The first week of Battle Rounds showed us what we expected, but still enjoyed: all four coaches making excruciatingly tough decisions after some excellent battles, and four of the eight available steals being used. What would the second and final round of battles bring? More tough decisions and several crowd favorites going home, unfortunately, but it’s all for the best: each coach finished the week with their team of eight ready for the even-more-intense-and-tough-to-watch Knockout Rounds.
Jessica Childress vs. Vedo (Team Usher). Usher openly admits that he paired Jessica and Vedo together because their voices are, in fact, nothing alike. He gives the two singers Bruno Mars’s Police-influenced tune “Locked Out of Heaven.” Jessica makes a big transition from feeling the song is out of her vocal range to finding the power in her upper range and blowing Vedo away. The onus falls to Vedo to keep his personality within the song. As if we needed things to get more intriguing, Vedo reveals before the battle that his mother, who was mentioned during the Blind Auditions to be dying of lung cancer, passed away shortly after the blinds. It’s hard not to be fan of both of these artists, so after an amazing battle, I can only hope that the loser gets stolen by Blake or Adam. My hopes for both of them as both Adam and Blake heap praise on both artists. Vedo almost has a heart attack when Usher chooses him, and Jessica is very humble in defeat – but sadly, no one steals her.
Luke Edgemon vs. Monique Abbadie (Team Shakira). Shakira calls them “the most eclectic couple in this group,” which may be an understatement. Luke, the R&B singer from North Carolina, and Monique, the Latin-funk artist, begin to prepare Lady Gaga’s “You and I.” Monique does a poor impersonation of Gaga early in the rehearsals, which Shakira says comes off as too Broadway. The overarching theme of this pairing’s rehearsals is to avoid ad-libbing over each other and stepping on each other’s toes. The battle performance does not disappoint. Blake and Adam, seeming surprised at themselves, say they think Luke won. After making another silly food analogy, Shakira picks Monique with the rationale that Luke will get stolen, and stolen he is. Blake hits his button, with Usher not far behind to give him some competition. Blake says it was one of the most energetic, pitch-perfect battle performances he’s ever seen, and Usher is left with nothing to add – so much for competition. Sure enough, Luke picks Blake. Both he and Shakira are now out of steals, while Usher still has both of his left. I continue to be entertained by the unlikely chemistry between Blake and Usher; it probably did not take long for the producers to decide Usher would sit next to Blake rather than Adam.
Jacqui Sandell vs. Savannah Berry (Team Blake). Another interesting pairing, Blake puts together Jersey rocker Jacqui Sandell and aspiring country star Savannah Berry for Little Big Town’s “Little White Church.” It is clear Sandell feels overmatched and out of her element singing a country song against a country singer, by I don’t think she does that bad in the initial rehearsal. Still, she removes the growl from her voice after Blake suggests it – Blake notices it, and the playing field seems to become more level. But is it? Blake has consistently chosen country artists in battles over non-country artists, and despite Jacqui giving it her all and impressing the other coaches, nobody is surprised when Blake picks Savannah to advance, and Jacqui is not stolen. We can read it on Jacqui’s face before Blake makes his decision that she knew she was screwed.
C. Perkins vs. Kris Thomas (Team Shakira). Shakira pairs together two R&B singers who she alone turned around for in the blinds: the man we see (in a conveniently-placed video clip) being told by Shakira that other coaches will want to steal him later, C. Perkins, and the man who sang Whitney Houston in his blind audition and made Usher to say “You’re a dude!,” Kris Thomas. The pair works on the second Bruno Mars song we hear tonight, “It Will Rain,” and Kris gets ahead in the game early. The song matches Kris’s vocal range better, and he seems to be more in his element. Still, Perkins says he knows that if he does not doubt himself, he can impress Shakira and possibly win the battle. I’m impressed with C. Perkins non-arrogant confidence, but it is obvious Kris is going to win, because he sounds like a girl more than half the time. But all signs point to an Usher steal. Before the commercial break before the battle, a steal “no one saw coming” is teased (thanks, now we do see it coming) and Usher is shown pressing his button. After the battle, Carson asks Usher who he would pick to win the battle, and Usher says, “You’ll see in a minute.” Sure enough, Shakira picks Kris, and as Perkins comes by to thank each coach and say goodbye, Usher presses his button. “I let him sit in it a little bit to remind him what it feels like to not have it, so that he’ll never take it for granted,” he explained. What a guy!
