In these battle rounds, the contestants must show that they have an emotional connection to their songs

By Jennifer Arellano
April 14, 2015 at 06:56 PM EDT
NBC
S5 E9
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What’s talent got to do with it? Monday night’s battles were all about feelings. The coaches stressed the importance of connecting with the audience while performing emotionally charged songs. Automatons and the reserved need not apply. Singers who couldn’t make their lyrics come alive got the boot. Only Adam has yet to use his steal, but he makes up for it by saving two female singers in this six-battle episode.

Favorite moment: I can’t get enough of Christina’s singing demonstrations. In urging her two diva students, Destinee and Lina, to match the intensity of a Dixie Chicks song, Christina takes the mic and delivers the best performance of the night, even though it lasted barely a verse. “I just wanted to leave you with that note,” she says. Right. That you will never sound as good as this.

And the battles go on…

TEAM CHRISTINA: JOSH LOGAN VS. MICHAEL LYNCH

Song: “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5

Mentor: Ed Sheeran

Battle: Coach Christina pits the Latin culture-loving Michael Lynch against single dad Josh Logan (Ugh, it pains me every time I have to reduce three-dimensional human beings into a jingle!) Christina picks a Maroon 5 song that is probably more suited for Adam-sound-a-like Josh. During rehearsal, both guys struggle with the wordy lyrics and stage movement. We see a sassier Christina, who has to goad the guys into injecting some life into their performances. “You need to kick its ass a little bit!” she says. Indeed, Josh and Michael did seem a little tired. Earlier, Josh had said something that made my ears pop: “I’ve never been a super strong performance guy.” Which boggles my mind as to why he would even try out for this show! During the battle, I thought Michael’s voice soared, while Josh’s voice stayed kind of flat, as if his Adam Levine similarity just did most of the work for him.

Verdict: CeeLo and Blake lauded Josh’s vocal kinship to Adam’s voice and both couldn’t help Christina decide. Adam enjoyed their rendition, acknowledging that “it’s really easy to screw it up,” but thought that Josh overpowered Michael. Coach Christina chooses Josh. No steals for Michael. This was a middling battle for me, and while I wasn’t impressed by Josh, I didn’t think Michael deserved a second chance either.

TEAM CEELO: GEORGE HORGA JR. VS. JUHI

Song: “Best I Ever Had” by Gavin DeGraw

Mentor: Miguel

Battle: This was an interesting pairing in terms of difference of style and ambition. George is a Romanian heartthrob with an edgier boy band voice, while Juhi is a grunge-loving Duffy-type. George is currently not in school and Juhi, a 4.0-high schooler, aspires to major in aerospace engineering or computer science in college. Pre-battle, she even takes a dig at George, reasoning that George might have an advantage because he’s “more focused on music — he’s not going to college.” During rehearsal, everyone is blown away by Juhi’s idiosyncratic style. George struggles with the high notes and showing personality. In battle, I thought George’s voice actually sounded more pleasant than Juhi’s intriguing inflections.

Verdict: Adam calls George out on his bad note. The rest of the judges applaud Juhi’s creativity, “I like how you threw certain lines away,” said Christina. Coach Ceelo prefaces by saying he wants someone “who wants to solely do this as if there’s no plan B,” and immediately we know the winner is George, though he technically had the worse performance. Adam steals Juhi. “You’re 16, you’re already so good, I just kind of won the lottery by grabbing you for my team.”

NEXT: It’s just emotions taking me over…

TEAM BLAKE: AUSTIN JENCKES VS. BRIAN POUNDS

Song: “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees

Mentor: Cher

Battle: Austin and Brian are both country crooners, but Austin clearly has the advantage. He has a beefier voice that just steamrolls over Brian’s innocuous vocals. But this battle is all about Cher. If we could take a moment here, I think it’s high time we recognize Cher for her advising talents. I think that she doles out the best critiques because she isn’t afraid to sound bitchy or monopolize the session with her industry anecdotes (more story time with Cher, yes!). She warns Austin to not show all his cards in the beginning. She urges Brian to amp up his emotional connection to the song and go “balls to the wall,” which she adorably asks Blake if that’s kosher to say. In battle, it’s obvious that Austin simply overpowers Brian’s blasé rendition.

