I loved the first battle last night. Those were two great guys paired together, and of course it was sad to see one go. James Massone has that great “How do you like them apples?” personality, and that storyline of true Boston grit and his family supporting his pursuit of music. And then WADE stole my heart, too. When we met him, he was a real student of music, listening to his iPod the whole day, singing Al Green. A little glimpse behind the scenes: when James and WADE went to rehearse, neither of them could sing “True Colors” at first. Confidence was such an issue with James and WADE at the beginning, and Cee Lo even had to sing the song for them during rehearsal! WADE idolizes Cee Lo, so when he was in that mentorship process with Cee Lo and Babyface, he couldn’t sing in front of them. They had him get his confidence up by turning him around and having him sing “Love and Happiness” by Al Green towards the wall. That’s how they started working it out with him.
And the battle, of course, brought Cee Lo to tears. That was a great moment in the show that I think shows how much our coaches really care about each person on their team, and how difficult it is to make these tough decisions about cutting people. Cee Lo’s not a guy who’s going to show that much emotion unless it’s 100 percent pure and organic, but he did last night. It was a great way to start the show, and a real testament to how difficult it is for the coaches to cut their teams. Our coaches are so into this show for all the right reasons, and sometimes it shows up like it did last night, in the form of Cee Lo crying. You just can’t make that stuff up.
Mathai and Nicolle Galyon were an interesting pairing. Behind the scenes, Nicolle thought she was going to get paired with Karla Davis, who was more of a country vocalist, or Orlando Napier, who’s also a piano player like her, so Nicolle was shocked when she got paired with Mathai. I don’t think that shock was captured in the episode. Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” was a good selection, and she’s a friend of Adam’s, so he had a special connection with the song and wanted the girls to do their best. The whole thing with the piano was interesting. The piano’s been a crutch to Nicolle, and Adam just yanked her security blanket away from her — and it was a welcome challenge, because she really wanted to push herself and prove that she’s a great singer and not just stuck in the pedals. Even though Mathai won, it was definitely close. I love the story of Mathai, by the way, because I think a lot of young people can relate to the relationship she has with her parents. When I met Mathai, she was a nursing student and her parents were not particularly happy that this was the career she had chosen. They were optimistically cautious to see how far this little TV-show pipe-dream of hers could go. But then she went out and killed her blind audition, made three chairs turned around, and now she’s working with Alanis Morissette and winning her battle round. You could see that change of excitement in her parents, and I think that’s such a great storyline that’s playing out that a lot of people can relate to.
Christina surprised everybody when she decided to pair up our first MC in Moses Stone with the country duo THE LiNE. It’s obviously rare to see country and hip-hop collaborate, but it definitely made for the most unique battle of the night. Moses has great stage presence already, so I think this battle was about Christina wanting to push Moses to tap into his vocal ability, and Lionel Richie helped him prepare for that. Moses wanted to show that it’s not all about the voice, and after the blind auditions, other things do in fact start coming into play: the mentoring, working with coaches, and showing off your style in the live shows. He knows how to win the crowd, so we’ll see how far that can take him. After the battle, Hailey from THE LiNE was not happy, and what you saw on TV was exactly the mood backstage. They both wanted it badly, and THE LiNE left it all out there during the performance, so she didn’t want to be interviewed afterwards, and rightfully so. It was a tough battle and a tough loss, and I wish them nothing but the best.
NEXT: Karla and Orlando, Justin and Tony and a tease for next week
It was fun seeing Karla Davis working with Alanis Morissette. Again, until that mentoring process, she didn’t even know what she was capable of. There was a great moment there when, with just a little bit of help, she was able to achieve something in her voice that she’d never been able to achieve before. Originally, she and Orlando Napier were going to do “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates, but Orlando didn’t know the song, and ultimately it just wasn’t working, so they switched. I thought that was great because that’s essentially Adam saying, “I’m not trying to throw you under the bus; I want you to feel good about this song choice.” For those of you who think it’s a TV show where everything’s set in stone, that’s just the way Team Adam works. With typical rock star moves, Adam’s trying to push the piano off the stage for Nicolle Galyon, and here he is changing this song on the fly for Orlando and Karla. If it’s not going one way, then hey, there’s plenty of other options!
Team Blake’s final battle was interesting. Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” is such a fitting song for Naia Kete, but so fish-out-of-water for Jordan Rager. Jordan really had to study the song, so it was a real uphill battle for him. But I have to say, I thought he did a tremendous job from when they first started tinkering with it to when they actually went into the battle round. Naia, meanwhile, exudes a lot of traits that Blake has historically liked, with that unique female singer-songwriter sound. If there was a rumor that Blake only picks people with cowboy hats, he definitely blasted that rumor out of the water last night with Naia. I’m curious to see where else she can go. Naia’s done some songs that are definitely in her wheelhouse, but in the live shows, you’ll get to see who steps up to the plate and who pushes themselves vocally, so it’s going to be fun to see what the boundaries of Naia’s voice are.
Team Cee Lo of course bookended the show with an epic battle between Justin Hopkins and Tony Vincent. This is one of Cee Lo’s all time favorite songs, and he got emotional again when he heard Justin and Tony rehearse, which I loved. This was really Cee Lo’s episode. It’s so refreshing to see that our coaches take this thing seriously and put their hearts and souls into these contestants. Justin and Tony have very different styles, but Justin sang his heart out, and I thought they surprisingly complemented each other very well. It’s been awesome to see how far Justin has come since being in the Last Call house band, and I’m so proud of him, but it was a tough decision for Cee Lo. He has a track record of going into the live shows with people who can really own a stage and be theatrical, and Tony’s definitely in that stable of artists that Cee Lo can showcase in big numbers. I mean, we call Cee Lo “Loberace,” like Liberace, for a reason. He’s the ultimate showman. Someone like Tony gives Cee Lo’s team an edge, but had this been Team Adam or Team Blake, the outcome could and probably would have been different. But overall, an epic battle to close out the battle rounds, and Tony moves on to sing another day.
And now… we hit the live shows! I was in a wardrobe fitting yesterday, I’m gonna wear a suit, I’m gonna wear a tie! I’m excited. April’s going to be the busiest month of my life, but I’m personally so psyched for it. The things that I do… I’m a radio DJ, and I talk live into a microphone every minute, and I created a show called Total Request Live, and that was me, live, on MTV for an hour every single day for over five years, so the live world of television is my comfort zone! The Voice has been new territory for me up until this point, so I’m ready for everybody to come into the live shows and see what happens. The music’s going to be great, the staging’s going to be bigger than ever, the set looks incredible. There’s an energy to the live shows that’s unparalleled. I think the 24 artists that we have are some of the most dynamic, unique and strong vocalists that have ever been on a singing competition. It’s going to be emotional, and it’s going to be highly unpredictable. There’s a confidence about these 24 that’s almost eerie. I’m interested to see how it all goes down in the live venue, especially when somebody has to go home, but I think we’re about to see the talent just start to soar.
(As told to Marc Snetiker)