Midas Whale vs. Patrick Dodd (Team Adam). Adam sets up a fun performance by giving folk rock duo Midas Whale and Beale Street veteran Patrick Dodd Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love.” While none of these men are exactly “hunka hunka,” their three-way harmonies in the initial rehearsal are gorgeous. Midas Whale is as goofy as ever, and Patrick’s voice seems perfect for the song. But, after the final rehearsal starts off sounding way worse than before, Adam decides “this isn’t working” and turns it into a bluegrass song. It was really interesting to watch Adam, an underrated musical genius, put together the new rendition of the song in the studio. Adam says he needs to see Jon and Ryan unite better for them to win, but admits he has no idea what direction he will go. The bluegrassy “Burning Love” proves to be the fun, feel-good, charismatic rendition Adam hoped it would be, and it brought him to his feet. Since Adam is denied the option of forming a power trio, he admits it is the toughest decision he’s had to make in four seasons on the show, but I thank goodness he chooses Midas Whale. They can go very, very far in this competition, and they are the second duo to win their Battle Round in show history. Patrick is not stolen, meaning Adam will use his last steal, the teased third and final steal of the night, on the loser of Usher’s next battle.
Orlando Dixon vs. Ryan Innes (Team Usher). This battle is going to produce a steal? Both are R&B singers, but the similarities end there. Innes is seven years older than Dixon; more importantly, Dixon only got Usher’s chair to turn, at the last second, in a segment the producers cruised over, while Innes turned around all four chairs with ease. Usher also notes that Innes is more soulful and Dixon is more technical, and he thinks that each one can teach the other something. The pair works on “Ain’t No Sunshine” and each man works on his weaker point. Then, Usher and his battle advisor, Pharrell Williams, call in Dixon, and in an unexpected moment, Pharrell makes Dixon cry. Pharrell tells Dixon he needs to stop using his voice as a shield, but rather as a window to the pain he’s felt in his life, and Dixon explains that he’s broke, his family is struggling, and he needs this opportunity to keep going. Suddenly, Dixon’s self-described “life-changing moment” makes this battle infinitely more interesting, and starts to sway the audience’s rooting interests. This originally strange pairing becomes one of the night’s best battles. Innes kills it, which was expected, but Dixon makes a case for himself with some excellent riffs and an excellent style. Usher agonizes over the pick, but ultimately takes Ryan Innes, and Adam snaps up Orlando Dixon with his final steal. This ends Monday’s episode, and Usher is the only coach with a steal left going into the last six battles on Tuesday.
Brandon Roush vs. Shawna P. (Team Shakira). Tuesday’s episode begins one of the final two #TeamShakira battles. Brandon Roush draws his inspiration from working with autistic kids; Shawna P. was devastated when she and Big & Rich went their separate ways. I knew from the start I’d be rooting for Brandon; besides their backstories, I also prefer Brandon’s voice to Shawna’s. Brandon is worried when Shakira gives them “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin, because he sees Shawna as having a similar voice. Joel Madden notes that Shawna has found her place in the song, while Brandon needs to find that still. But come the final rehearsal, Shakira is impressed with Brandon’s progress while telling Shawna to regulate her intensity. Shawna, ever the egotist, openly admits that Brandon is young and it would suck for her to lose to a nineteen-year-old. The time for the battle comes, and I have every reason to think Brandon should win. He infuses the song with a soulful sound, appears to have a lot more fun with the performance than Shawna does, and how can you not enjoy his Weird Al locks and his bright red fedora? Seriously, Brandon’s hat has more personality than Shawn P. does. And yet, after the other coaches commend mostly Brandon, Shakira chooses experience over “eagerness” and keeps Shawna on her team. I knew Brandon wouldn’t be saved; he’s not Usher’s kind of artist. Shawna is easily my least favorite artist moving on to the Knockout Round.
