Young performers -- and a few notable exceptions -- take the stage for Battle Rounds: Part Four

By Hillary Busis
Updated April 14, 2015 at 11:01 PM EDT
Tyler Golden/NBC

The Voice

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Tonight’s episode of The Voice was the perfect lead-in to the second presidential debate. Both programs revolved around two competitors doing verbal battle; both had substantial cores hidden by fluffy filler and endless recaps of things we already know; both featured an authoritative, assertive lady with a strong voice, ombre tips, and experience co-starring in a musical with Cher.

Okay, that last one sort of got away from me. Regardless: This is The Voice! This is The Recap!

Team Blake: Liz Davis. vs. Nicole Johnson

Though the sultry allure of the conga is always there, lurking just in the shadows, Blake manages to ignore it tonight, instead giving a straight-up country song — his wife’s single “Baggage Claim” — to two straight-up country singers. The only real difference between these gals: Liz is Nicole’s ghost of Christmas future. Like her young opponent, Liz moved to Nashville when she was 18 to pursue a music career. Unlike Nicole, Liz has spent the last seven years singing for her supper in honky tonks and digging her keys into the sides of pretty little souped-up four wheel drives, or whatever wannabe country artists do in their spare time.

When they enter the ring, Blake’s babes are dressed like innocence and experience personified. Nicole is all light and sweetness, rocking a long, flowy dress, cowboy boots, and a Taylor Swiftian soft side braid. Liz’s spangled hot pants, giant stilettos, and heavy makeup make her look like an Xtina impersonator. But after they start singing, it’s difficult to tell who’s who. Their twangy voices don’t just blend — they reflect each other so closely that if you weren’t watching the screen, you might think that there’s only one person onstage. (My roommate, who was focused on her laptop throughout the performance, assumed just that.) It’s like choosing between apples and older apples.

In the end, Blake picks slightly aged beauty over younger beauty and welcomes Liz to the next round. I can’t wait for seven years from now, when Nicole resurfaces to battle her own 18-year-old country soundalike on The Voice‘s 17th season. (Judges: Carly Rae Jepsen, Marcus Mumford, a sentient cowboy hat, and a hologram of Cee Lo, who returned to his home planet in 2016.)

Team Adam: Alessandra Guercio vs. Kayla Nevarez

High school student Alessandra’s official Voice bio reveals that she “was inspired by Ariel from The Little Mermaid to start singing when she was only five years old, and she has never looked back.” That may explain her lustrous hair, which is worthy of a rebellious undersea princess. The coif is just a little too perfect — fitting, since Al’s problem is that she sounds overly trained. Her competition is painted as an underdog with a more natural, effortless sound, which we all know is code for “she will win this battle.”

And 17-year-old Kayla does end up coming out on top when the girls sing Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake,” even though her voice sounds sort of swallowed and she can’t quite sustain a note without going off pitch. Alessandra, on the other hand, can’t ad lib without sounding like she’s studied and planned every note — and on a series like this one, showing how hard you’re working can be a kiss of death.

NEXT: Well, unless Xtina sees herself in your shiny, shiny hair

Except — wait! As a former member of The Mickey Mouse Club — seriously, that’s her rationale — Christina knows what it’s like to try to break free from training Svengalis. So she uses her first steal to snatch up the discarded Alessandra, causing theater kids nationwide to breathe a sigh of relief. And hey, the show actually allowed a coach to steal a contestant without first ruining the surprise! Snaps all around.

These battles also happened

Of the duets we don’t see — Team Cee Lo’s Ben Taub vs. victorious Mycle Wastman, Team Christina’s Beat Frequency vs. triumphant Laura Vivas, Team Adam’s Adonna Duru vs. champion Michelle Brooks-Thompson — the latter is the one I most wish had made it to the live show. From the tiny clip we got, it looks like Michelle absolutely murdered “Crazy in Love.” Who’s looking forward to actually seeing every contestant sing? [raises hand]

Team Cee Lo: Emily Earle vs. MacKenzie Bourg

Oh, MacKenzie, you weird little 19-year-old snowflake. Did Matchbox 20 actually inspire you to start singing? After telling us your sob story once more — he had a life-threatening heart condition — did you seriously say you’re planning to “give this heart as much as it can take”? Have you somehow grown to look even more like Hipster Bieber over the past few weeks? Either way, country-fried Emily will struggle to look interesting next to you.

Luckily, Cee Lo levels the playing field by assigning a song neither contestant can perform well: Owl City’s “Good Time.” Between Mac’s twitchy head, Emily’s rapid blinking, and the cringeworthy awkwardness of their robotic jumping and “whoa-oh-ohs,” the song only works if you close your eyes. After doing so, you can tell that quirky MacKenzie has a more unique sound — which is why Cee Lo ends up choosing him. Or maybe he went with the boy because Hipster Bieber’s enormous father — an unholy combination of Michael Chiklis and Howie Mandel — might have murdered him if his son wasn’t chosen. YEEAHHH! YOU DA MAN, PAPA BOURG! Did I just invent a new Star Trek villain?

Only one more week of Battles before we move to the Knockout Rounds, which are totally different! Who are you pulling for?

Hillary on Twitter

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The Voice

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

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