The Voice recap: Battle Rounds Part 2
A night of low-energy battle rounds is saved by a low-key song
Welcome back to the second night of the battle rounds, Voice-ettes. What have we learned? Adam Levine has never tasted tangerine ice cream. I should never have to reference Jason Aldean in these recaps. And — I’m pretty certain — NBC is saving its talent-iest bits for the Monday episodes. How else to explain tonight’s personality-full but vocally so-so outing? In a night of 12 singers, my ears counted less than five moments of good singing. I’m glad Usher’s been practicing his stone-cold stares. But I would have been gladder to hear more great face-offs. Carson Daly promised us “epic performances and agonizing decisions.” Carson Daly is a liar.
Let’s run them down.
TEAM ADAM: MICHAEL AUSTIN VS. WARREN STONE
In the so-dubbed “Battle of the Civil Servants,” it was country artist versus country artist. That is, both Michael-the-sheriff and Warren-the-firefighter auditioned with country flavor and both men were happy to wear plaid and/or cowboy boots so off they went into the country-o-matic and out they came as the “male country singer section” of Adam’s team.
The pair’s first meeting with Levine and adviser Hillary Scott is overshadowed by the news that they’ll be performing Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party,” which is, full stop, not the kind of song anyone should be performing on a singing competition. It’s a stomper, sure, but it requires little from its performer for good reason: Aldean isn’t a great singer. So why make singers who are striving toward greatness follow behind him? Anyway. Adam tells Warren to watch the consistency on his notes and to work on showcasing the harmony, while he advises Michael (who’s worried that he might have trouble softening up on a song about debauchery) to warm up his upper register a few times before going on stage. We also learn that Michael had a tumor removed from his sinus canal. Hillary says nothing, basically.
Warren is just better in the pre-performance performance, though Adam reminds him to finish his lines. Heading into their battle, Warren (“firefighter and single dad”) name-checks his kids. Michael tells us that he’s been “beaten, bruised, and bloodied” and he comes practically shooting onto the stage. But still: His performance is the weaker one, and it isn’t helped by over-energy. Sure, he’s gravelly but that doesn’t mean his voice is strong. Usher may or may not agree: When the camera cuts to him, he looks like he’s trying not to laugh. Blake? Blake is blank-faced, though the show would probably love us to think that he’s secretly seething — my country stars, mine.
Afterward, the foursome is split on the merits of Michael versus Warren. Usher notes (correctly, I think) that Warren made the song young and that the women in the audience (heteronormative, Usher) ate it up. Blake, though, thinks that Michael better captured the Aldean-ness of the song. Ironically, Adam says that Blake gave him some insight into the genre’s many nuances, and how Michael and Warren (“firefighter and single dad”) are but two different points on a spectrum. “Looking into the future,” Adam picks Warren. The lesson? Doing justice to a bad song doesn’t mean you’re doing well.
NEXT: The worst battle round of the night!
TEAM USHER: JEFF LEWIS VS. JOSIAH HAWLEY
With Pharrell by his side, it’s time for Usher to pit two of his fresher-faced male contestants against each other. Why? Because both Jeff and Josiah have confidence — but the singer who can maintain that confidence on stage is the real star. Naturally, he’s chooses The Police’s “Roxanne.” Josiah sounds not-good in the first session, and Usher is quick to point out that though he’s confident with his body (former male model, lest we forget), Josiah may have problems selling a song that requires some mystique. Jeff comes off much better, and Usher tells him just to let the notes ring.
In the pre-performance performance, things take a more serious turn when Jeff and Josiah crack themselves up after a very not-good run-through of “Roxanne.” This is the moment! The one we’ve been teased with for days! Usher frowns slightly. “What’s funny? Why are you smiling? This is funny to you?” They wilt. And then he makes them fight over a single mic while he circles and kind of half-shouts things. Josiah takes off his jacket because this is serious business.
