The Voice: Bring It On

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Cee Lo shows his dominance by not even using the cushions meant for him to sit on while others stand.

Wait wait wait. Last season, the battle rounds were only an hour long. I rejoiced because, well, I find the two-hour episodes to be brutal. Luckily, the seeming endlessness of the 2-hour auditions is eased by the storytelling and competitiveness of the battle rounds…which NBC has deemed should be two hours long this season because they are sadists.

The maturity that I think sets The Voice apart from the other talent show programs is still present with the added bonus of our judges: Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Adam Lambert, taking on the additional role of mentor to their respective teams. I dig it. Sometimes it’s easy to cynically dismiss pop stars as living products made out of plastic and good marketing teams: Christina is popular because she’s hot, Adam is popular because he makes teenage girls swoon, Cee Lo became a household name singing “Forget You” which we all know is not the actual title of that song, and Blake…actually I don’t know much about the country scene, such is the backlash that results from the fact that I didn’t realize that there were other genres of music besides country until fourth grade (thanks, mom). So, it’s great to see all of the knowledge and insight that these four massively successful musicians bring to the table.

Each judge is assisted in their mentoring by a guest musician, which could have very quickly turned into a game of “How Many Celebrities Can We Cram onto This Show,” but The Voice managed to avoid that trap by each assistant mentor actually, well, mentoring. Adam Lambert enlisted the help of Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke. Blake Shelton turned to Kelly Clarkson and his wife, Miranda Lambert. Cee Lo Green called in Babyface and Ne-Yo while Christina Aguilera had Jewel and Lionel Richie at her disposal.

So, onto the battles!

Team Adam: Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley
Adam pairs Tony and Chris up and assigns them U2’s "Beautiful World." The duet is awesome. This is a problem for me while watching The Voice, that I get so caught up in how shiny and awesome the duets are that unless someone completely drops the ball, my objectivity is sated by the sweet harmonies. And Tony and Chris had some sweet harmonies. I might have to take iTunes up on some of those performance downloads they hock at every commercial break. Both guys rocked it. I personally thought that Chris had the more consistent performance, but Adam chose Tony to advance to the live rounds arguing that his performance was more passionate. Okay, I can live with that.

Team Blake: Adley Stump vs. RaeLynn
Blake assigns Tom Petty’s "Freefallin’" to RaeLynn and Adley. I’m seriously loving the song choices. RaeLynn, however, seriously did not love some of the high notes in that tune and fretted that Adley’s more powerful voice would blow her away. It’s a legit concern, but Miranda Lambert pointed out that while Adley has power, that’s…pretty much all she has. RaeLynn has a distinctive sound and style. Personally, I equate her style to the Dixie Chicks, and I find the Dixie Chicks to be grating on my ears, but she was surprisingly fierce during the performance and, citing his desire for a “storyteller” voice I totally see why Blake chose her over Adley to progress.

Team Christina: Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou
You guys, this was one of the best performances of the night. Christina paired the duo up on "The Power of Love." Yes, a Celine Dion tune. When I was a wee fourth grader out to rebel against my parents’ moonshine flavored musical taste, I rebelled with Celine Dion. Tame, I know, but it made my dad threaten to throw the stereo out a window, so mission accomplished. Monique worried that Chris’ classical training and polished performance would knock her out of the competition. Christina emphasized emotion, which Monique had in spades compared to Chris. The performance was phenomenal. Seriously. Google it. Go. Now. No, finish reading the review first, THEN go Google it. I didn’t have an opinion in the end, I just wanted them to keep singing duets. Christina chose Chris because he managed to find his emotion. I’m sad to see Monique go, but someone had to be eliminated.

Team Cee Lo: Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson
Ooh. "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Good choice, Cee Lo. I’ve mentioned how much I’m loving the musical choices right? Yes. Awesome. This is a tune that I’ve heard many covers of, usually at karaoke horror shows. Angie Johnson and Cheesa, however, are insanely better than the average karaoke belter. However, they were also the first of the contestants who were paired up and don’t seem to gel particularly well with one another. This was a competition and they didn’t try to pretend anything otherwise. Women are catty, man. I’m allowed to say that because I am one and these two were just going for the kill at every rehearsal. Angie had the key upped knowing that Cheesa struggled in the higher range. Cheesa didn’t appreciate it. Their performance was pretty awesome, though I kept getting the vibe that each one desperately hoped that the other one tripped and fell on her face during the battle. Angie was warned not to hold back, but hold back she did, and Cee Lo picked Cheesa.

Team Blake: Brian Fuente vs. Jordis Unge
Blake found his storyteller in RaeLynn in an earlier battle, and pitting Brian and Jordis against one another, he sought out his “rocker.” He gave them Alanis Morissette’s "Ironic" (ah, the sound of my angry, post-Celine youth) and Brian worried that given a song originally written for and by a woman, he was at a disadvantage. Really, dude? You know you can change the key, right? I mean, my musical knowledge doesn’t extend much past high-school marching band (Mellophones represent!) and I know that. And it’s not like "Ironic" is a particularly GRR GIRL POWER song. Kelly Clarkson warned him that he had to commit to the song or risk sounding “shaky,” but shaky is exactly what he sounded, and Blake went with Jordis.

Team Christina: Anthony Evans vs. Jesse Campbell
Another download worthy performance, Christina paired Anthony and Jesse together and gave them "If I Ain’t Got You," an Alicia Keys’ song. This was the last battle of tonight’s episode and definitely the hardest one to judge. Evans and Campbell performed so well together. When one faltered, the other excelled, but neither exhibited a fatal flaw in his performance. The performance was more of a team effort to perform the song well rather than an individual effort to kick the other guy’s ass and they complimented one another so well that even Christina had a hard time deciding who to keep and who to let go. She ultimately chose Jesse, but she might as well have just resorted to Eeny Meeny Miny Mo for all the decisiveness she showed.

Did you agree or disagree with the judges’ decisions tonight? Did any of the performances utterly blow you away?