As “The Voice” finally moves into the battle rounds, it’s time to marvel at how good a TV show it has become.
Sure, winner Cassadee Pope’s post-“Voice” debut may give the show the moderate chart success it has been looking for this week, but really its core strength is now in the rapport between the coaches.
This season has found the original quartet of Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera more likable than ever. Heck, Aguilera even shed some tears last night.
The battle rounds also mean additional mentors and this season’s are quite impressive: Cher (Team Blake), Ed Sheeran (Team Christina), Miguel (Team Cee Lo), and Ryan Tedder (Team Adam).
Night 1 of the battles brought out some surprises, though mostly because of the coaches’ decisions on who should compete, not in who they chose as winners.
Here’s how the first night broke down:
TEAM ADAM: Grey vs. Nic Hawk, “Domino”
This seems like a mismatch. Grey has a nice voice and personality, but Nic is distinctive, if slightly less polished, on every level. “He’s got his own little disco going and it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in that,” said Shelton, praising Nic’s take on the Jessie J song. However, Aguilera went for the steadiness and power of Grey’s vocals. Oddly, so did Adam.
ADAM PICK: Grey
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Nic (stolen by Blake)
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TEAM CHRISTINA: Amber Nicole vs. Timyra-Joi, “Listen”
On paper, this was a smart battle on Christina’s part since both Amber and Timyra-Joi have similar strengths and R&B styles. She said each one was “a younger version of me” and gave them Beyonce’s “Listen” to prove themselves. However, they were both so good, it was a mistake for her to pit two singers who could win the competition against each other so early on. Amber had the edge in the warmth of her voice and in the way she connected to the lyrics, though Timyra-Joi may have the edge on raw talent. The other coaches missed a chance to steal a possible champion.
CHRISTINA PICK: Amber
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Amber
TEAM BLAKE: Shelbie Z. vs. Justin Chain, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Considering how well country singers do on “The Voice,” this is a more important battle than these singers would normally merit. Shelbie had more of a chance to shine, due to the song’s arrangement, but Justin seemed steadier, Though Shelbie went off course at times on her notes and on her harmonies, she was also far more interesting.
BLAKE PICK: Shelbie
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Shelbie
TEAM CEE LO: Caroline Pennell vs. Anthony Paul, “As Long As You Love Me”
This was a tough battle because the singers are so different that it’s hard to compare what they do. Caroline’s ethereal, unique voice is distinctive and memorable, while Anthony’s R&B vocals are cool and smooth. Adam went with Caroline’s uniqueness, while Blake felt Anthony was more versatile. Christina called it her favorite battle of the day. Cee Lo said Caroline encouraged him to “dream with my eyes open.”
CEE LO PICK: Caroline
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Caroline
TEAM ADAM: Donna Allen vs. Tessanne Chin, “Next to Me”
Not sure what Adam was thinking pairing these two powerful singers in a battle, calling them both “world class singers” and he was right. They each put their best foot forward as they reworked Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me.” Cee Lo praised Tessanne’s poise and Donna’s raw power, though he gave the edge to Tessanne. That said, I’m sad no one chose to pick Donna for their team. She has a great voice that someone needs to teach her to harness. One of the coaches could have done her and music fans a great favor by getting that point across to her.
ADAM PICK: Tessanne
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Tessanne
TEAM CHRISTINA: Briana Cuoco vs. Jacqui Lee, “House of the Rising Sun”
If you put the best qualities of these two singers together, you would have one amazing singer. Jacqui has a great voice, but lacks the stage presence of Briana. Christina was impressed by Jacqui’s ability to learn, as well as her untapped potential. Both Cee Lo and Blake tried to steal Briana, who ultimately went with Blake.
CHRISTINA PICK: Jacqui
SHOULD’VE PICKED: Jacqui