This season on The Voice, the show seems to be moving faster than normal. In only the second week of shows, we were given montages of performers, both good and bad. On last night’s show, to kick off the third week, the blind auditions finished up in the first hour, with battle rounds starting in hour two. Given the fact that the calendar has already hit the second week of March, and NBC surely wants the finale to air during May sweeps, the accelerated schedule is probably a necessity; even as it robs the viewing audience a chance to settle in with the artists the show supposedly lives to promote.
As far as the blind auditions, there were five remaining spots up for grabs. The first artist to perform was Nathan Hermida, who did Miguel’s “Sure Thing.” It was smooth and relaxed, and I really dug it. First of all, because he made the song sound a bit more low-key than the original, but also because he didn’t sound the least bit nervous. I want to see what he can do with a song that has a higher tempo. Adam turned after three lines; and Christina a bit later. In the end, Mr. Hermida chose to join Team Adam, who completed his team.
Second artist on the show is Paul Pfau from Washington D.C., who performs “Fly Me To The Moon,” made popular by Frank Sinatra. His tone is pleasant, and he sings the song straight, without a lot of affectation. People who come on and sing songs like these in the blind auditions often don’t last too long; perhaps this guy may break the mold. And as such a big fan of Maroon 5, I thought he was going to sing one of their songs. But he did give Adam a demo…so he might have a future after the show. Adam wanted to turn but of course, his team is full. So Paul had to find another coach. Given the choice between Pharrell and Blake, Mr. Pfau joined Team Pharrell.
Vance Smith auditions with “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops. He is much smoother and softer than Levi Stubbs’ iconic lead vocal, and it may be that smoothness and softness that almost keeps him from being chosen. Another thing: he doesn’t really push it into the chorus-it’s a song that begs for a vocal push in the chorus. At the eleventh hour, Christina and Pharrell turn for him. To me, he was SAVED. I really did not think he deserved a turn; but time is tight and spots need filling. He joined Team Christina, which completed her team. I don’t think he will last long.
Following Vance Smith was Caitlin Caporale, who shows guts by taking on Christina’s “Impossible.” I think up to that point, she was the best performance of the night. There were a lot of runs, as you would expect in a Christina song, but she kept them mostly under control. Runs for runs sake are usually a bad thing, but they are fine if they are in service to the emotion in the song, and Ms. Caporali did enough without doing too much. This was an artist that Christina wanted, but her team slots were all used up. So with only Pharrell and Blake left to pick from, she chose Team Pharrell, making his team complete. A great moment after the audition, she got to sing part of the song with Christina.
The last slot for the blind auditions was filled by Hannah Kirby, who performed The Box Tops “The Letter.” Hannah has a very powerful voice, and yet it was a different sounding kind of voice. Thanks to the great editors on the show, we knew Hannah would be picked by Blake; knowing this makes it a little more difficult to judge the performance. It was a powerhouse vocal, but not perfect. I liked it, but I definitely did not love it.
Right after that last bit of housekeeping, the battle rounds began. The first battle of the evening pitted Ashley Morgan against Mia Z from Team Pharrell. The singers were performing “Put The Gun Down” by Z.Z. Ward. With additional coaching/mentoring from Lionel Richie (who appears to be finding some kind of fountain of youth), both singers take to the stage and give a great battle. To my ears, Ashley won this battle by being more solid all around, even as Mia had more high points (and certainly more high notes). Of course, Pharrell chose Mia to win the battle, but Ashley eventually ended up being stolen by Christina. Mia may (or may not) become my Sugar Joans of the season-that’s two performances I was definitely not in love with; though this one was better than her take on B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” in the blind auditions. What she can do is hit some really high notes; it’s the other parts that make me less of a fan.
The second battle of the night pitted James McNeiece against Tonya Boyd-Cannon from Team Adam. Adam chooses Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” for their battle. Adam’s team mentor is Ellie Goulding, whom I know from the song “Burn,” and not much else. The battle begins, and to me it was too close to call. Calling Tonya the winner simply because her powerful voice and stage presence were slightly better than James’ rich falsetto runs is not saying that McNeiece didn’t have a shot at winning-he made it a tough call by stepping up. Adam went with Tonya as his choice, and James became the first singer eliminated from the battle rounds as he was not stolen by any of the other coaches.
Ending the show with the last battle from Team Blake were Brian Johnson and Joshua Davis. Blake chose Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” as their song. Blake’s suggestion to do a stripped-down acoustic version was a wise choice, as it allowed the voices to shine and gave them room to breathe. The final run through moves Blake’s team mentor Meghan Trainor to tears, as the sentiment of the song hit close to home. Trainor did give Johnson a tip to use the lower harmony on the duet parts; and it added to the performance of the song. Again, thanks to the crackshot editors of the show, we knew before the battle began that the loser would be stolen, so it really didn’t matter how the performance went. However, this was a very good performance; this was the best of the night for me. Both guys did a tremendous job. In the end, Blake chose Brian, and Adam quickly snapped up Travis.
So there’s the wrap-up of what was a hybrid night on The Voice. Two very good performances, the rest mostly pleasant and solid. A final note: Gaia Golden was shown but was not chosen by any of the coaches, and another montage (yes!) of “almosts-but-not-quites” helped fill the two hour show. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point, given the speed with which NBC is burning these episodes, if we didn’t get at least one or more battle round montages, simply because of how things have progressed so far and the weeks left on the calendar. Back with another recap after tonight’s show.