Duncan Kamakana vs. Sarah Simmons (Team Adam). In yet another one-chair vs. four-chair battle, Adam pairs Hawaiian baritone “stud” Duncan Kamakana against “One of Us” singer Sarah Simmons. He gives them Lady Antebellum’s “Wanted You More” to benefit both their voices – which is more intriguing when they have to sing it in front of Hillary Scott, Adam’s battle advisor and Lady Antebellum’s lead singer, at their initial rehearsal. Surprisingly to me, it’s Sarah who has more problems to start off – she trails off at the end of most of her lines. The final rehearsal doesn’t sound great either, with the harmonies not matching well (even the best singers have pitch problems sometimes). But suddenly, when it came time for battle, they sounded exponentially better. The harmonies were beautiful, both of them showed genuine emotion, and their hug at the end was adorable. Blake claims Sarah is one of the best singers he’s ever heard in his life, but I thought Duncan deserved some credit too for singing on her level. But does he stand a chance for an upset? Of course not. It really was Sarah’s to lose all along. Adam is confident Sarah can win the whole competition.
We then run through two more battles that were just as lopsided. I was so glad when Usher picked Michelle Chamuel over Chelsea M. in “Titanium.” Chamuel is my underdog pick to make it deep into the competition. Another favorite of mine, Amy Whitcomb, beat Agina Alvarez in “Heartbreaker” to move forward on #TeamAdam. Then, the shocker: Blake picks Justin Rivers over The Morgan Twins after their rendition of “Easy.” I was just as shocked that the producers didn’t spend more time on this battle as I was that Rivers won; despite my feeling from the start that the Twins were overrated and did not deserve a four-chair turn, I did not think Rivers would beat them. We still know virtually nothing about Rivers and only got a small clip of the battle, followed by all the coaches huddled up and swooning over Rivers’s sudden greatness.
Cathia vs. Mary Miranda (Team Shakira). Finally, the one we’ve all been waiting for. The battle that teased a catfight between the two young Latina singers, Mary Miranda and Cathia, as Cathia is shown bitching at Mary for accidentally singing on her chorus – and then openly complaining about Mary to Shakira in front of Mary. I already know who I’m rooting for before the show comes back from commercial break. Shakira gives them her own song, “Antes de las Seis” (“Before Six”) for the battle, showing them how confident she is in them. Mary openly admits before beginning rehearsal that she is not familiar with the song, but that doesn’t stop Cathia from bitching about it in her private interview. Joel Madden, Shakira’s battle advisor, does make a good point: Whether or not she knows it (which to me even seems hard to imagine, since she’s a young Latina singer and therefore a Shakira fan), it’s time to learn it. “She’s in the game.” I still give Mary credit for being honest about it and for trying, and I admit Cathia deserves points for preparing ahead of time. Then, the ultimate bitch moment for Cathia: Shakira says she went down a notch from the first rehearsal to the last, and tells her not to change the melody if she isn’t sure, and Cathia blames being thrown off by Mary accidentally singing on her chours, which she did apologize for. The rest of the lead-up to the battle went normally, without a hint of animosity between the two (which I was hoping to see, to be honest). Other than the forced-looking hand-holding and Cathia’s insincere smiling at Mary at the end, the battle confirmed two things: 1.) Shakira wins by picking either singer, and 2.) Usher wins by getting to steal whomever Shakira doesn’t pick. Cathia’s voice did seem a touch more mature (she’s a whole two years older than Mary, after all), though I prefer Mary because of Cathia’s attitude. After some witty and “heartwarming” coach banter, Shakira eventually picks Mary Miranda, and Usher completes his team by stealing Cathia.
