The Voice: Battles 1 – 8
Having missed all the excitement in the team-building, chair-turning rounds, I am tuning in expecting to – at the very least – be seduced by Keith Urban, amused by a Madden (or two), captivated by Seal and… well… bored by Delta. I know there has been speculation as to how engaging the show will be now the auditions are over, but it’s got to be rolled-gold compared to the fool’s gold challenge I caught due to The Block running overtime. Eeek.
So it seems we have battle rounds – where teams will be cut from 12 members to 6 by their coaches – but first! The Voice’s own version of Il Divo, with the coaches showing off their pipes in a cover of Mary J Blige’s version of U2’s “One”. Darren McMullen tells us this is aimed at inspiring their charges. I give this round to Keith.
Seal gives his crew the “who wants it more?” speech, then pairs Paula and Karise to sing “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. Seal asks Karise to tame that thing that scares the crap out of him and he wants to hear Paula’s pain. (She explains that it’s taken her years to let go of the pain, so… yeah.) Ricky-Lee as mentor doesn’t get a lot of screen time. The song was well-chosen for these two voices. In their just-for-the-hell-of-it, non-binding assessments, Joel, Delta and Keith give the song to Karise, but it’s all up to coach Seal. He decides to keep Karise on the team. (Props to Paula who was a very gracious – and in my opinion, unlucky – loser in that match up.)
Because it’s all about THE VOICE, Joel makes sure we know he has a very good looking team. He matches Ben to Chris and wants them singing “The Only Exception” by Paramore. Benji advises Chris to give the song a chance, which is necessary as he is really bludgeoning it in rehearsal. Ben is struggling to deal with memories of his brother, which are being brought up by the song, but he decides to channel that in his performance. Delta and Keith both call it for Ben by a whisker, and Seal gives it to Chris. Joel keeps Ben on his team. Hopefully he and Benji can work on Ben’s boy-band-hands.
Delta pairs her former backing-singer Glenn with Matty and they are going to be doing Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”. Darren Hayes gives Matty some advice to help him through one of the “difficult runs” and Matty cops it like a true fan. Both guys bring it on the stage and I join the judges in seat-bouncing. Keith finds it hard to pick a winner, but gives it to Glenn, as does Seal, who sensed a lack of confidence in Matty. Joel leans towards Matty and Delta takes a time-out to check with Darren. She handballs the decision to Darren and he chooses Glenn. Is she being indecisive, or did she feel her connection with Glenn compromised her objectivity?
Over in team Keith, Jaz will battle Diana with “Mr Know It All” (the Kelly Clarkson one, not the Stevie Wonder song). They both have “sassy out the wazoo”, according to Keith. Heh. Megan Washington is worried that Jaz is belting the whole thing, which could work in Diana’s favour if she doesn’t dial it back. Just as I remark “it’s a bit lacking in energy”, Diana lifts it in the second verse, and Jaz seems to rise to that challenge. Seal gives Diana the “accessibility” vote, but Delta likes the power in Jaz’s voice. Joel worries about Jaz’s theatrical instincts overwhelming a more natural performance, so sides with Seal. Diana joins team Keith.
Seal’s second battle is Mitchell versus Fatai, singing Eminem’s (and Rihanna’s) “Love the Way You Lie”. Fatai is unnerved by how much Mitchell improves through rehearsal. (And I have just realised where I have seen Seal’s edge-of-sanity intensity before: Marco Pierre White.) Joel goes with Fatai, Delta with Mitchell. Keith felt Fatai dominated with emotion but Mitchell was the star. Seal seeks Ricki-Lee’s advice and Fatai is the keeper.
Delta pairs Rachael and Adam for the Eva Cassidy version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I’m wondering why she specifies the version (and I have to admit to being totally clueless as to what this particular version entails. Now, if it were David Cassidy…). Adam sounds awful in the initial rehearsal and Rachael admits to a strategic “holding back” so as not to show her hand. Delta and Darren fall for it. Okay, now maybe it’s the Eva Cassidy version rather than the performances, but I found it a complete snorefest. Delta’s interjection of “beautiful” during one of Adam’s parts made me question her judgement. I am clearly an outlier here, because Keith found it beautiful and ethereal and celestial and angelic… and goes with Rachael. Seal is usually annoyed when people mess around with perfectly fine songs, but he doesn’t mind Adam doing it. Joel finds another heavenly metaphor – a shooting star – and gives it to Rachael. Delta keeps Rachael’s hopes alive for another week or so and I wonder whether her deliberate lowering of expectations at rehearsal worked in her favour.
Adam is going up against Abbie and Keith has chosen a Fray song, “Heartbeat”, for them. Poor guys. I mean, the Fray? “Don’t pass out” is excellent advice from Megan, as she notes that Abbie isn’t taking a breath in her first bit. I’m surprised at how under-confident Adam seems about this song, as the Fray seems much closer to his comfort zone than to Abbie’s. Seal didn’t feel any connection from either performer, which I get, but in my opinion the song was the true liability. Still, he gives it to Abbie on how he judges who “wanted” it more. Joel can’t pick between the two, and Delta goes with Adam, but the judges energy matches the performers across the board. The A that stays is Adam.
The final battle pits Mahalia against Prinnie. Joel wants to see what they will do with Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, which is definitely an eccentric choice for those voices. I like Prinnie’s attack during rehearsal. It was a good decision to show more of the one-on-one performance notes from Benji and Joel to the singers for this match-up. I’m sure it’s happened for all pairings, but it worked particularly well for this battle, given that they have a friendship outside the competition. Prinnie really Lady Marmalade-s it up on stage. Delta goes with Mahalia on vocals but gives it to Prinnie on overall performance. Keith thinks Mahalia took it, and Seal thinks Prinnie’s ego gets her the win. After a time out, and and ad break, and some more agonising (hell, we’re only 20 minutes over time on a 2 hour show), Joel says goodbye to Mahalia.
This is a tough competition. I think it’s amazing how well the “battlers” worked together in their songs. I enjoyed (most of) the performances as duets, which is a tough tightrope to walk – trying to shine as an individual but make it work as a song. Despite the fact that it is only the coach whose opinion counts, I didn’t mind hearing what the others thought of each match-up and I like the fact that we get snippets of the judges’ group reactions to the decisions, too, as it gives more insight into what it is they are looking for.