As the fourth season of ‘The Voice’ continues, we see how well the two new judges meld with the two old judges. Both Shakira and Usher have been exuberant in their roles so far, with Shakira scooping up her two steals already, and Usher offering the first bitchslap of the season to a couple of contestants he felt needed to realize the opportunity they had in front of them. Returning judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, winners in three finals between them, seem to be hungry to win again. The auditions are over, and 48 acts have found mentors in the coaches, each of whom will bring 12 members of their teams into the battle rounds. We are halfway there, and between tonight and tomorrow night, the team will be set. And as he has for all three previous seasons, Carson Daly will be handling the duties of host, keeping things moving between the singers and the judges. At the top of the show, Usher tells us his teams will blow our mind… Each coach has great support, as Adam brings in Hillary Scott, lead singer of Lady Antebellum, while Blake has Sheryl Crow, Shakira has Joel Madden, lead singer of Good Charlotte and coach on ‘The Voice Australia’, and Usher has Pharrell Williams. They will all be on hand to help get the contestants ready to prove they deserve a shot at the finals once the Battle Rounds are complete.
As we begin tonight, we know Shakira has used both steals available to her, while Adam and Blake have used one a piece. Usher has both to use, having lost in his two attempts to Shakira and Adam. In fact, Usher is putting together the first Battle tonight, when he puts Jessica Childress and Vedo into the ring. They are talented singers, and Usher asks them to sing Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven”. Jessica isn’t sure the song is the right key for her, but Pharrell tells her it is perfect. Vedo shines in the first rehearsal, but it is Jessica who sounded great in the last rehearsal. Who will Usher pick?
This is a wonderful duet, as both have strong voices with amazing rangers, just right for Pop music. Shakira thought it was a ‘feel good performance’, and Adam agreed, thinking they were both wonderful. Blake feels bad for Usher, for he feels they lit up the room. Usher is very proud, as both did exactly what he asked of them. They make the decision hard, but he has to give the answer. He picks Vedo, which leaves Jessica up for a steal, although no one picked her up. After the Battle, Vedo wishes his mother, who is in the hospital with Stage 4 cancer, was there to experience his success. Usher comes back stage to give him a hug. Next up, Team Shakira is going to the ring with Luke Edgemon and Monique Abbadie. With their first meeting, Monique admits coach Joel Madden was on her book covers in Middle School. Both Shakira and Joel were impressed with Luke’s vocals, and the honesty he delivered. Monique, on the other hand, felt less real. Can Luke deliver in front of the audience, or can Monique connect to the song when it matters the most?
Both look nervous as they prep to enter the ring. Carson calls them to the ring, and Luke leads them off with a strong vocal. Monique starts with an affected line reading, but soon relaxes into the song. At the end of the day for me, Luke totally took over that performance. Adam agreed with me, thinking Luke was a revelation. Blake loved Luke as well, and Usher thought they were great together. Shakira decided to make a strategic decision, and picks Monique, assuming Luke will be picked via steal. As soon as he is available, Blake hits his button to steal, followed by Usher. Luke is a bit overwhelmed, and they take a commercial break so he can decide. Will Usher get his first steal, or will he lose out again? Luke surprises by picking Blake, leaving Usher with both his steals to use. Then it is time for Team Blake to take their turn in the ring. This Battle features Jacqui Sandell and Savannah Berry, singing Little Big Town’s “Little White Church”. At the first rehearsal, Sheryl Crow gives notes to both girls, and they have homework to do. For the final rehearsal with Blake, he is pleased with the progress made by Jacqui, but pushes Savannah to stay on tempo. Will Jacqui continue to grow under Blake’s direction, or will Savannah finally nail the song?
Before the performance begins, I am interested in what will happen here. Savannah has a rich and gorgeous voice, but Jacqui can deliver the quirk that Blake seems to love. Carson calls them to the ring, and the battle begins. Savannah sings first, and she is in great voice. When Jacqui begins, her voice sounds a bit thin, like nerves are kicking in. Savannah stays on tempo, and in fact, a couple of times Jacqui fell behind a beat. I think Savannah really took the gold this time out. Adam thought they were both adorable. Usher thought they were wonderful, and couldn’t decide. Shakira loved them too, and thinks it was Savannah by a nose. But it is time for Blake to make up his mind, and he picks Savannah. Jacqui thanks Blake for having such a strong influence on her as a singer. There is no steal, and it is time for Jacqui to go home. It is time for Team Shakria to take to the ring, with Kris Thomas and C.Perkins battling. They will be singing Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain”. C.Perkins seems to have a problem with staying in tune. Kris sounds great, relaxed and feeling the song.
Kris leads off the song, and is just right on the vocals. C. joins him, and by comparison, his voice sounds a little thin. They duet on the song, and the song was a bit odd for me, didn’t really give them a chance to show their best. I would pick Kris, but who knows? Adam thinks they were both something, and Blake enjoyed it, but thinks they were holding back a bit. Usher wished he could have coached them. But it is Shakira’s choice, and she picks Kris as the winner. C.Perkins thanks Shakria for all he learned from her, but didn’t get the Steal, well, until C. was giving a hug goodbye, so he will now be on Team Usher. Now it is time for Team Adam as he pits Midas Whale against Patrick Dodd on “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley. There is a tightness to the Midas Whale, with former American Idol finalist Jon Peter Lewis. Patrick has a strong voice, and it has a rich rasp. Both know they have to be at the top of their game to win the battle. Who will Adam choose?
Patrick kicks off with that raspy voice, and Midas Whale chimes in sounding great. With the Bluegrass feel, the song travels more places than the original lite radio feel, for I kinda expected more from this Battle. Patrick came off kinda one note, milking that rasp for all it was worth, and showing no real range. Midas Whale had the character choked out of them with the speed of the song, not allowed to have their harmonies shine. The other coaches loved them, but offered on help to Adam. He agonizes over a decision, saying this was his toughest on the show yet. I’d pick Midas Whale, but that is more of the negative of the performance making the choice. I think both are better than they showed. Apparently, it was better live, but finally, Adam picks Midas Whale. Patrick thanks Adam for the support he has offered, and leaves, with Usher not using his final steal. And soon it was his team to battle. Usher and Pharrell try to talk to Orlando Dixon and Ryan Innes as they rehearse with Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Pharrell tells Ryan he is doing it right, just be sure to be clean with his notes. Usher and Pharrell pull Orlando aside, and tell him to connect to the song, and not hide behind his voice, to let it tell the story. At the final rehearsal, Usher is pleased with both, and fears it will be a tough decision come show time. Who will make it to the finals?
Carson calls Orlando and Ryan to the ring, the final battle of the night. Ryan starts off the quiet arrangement, his voice in fine form. Orlando’s performance tries to combine the Soul inherent in the song with modern R&B. Ryan has a richer, fuller-bodied voice, while Orlando has a greater range with beautiful control. Both were in great voice. Shakira loved them, but couldn’t decide. Adam had no problem picking Orlando, while Blake loved Ryan. Usher struggles with a choice. Finally, he picks Ryan, the big man with the deep voice. Finally, it is time for Orlando to thank his coach, and Adam takes the opportunity to use his last steal. Tomorrow night is the final Battle Round, with all the teams needing more singers. Usher is the only coach left with a steal, and we promise it will be used wisely…