When you watch The Voice, you know going in that there are going to be some performances that are less than great, no matter how many times host Carson Daly insists that everything is “EPIC.” However, last night’s show was that time that every now and then, the performers rise to the occasion. There were six battles during the show, and every one of them was pretty close. As a reminder if you haven’t seen the show, each coach has two steals; meaning they can pick up two singers each to join their team once a singer has lost their battle. Let’s get right to the recap.
Leading the show off were Christian Cuevas and Jason Warrior from Alicia Keys’ team. Cuevas had previously sung “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” by Michael Bolton, but originally performed by Laura Branigan. Warrior sang “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder. Keys chose Adele’s “Hello” as their battle song. In a sign of things to come, both singers performed extremely well. I was worried that Warrior would try to put every note in his arsenal in the performance, but he pulled back just a bit. I also noticed that he sounds a bit like John Legend. Cuevas matched Warrior’s power, and might have given the slightly better performance. Apparently Keys thought so too; she chose Cuevas as the winner of the battle. Warrior was the recipient of a steal from coach Adam Levine.
Battle number two featured Natasha Bure and Riley Elmore from Team Adam. Bure sang “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley, and Elmore sang “The Way You Look Tonight, made famous by Frank Sinatra in the blind auditions. Tonight, Adam gave the two teenagers “Cry Me A River,” recently sung by Michael Buble, but made famous way back in the 1950s by Julie London. The song is definitely in Elmore’s wheelhouse, but Bure held her own during rehearsals. She was less nervous than in her blind audition, and during the performance more than kept up with Elmore. I thought I heard a few bad notes towards the end, but it was close throughout. In the end, Levine went with Elmore to move on to the knockout round.
The third battle of the night featured Ali Caldwell vs. Courtnie Ramirez from Miley Cyrus’ team. From the blind auditions, Caldwell had sung “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande, while Ramirez sang “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J. Miley chose Odetta’s “Hit Or Miss” as the song the duo would sing. I noted before that both of these women could belt it out, and they did not disappoint. There was power in both their vocals; Courtnie impressed me the most though. She was really bringing the heat, and made Caldwell really work. It was yet another close battle, but Cyrus went with Caldwell. Ramirez was eventually stolen by Keys.
Battle number four pitted Dan Shafer against Sundance Head from Blake Shelton’s team. Shafer sang “Marry Me” by Train in his blind audition, and Head performed “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” by Otis Redding in his. This battle may have set the record for the highest combined ages in a battle pairing, but that just means that both of them have experience in their favor. It showed during their performance of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Four battles in, and four very good performances. These two took command of the stage, with Shafer picking up the microphone stand during the first chorus like he was fronting a rock band, while Head strummed his guitar and wailed powerfully. It was close, but I believe that Sundance pulled it out. Shelton agreed, picking him to move on.
The fifth battle of the night featured Andrew DeMuro and Billy Gilman from Team Adam. DeMuro sang Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” and Gilman sang Adele’s “When We Were Young” during the blind auditions. Levine chose “Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson for their battle song. During the rehearsal footage, DeMuro impressed me. I didn’t think he was anywhere near this good in his blind audition. Gilman was almost perfect; he may have the best singing voice of any artist in the competition this year. Gilman may also serve as this season’s “ringer,” meaning that with his prior success (a top ten Country song, nominated for two Grammy awards) some people feel that he shouldn’t compete on the show. However, the show does not prohibit artists that have worked in the industry and had success from auditioning or competing. I hear people grumbling about it each year, but it doesn’t look as though the producers will ever change that rule. As to the battle itself, Gilman’s clear tone shined throughout, but DeMuro kept challenging him. Their harmonies were very good. I left impressed with DeMuro, but felt that Gilman would win, and he did.
The final battle, and for me the best one of the night featured Lauren Diaz and Wé McDonald from Team Alicia. Diaz performed Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” while McDonald performed “Feelin’ Good,” made famous by Nina Simone during the blind auditions. Keys chose “Maybe” by Janis Joplin, though it was performed by The Chantels back in the fifties.I thought both of these women could easily make it to the finals from their blind audition performances, so I didn’t envy Alicia’s choice in this battle. However, the CET (that’s the Crack Editing Team at NBC) gave the game away during the final commercial break: whoever lost would be stolen. Knowing that beforehand almost makes the performance anticlimactic. In this case, it wasn’t. Both Diaz and McDonald brought their A games; their performances were totally on point. If they both could have won, I’d have called it a draw. However someone has to win, and Keys picked McDonald. Diaz was stolen by Cyrus.
After the first night of battles, the teams stand as follows:
If you watched the show or watched the videos, did anyone stand out to you? I thought that many of these performances were improvements on those in the blind auditions, even for those singers who didn’t get to move to the knockout rounds. Leave your impressions in the comments, and I’ll have another recap for Tuesday’s battles.
photo from Creative Commons via Eva Rinaldi (available for reuse).