Last week’s first round of The Voice battles was fantastic, so my expectations for week two were pretty high. Those expectations were definitely met.
Team Christina starts it off, with Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill, armed with Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” It’s an interesting match of artists with a “big song,” as Christina herself puts it. Sharp choice, Ms. Aguilera. Geoff draws Lionel Richie as his advisor, and has to take a moment before they start rehearsing. Lionel is floored by the volume of Geoff’s vocals, but wants him to make sure he conveys personality and character. Meanwhile, Sera works with Jewel, and is told that her sincerity is her strong point. “If you can bring more emotion and more heart and more story than Geoff is, you’re going to win,” Jewel tells her.
Once the battle is on, these two are popping with energy from the first beat. They feel like they could take their act on the road right now if they wanted to. Just as Christina and Jewel discussed during rehearsal, Sera brings plenty of attitude, and definitely gets her diva on. To me, she shows more energy than Geoff, but it’s great to finally be able to see Geoff’s eyes and expressions, and I love the overall sound of the performance. Like I discussed a few times last week with other duets, these two feel like a pair, doing their best to sell the song even though they’re competing against each other. “Clearly they both are giving this everything,” Blake says, and I agree.
Cee Lo and Adam side with Geoff, while Blake takes Sera. Yet the final decision is up to Christina (and does anyone know what’s on her head?), and she keeps Sera. Clearly Sera touched something in Christina with that blind audition! But this better not be the end of Geoff. I hope he doesn’t give up.
Next we move to Team Blake, where it’s Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land, with Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” I love that Blake asks the two artists for their input on how to divide up the song; that’s considerate of him. He pairs Charlotte with Kelly Clarkson, who says that “vocally she’s stellar. She’s got a killer vibe about her voice.” But can she tone it down to keep from looking like she’s hogging the spotlight? Meanwhile, Lex works with Miranda Lambert, who tells her she has “a mystery” about her. And yay for more product placement as Lex, like Raelynn, gets a voicemail from Miranda while driving.
Now, no offense to Foster The People, but I can’t stand this song after hearing it played over and over again on the radio and on TV. Having said that, turning it into a duet between two female vocalists gives it a whole different spin (and I can actually understand several words that I hadn’t before). What’s talked about before the battle again is born out during it: Charlotte looks a lot more comfortable on stage, though Lex seems to settle into it as the song goes on.
Christina has no opinion one way or the other on this battle. Cee Lo likes Charlotte, and Adam takes Lex, making it a split as we go to the ladies’ coach, Blake. After some discussion, Blake elects to keep Charlotte and send Lex home. This might still be beneficial to Lex, though, as sometimes the only way to bust your nerves is to throw yourself out there. Now that she’s had this kind of attention, she’ll hopefully get used to it and become an even stronger performer.
We go on to Team Cee Lo, where it’s Sarah Golden vs. Juliet Simms, with Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me.” The way he announces the battle, Cee Lo sounds like the announcer from Mortal Kombat for some reason. Juliet feels like she’s overwhelming Sarah in rehearsal but Cee Lo tells us that Sarah sounds pretty darn good. He pairs Sarah with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who suggests she keep the country in her voice to separate her from Juliet’s rocker persona. Juliet works with Ne-Yo, who advises her to pick her spots instead of just coming out guns blazing.
It’s soon time for battle, and even in appearances, you can see how different these two are — so I have to give a gold star to each of them for being able to meld together well. That’s just one extra thing they had to do that, say, Tony Lucca and Chris Cauley didn’t have to. I’m not a Rod Stewart fan either, but I had a lot of fun watching these two, and it appears that they had a lot of fun together. I like both these ladies.
Adam calls it “awesome” and goes for Juliet (no surprise, since he wanted her on his team!), Blake praises Sarah’s versatility, and Christina sides with Juliet, calling it a “no-brainer,” which seems a bit unintentionally harsh. Cee Lo struggles for a moment before he takes Juliet. Now Juliet has more time to spend with Purrfect the Cat, and maybe her version of “Oh! Darling” will get out of my head, because it’s been there since this morning.
Now it’s finally time for my team to take the stage and Adam, evil genius that he is, pairs Kim Yarbrough vs. Whitney Myer and gives them the Mary J. Blige song “No More Drama.” Everyone is bewildered by this bold choice so early on in the game, the ladies included. In rehearsal, Adam urges them both to connect with the message of the song. He pairs Whitney with Alanis Morissette, and tells her not to try to overpower Kim, because it’s not going to happen. Kim gets Robin Thicke, whom she’s always wanted to meet, so that’s fantastic for her. Robin asks her for more “tension” in her performance.
