The great thing about sports is that, when you get right down to it, the games themselves aren’t ultimately what counts. Sure they’re entertaining and all, but really, what’s more important is talking about the games. This would explain why for every football match-up , there are roughly 147 radio call-in shows, magazine articles and web pages eagerly examining that game for important details the way a “Jersey Shore” cast member eagerly examines a crowd to for paparazzi cameras.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize “The Voice” is no different than a major sporting event. Watching it every week is cool, but not nearly as much fun as analyzing it. You follow the singers on Monday night so you can debate their merits during Tuesday lunch hour with your friends and/or co-workers. The more viewpoints you have to share, the better. With that in mind, and since I haven’t been invited to lunch, I wanted to at least present my little cheat sheet from last night’s third session of battle rounds as additional information. Feel free to use any and all enclosed opinions. (And seriously, I am free around noon tomorrow….)
PIP VS. NATHAN PERRETT
Song: “You Know I’m No Good,” not generally what you’d think of a guy’s tune but one that’s soulful enough that the R&B-tilting Pip should have an edge.
Advance Odds: Even. With his bowtie, suspenders and Harry Potter-like, bouncy boy wonder persona, it’s no wonder that Pip would seem like the favorite. Nathan barely showed up in the blind audition episodes, so this was the first chance to really learn anything about him. To even that imbalance, Coach Adam Levine was very eager to keep insisting that the former champion swimmer was more dynamic than his rival in rehearsal. The fact that he kept slipping his nervous hands into his pockets notwithstanding.
The Battle: Who knew that Pip has a little falsetto in him? It slipped out a bit during his performance, as did his on-stage charisma. The guy resembled a high school pep squad captain scooting circles around the clearly nervous Nathan, which was a bit ironic given that he was singing a dark song about a complete and total lack of any self-esteem.
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Should Have Won: The other coaches seemed quite determined to make this seem like more of a contest than it was, with Blake Shelton giving a narrow nod to Pip, Christina Aguilera not offering a choice and Cee Lo Green picking Nathan for no solid reason. Don’t get me wrong. Nathan seemed like a really nice, quiet kid who was more dynamic than expected. However, this isn’t Little League and trying hard doesn’t mean winning. (Although hopefully it does mean everyone gets a snack and a juice box afterward.) Pip clearly deserved this one.
Did Win: Pip. The only real suspense now? Will Pip invest in a belt and a narrow tie between now and the live rounds?
ERIN MARTIN VS. THE SHIELDS BROTHERS
Song: “What’s Love Got To Do With It?,” which at first clearly seemed like another mismatch. Quirky, sultry Erin vs. wacky, subtle-as-a-frat-party Shields boys? What exactly was coach Cee Lo thinking tipping the scales like this? Wait! Erin’s a very cute female….never mind.
Advance Odds: 3-1, Erin. I think that “Weird Al” Yankovic would stand a better chance battling Aretha Franklin that the Shields Brothers did going up against Erin.
The Battle: Watching the rehearsal footage, Erin went from being the sweet but vaguely weird kid sister to the mean, threatened older sibling. She started telling Cee Lo how they should all sing the song and actually grimaced when listening to the brothers try to amp up the volume. Things didn’t improve much during the battle. Sure her French Maid In Space outfit was captivating but her screechy wail actually made the Shields boys’ sledgehammer approach to their Tina Turner song seem quaint in comparison. I wonder if Bjork called the producers afterward to say that Erin’s going to borrow her act, she should at least take the swan dress too.
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Should Have Won: I liked Erin going into the battle rounds, given her wispy voice and ability to actually out-weird even Cee Lo. However, she came across as so pouty and arrogant tonight that I’d have gone with the Shields’ for that reason alone.
Did Win: Erin. Pretty with potential will trump bad haircuts with guitars every day of th week.
ASHLEY DE LA ROSA VS. JONATHAS
Song: “No Air,” a wise choice by coach Christina and the first one of the night that actually seemed suited to both singers.
Advance Odds: 2-1, Jonathas. The young father of two was as showy as they come in his blind audition, bumping and grinding away like he’d just spent the afternoon watching Flashdance. He clearly commands a stage, and can get the girls screaming. Including his own coach.
The Battle: First of all, a word about the mentors. Usually, they’re all sweetness and light with the singers and it seems more like a very special fan club meeting than it does a coaching session. But this time around, they were actually pretty helpful, and tough. Lionel Richie went after Jonathas for his showboating and Usher impressions while Jewel was like Ashley’s school guidance counselor, telling her to have faith and not fear Jonathas because “nobody wants to hear an imitation.” They both took the advice to heart and prowled the stage like seasoned vets in a performance that would have been right at home on any major music awards show.
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Should Have Won: It’s rare for the other three coaches to agree on a performance since I swear they go out of their way to disagree just to make the losing singer feel better. But this time, they all went for Ashley and seemed turned off by Jonathas’ cocky on-stage swagger. I’d never have expected it, but Ashley really did have the stronger outing.