Going into the Knockout Round, here are each coach’s final teams of eight:
#TeamAdam: Amber Carrington, Judith Hill, Warren Stone, Caroline Glaser*, Midas Whale, Orlando Dixon*, Sarah Simmons, Amy Whitcomb.
#TeamBlake: Holly Tucker, Taylor Beckham*, The Swon Brothers, Grace Askew, Danielle Bradbery, Luke Edgemon*, Savannah Berry, Justin Rivers.
#TeamShakira: Sasha Allen*, Garrett Gardner, Karina Iglesias*, Tawnya Reynolds, Monique Abbadie, Kris Thomas, Shawna P., Mary Miranda.
#TeamUsher: Jess Kellner, Josiah Hawley, Audrey Karrasch, Vedo, C. Perkins*, Ryan Innes, Michelle Chamuel, Cathia*.
*Singer was stolen by this coach after losing his or her Battle Round.
Who has the strongest team now? It might be Team Shakira, who previously was said by many to have the weakest team. Getting two great steals from Adam on night one of the battles didn’t hurt either, but Monique, Kris, Mary, and perhaps even Garrett also appear to be strong contenders to advance from the Knockout Round to the Live Shows. It is very difficult to project who advances to the Live Shows because we will not know any of the pairings for the Knockouts until Monday night’s episode. Even then, there were multiple major surprises last season, such as Team Adam’s Loren Allred beating favored Nicole Nelson and Cody Belew winning against fan favorite Avery Wilson on Team Cee Lo. Nonetheless, here’s who I think should make the Round of 16:
Team Adam: Judith Hill, Sarah Simmons, Caroline Glaser, Midas Whale. A Midas Whale vs. Warren Stone Knockout Round, which is entirely likely, could go either way. Blake would pick Warren any day of the week if it were his team, but I think Adam wants to see Midas Whale go a little further in the competition. The three women are just the other top singers on his team. I think Adam stretched his imagination a bit when picked Amber Carrington to beat Sasha Allen in the Battle Rounds, and I have a feeling Orlando will get paired with Judith Hill, one of the best singers on the show.
Team Blake: Holly Tucker, Danielle Bradbery, The Swon Brothers, Luke Edgemon. This team is the hardest to predict, somehow. You’d figure Blake would just keep all his country singers, but it isn’t that easy. This team is going to end up with some weird pairing, like a Luke Edgemon vs. Grace Askew. And some of the country singers are going to have to lose. Is Justin Rivers really going to be a big revelation (once the producers focus on him for more than fifteen seconds) as it was briefly teased in the last episode of the Battle Rounds?
Team Shakira: Sasha Allen, Monique Abbadie, Kris Thomas, Mary Miranda. This goes down the drain if Shakira pairs Monique and Mary in the Knockout Round. I could see Monique beating Karina, but then who does Mary get paired with? Tawnya? Garrett? Too many questions to make any definitive statements yet, but these four singers I’ve chosen would likely be Shakira’s most popular.
Team Usher: Vedo, Ryan Innes, Michelle Chamuel, Cathia. I’m ruing having to see half of these singers go home. Usher might or might not pair only the same gender together, leaving his team with two men and two women for the Live Shows. He isn’t a conventional coach, but if that’s his plan, either Josiah or Vedo won’t survive, and only two of four very deserving women will be eliminated. I anticipate Vedo has at least one more big my-mom-died-so-I’m-going-to-do-this-for-her performance, which directly or indirectly will oust Josiah, based on the pairings. Jess Kellner and Audrey Karrasch are two of my favorite underdogs (how’s that for an oxymoron?), but I accept that Usher will likely want one of his steals to move on, and besides that, Cathia’s voice is powerful enough to potentially top any of the girls on Team Usher.