Verdict: All the judges are moved by Austin’s emotional investment in the song. Poor Brian never stood a chance. Coach Blake chooses Austin: “He left his heart laying there on the stage.”

TEAM ADAM: JAMES IRWIN VS. MATT CERMANSKI

Song: “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic

Mentor: Ryan Tedder

Battle: Adam picks a song that his chosen adviser wrote, which makes James and Matt, both returning contestants, understandably a tad nervous. Ryan Tedder says James enunciates too slowly, while Matt is insecure of his higher-register range. The consensus is that James, who garnered that zero-to-four-chair-turn in the blinds, has more natural ability than Matt. But overall, this comeback kid battle wasn’t very memorable. James and Matt performed decently, except James’ parts seemed slightly more effortless.

Verdict: Everyone agrees that James had better pitch and a better connection to the OneRepublic tune. Coach Adam chooses James. No steal for Matt.

TEAM CHRISTINA: DESTINEE QUINN VS. LINA GAUDENZI

Song: “Not Ready to Make Nice” by Dixie Chicks

Mentor: Ed Sheeran

Battle: Finally some diva-action! In the first all-female battle of the night, Coach Christina pairs country singer and veteran of the biker bar circuit Destinee, with former model Lina. For me, their voices are nearly identical, except Destinee sings with more attitude. During rehearsal, Christina stresses the importance of connecting with the audience, especially for a song with such an angry core. “Are you mad as hell?!” she asks her students. Christina got a little frustrated and had to demonstrate (to our delight) the song herself. Ed Sheeran adorably tried to help Destinee with harmony problems. In battle, both girls really improved from rehearsal and delivered an electrifying duet. You could tell they were really reaching to display that fierce intensity that Christina demanded.

Verdict: The guys are split between the divas. Coach Christina says she’s “torn between emotion [Destinee] or range [Lina].” She chooses Destinee. Adam steals Lina, calling her a “diamond in the rough,” which I think is kind of an understatement considering how good her voice already is.

And our final battle of the night…

TEAM ADAM: JAMES WOLPERT VS. WILL CHAMPLIN

Song: “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons

Mentor: Ryan Tedder

Battle: We have Mr. Four-Chair Turn and Apple store employee James, against Mr. Three-Chair-Turn and son of Chicago band-member Will, in the most competitive battle of the night. Adam pairs them up because if both advanced, it would be “redundant.” Both have similar styles, but James’ vibrato is from another planet. Will’s delivery is a little rough around the edges, with a scrambling kind of energy — like a Jimmy Connors of singing. In battle, Adam’s song choice did a good job of pitting their voices against each other, line by line.

Verdict: CeeLo and Blake are amazed at the juxtaposition of James’ 1950s ad man style and his surprisingly gritty voice. “It’s just not right,” says Blake. But Christina is partial to Will’s rendition. Coach Adam chooses James. Christina saves Will, “because he brought it!”

Parting thoughts:

– So many cute Voice offspring in this episode!

– I really want to see Cher pull a Christina for once, and actually sing her advice. Why hasn’t she spontaneously burst into song yet?

– What did you guys think of CeeLo’s reasoning for not choosing Juhi even though she was the better performer? He sort of ignited this debate of education versus career ambition. He called George “completely committed,” but isn’t Juhi just as focused if she’s in this competition? I could imagine she’d be peeved by having her good grades and substantial non-vocal interests used against her. But George’s decision to solely pursue music also definitively declares that he’s in this for the long haul. This divide reminds me of when Natalie Portman famously proclaimed that she’d rather be “smart than a movie star,” regarding her decision to go to Harvard. But clearly she’s accomplished both. Your take?

What did you think of the battles? Any egregious mistakes by the coaches? 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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