‘The Voice’ Becomes a Battle of Belters

The Voice -- "Battle Rounds": Angie Johnson and Cheesa Laureta (Photo by: Lewis Jacobs/NBC)

Let’s face it. We live in a world of conflict, whether it’s nations fighting nations over politics, sports teams battling sports teams for a championship or “Real Housewives” arguing with other “Real Housewives” about…oh, does it really matter as long as a table gets flipped? Society is all about who wins and who loses. Hence, so is reality TV.

Which brings us this week’s edition of “The Voice.” Gone are the days where the show was pretty much all about who was moving on with very little about who was losing out. Now, it’s Battle Round time, where for every cheer of a happy victor we get a tear or a leer from an upset loser. In keeping with that spirit of competition, it seems only fitting to pit each of tonight’s Battles against each other as well….

Jesse Campbell vs. Anthony Evans Versus Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou

These two Team Christina Aguilera battles were by far the premiere match-ups of the evening, the former featuring a pair of similar singers and the latter showcasing polar opposites. Pitting sweet single dad Jesse against preacher’s son Anthony was like divine intervention, since Christina’s team won’t need two spiritual soul singers. You just knew watching them perform together would be like a revival meeting, but what made the showdown more entertaining was watching these guys in the studio together.

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Assigned “If I Ain’t Got You,” they started scrapping almost immediately. Anthony complains that Jesse has a vibe “like he’s already won.” Jesse boasts that he’s going to be “the good artist I am.” Even guest coach Lionel Richie tapped right into Jesse’s arrogance/confidence with a riddle that it’s safe to say no other music reality show has ever asked: “How do you feed an elephant?” “A bite at a time.” What does that mean? I have no idea. But it sounds important so I’ll probably steal it at some point.

Clearly, this was Jesse’s round for the taking and he did get as showy as it seemed like he would, his voice doing more twists and turns than the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Anthony did keep pace, though, and was immensely better than he’d been during his blind audition. If only he’d stretched out the word “baby” into “b-b-b-b-baby” like Jesse did, maybe Christina would have picked him. But she didn’t, and heavy favorite Jesse moved on.

As for Chris and Monique, his “Placido Domingo in a Designer Suit” style was as different from Monique’s spunky passion as you could get. There was no doubt that he had the bigger voice, but as he rehearsed, he might as well have been a Men’s Wearhouse mannequin for all the emotion he showed. Meanwhile, Monique was as jittery and emotional as as 12-year-old who just won a radio call-in contest for Justin Bieber tickets.  Which turned out to be a major advantage for her, as mentor Jewel explained.

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What seemed like no contest actually turned into a really well done duet with Celine Dion’s “The Power Of Love.” I mean, Monique was even weeping in the rehearsal, let alone the actual battle. Her flood of emotions seemed to loosen Chris up…a little anyway…so there was something real about him to go along with that unreal voice of his. Their performances were both emotional and note-perfect, pretty much a draw. And even though Christina went with Chris, Monique’s charm and grace even as a loser made he come across as someone I wouldn’t have minded hearing more from.

The Winner: Jesse vs. Anthony

Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley Versus Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson

While the showdown between these two battle rounds didn’t have the power of Jesse vs. Anthony/Chris vs. Monique, all four singers did have their decent moments. Watching Tony go up against Chris was a bit confusing at first, since vocally and appearance-wise, they could almost be brothers. They’re that similar. Coach Adam Levine wisely knew he had to eliminate one of these guys since they kind of cancel each other out, and he tossed them a tune – “Beautiful Day” – that was a perfect match for their pop-rock sensibilities.

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Both performers were pretty evenly matched vocally, Chris did seem a bit showier as they sang, scooting across the stage and even doing some hopping at one point. On the other hand, in the battle to see who’s cheering family was cuter, Tony’s cheering wife and young daughters clearly beat Chris’ more stoic wife. So this one was a toss-up, with Tony finally getting the win even though he clearly still has something to prove.

