The coaches continue paring down their teams -- but this time, they bring Radiohead into the mix.

By Hillary Busis
April 14, 2015 at 11:33 PM EDT
Lewis Jacobs/NBC
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After a lukewarm hour featuring a quartet of predictable battles, The Voice came back with a vengeance Tuesday. While I didn’t agree with several of the choices the coaches made in tonight’s episode, at least the duets themselves were exciting — although once again, none of them reached the high that was Vicci vs. Niki. Maybe that’ll change when the battle rounds finally come to a close next week. In the meantime, I’m not worried; any show that has contestants who can convincingly sing everything from Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” to Radiohead’s “Creep” is clearly doing something right.

The battles began with another Team Christina diva-off — only this time, the divas in question were more like divettes. The former pop tart pitted 16-year-old Raquel Castro — a.k.a. the Jersey Girl — against 18-year-old Julia Eason. She then announced that the two would be singing Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World,” which was pretty hilarious, conceptually speaking. (Sample lyrics: “Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world / Like I’m the only one that you’ll ever love / …Like I’m the only one that’s in command.” Yes, this is clearly a song meant to be sung by two people.) After they learned the tune, Xtina met with Julia and Raquel individually and regaled us with these words of wisdom: “Before a show, I literally sometimes want to puke or pee my pants. Yes, I just said that on TV.” Never change, you dirrty girl!

The performance itself got off to a shaky start — neither girl could really hit the low notes in “Only Girl”‘s first verse. And though things definitely improved as the pair warmed up, both singers often sounded strained; neither one sang nearly as effortlessly as The Voice‘s best artists. On the whole, I’d say that Julia gave the more powerful vocal, even though her pitch was often all over the place (and even though her constant dramatic chest-clutching was seriously getting on my nerves). Raquel, by contrast, was good but not great; her voice was fine, but it seemed thin when juxtaposed against Julia’s.

The coaches saw things differently. Cee Lo and Adam both declared Raquel the winner of the match. Blake, too, named Raquel the better all-around singer, though he was more impressed by Julia when she opened up. In the end, Christina agreed with her colleagues’ judgment and decided to cut Julia. Half of me was bummed about this. The other half was too mesmerized by Raquel’s shampoo commercial hair to think anything at all. I swear, that mane has got magic powers — maybe if Kevin Smith had been able to harness them, Jersey Girl wouldn’t have flopped so miserably.

Hey, do you happen to know what Team Blake contestant Serabee’s dad does for a living? Because I didn’t catch his occupation the first dozen times it was mentioned tonight. Blake matched that gospel-inspired PK with Dia Frampton, the shy Rachel Leigh Cook lookalike who suffers from horrible stage fright even though she’s been in a fairly well-known band for the past 7 years. Dia’s stage fright confession didn’t strike me as overtly disingenuous, but even so, I worry that it means she’s trying to cast herself as a total music biz novice — which would actually be dishonest.

NEXT: Good Lord, what is Serabee wearing?!The pair was assigned “You Can’t Hurry Love,” which seemed a much better fit for soulful Sera than folksy Dia. Their first rehearsal was absurdly lopsided — Dia sang sweetly and simply, while Sera seemed intent on proving that she could fit every note known to man in a single phrase. Later, she’d justify her overzealous approach by saying that’s just the way she was taught to do it in church: as Serabee explained, “When we would sing, it was about giving the people the Holy Ghost.” I got nothing, people.

If I were a Christian, I would probably turn the other cheek and refrain from snarking on the preacher’s daughter’s truly heinous performance outfit. But since I’m not, let me just say: wow. That feathered hat! That shiny tablecloth shirt! The gold chains! A choir robe would have been much more becoming. And Sera’s vocals were just as over-the-top as her ensemble; as Dia the porcelain doll held steady, Sera belted and yowled and did so many runs that even Javier probably thought she was going overboard. Cee Lo summed the duet up best when Carson turned to him for comment, saying simply, “Yeah, that was bizarre.” Dia, then, didn’t win this round so much as Sera lost it.

Like Christina, Coach Adam elected to couple two of his team’s freshest faces: Devon Barley, who’s a dead ringer for Chicken Little, and Rebecca Loebe, who probably smiles even when she sleeps. That came off weirder than I intended it to. And hey, speaking of weird things — the two were challenged to sing Radiohead’s “Creep,” a massive hit that reentered the national consciousness last year when it was used in a memorable trailer for The Social Network. Devon was at an immediate disadvantage because he had somehow never heard the song before; clearly, he’s been too busy telling people that the sky is falling to listen to classics from the ’90s.

At the rehearsal piano, Adam tried to give Devon a hand by telling him to access his “inner freak.” The way Devon immediately replied — “Done” — indicted that he might come through in the performance round after all. And although I can’t say that Devon and Rebecca’s “Creep” duet was unequivocally great, I do think it was the night’s most interesting and thoughtful performance. Rebecca clearly understood the song’s power; Devon revealed that he can sound commanding without resorting to shouting. They were so evenly matched that Blake opined that they should continue performing together. In the end, Adam opted to keep Devon, perhaps because he was more impressed by that singer’s growth than he was by Rebecca’s consistency. Sorry, Becks: You don’t belong here. (But good luck finding a place to belong that isn’t your car!)

NEXT: Feel the rain on your skin!

The last battle — which came courtesy of Team Cee Lo — felt like a ray of sunshine, especially coming as it did after a heavy storm of Radiohead. Perky, pretty Kelsey Rey and the Thompson sisters, the last duo standing in the competition, were asked to duke it out while singing “Unwritten,” the song that once indicated a new episode of The Hills was about to begin. I’ll never be able to divorce the tune from that show; when I first heard its opening bars tonight, I fully expected Whitney Port to sneak into The Voice‘s rehearsal room and ask Kelsey who she got into a fight with last night.

Anyway. Kelsey, Tori, and Taylor were all born to sing this song together while executing the finest cheesy choreography this side of The Brady Bunch. Their performance was fun and frothy, if uneven — I thought Kelsey sounded much more comfortable and in control when she sang alone than the Thompsons did when they harmonized. At times, it even seemed like the sisters were singing backup to Kelsey’s lead vocals. The battle was really made, though, by the frequent cuts to Kelsey’s mom, who was freaking out backstage like a housewife who had just found out Oprah was giving her a car. At one point, she even looked like she was about to upchuck onto her companion’s head — TV gold!

Unfortunately, we won’t see more of Mama Rey’s spastic excitement in future episodes of The Voice. In a surprise move, Cee Lo elected to keep the Thompsons and send Kelsey packing. Say it ain’t so, Cee Lo! Kelsey clearly out-sang the sisters. Now she’s going to have to go back to relying on her looks to get ahead in life — a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Good luck, fair Kelsey; you’re certainly going to need all the help you can get.

Next week will be The Voice‘s final battle round, as well as the show’s last one-hour, 10pm outing. Are you looking forward to the live rounds? Do you think all this format-switching is going to wear thin soon? And which one singer do you think gave tonight’s best performance?

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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