‘The Voice’ Battles, Round 4: For Crying Out Loud…

Adam Levine on 'The Voice' (Photo: NBC)

So last week, I read a blog that said blogs about episodes of TV shows were no longer considered cool blogs. Whereas once they were legitimate examples of thoughtful and daring prose, there are now so many people writing about so many shows that these recaps can no longer be thought of as intellectual achievements.  Well, needless to say, I beg to differ. I think that show blogs are not just as entertaining as the series they’re about. They can also be epic tomes that analyze programs in ways that are so deep and thoughtful, they might very well change how you look at life, let alone television. Or something like that.

With that in mind, then, I humbly present this week’s look at “The Voice” battle rounds. It was an exceedingly emotional episode, particularly with Adam Levine getting tough with his team while Cee Lo Green became a crying machine (he got choked up three separate times, for those keeping score at home). So, to demonstrate the majestic nature of this dissection of the last episode before the live shows, I will name each examination of a battle after an appropriate work of important literature. Let us begin:

Brave New World: James Massone Vs. Wade

First of all, does James have to pay Matt Damon’s character in “Good Will Hunting” a royalty every time he speaks? And second, after watching him fidget and fumble through the entire rehearsal of “True Colors,” his performance was…well…quite brave. At first, it seemed like there was no way he had a shot because coach Cee Lo Green and mentor Ne-Yo went out of their way to remind him of how nervous he was. Meanwhile, Cee Lo spent an equal amount of time explaining how much closer he felt to Wade.

So James certainly had his work cut out for him when the pair took the stage to rehearse, and it didn’t help that Cee Lo teared up watching Wade (he said it was because of both of them but really, we knew it was because of Wade). And then, the impossible happened. James swaggered out for the performance wearing his personalized letterman’s jacket while Wade seemed to hang back, as convinced as the rest of us that singing was just a formality. Turns out, it wasn’t. James’ tough-yet-tender style made Cee Lo cry yet again, this time because he had to eliminate his protégé in favor of the auto body repairman’s kid from Boston.

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It’s not easy to find reality in reality TV. The storylines are written in stone, even if they’re not written down on paper. So seeing James pull this one out was an intriguing surprise. One that might make for a good movie, where the plucky yet unsure Boston kid who beats the odds to prove his worth. Checking Mr. Damon’s schedule now….

Little Women: Nicole Galyon and Mathai

This was one I have to admit that, even as a tenured professor of  “Voice”-ology at this point, I didn’t see coming. Coach Adam Levine’s pairing piano player Nicole with the live wire  Mathai brought together women with more differences than similarities, which was clearly going to make for some dramatic tension. To make up for what seemed like a blowout in Matthai’s favor, Adam gave them the Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” to sing and allowed Nicole to play her piano.

That was example number one of why Adam is the best of the four coaches. He crafts unique ways to showcase his team. Example number two is the way he admits that his unique ideas are lousy. Which he did halfway through rehearsals, after realizing how boring and awkward it looked having Nicole stand there using her voice “that sounds like morning coffee on your veranda” (honestly, I don’t know what hat means but mentor Robin Thicke said it and it sounded good so I figured I’d borrow it).

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And example number three? Adam is the first and only judge to openly say at the end of a battle, “I was a little let down.” Which he should have been. Nicole and Mathai both seemed pretty lost up there on the stage. Mathai seemed less bored, I guess, which is what helped her advance to the live shows. But honestly, two minutes after she was done, I was thinking of what I needed from the grocery store and trying to remember where I left my car keys and wondering whatever happened to that neighbor girl I had a crush on when I was 15 and….well, just about anything but how Mathai did.

The Sound and the Fury: The Line Vs. Moses Stone

Sometimes, weird can be entertaining. Ask Al Yankovic or lean Hot Pockets. Sometimes, though, weird is just….well…weird. Which was the case for this showdown between country duo The Line and hip hop performer Moses. The former had a nice, comfortable sound in their blind auditions while the other was this bundle of explosive energy. Coach Christina Aguilera didn’t help much by giving them “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to perform. It’s not country. It’s not rap. Time to pack up and move from their comfort zones.

Not surprisingly, during the rehearsals, Moses had the energy of frying bacon. So much so that he was like that eager A student who doesn’t just bring an apple to impress the teacher, he buys the teacher an orchard. Christina actually had to tell him to step back a bit, at least partially because The Line had all the rhythm of…well, me dancing at a wedding. (I wonder if that’s why mentor Jewel warned them that they were in danger of becoming a wedding band.) They didn’t just seem stiff during the rehearsals. I actually worried at one point that their act had passed away and rigor mortis had set in.