Meanwhile, Cheesa and Angie also seemed pretty evenly matched vocally. Both the Hawaiian native and the staff sergeant are powerhouse vocalists with voices that stomp on anything in their paths like Godzilla in Tokyo. Nothing gets in their way. Except, if you’re Cheesa, your own personality. She’s a guitar amp turned up to 11, a squirrel after a Red Bull binge…nothing but energy to burn. Even her coach, Cee Lo Green, and mentor, producer “Babyface” Edmonds, seemed a little bit taken aback by her whirlwind approach to everything.

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On the other hand, Angie seemed downright steely as she insisted that she would “play it cool” and remember that her “finger has to stay off the trigger until I’m ready.” Words of wisdom that made about as much sense as that thing about the elephant. By the time she and Cheesa got around to singer, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” it seemed like the two of them couldn’t be further apart personally or stylistically. And yet, watching Angie literally kick up her heels and Cheesa swing her hair back and forth, they suddenly seemed totally in sync with each other. In maybe the closest showdown of the evening, Cee Lo went with Cheesa. Who looked as though she may just not sleep until the live rounds begin.

The Winner: Cheesa vs. Angie

Jordis Unga vs. Brian Fuente Versus RaeLynn vs. Adley Stump

These were the evening’s least intriguing battles but for different reasons. The Jordis-Brian fight should have been the best, considering they were Team Blake Shelton’s most powerful rockers. However, both singers turned in by far the weakest performances. Even during their rehearsals, something seemed off. Jordis was missing notes, getting bleeped and repeating that she had no back-up plan if she fails to move on in the competition. Brian seemed goofy and hyperactive.

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It’s no wonder that Blake seemed to be frowning throughout their version of “Ironic.” (Isn’t it ironic that two very strong singers mess up just as they get their big break singing a song called “Ironic”?) He was clearly not happy with how both of them performed, and in a refreshing change for a reality competition judge, he told them so. In particular, he went after Jordis for looking lost and weepy on stage. And yet, he still picked her as the winner. To her credit, at least she didn’t offer up the same lame victory speech we always hear, instead admitting that her performance “was a train wreck.”

As for the RaeLynn/Adley showdown, the problem wasn’t their performance of “Free Fallin’” (although if you ask me, which Blake strangely never did, RaeLynn seemed awfully shaky at the start…what’s with the way she pronounced “Elvis” as “Ail-Vis”?). And it wasn’t hearing Blake caution the antsy Adley to “dial it down” a bit. It wasn’t even the shameless Kia product placement, wherein RaeLynn was suddenly driving a car and talking to mentor Miranda “My Husband Blake Shelton Sure Does Mention Me A Lot” Lambert on speakerphone.

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No, the reason this battle ended up in the bottom three is because it was the one with the most questionable coach decision. Don’t get me wrong. RaeLynn seems all set to become the sweetheart of his rodeo with that big country voice and all. Still, Adley seemed like that crazy aunt who always shows up totally tanked for Thanksgiving dinner. You never know quite what she’s going to say but whatever it is, it’ll be fun to hear. I really wanted to see her stick around because of the entertainment value she brings with her, so Blake, I’m not with you on this one. (I just knew that when Adley showed up without a Flashdance era headband, it was a bad sign….)

The Winner: Jordis as. Brian

Bonus Battle: Cee Lo’s Pajamas as. Christina’s Hat

This wasn’t one of the officially sanctioned showdowns, but it should have been. Christina’s odd little hat looked like something you’d see on a cigarette girl working a nightclub in some ‘40s musical. The red silk pajamas Cee Lo was wearing during his studio interviews allowed him to channel his inner Hefner. If this is any indication of the wardrobe battles these two coaches have in store for the rest of the season, watching them change clothes may end up being more fun than any of the singing.

The Winner: The wardrobe person for “The Voice” who has to dress these people.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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