On-stage, and labeled as a “smooth voice” by Daly, Josiah is all swiveled knees. Jeff, on the other hand, is louder by half a notch but sharp in a nettlesome way and his power faces are off. Josiah’s eyebrows are nice, but he too should avoid making a power-O. Also they’re not really harmonizing? Adam and Blake nod along but the judges are ultimately less-than-kind, saying that it “fell flat” and that though there is“undeniable talent” among the pair, the song choice was probably ill-fated. Usher applauds both Jeff and Josiah by saying that he “applauds” them — and that although the song probably required more mystique than big smiles, he chooses Josiah, who we later see tilting his stupid head and saying how “stoked” he is. Your voice is good! Stop titling your head that way!
Next, we see three battle rounds in round-up: Grace Askew vs. Trevor Davis on “Me and Bobby McGee” (Blake picks Grace); Audrey Karrasch vs. Jamila Thompson on “If I Were a Boy” (Usher picks Audrey); and Tawnya Reynolds vs. Mark Andrew on “The Chain” (Shakira picks Tawnya).
NEXT: The best battle round of the night!
TEAM BLAKE: CAROLINE GLASER VS. DANIELLE BRADBERY
This was a surprise: Not only did two of Blake’s contestants give the best performance of the night, they also did it from underneath the show’s relentless label machine. Caroline, see, is a coffee shop singer-songwriter. Danielle is very, very young. So young. She giggles when she’s nervous! That’s part of the reason Blake put them against each other.
But it’s clear early on that both are ready to perform, and that their coach is going to do them the favor of picking a song that is performable, Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On.” At their first meeting, Blake (with Sheryl alongside) tells Danielle that she’s an awesome singer with great pitch, and he tells Caroline that she shouldn’t let the specificity of her sound restrict the notes she tries to hit. Sheryl breaks the adviser code of silence by telling the camera that Caroline’s unique voice is useful currency in this competition. She ain’t wrong.
At the pre-performance performance, Caroline’s sound has opened up a lot, but Danielle’s face is flatter than ever, even with Blake on accompanying guitar and offering ra-ra aphorisms. Both, it’s clear, are a bit tentative. “Sometimes…I kind of feel like an actual coach,” Blake says, meaning an actual sports coach. Before heading on stage, Caroline says that the battle round is 50/50, but that she isn’t ready to go back to the coffee shops. Danielle is still “the youngest artist in this competition.” My roommate: “She’s still wearing those cowboy boots.” (Packaging!)
Danielle’s voice is clear and strong as soon as the song starts, while Caroline’s has a lovely sort of warmth and hush. It’s Norah Jones-esque, though even Norah Jones’ sound is kind of post-Norah Jones now, right? They harmonize and then harmonize some more. Adam’s eyes crinkle. Danielle’s eyes are still dead-dead-dead and Caroline isn’t the best at hiding her nerves. But then she smiles and it could be better but it could be much, much worse. Shakira nails it: “Girls, your performance was as refreshing as tangerine ice cream.” Adam goes further, falling over himself to apologize for not turning around for Caroline the first time (remember this!). Danielle had the more “perfect” vocal, though, which Blake drives home with a synergistic piece of pitter-patter, saying that “knowing what I want to do going forward,” Danielle is the clear choice. She’s robbed of her victory spotlight because Adam and Usher both try to steal Caroline — Usher the faster spinner by a hair. But don’t you remember all that falling Adam did, all over himself? Caroline picks him, even over Usher’s objection that he, too, is a singer-songwriter. We all are! Later, Usher turns a shoulder and walks away from her big brown eyes, getting colder by the episode.
Random Thoughts from Melissa and Adam’s Emails: Was the redheaded Taylor really worth Blake’s steal last night, or is another game afoot? And was the Judith/Karina mash-up the best of the week so far? Melissa and I split on this; I’m Sasha/Amber all the way.
TEAM YOU: YOU VS. THE COACHES
Did tonight’s episode feel lackluster? Is it obsessive to note my jealousy of Adam’s blazer-and-polo combo? Are you happy that our recap formatting is ever-so-slowly merging? And, like, could those teases for next week’s possibly rule-changing steal be any more (gasp!) ridiculous?