Let’s get ready to Voiceball! It’s the last night of the battle rounds, and everyone is hungry for the final remaining spots on their respective teams. As bad as all the contestants want to make it, however, not everybody thinks they deserve it. Considering the underlying issue in several of these rounds, perhaps The Voice should consider changing its name to The Confidence.
Right out of the gate, young Bostonite body shop worker James Massone looks like he’s awaiting the results of a pregnancy test from the moment he hears that his song is “True Colors.” Cee Lo and guest coach Ne-Yo spend time encouraging the dude to get out from under his nerves and wail on this Cyndi Lauper tune, whether he knows it well or not. Suddenly he’s ready to prove himself. James’ competition, WADE, has a strong church singer’s voice and natural talent to spare. That’s probably why he spells his name in all caps. He seems more comfortable here, but not as comfortable as Cee Lo, who lets his emotions burst forth like a geyser in the cool of the night.
“Okay, I surrender,” Cee Lo says, crying during rehearsal. Can someone please make a .gif of him taking off his glasses to reveal that he’s been crying, and then post that .gif in the comments and also across the Internet? Anyway, during the actual performance, James comes out in a red varsity jacket like Cee Lo’s, but his is monogrammed and has chrome sleeves for some reason. He has a voice that can be thin and reedy, but also bolder and emphatic. Overall, he sounds more distinctive than WADE. The crowd does a really stilted arm-sway thing which they give up on fairly early. Adam Levine looks unapologetically bored. When it’s time to pick a winner, Cee Lo is as pained as before. It’s kind of adorable. “I had big plans for you, WADE. I was going to make you Soul Brother #2 behind me,” he says. This is his way of letting WADE know that James won.
Next up, it’s piano-playing prodigy Nicolle Galyon against sultry nursing student Mathai. (I’m just going to stop drawing attention to who has just a single name at this point – clearly, having a surname has become passé.) Nicole is excited at first because Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” has a piano lead, which is right up her alley. Anyone who has seen a reality show before, though, will recognize this excitement as foreshadowing that she is not going to be allowed to play piano during the battle. “That was a good idea in our minds, but let’s forget it,” coach Adam says during a piano-involved rehearsal. Now Nicolle is no longer confident, which is a problem, because Mathai is just brimming with femme-swagger. Mathai plays to the crowd in her canary yellow dress, drawing out her notes well and just looking like she’s having more fun than Nicolle. If she isn’t confident here, though, Nicolle’s self-assurance collapses for sure when Cee Lo straight-up says that her voice was “generic.” Adam chooses Mathai, but overall he’s as unmoved as he looked during Cee Lo’s round. “I wasn’t that happy with it in general,” he says. Yikes.
What would a battle episode be without at least one unusual pairing? These things are often the brainchildren of Cee Lo, but tonight it’s Xtina’s turn to take a walk on the bonkers side. She pits rapper Moses Stone against country duo the Line to sing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Guest coach Lionel Richie and his arrowhead mustache approve of Moses. “You’ve got the Voice!” he zings, giving everyone in the room imaginary high fives. On the other hand, Jewel seems dead set on crossing the Line. First she tells them not to be so much like a wedding band, and then, bringing up the fact that the Line used to date each other, she says, “Somebody obviously wasn’t satisfying someone – let’s see some of that tension!” Whoever is making .gifs of Cee Lo, if you could throw in every reaction shot when the Line hear something they don’t like, that would be terrific.
During the performance, Moses explores the space and looks at Xtina for approval. Haley from the Line wields a tambourine, even though we can’t hear it. Moses gets a little rap break, which sounds out of place, but he makes the stronger impression. Adam and Blake argue that while Moses was a better performer, the Line seem to have the better voice for the show. “The voice doesn’t have to be a specific thing on this show,” Xtina says, and picks Moses. Haley is pissed and refuses to speak on camera.
Although Adam initially chooses “Rich Girl” for Orlando Napier and Karla Davis, he soon switches to the Commodores’ “Easy,” because neither contestant knows the Hall & Oates song. (What is the world coming to?!) During rehearsal, Orlando sways from side to side like Ray Charles, which is fitting for his throwback vibe. Adam and guest coach Alanis Morissette go deep on the psychology, giving a name to Karla’s inner child who likes to belt out tunes. “Bertha is the big girl inside me,” Karla says. Meanwhile, Robin Thicke teaches Orlando how to use vowels to project, which we can actually hear in the contestant’s bluesy timbre. None of the judges seems that impressed, and Adam gives it to Karla, who did indeed have some nice, fluttery inflections. Her dad is so pumped he practically tears down the doors to hug her in the green room.
“Jordan is country as dirt,” Blake Shelton says of his contestant, and he means it as a compliment. Shelton does no favors for Jordan, though, by pairing him with earthy soulstress Naia Kete to sing a reggae-infused Jason Mraz number. Naia has long spindly dreadlocks down to her butt and a series of increasingly complicated headbands. A reggae-lite pop song is right in her pocket. Jordan is so nervous, he can’t even enjoy being in the presence of his crush, Miranda Lambert. But then something happens (classic second act structure!), and he learns how to sing the song. “I’m not letting Naia walk out of here easy,” he says. But he scrapes all the twang off his voice for the battle, and it doesn’t sound natural. Naia has the more dynamic vocal sound, and her smile is magic. Blake pays some lip service to how Naia’s nerves seemed to put her off, but it seems obvious when he picks her to win.
When Cee Lo starts crying again during Justin Hopkins and Tony Vincent‘s rehearsal, you sympathize with him – “Yes, they are butchering an important Journey song” – but then Cee Lo reveals that these aren’t sadness tears. Rather, he’s in awe. The two contestants are well matched in that they’re both pros. Justin used to be in Carson Daly’s house band and Tony Vincent, whose guyliner and bald dome make him look a bit like Handsome Nosferatu, has been a rocker on Broadway for over a decade. Justin’s gritty voice sounds more natural with this song, as Tony’s is a bit more theatrically overwrought. (You can take the singer out of Broadway, but you can’t yada yada.) Both contestants finally match each other on the whoa-oh-ohs at the end, which sound great. The judges all agree that Tony is more versatile, and Cee Lo eventually chooses him. Justin takes the news like a champ, though. “Let’s keep on rocking,” he says. “That’s what we do.”
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Next week: Now that the battles are over, it’s time for the live shows, where the stakes are high, the cleavage is low, and Cee Lo has a cat. So, basically, samesies.
Last episode: One-Name Wonders