The first night of the Battle Round showcases big voices and bigger hair.
The sight of Cee Lo Green wearing a Red Baron costume, complete with World War I era flying medal, can only mean one thing. The Battle Round of The Voice is upon us! And so it began last night with six incredibly drawn-out vocal sparring matches. Not just between the contestants, but their celebrity mentors as well. Nothing says “battle” like Jewel and Lionel Richie training aspiring artists to belt out “The Power of Love.”
Battle #1: Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley (Team Adam)
Alanis Morissette had Tony Lucca’s back going into his showdown with fellow husky-voiced busker Cauley. They were to sing U2’s “Beautiful Day,” which really should have been retired from the repertoires of all singing competitions following Kurt Nilsen’s definitive World Idol take, shouldn’t it? Both dudes rocked appropriately cool headgear over their spiky hair, but Tony had the edge right away by trading in his Mellow Dad look for full-on Justin Theroux-in-Mulholland Drive hipsterism. (A daring move, considering how Theroux’s Mulholland Drive character is cuckolded by Billy Ray Cyrus, who could easily have been a celebrity mentor on The Voice last night.) Both Tony and Chris belted the hell out of “Beautiful Day,” bowling themselves over and crouching just to emphasize their respective vocal acrobatics. Ultimately, Tony won, but I was surprised he didn’t quite have the upper register needed to properly tackle U2’s skyscraper falsettos. That said, Chris may have stolen the night with one of the classiest reality show exits I’ve ever heard when he said to Adam, “I’ve always respected you for your music. And now I respect you as a man, as well.”
Aside: Judging the Judges’ Fashion
As I do most Monday nights, I totally dug Cee Lo’s ensemble. But his Red Baron look was positively sedate compared to what Adam and Christina were wearing. Adam decided to sport a high-collared, check-patterned sweater that I’m sure Gabriel Mann’s Nolan Ross will wear on the next episode of Revenge. Who else absolutely thinks Adam had topsiders on under that table? And Christina donned some sort of flying-saucer pillbox hat. Where to look?!
NEXT: RaeLynn meets her idol Miranda Lambert. And Lionel Richie becomes an opera critic!Battle #2: Adley Stump vs. RaeLynn (Team Blake)
So The Voice started the Battle Round with the heavyweights, then immediately proceeded to the welterweights. Blake’s girls Adley and RaeLynn were decidedly less polished than either Tony or Chris. Adley had only been singing for 10 months while 17-year-old RaeLynn’s biggest reason for being on The Voice — and, well, being a singer for that matter — is that she’s a really, really big fan of Miranda Lambert. During their cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin'” Adley was much more confident, if not particularly distinctive. RaeLynn was noticeably nervous, resulting a quivery, uncertain performance with near-constant breath-control issues. And yet RaeLynn has that ingenue cuteness going for her — and, did I mention, Miranda Lambert fandom? — so Blake declared her the victor! Mr. Shelton’s justification was that “country music is about telling a story,” and on that score, well I suppose RaeLynn did deliver. But this show is called The Voice not The Storyteller, right?
Battle #3: Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou (Team Xtina)
Now this was interesting. Chris Mann and Monique Benabou’s performance of Jennifer Rush’s “The Power of Love,” the weepy made most famous by Celine Dion, wasn’t a battle. It was a true duet. I can just imagine Mann, with his operatic vibrato, filling the shoes of the Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, or Peabo Bryson, who would invariably be singing this opposite Celine at Caesar’s Palace. Christina’s “training” was absolutely hilarious, though, wasn’t it? It quickly became Ms. Aguilera’s opportunity to prove to both Mann and Benabou that any note they could hit she could hit higher. And louder. Mentor Lionel Richie was a bit at odds with Mann’s classical perfectionism, deconstructing his blind audition performance with the valuable advice, “Sometimes the imperfections are what we’re looking for.” Mann’s take on “The Power of Love” wasn’t just something to admire from afar, though. It was emotional, stirring, and likely to be the Adult Contemporary chart-topper of 1993. So he won the battle.
NEXT: Cee Lo is responsible for the first real upset of the night. But why should anything that a man does who wears maroon leisurewear on national television shock us?
Battle #4: Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson (Team Cee Lo)
How can you have a battle over vocal bombast without getting some Bonnie Tyler in the mix? Cee Lo’s gals were to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” which you would think would be perfect for Johnson, the Army Staff Sergeant who nailed her blind audition with a full-lunged take on Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.” Cheesa seemed very much at a disadvantage, with mentor Babyface coldly suggesting at one point, “It’d be great if you could hold that note.” Ouch. Blake would have picked Angie for sure, since he stated once again that “clarity” and “diction” are what he values most in a vocalist. But amazingly Cee Lo threw everyone a curve and picked a Cheesa as the winner! Leave it to the man in maroon leisurewear to emcee the first real upset of the night.
Battle #5: Jordis Unga vs. Brian Fuente (Team Blake)
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Blake held all his meetings outside from now on? I’m not certain what that does for his team’s pipes, other than prepare them for the amphitheater circuit. He paired Jordis and Brian on a cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.” Jordis, the fifth place finisher on 2005’s Rock Star: INXS, seemed by far to be one of the strongest contestants The Voice had going for it. EW even picked her as our No. 2 favorite of the season. But in her battle she was tremulous and uncertain. The in-your-face confidence suggested by her bold Egyptian eyeliner was completely missing in her performance. And yet she still triumphed over Brian, because she’s Jordis and Blake realized “one off”-day shouldn’t result in her termination this quickly.
Battle #6: Anthony Evans vs. Jesse Campbell (Team Xtina)
I really wish The Voice would stop putting on its best performances in the last 10 minutes, but, well, I guess that’s like asking the Oscars to keep it under three hours. Anthony and Jesse turned in, together and individually, the best vocal performances of the night with their ever-more-soulful takes on Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” A shame one had to go home. Lionel Richie thought Jesse was taking on the song a little bit too aggressively in practice, so his advice? “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time.” Thanks for that, Lionel! Anthony surpassed everyone’s expectations with falsettos so high they could only best be appreciated by dogs. But despite his slight whiff of over-eagerness, Jesse proved the victor. The real winners, though? Us, for getting to listen to that sonic bliss.
What did you think of the first night of the Battle Round? Is this season really Tony Lucca’s to win at this point? And who do you think will be paired up with my girl Lindsey Pavao? Sound off in the comments.