Here are my quick and dirty thoughts on last night’s The Voice – featuring the first intimidatingly-named “Battle Round” between singers. Who really won this first round of fights, and how did they effect the overall standings? My feedback is based on the song and only the song – I didn’t watch any of the backstories, mentor sessions, or judge comments.
Team Christina: Tarralyn Ramsey (#2) v. Frenchie Davis (#3) on “Single Ladies” (Watch it!)
I had these ladies ranked one after another on my Team Christina ranking, but in my original draft they were a tie – so this could have gone either way.
If they had pulled a big ballad Tarralyn might have eeked out a win, but on “Single Ladies” it was a blood-bath.
Tarralyn was having trouble with breath support even in the brief mentor clip, and struggled from the first line. Meanwhile, Frenchie launched a ringing, well-supported riff and later slayed the bridge (to Sia’s queer delight; god I love her).
Despite a clear victory for Frenchie, neither of these women have Beyonce’s effortlessness. Tarralyn just couldn’t get any momentum on the verse lines, choking each one off save for when she burst into her remarkable head voice. She was often the one making the unison lines go sour, and at least once biffed a harmony. The random screaming at the end wasn’t doing her any favors.
Frenchie’s lighter touch let each line feed into the next as on the original (love love love the subtle “jeans”), but on the last half of the verse she fell apart a little. Not only was she trending a bit flat on the ends of lines, she encountered the same timing problems she had on “I Kissed a Girl.” I can’t really put my finger on it. Is it that she’s so careful with her breath support that she can’t peal out a quick riff? That’s going to eventually bite her if X-Tina’s intention is to use her as the major pop belter.
Christina Picked: Frenchie
What this means: Very little; as soon as this match was tipped off it was clear X-Tina was heading for Julia, Frenchie, Beverly, and Justin or Cherie.
Team Blake: Patrick Johnson (#1) vs. Tyler Robinson (#3) on “Burnin’ Love”(Watch it!)
This match-up didn’t bode well for Tyler, since Patrick is clearly the best chance Blake has for a win. However, the pair of them were vocally very well matched.
Patrick showed a lot of subtle character to his voice that didn’t really come through in his audition. He had great control, and I loved the steady use of vibrato. I’m still not convinced he’s got anything much higher than we’ve heard, but I was pleasantly surprised with his tuneful oo-ing in the background on Tyler’s verse. He’s just charismatic enough, although he could stand to loosen up a little.
Tyler was an awesome surprise, in line with my comment “his is the kind of voice a good coach can work wonders with.” He has a wider and more limber range than Patrick, but he was doing a little too much to show it off. The runs were well executed, but he was fighting the straight-forward arrangement on every one. Also, his one marquee trip into falsetto was out of tune, even if his ending riff was better than Patrick’s.
This is a hard call – the straight-forward performance or the awesome potential? While my initial reaction was to give it to Tyler, after a few blind listens it’s obvious Patrick is delivering the stronger performance. Realistically you can’t possibly give up Patrick just for the glimmer of awesome in Tyler.
Blake Picked: Patrick
What this means: I originally predicted Blake was heading for Patrick, Dia, Jared, and Elenowen. Since then, internet sentiment seems to have Xenia pegged as a favorite underdog. I could see him picking her over Jared or Elowen. And there’s still the wildcard of Serabee! Probably the team with the most possibility for upsets.
Team Adam – Tim Mahoney (#6) vs. Casey Weston (#8) on “Leather and Lace” (Watch it!)
First of all, this battle had bad implications for Team Adam – but I’ll get to that. This was such an interesting pick from Adam, not only because it perfectly suited both voices but because it didn’t really pit them against each other.
There’s no way around it: Casey Weston knocked it out of the park. She didn’t show any of this potential in the audition round! She was in tune, perfected paced and phrased. However, this was such a Stevie Nicks impression – right down to the pace of the vibrato on “I need you to love me.” Is it that Adam made the perfect pick, or is she just a great imitator? It’s hard to tell what it means for her in the voting rounds, especially with Adam’s team of heavy hitters.
I don’t think Tim did enough here. He needed his verse to be be absolutely riveting. Yet, in places where he could have driven home his superior range and control – like “sleepy eyes” and “into your house” – it felt like he was pulling back. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have given them a light touch, but especially “into your house” wasn’t as committed a choice as Henley on the original. Similarly, he tossed away “a man like me.” Tim needed superior follow-through to pierce Casey’s perfect sound-a-like performance, and it wasn’t there.
Adam Picked: Casey
What this means: Scary things! We’ve already seen Jeff pitted against the other Casey in a preview, and whoever draws Javier is done for. That leaves one spot for Devon, Angela, and Rebecca – all more deserving than Ms. Weston, despite her kick-ass performance.
Either way, we’re going to lose one of Adam’s four best. If anything, based on listening to her older material I think other-Casey deserved this easy round against Tim (who was doomed when Adam clearly didn’t like when he turned out to have a penis) more than Ms. Weston .
Team Cee Lo – Vicci Martinez (#2) vs. Niki Dawson (#3)(Watch it!)
Niki has a great voice, but she stood no chance against Vicci – who is tailor-made for a Pink song and one of Cee Lo’s top two singers.
Vicci delivered the best vocal of the night. She didn’t exactly ape Pink, but brought the perfect amount of rawness to her delivery. I really don’t have any critiques of her, and I think she went a long way to being likeable enough for voters with a less confrontational performance than her edgy “Rolling in the Deep”
Niki did herself no favors, dwelling in the cellar with the other member of Team Peter, Tarralyn. (Yes, I’m embarrassed.) She was pushing every note to be so be so big that she was off the rhythm and off her voice. But, worse, she was slightly out of tune on every harmony – singing them like solo lines that could be bent in the middle.
Cee Lo Picked: Vicci
What this means: Not much; nothing stands in the way of Cee Lo locking up Kelsey, Vicci, Tje, and Nakia, with an option on Curtis.
I’m not fond of some of the matchups (okay – any of the match-ups), but think the judges picked the rightful winner on every one. Does that mean they sandbagged with song choice and key? Maybe, but getting to decide the terms of the fight is part of their job. The only totally left-field decision we’ve seen from anyone is Adam’s pick of Tim and Casey to sing tonight, but maybe he knows something about the Rebecca-Devon-Angela triangle that we don’t.
Take note that we saw top two singers from three teams, one major heavy-weight duke-out, and only one more boring battle (that turned out to be a great song). Add “pacing” to the list of things The Voice is doing very right. I won’t be surprised if they keep up that mix on every episode in the Battle Rounds.
I’ll be back tomorrow with commentary on the action between the battles, and an update on where my Team Peter stands after losing two of my belters to tonight’s action.