With that, the battle is on. I have to admit that I’m partial to Kim here, as I’ve gotten to spend time with her recently and find her to be someone I love and admire as an individual. On top of that, her experience really does come through in her performance. Having said that, Whitney is no pushover either. She’s obviously secure in who she is and what her sound is. When you put two people together who have that kind of confidence, it’s guaranteed to work. I don’t think you could have asked for anything more from these two ladies.
Blake can’t pick between the two, so he tries to select Carson (wouldn’t a Team Carson be interesting?). Christina and Cee Lo prefer Kim. The choice lies with their coach, however, and Adam is pretty flustered, but he eventually sides with everyone else and saves Kim. Whitney goes home, but she has nothing to be disappointed in, as she did her absolute best. Win or lose, I’m glad she was on my team.
It’s back to Team Christina for Lee Koch vs. Lindsey Pavao, with Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” Given everyone’s huge reaction to Lindsey’s blind audition, you might think that this is a head-scratcher. But let’s not discount Lee, since this guy is a practical one-man band. He gets some help from Jewel, who encourages him to work on his pronunciation and connect more with the lyrics, even as she calls them “bizarre.” Lindsey gets Lionel Richie, and he and Christina try to talk her out of her own head. “You can see that she’s out of her confidence element,” Lionel tells us. So perhaps this is less one-sided than it first looked…
The battle is on. The lighting makes Lee look really creepy at first, which I suppose works with the mood of the song. And while these two might have seemed like an odd pair, they do complement each other well. It’s not quite as unnerving as Rebecca Loebe and Devon Barley’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep” from season one, but it’s in that same way. If nothing else, Lee showed the national audience that he can handle more modern music just as well as he sung Bob Dylan. And I must agree with Cee Lo, he did kind of look like Jesus.
Cee Lo takes Jesus…I mean, Lee, and Adam agrees with him. Blake doesn’t know the song, leading Adam to yell “Who are you?!” at him. Christina bucks the guys’ advice and sides with Lindsey, which is not really a surprise, but Lee certainly showed that he’s more versatile than he looks and hopefully that will open some future doors for the dude from my hometown.
Team Cee Lo ends the night, matching Jamar Rogers vs. Jamie Lono. He gives them “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, another one of those songs we’ve all sung in the car, but will never admit to. Jamie gets to work with Babyface, but Cee Lo is concerned about how fragile his voice might be. Ne-Yo works with Jamar, and between that and actually getting to sing with Cee Lo during rehearsal, Jamar is floored. He plans to draw on his difficult life experiences to produce the emotion he needs in his performance. It’s a difficult battle personally, but that’s the way it breaks.
This battle is another one of those where the artists take another song perhaps totally out of their element and give it a different sound, like Charlotte and Lex did earlier. I’ve heard quite a few people cover this one, and I didn’t quite feel Jamie digging as deep as the song demands. The original had a certain desperation to phrases like “heartache and pain” that made it emotional, and I didn’t get that from him. On the other hand, Jamar hit some impressive notes, and seemed to sell the emotion of the song a bit better in at least his performance, if not his sound. I don’t know if this was necessarily a success for me personally, but that’s on me.
Adam takes Jamar, while Blake likes Jamie and Christina doesn’t think the song was a good fit for Jamie. It’s up to Cee Lo, who takes Jamar. Another unsurprising choice, but it’s the right one.
What’s great about this round of battles is what’s starting to differentiate season two from season one to me: that it’s less about the individual and more about something bigger than that. Whereas the battles in season one could be pretty one-sided, these are proving a little harder to pick, and the performances seem to mesh so well together. Yes, the show is called The Voice and there’s just going to be one winner, but it’s an example of how no one gets to the top alone. We collaborate with others, we learn from others, and we can make beautiful music together as well as alone. That’s just another example of how this show has more heart than any other singing competition.
I can’t say that I agreed with all the choices made by the coaches, but I didn’t have any completely bewildering moments like I did last season (or even last week). These battles are just harder to call because of the level of talent involved. In particular, I’m glad to see Kim get the nod, because with any other show she wouldn’t have even made it on the air. That’s a shame because she really is a fantastic singer and it’s great that The Voice and Adam have recognized that, judging her on her talent and not her age.
Oh, and the Adam Levine Bleeping Counter stays at 11 this season. That makes two of seven episodes this season in which my coach hasn’t been censored. Is he mellowing? Nah…
What did you think of this week’s battles? Agree or disagree with the results? Are you ready for next week? See you then!