‘The Voice’ recap: The battle rounds conclude
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Phee-yew! The battle rounds on ‘The Voice’ have finally come to an end. Each of the four coach/judges, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine, has trimmed his or her team to just six contenders. And next week, the live shows begin and the competition spreads to two nights, Monday and Tuesday.
Monday night saw Green moved to tears -- twice -- by songs sung by the ‘artists’ on his team. It also saw a few lackluster performances and one or two sharp ones. And I hope it means we’ve also now seen the last of Aguilera’s sparkly disc hat thingy.
Here’s who went home and who stayed:
Team Cee Lo
Pairing: Boston body shop worker James Massone vs. retro R&B singer Wade
The song: ‘True Colors’
Thoughts going in: You had to figure Wade would take it, given the way Green said how much ‘closer’ to him he felt, the fact that his mentor Babyface compared him to Al Green and Luther Vandross, and the deficit of self-confidence Massone seemed to be struggling to overcome.
The performances: In fact, neither one of them sounded all that great. Both displayed an uneven grasp of pitch, and while Massone’s tone is a bit nasal for my taste, Wade seemed to be gesturing more passionately than singing.
The response: All three other judges opted for Massone, whose voice Adam said ‘grabs’ him. But the choice was Green’s, and after admitting his original bias and dashed hopes for Wade, he opted for …
Winner: James Massone
Pairing: Former nursing student Mathai vs. piano-playing country singer Nicolle Galyon
The song: ‘Love Song’
Thoughts going in: Galyon lost both an advantage and a disadvantage when Levine decided not to provide accompaniment on the piano as well as sing. Mathai’s advantage is her considerable onstage charisma.
The performances: Galyon looked great and gave it her best shot, but her voice was patchy, dropping out in spots. Mathai also didn’t seem to give her best performance, but it was at least solid, with no glaring holes.
The response: Shelton said Galyon lacked breath support. Aguilera called it a ‘hands-down, no brainer’ for Mathai. And Green dubbed Galyon’s performance ‘generic’ and said Mathai’s style has a ‘uniqueness’ that reminds him of Aguilera’s. (I know, funny.) Levine said he ‘wasn’t very happy with it in general’ and felt ‘let down,’ but ultimately chose …
Pairing: Rapper Moses Stone vs. country duo The Line
The song: '[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction’
Thoughts going in: What a weird pairing. A rap artist doing his best to sing, and a country duo struggling not to sound like a wedding band? There was no predicting how this match would go.
The performances: The Line moved stiffly and seemed confused as to how to use the space and interact with a third performer, not that they did much interacting with each other, either. Moses may have been out of his element, but he seemed to genuinely love performing and was fun to watch.
The response: Green liked Stone’s personality and swagger. Levine and Shelton chose THE LiNE based purely on vocals. But Aguilera contended that ‘The Voice does not have to be a specific thing,’ noting that versatility matters, too. She picked …
Winner: Moses Stone
Pairing: Acoustic singer Karla Davis vs. formerly troubled soulster Orlando Napier
The song: ‘Easy’
Thoughts going in: First of all, thank goodness Levine let them switch from doing a Hall and Oates song neither of them really felt comfortable with. Lionel Richie’s ‘Easy’ would clearly be much easier for both.
The performances: Napier’s performance was flashier and he seemed more dynamic onstage, but Davis’ voice was clear and smooth and … easy. She might work on her performance posture a bit, though. I’d probably have given the round to Napier.
The response: The other judges were split, with Shelton and Cee Lo picking Napier and Aguilera favoring Davis, while noting that the whole thing was a bit ‘lackluster.’ Levine said he believed in both singers but would keep …
Winner: Karla Davis
Pairing: Small-town preacher’s kid Jordan Ragar vs. L.A. street musician Naia Kete
The song: ‘I’m Yours’
Thoughts going in: Kete had a clear advantage, as they kept telling us, not only because the song was more her style, but also because Ragar didn’t have much experience singing harmony. Possible trainwreck.
The performances: Not fab, but not a trainwreck. Ragar did better than expected, hitting most of his notes, though he seemed nervous. But Kete failed to live up to expectations, coming across as wan where she had previously seemed powerful.
The response: Aguilera found Ragar stable and Kete shaky at points, but still preferred Kete. Green and Levine also picked Kete. And Shelton thought both had nerve and pitch issues, calling the performance ‘even.’ Ultimately, though, he said he’d go ‘with experience’ and picked …
Winner: Naia Kete
Team Cee Lo
Pairing: Broadway veteran Tony Vincent vs. former ‘Last Call’ house band member Justin Hopkins
The song: ‘Faithfully’
Thoughts going in: Each singer seemed to have his advantage. Vincent has the stage confidence and solid vocal chops, and certainly a distinct look. Hopkins has a scruffy charm and an interesting gritty voice.
The performances: Both did well. It’s grit vs. clarity. Polished weirdness vs. worn-in comfort. Steady calm vs. energetic jumping. It really came down to taste.
The response: Levine liked the ‘dirtiness’ in Hopkins’ voice. Both Shelton and Aguilera thought Vincent would be a more versatile team member. Green said it was his toughest choice yet, but went with …
Winner: Tony Vincent
What did you think of the final battle rounds? Did the coaches choose correctly?
Poll: ‘American Idol’ vs. ‘The Voice’
Each week, Times writers are ranking their top five performances among ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ contenders. Readers are invited to vote too. Last week, Katrina Parker of ‘The Voice’ came out on top of ‘Your Favorites’ with nearly 22% of the more than 20,000 votes cast.
Remember, your votes decide this week’s showdown. Results will be published later this week, after ‘Idol’ contenders perform. Readers’ choice will change daily until the poll closes Monday.
-- Amy Reiter