The battle rounds begin. The judges make some interesting choices for steals.

By Jennifer Arellano
April 14, 2015 at 06:57 PM EDT
NBC
S5 E7
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Finally, the battle rounds begin! We see some battles where there are clear winners, some where it’s too cruel to even choose, and one final battle, though billed as “epic,” which left me underwhelmed. And don’t forget, the judges can steal, so that element injects this part of the competition with some much-needed elements of surprise.

Best line of the night: “Do not make eye contact with the dimples,” said Adam, when persuading a contestant to not choose Blake.

Semi-famous face: Briana Cuoco, personal assistant, sometime singer, and Lizzie Bennet Diaries alum, takes the stage.

Outfit Shoutout: How glam-tastic did Christina look tonight? Lovin’ that Marilyn Monroe look. Also, does CeeLo regularly Febreeze that Thriller jacket?

TEAM ADAM: GREY VS. NIC HAWK

Song: “Domino” by Jessie J

Mentor: Ryan Tedder

Battle: Adam’s reasons for pairing the technically gifted Grey versus the sassy and spirited Nic Hawk? Because they’re “the two most opposite people I can imagine.” A wedding singer with weekly experience singing the Jessie J tune, Grey is more comfortable during rehearsal. “I’m a little bit scared of her,” said Nic. But Nic’s intonation, equal parts raspy, cabaret-y, and just plain different, is enough to perk up Adam and Ryan’s ears, despite the range challenge, “this is a tough song for him,” said Adam. He warns them that their energy onstage is a crucial part of the performance, “you need to be smiling and having the time of your lives out there.” Indeed, during the battle Grey’s slinky-smooth vocals were a pleasure to listen to, while Nic’s fire-crackin’ presence was fun to watch.

Verdict: Though Grey has the better voice, Nic kept things interesting, was the verdict of most of the judges. “I’m partial to what Nic is bringing on the stage,” said CeeLo. Coach Adam chooses Grey, “she’s one to watch out for.” But before he can say his goodbyes, Blake swoops in to steal Nic, “Oh Adam you screwed up so bad!” Blake thinks Nic is a great singer and that he can coach him to the top, “If there ever was an odd couple, it’s me and Nic,” he said.

TEAM CHRISTINA: AMBER NICOLE VS. TIMYRA-JOI

Song: “Listen” by Beyoncé

Mentor: Ed Sheeran

Battle: Christina decides to pair her two littlest divas, Amber Nicole, 17, and Timyra-Joi, 15, for “not only their youthfulness, but the potential that these girls have.” In other words, because there isn’t room on this musical island for two virtually identical voices. During rehearsals, both Coach Christina had quibbles with both. Amber Nicole was nervous, though adorable Ed Sheeran said ““We’ll be nervous together.” And Christina felt that Timyra-Joi was only giving “fifty percent” on some vocal runs. I thought this was a cruel lineup to pit these two Christina-wannabes against each other.

Verdict: I would hate to judge this one. Onstage, both singers really delivered in the powerhouse department. Though Amber Nicole had a slight edge when Timyra-Joi started off a bit weak. But “every single second after that is incredible,” said Adam, “when Timyra caught up with you [Amber Nicole], it was a real legit battle.” CeeLo goes with “Joi,” while Blake and Adam are stumped. A tearful Christina chooses Amber, “just because I felt that she was a little bit older and a little bit developed.” Cue angry mob. I thought Timyra-Joi had a more distinct quality about her voice so I’m sad to see her go. No steals for Joi, which was the night’s first shocker for me.

TEAM ADAM: JUSTIN CHAIN VS. SHELBIE Z.

Song: “Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson

Mentor: Cher, who reasons why she agreed to help Blake, “You’re a good boy and I wanna give you a hand.” But then has no qualms wasting rehearsal time by professing her love for Adam.

Battle: Blake pairs his singers with heavy twang – “You guys are both those outlaw country artists,” he said. Though the song is a duet that clearly makes Clarkson and therefore Shelbie, the shooting star, Blake thinks it “pushes both of them to the peak of their range.” During rehearsal, the two have trouble with harmony. Even Cher, a.k.a. that lady with the technicolor dreamwig, declares that harmonizing is hard for her too.

