Summary: Success in the third round of the Battles comes down to who has the most confidence.
** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**
The third grouping of the Battle Rounds of The Voice finds a return to closer pairings – with one notable exception – but also opens up more vulnerability on the part of the contestants. More and more, we are seeing just how much confidence plays a role in being a standout, even if one doesn’t always offer the strongest voice during a given performance.
Personally, I’ve always found singing to be the most personal of forms of expression, the one that reflects the most on the individual. Even if a singer finds a persona to hide behind, they can still never get around just how intimate is one’s singing voice. That plays havoc on nerves and disposition and confidence is always the first key to being good and standing out. Someone with a fantastic voice will always lose out if they don’t believe in themselves and cultivate the fortitude to stand firmly by their voice.
Confidence was definitely a prevailing theme this time out…
Battle #1: Team Adam – Pip vs. Nathan Parrett, Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”
Adam chooses these two to compete because they both auditioned with classic songs and Winehouse’s style from Back to Black recalls the swooning, jazz-tinged 1950′s and 1960′s. Pip’s theatricality serves him well and he hits some great notes along the way, particularly a wonderful high note while accompanying Nathan later in the song. Nathan stepped up immensely from his audition and actually presented a tone that was smoother and sounded better than Pip’s. Pip, though, proves to be a true showman and his confident performance is difficult to overcome.
Blake and Christina both pull for Pip. Cee Lo recognizes that Pip can excel but thought Nathan was the surprise of the song. Adam appreciates Nathan’s effort but can’t deny Pip.
Battle #2: Team Cee Lo – Erin Martin vs. The Shields Brothers, Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Gotta Do With It”
One of the oddest pairings that could be thought of shows just how eclectic Cee Lo’s team is out of all the coaches. The contrast is kind of compelling but in the end the song comes off too discordant to be either appealing or show much range for either side. Erin is going to be trouble and you begin to see why – other than her voice, which is far too take-it-or-leave-it – labels didn’t want to work with her. While one can appreciate an artist offering creative choices and not wanting to compromise, her style and mechanics – and those choices – don’t really offer a solid enough base to justify her nearly diva-like attitude. Guest adviser Ne-Yo calls it straight when he tells her he doesn’t believe her in the song and Cee Lo is dead on when she says she can’t rely on just being “cute” to get through. She comes off as an act, all surface, rather than genuine and doesn’t appear to have the desire to bring anything more to it. The Shields boys, though, prove to be more adept with direction and coaching, making terrific adjustments to allow a bit softer edge into their style. While I can agree with Cee Lo that it’s hard to see how they can either shake or evolve their style going forward, the two showed a much better command of voice and performance than Erin. This one comes down to a big mistake on Cee Lo’s part.
Adam and Christina both go with the Shields while Blake gets too swept up in Erin’s looks to be objective. Cee Lo sets himself up for drama over energy.
Winner: Erin Martin
Battle #3: Team Xtina – Ashley De La Rosa vs. Jonathas, Jordin Sparks f. Chris Brown’s “No Air”
Jonathas has a natural ease in performance but his similarity to his influences in Usher and Chris Brown works against him. Ashley has a purer voice but has to believe she belongs in front of people belting out songs. She starts off timid but once the song rolls along – something Jonathas’ support actually helps with – she finds her grounding and is able to do more with the song all around. Though not necessarily original, she does come off more as her own voice in contrast to Jonathas’, though good, mimicry. It’s enough to give her the edge.
In a rare moment, all four judges are unanimous in who they felt took this battle.
Winner: Ashley De La Rosa
Battle #4: Team Blake – AlyX vs. Jermaine Paul, Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams”
I honestly don’t know what to make of Jermaine. His experience and polish are phenomenal and it really makes him a standout. He seems like a solid guy, too, but there is just something about him that seems … artificial. He feels produced rather than authentic. The talent is there, though, and he all but wipes the floor with AlyX, who is unfortunately swallowed by a polka-dotted balloon during the battle. AlyX was one of the performers they glossed over during a montage during the Blind Auditions so this was the first real chance to see her perform on the show. Something can be said about letting yourself go, letting the guard down while performing, and AlyX – who was too stuck in her own head – did open up during the battle. It just wasn’t enough to really connect her with the song and have any chance of shining next to Jermaine.
The exception to the rule immediately peeks its head out again as all four judges agree that Jermaine’s experience is a force to be reckoned with.
Winner: Jermaine Paul
Battle #5: Team Adam – Angel Taylor vs. Katrina Parker, Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”
Here’s another strong contrast in styles and yet both offer a vulnerability in their voices that Adam seized on to pair them up. Leona Lewis, another singing competition contestant, has a unique and powerful voice, and like a Mariah or a Christina Aguilera, she is so strongly rooted in that power that she’s able to bring a lot of flare and styling to the way she sings. Singers who haven’t had the same level of professional experience tend to seize on that aspect more than not and we found both Angel and Katrina trying to add runs and do quirky things with their voices during rehearsal to match the song. Thankfully, Adam called them on it and coached them to go more for the emotion of the lyrics rather than the vocal “aerobics” (prefer acrobatics or gymnastics as terms, myself). Angel seems to take that more to heart and throughout the song appears to be searching for the meaning more than Katrina is. The problem with that is an audience can pick up on the searching rather than feeling a strong emotion and that works against Angel. With Katrina, she’s solid throughout with a great voice, and though she comes off a bit less attached to the emotion, it provides a much stronger performance to connect with people.
Just to make me look silly, all four judges are again in agreement on this one.
Winner: Katrina Parker
Battle #6: Team Blake – Gwen Sebastian vs. Erin Willett, Pat Benatar’s “We Belong”
Of course, this battle becomes a lot more personal as Erin learns her dad is nearing death in his fight with cancer. What really makes this special is the approach Gwen takes to the song both before Erin’s news and certainly after. She looks at it more as a show for the two of them than a battle, trying to find ways for them both to shine up there. It’s commendable and refreshing, despite the competition aspect of the show. While it might have eventually cost her in the end, it makes for a stronger rendition of the song by both singers. The harmonies on the chorus, in particular, are outstanding and you really feel a sense of support on both of their parts. It’s hard to deny the softness and rich tone to Erin’s voice that she brings in the second verse that offers perfect variation from the power she naturally brings and that’s enough to put her over the edge. More importantly, instead of pushing and making the song overwrought, Erin is able to channel all of her emotional turmoil in superb fashion.
Cee Lo prefers the quality of Gwen’s voice while both Christina and Adam think Erin offered a more dynamic performance. Ultimately, Blake agree.
Winner: Erin Willett
Special note should be made of Erin’s father who did end up passing away.
Despite Cee Lo’s egregious error, the judges choices this week seemed spot on, even though we lost some singers who could’ve done great things in the live shows. What did you think of this third helping of the Battle Rounds? Let us know in the comments below.