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The actual battle pretty much followed suit. The Line still had a pleasant sound. Any bride and groom would happily put down their fourth glass of champagne to hop around to them. Moses, however, had the sort of furious energy from start to finish that gets performers noticed. Which Christina did, so he’s moving on.

The Big Sleep: Karla Davis Vs. Orlando Napier

Sometimes, there are battles of such powerful proportions, you’re breathless just watching them. Sometimes, there are battles that have such a quirky energy, you can’t resist them. Sometimes, there are battles seeping with so much soul, you feel salvation at the end. And sometimes….there is Karla vs. Orlando. Which is none of the above. Nothing personal. They seem like nice people and all. But this one ended up being such a challenge that Adam even had to change his song selection in mid-rehearsal to try and liven things up.

Which, by the way, is number four on the list of reasons why Adam seems like the best coach. He’d picked “Rich Girl” for his final battlers, but realized pretty quickly that neither Karla or Orlando could do it justice. That’s why he made what had to be his worst choice of the battle rounds, giving them the slow and soft “Easy Like Sunday Morning” instead. Sleepy song, sleepy battle. Both singers have nice voices, hers leaning country and his leaning toward blue-eyed soul (which is why doing a Hall and Oates song would have been cool), but honestly, I can’t discuss this one more because I barely remember any of it.

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Except for this, the best line of the night. And reason five on the ever-expanding Adam Levine, Coach Of the Year list. After seeing shy, quiet Karla struggle to project, he told her to project her inner “Bertha…she needs to be in your heart and head.” I don’t know what team Bertha is on, but I would like to see her battle because she sounds like somebody who might literally crush anyone who challenges her. And that would really make this show fun. What if the singers had to actually wrestle one time. Who wouldn’t watch that?

All Quiet On the (Country) Western Front: Naia Kete Vs. Jordan Rager

I still feel bad for Jordan. He was so ready to be “The Voice’s” Scotty McCreery. Even in the few seconds we got of him during the blind auditions, he seemed “as country as dirt” (the phrase coach Blake Shelton used to describe him, which frankly, doesn’t sound too flattering but if it’s good enough for Blake, it’s good enough for me). The kid seemed like a sure thing to advance. And then Blake gave him and street singer Naia the reggae pop-ish “I’m Yours” as their song. At that point, I swear Jordan would have looked less crestfallen if Blake had told him to put on a chicken costume and dance the lambada.

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To be fair, he did work hard to make his country voice and style fit the song. And I’m sure Blake was sincere when he told the kid who kept calling his wife “hot” that he progressed a lot from rehearsal to performance. Still, watching Jordan up there trying to out-hippie Naia on a tune that’s so laidback, it should be in a mattress commercial…it really wasn’t fair. Naia didn’t do her self any favors by suddenly deciding to start yelling the words toward the end of the song. But frankly, this was hers from the get-go. There is a plus side here for Jordan, though. He tried his best, only to have his heart broken by a woman when she was chosen by another guy. Throw in a six-pack of beer and a pick-up truck and he could turn this into his first number one country hit.

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Tony Vincent Vs. Justin Hopkins

There’s no nice way to say this so I’m just going to say it. Tony scares me. Maybe it’s the shaved head and the eyeliner. Maybe it’s the way his face looks like he’s either stabbing or being stabbed whenever he’s caught up in the middle of a song. Maybe it was the jacket he wore into his battle with Justin, which looked like it was stolen from some futuristic general during an intergalactic showdown. Whatever it is, he just seems so intense when he performs that I worry he might explode at some point.

Meanwhile, Justin has come across as the exact opposite. From his scruffy little beard to his bright eyes to the rolled up sports coat and skinny tie look he sported for the night’s battle round, he seems more like the guy you want as your big brother. So, Cee Lo’s pairing of these two had an over-the-top, Michael Bay film fest feel to it. Throw in the perfect bombastic song, Journey’s “Faithfully,” and the stage was completely set for a dark vs. light, power vs. politeness showdown. And, for the one time tonight, it was just as advertised.

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Not only did we get to see Cee Lo cry again (and this wasn’t an allergy to Purrfect…these were real tears), we got to see two singers who could easily have made it to the final round blasting away just to make it to the live shows. This really did seem like a tough call for a choked-up Cee Lo, and Tony certainly deserved to move on. And it was touching to see how moved he was by his victory, and the teary reunion with his pregnant wife at the end of the show. Still, in order to seem less like a guy one magic wand short of playing an evil professor in a “Harry Potter” musical, he might want to show up wearing flannel and maybe a baseball cap during the live rounds.


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

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