuteBattleRound, it’s clear that Pharrell was spending the time (that we were supposed to spend peeing) hedging his bets on Lowell’s potential versus Kimberly’s sure-thing vocal ability. He went with Lowell, hoping that they’d both end up back on his team together again, but I don’t know if Team Christina (STEAL!) is going to be letting Kimberly go that easily.
TEAM BLAKE: Brenna Yaeger vs. Kelsie May (winner), “Fancy”
These two teenagers are about as country as they come, and Blake gives them an appropriately classic, but especially challenging, country song to match. He said Reba would tell you herself it’s nearly impossible to perform, and Brenna makes it no secret that she’s struggling to keep up with the speed and rhythm of the lyrics. Kelsie May’s tone fits more naturally into the melody, but they both struggle a bit with the pace of the song onstage. They both have great potential as (very) young country starlets though, so it ultimately comes down to who’s more “cawn-fa-dent” onstage, and that was Kelsie “Little Loretta” May.
TEAM CHRISTINA: Clinton Washington vs. India Carney, “Stay”
Wow, Christina is really looking to get that win this year, huh? While there have been some excellent vocal performances in the Battle rounds so far, Clinton and India’s has been one of the few that grabbed me on an even more complex level. My heart was beating, my brow was furrowed, I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out if these two people were falling in or out of love while singing Rihanna. Or, more likely, just putting on a hell of a show.
And I—along with the other three non-Christina coaches—certainly wasn’t expecting that, as I’d only had about a five-second glimpse of Clinton in a montage up until he entered the rehearsal room with Christina and Nick Jonas. And as soon as he opened his mouth, I wondered why. He clearly doesn’t have the training that India does, but he has a raw sound and natural charisma onstage that proved the perfect counterpart to her pitch-perfect tone. India showed great restraint in not going for a big note or run every time she could have, and it paid off in the perfect pacing of this technically on point performance. Both singers looked like pop stars, with Clinton in his print blazer and India in her red jumpsuit…can they both get roles on Nashville or something?! It’s not outside of the realm of possibility, because once Christina chose India, Adam and Pharrell both clamored for their buttons to STEAL Clinton, but the soulful fellow showed little hesitation in selecting TEAM ADAM.
Is Christina building a team to take it all this year? Is Pharrell continuing to give away his best players or will choosing the ones who he has “more to work on with” pay off in the end? And finally, can Blake start every show with a round of tender forehead kisses for all the other judges?