Verdict: Song choice totally benefited Shelbie’s performance. Though Justin went in with a chin-stroke in the opening verse, his attempts at emoting weren’t enough to outshine Shelbie’s bulldozing vocals. Which in a way, makes sense since it’s a duet. “I couldn’t focus on the separation because you guys were such a great unit,” said Adam, who would go with Justin. Though Blake notices both struggled with pitch, he chooses Shelbie Z.

NEXT: What’s your personality type?

TEAM CEELO: ANTHONY PAUL VS. CAROLINE PENNELL

Song: “As Long As You Love Me” by Justin Bieber

Mentor: Miguel

Battle: CeeLo basically makes this a battle between the extrovert (Anthony Paul) and the introvert (Caroline). Even Carson can’t stop pigeonholing Caroline’s shyness, constantly announcing her as “shy high school student,” which I find irritating. During rehearsal, Anthony Paul shows his show choir experience by dipping his vocals in all kinds of soupy toppings, making the song all about style and performance. Caroline’s gravelly sweetness is a nice counterpoint, but she’s told she needs to sing like she means it. Onstage, Anthony Paul looked like he had the lead by using less of the fancy vocal runs and exhibiting more restraint. At times he looked like a tiger stalking his prey, when circling around Caroline’s more subdued stage stance. But while Caroline starts off quietly, her rendition has pockets of surprise, which I thought were more interesting to listen to than Anthony’s almost perfect poise.

Verdict: “That was my favorite battle of the whole day,” said Christina. But Adam leaned towards Caroline’s Ellie Goulding-like voice, “it was its own interesting world that we were brought to,” he said. With the best metaphor of the night, CeeLo said of Caroline, “it encourages me to dream with my eyes open.” Le sigh. Coach CeeLo chooses Caroline. But wait just one second, because a nervous CeeLo looks left and right, begging someone to take him. Christina steals Anthony, citing how impressed she was with his “vocal control.”

TEAM ADAM: DONNA ALLEN VS. TESSANNE CHIN

Song: “Next to Me” by Emeli Sandé

Mentor: Ryan Tedder

Battle: This is the elder diva version of Amber Nicole vs. Timyra-Joi. In rehearsal, Donna Allen’s Tina-Turner-like voice overpowers even Tessanne. You literally can’t even hear the butterscotch smoothness of Tessanne whenever Donna breaks into her rasp-a-thon runs. Coach Adam advises Tessanne to really go for her it while he tells Donna to dial her execution back. In battle, it was sad to watch because we know these two top-notch singers both can’t advance. While both sang like two dueling tornadoes, I preferred the subtlety of Tessanne’s performance.

Verdict: “Now that’s a battle,” proclaimed Carson. “It was epic,” said Blake, praising the raspy quality of Donna’s voice. Christina was partial to Tessanne’s range. Coach Adam chooses Tessanne. Post battle, Tessanne wins for most gracious winner, as she sweetly hugs Donna and thanks her, “she made me a better singer,” she said. No steals for Donna.

Now for our last battle, which the ever thesaurus-using Carson calls, “the most epic battle of the night.”

TEAM CHRISTINA: BRIANA CUOCO VS. JACQUIE LEE

Song: “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals

Mentor: Ed Sheeran

Battle: These are probably my least favorite voices in the competition. I think both are pretty generic. Briana, little sis of Kaley Cuoco, has power, but during quieter moments in songs, I think her voice isn’t that unique. Jacquie also has diva-range, and though she has more character in her delivery, she’s also not a standout for me. Christina pairs them because “they’re inspired by rock and soul.” Onstage, Briana has better stage presence and brings a more bluesy quality. Jacquie’s verses were more memorable.

Verdict: CeeLo favored Jacquie’s “more youthful spin.” Adam is torn between the two. Coach Christina chooses Jacquie, citing her growth from rehearsal to battle. But before Kaley can start crying in the stands, there are not one, but two steals for the younger Cuoco. CeeLo and Blake push their buttons, and I don’t really see what all the hullabaloo is over Briana, when no one else moved for Timyra-Joi. CeeLo tells Briana, he likes her “weathered but durable quality,” and adds, “I believe there’s a story in your voice.” Blake praises the songwriter-ly quality of Briana’s emotional delivery. Briana chooses Blake.

Parting Thoughts: Do you guys think Briana deserved a steal? Do you think the judges made a big mistake in letting Timyra go? (I know I do.) Who surprised you tonight? Did you think the pairings were fair? Sound off in the comments.

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