How else to explain why Season 5 of NBC’s reality singing juggernaut is continuing without Team Adam’s megatalented Matt Cermanski — that tone! that range! that dreamy smile! — a truly vexing injustice compounded by Mr. Levine’s mistreatment last week of the equally fabulous Donna Allen?
What’s worse, the aforementioned Rehearsal Beard of Doom appears to be interfering with the decision-making abilities of the two coaches in closest proximity to Adam. Cee Lo choosing George Horga Jr. over Juhi? Insanity! Xtina acting like Josh Logan overpowered Michael Lynch? It simply doesn’t compute!
Ah well, everybody knows the Battle Rounds is the place where viewers’ smiles too often go to die. And hey, at least Juhi scored herself a Steal — the first time said veto power has been used in Season 5 to remedy a true Voice injustice.
But enough of my kvetcherie — please give a warm welcome to a new, made-up word, born right in the middle of this recap! — let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner:
6. Team Xtina: Destinee Quinn defeats Lina Gaudenzi on “Not Ready to Make Nice” (Lina stolen by Adam) | I really dug Destinee’s audition, but her emoting on the Dixie Chicks’ angry comeback jam was so overbaked I swore I could smell smoke coming out of the oven. Lina, meanwhile, despite the judges fawning over her technical perfection, sounded flatter than a rolled pie crust on at least half her ad-libs. Plus, her stage presence was about as exciting as melba toast. And now, after making two baking references in this paragraph, I’m gonna be honest and admit I’d rather daydream about carb-heavy confections rather than write another word about two chicas whose Battle is most likely being filed in Mark Burnett’s offices under the tab “Most Likely to Produce ‘Knockout Rounds’ Victims.”
5. Team Xtina: Josh Logan defeats Michael Lynch on “Harder to Breathe” | Cee Lo told Josh his vocal on Maroon 5′s first big hit sounded “almost identical” to Adam Levine, and therein lies the problem: At best, Josh came off like a terrific karaoke-bar performer; at worst (on several of his riffs), his pitch was as unsteady as a newborn fawn on a skating rink. Sure, Michael’s awkward dancing and slightly disconcerted facial expression didn’t exactly scream “future Season 5 champ,” but I appreciated his melodic choices and vocal clarity. How Blake and Adam interpreted all that as Josh “overpowering” Michael remains one of the episode’s biggest mysteries.
4. Team Cee-Lo: George Horga Jr. defeats Juhi on “Best I Ever Had” (Juhi stolen by Adam) | Let’s be honest: Matinee-idoly George could’ve easily come from the same factory that produced those One Direction and The Wanted dolls, and he hit all but two or three of the notes on Gavin DeGraw’s rollicking ditty. But while the kid’s got an inspiring, go-getter story and a great attitude (I loved how excited he got after realizing Juhi had been stolen), his performance was more solid than spectacular. Juhi, meanwhile, gave my fave performance of the episode. Like Xtina noted, the unimonikered teen’s “cool inflections” and masterful phrasing — tossing off certain lines, cranking up the grit on “Hey, Carolina” — was mesmerizing. But Cee Lo, perhaps misunderstanding the point of the show is to reward the best vocalists, seemed put off by Juhi — at the tender age of 16 — wondering if her future should be built around music or academics (an uncertainty I found as refreshing as brushing my teeth first thing in the morning). I thought both Adam and Xtina were going to slam their buttons and go in for the Steal, but seeing how capriciously they’ve been used this season, I’ll just be thankful she got one coach to give her a second chance.
3. Team Adam: James Irwin defears Matt Cermanski on One Republic’s “Counting Stars” | Don’t get me wrong: I feel like both James and Matt have enough potential to be serious contenders to inherit Danielle Bradbery’s crown and sash (so to speak). But given Matt’s palpable passion, hypnotic falsetto and groovy stage presence throughout “Counting Stars,” I was certain Adam was going to hand him the win — or that at a minimum, Xtina or Cee Lo would come through with a Steal. To be fair to James, he’s no slouch in the charisma department, either, but as Adam noted in rehearsal, there’s a sense he could perhaps dig a little deeper emotionally (not to mention iron out the occasional wobbles in pitch when at the ends of certain lines). Now, alas, dude has the added pressure of being labeled “The One Who Robbed Us of Matt Cermanski.” For his sake, let’s hope he does something jaw-dropping enough in the Knockouts to redefine himself in a more appealing fashion.
2. Team Blake: Austin Jenckes defeats Brian Pounds on the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” | This wasn’t much of a Battle, but at least we got Cher doling out very specific, very actionable advice to both dudes — and further proving the point I made last week that NBC ought to add her to the coaching rotation should Blake or Adam need to take off a season. Brian struggled to maintain power and control throughout the song — methinks nerves (and the knowledge he wasn’t ever beating Austin) contributed to his woes. Austin, meanwhile, showcased a warm, rich tone and a heartfelt delivery that the ballad away from its disco-falsetto origins and into more of a Joe Cocker soul-rock jam. Cher may have told Brian to go “balls to the wall,” but it’s ultimately Austin who heeded her brassy instructions.
1. Team Adam: James Wolpert defeats Will Champlin on Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (Will stolen by Xtina) | James and Will definitely benefitted from getting a raucous, completely current jam that allowed ‘em to fire up the crowd, and like last week’s Matthew-vs-Jacob showdown, the guys both maintained pretty stellar pitch despite bouncing around the stage with appealing abandon. I didn’t envy Adam having to call a winner, though, as this was perhaps the episode’s closest matchup. Will really stepped up his vocal game, nailing nearly every note and taking some big, rangey risks, even if his literal brow-wipe and not-entirely-distinctive tone proved somewhat problematic. James, for his part, wasn’t as spotless as his rival, but his stylized phrasing and inherent grittiness were hard not to dig (even if his green sweater and mid-’90s accountant shirt proved too precious by half). Xtina did Adam her second big favor of the night — after picking “Harder to Breathe” for a Battle — by pulling Will off the scrap heap. Now the question becomes, will she pair him against Josh in the Knockouts?
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of tonight’s Battle Rounds? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ decisions on Battle wins or Steals? Sound off in the comments!
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