The Voice's First Battle Round: The Steal Debuts

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The Voice S03E11: “The Battles Premiere”

With the teams set, it was time to kick off The Voice’s Battle Rounds, where musicians compete against their own teammates for a spot on their judge’s reduced roster. The process every bit as awkward as the set-up implies, and the part of me that's hesitant to buy into the notion of pure competition on The Voice has always kind of looked at the Battle Rounds as each judge's last opportunity to deal with any buyer’s remorse he or she may have struggled with after the Blind Auditions. I mean, sometimes the battles are so clearly stacked in one musician’s favor that it’s hard to imagine it happened accidentally.

But with that said, there were some pleasant surprises last night! I thought that De’Borah was surely a goner when paired with Sting sound-alike Nelly’s Echo on, surprise surprise, a Police song. Billy Joe Armstrong claimed that “Message in a Bottle” was “tailor made” for Nelly, seemingly cementing De’Borah’s fate, a potential storyline that The Voice was more than happy to emphasize with footage of the self-proclaimed “misfit” floundering in rehearsals.

With so much buildup dedicated to the natural awesomeness of Nelly’s Echo and the apparent shortcomings of De’Borah, I can honestly say that I was surprised when we entered battle and from the jump, Nelly just wasn’t that great. He seemed nervous in contrast to De’Borah’s sudden case of overflowing confidence and while neither performance blew me out of the water, hers was certainly the most fun to watch. What she lacked in rehearsals, she made up for during the performance, and really, that’s the part that matters, right?

Casey Muessignmann and Terry McDermott also brought actual competition to the stage with their “Carry on My Wayward Son” duet. I thought that Casey would be the shoo-in since, as we’re reminded every single freaking week, Blake Shelton wants to win with a country singer this season because as we all know, country music is a heavily marginalized and overlooked genre that deserves greater exposure and a bigger audience. It’s not like it’s one of the most popular music genres in the U.S. with legions of fans, legendary artists, and it’s very own awards show.

Anyway, I figured Casey and his cowboy hat would be the victors in their musical tussle with Scottish rocker Terry McDermott, and joking aside, I thought Casey did quite well while Terry just seemed to scream a lot. However, Blake felt that the safer bet was Terry, who already “knows who he is” musically.

Team Blake’s second battle of the night pitted country against country with mother-daughter duo 2 Steel Girls facing off against Gracia Harrison on the Dixie Chicks tune “Sin Wagon.” Like De’Borah, Gracia struggled in rehearsals but outshined her teammates/rivals with confidence that translated to a seemingly carefree performance.

YouTube sensation J.R. Aquino competed against Diego Val for a spot on Team Cee Lo. Their rehearsal footage tried hard to push the same underdog status on Val, but his performance lacked the same astronomical jump in confidence and execution that made the other underdogs of the night seem so much more amazing than their rehearsal struggles let on. He was GOOD, but so was Aquino. Cee Lo’s decision was practically forced to be arbitrary.

Collin McLoughlin of Team Adam and Amanda Brown of Team Cee Lo were also cut from their respective teams, but found themselves saved by the newest addition to The Voice’s format, THE STEAL. While I generally like the idea—I think—after seeing it in practice I think it’s a kind of odd thing to be included in rounds that exist solely to thin the herd. Each judge can only steal two eliminated singers, a restriction I’m sure is intended to guard against padding one’s ranks indefinitely. Still, the thought of eliminating two team members just to fill the places with two steals seems kind of silly.

Despite the out-of-place feel of The Steal though, I’m glad to see Collin McLoughlin and Amanda Brown stay, or at least Amanda. Her duet with Trevin Hunte on Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” was fantastic. The biggest draw was absolutely Trevin’s amazing high-notes, but if she had been paired with anyone BUT Trevin, I’m certain Amanda would have been Cee Lo’s pick instead of the newest addition to Team Adam (not that Team Adam is a bad team to be on by any means.)

After battling Bryan Keith on “Santeria,” Collin McLoughlin joined Team Blake after being stolen from Team Adam, though to be fair, the steal was initiated by Adam’s dismissal of him. When you look at it like that, The Steal seems less like a delightfully devious competitive strategy and more like foraging for leftovers.


What do you think of The Steal so far?

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