Did Win: Ashley. So maybe it wasn’t the Chicago Cubs beating the New York Yankees in the World Series, but still…..this one was shocking and one of the only real surprises so far in these battle rounds.
ALyX VS. JERMAINE PAUL
Song: “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car.” So what’s next, coach Blake? Maybe a a Rick Astley medley next week? I mean, if we’re going Billy Ocean, why not Astley?
Advance Odds: 2-1, Jermaine. If any guy seems like a sure thing in this competition, it’s the guy who used to sing for Alicia Keys and explained to the coaches during the blind auditions that somebody need to say they’d keep him on their team. Arrogant? Yes. Talented? Extremely. Meanwhile, we didn’t really get to see much of ALyX’s audition so it was hard to tell what she brings to the microphone.
The Battle: It was hard to tell which ALyX enjoys more, competing on “The Voice” or preparing for an IRS audit. The more Blake pushed her to have fun, the more she’d say in an incredibly pained way, “I am having fun. See?” She was so stressed, it lead mentor Miranda “My Husband Won’t Stop Dropping My Name In Front Of Auditioners” Lambert to utter the evening’s third most unforgettable phrase, “She won’t own being a jackass.” (The second most unforgettable phrase? “American Idol” winner and Jermaine mentor Kelly Clarkson saying of the battle rounds, “I wish they’d done that on the show I was on.”) As for the battle itself, ALyX did loosen up some on stage, to the point where at the end of the song, she shouted the best line of the night, “ Sometimes you just have to say, ‘What the hell!’” Jermaine, meanwhile, just did his thing. Which is audition for the finals.
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Should Have Won: Except for being this week’s victim of the Blatant Kia Promotion, having to hear from his daughter while driving one of their cars, everything was pretty much perfect for Jermaine. Right down to the vest he apparently lifted from Blake’s wardrobe closet. This was his to lose, and he didn’t.
Did Win: Jermaine. Somewhere out there, record company execs are already smiling. And debating what color they want the leather interior of their new BMW to be when they spend their share of earnings from Jermaine’s solo debut.
ANGEL TAYLOR VS. KATRINA PARKER
Song: “Bleeding Love,” chosen because coach Adam figured there’s “ a vulnerability to how you guys sing” and because it offered both performers a chance to do the only thing that mattered to him – dazzle the crowd.
Advance Odds: Pick ‘em. Between the quiet survivor of an abusive childhood and the quiet survivor of a life-threatening sickness, it’s tough to figure who might have the advantage. I suppose it doesn’t make things any easier that they both have unique yet powerful voices that come and go depending on their nervousness and discomfort on stage.
The Battle: The one thing Angel and Katrina both had going for them was their versatile vocals and yet, the first thing Adam said to them was to make sure this didn’t evolve into some sort of vocal Olympics. Nothing like taking away the one fun element even before the showdown really begins. There was no reason expect that either singer was going to pull a Jermaine (the newly-minted phrase for describing somebody who so takes over the stage that you think this is a show you spent $125 on and stood in line four hours for). And yet….Katrina blasted her way through both physically and vocally, storming the ring like a completely different person while sweet but reclusive Angel never seemed to enjoy what she was doing.
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Should Have Won: This started out even but once it was clear that Katrina had managed to find some self-confidence somewhere on the way to the stage, she pretty much had this thing wrapped up.
Did Win: Katrina. Not like we already need a new Adele, but if and when we do…..
GWEN SEBASTIAN VS. ERIN WILLETT
Song: “We Belong,” a selection that once again made me want to check Blake’s calendar to make sure it didn’t somehow get stuck in the 1980s.
Advance Odds: 4-1, Erin. Gwen always seemed very nice. I mean, how can you root against somebody who with no irony at all tells the camera, “I’m just a girl from North Dakota. What am I doing here?” Still, country seems to be her game, not mid-80s power pop, so Erin had to be the prohibitive favorite.
The Battle: It’s not like the performances weren’t interesting here, although truth be told, Gwen did seem to come out a little flat all the way around. However, all that seemed to matter was the time spent right before the singers came out detailing the fate of Erin’s dad, who was hours away from dying of cancer but told his daughter to forget about him and go sing. Gwen was clearly the better belter of these two but it’s hard to say whether she sang well because of her father’s inspiration or in spite of his situation. (Ordinarily, it seems a bit much for reality shows to milk tragedies like this but still…it was hard not to sniffle a little when an “In memory of Chuck Willett” video popped up before the closing credits.)
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Should Have Won: Putting all sentiment aside, which is pretty tough to do in this case, Erin was clearly the stronger singer. Bring all sentiment back, she balanced emotion with restraint so well, Gwen never really had a chance at this one.
Did Win: Erin. It’s hard to say how much she’ll have left for the live shows but at least for the moment, she’s clearly the sentimental favorite for the rest of the competition.