These last two nights we have graduated from the Battle Rounds to the Knockout Rounds on The Voice.
One of the things I love about The Voice is that the coaches often utter exactly the feedback I was thinking...and last night, one consistent message was: If this was supposed to be your chance to knock your competition out, why did you pick that song?
Many battles seemed to come down who did less worse. Or who didn't give the coach a reason to drop them. Song choice really is everything. I certainly love that most of the song choices over the past two nights were from this decade! But not all of them were the right choice for the particular singer in question.
Image: From NBC video, below
So let's dig in:
TEAM ADAM 1. Amber vs. Midas Whale
Amber sang "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne
"I'm With You" is a damn hard song. I know because it kills me every time I sing along. It rests way up high. And without a crystal clear (and on pitch) attack, it can just sound like a lot of yelling. Amber had the quiet sweet parts down pat, but she did not have the high wail. She never quite got up there.
Midas Whale sang "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder
If I could tell Midas Whale one thing, it would be to never get out from behind their guitars again. It made their awkward quirky appeal only awkward, not quirky.
Bottom line: So, this was one of those tough calls. Neither blew me away. I think Amber is more common: a big, loud female singer. Midas Whale is more unusual. And in a weird way, more current, what with the success of the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and the like. Had they chosen a different song; had they stuck with their strengths, they would have gone through, I'm guessing. I can understand why Adam picked Amber. Midas Whale didn't give him much choice.2. Amy vs. Caroline
Amy sang "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
This was loud. And on the plus side, that means it was strong and confident. But it was also somehow ... unspecial. And kind of on one level.
Caroline sang "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men
Caroline made it easy for Adam to pick Amy if he wanted to. She has a truly lovely tone, but she performed that like she was rehearsing. Or like she was Edie Brickell in the late '80s, lackadaisically singing "What I Am" as though she didn't care if anyone listened. The hand on the stomach, the waving of the hand to mimic the flow of the notes. It did not feel deeply committed, or even mostly there.
Bottom line: That being said, Caroline is simply more intriguing, more interesting than Amy. So even though I felt she had a weaker overall performance, I would have done like Adam and picked her.3. Judith vs. Orlando
Judith sang "Always on my Mind" by Willie Nelson
After feeling disappointment, again, I'm wondering if Judith can ever live up to her first audition for me. And in this specific case, didn't think she lived up to Fantasia singing this during Season 3 of American Idol. Here eyes were closed too much of the time, and as Barry Manilow will tell you, singing with your eyes closed removes that point of connection with your audience.
Orlando sang "All My Life" by KC and JoJo
Orlando did well on the verse, but was completely buried by the band and the backing vocals on the chorus. He has a really good voice, but bo way this song was exciting enough. Knockout? More like a little pat on the back...to the other guy.
Bottom line: This would have been a tough one if they had each chosen equally suitable songs. But song choice ends up calling it. "All My Life" is just not a great choice for this kind of round. You had to pick Judith.4. Warren vs. Sarah
Warren sang "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight" by Cutting Crew
Wow, I don't know if someone else has done that song in this style before, but I really liked it. I had low expectations, but he totally exceeded them. But even so, all I could think about is what a great song "Wild Horses" is, and wondering if it was even possible to top Sarah singing it. So, even though he did well, it's not really the kind of great song that made me think about the performance I hadn't even heard yet. Too bad. But props to him for bringing something really original to the stage.
Sarah sang "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones
This didn't actually live up to my expectations at all. The Sundays' version is one of my favorite things ever...not least because it is the peak emotional moment of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer prom episode, but I digress. The beginning was super-weak...too low and garbled. It took her a loooong time to get revved up.
Bottom line: I would actually go with Warren on this one, and it surprised me to say so. I'm totally not surprised that Sarah won it, given how much capital she had built up in the first two rounds, but I didn't think she really delivered.
So Team Adam is all women: Amber, Caroline, Judith, and Sarah.TEAM SHAKIRA 1. Garrett vs. Tawnya
Garrett sang "Too Close" by Alex Clare
Garrett sounded really good on this, and this performance was by far the best he has done. However: I did not know how he felt about what he was singing. Had no clue. Was he happy? Angry? Anguished? Psycho? Don't know. That song has a deceptively triumphant feel to it (hence its use in the Microsoft commercials), but when you really listen to the lyrics, it's kind of devastating. I didn't feel like Garrett knew what he was singing about, so how could I?
Tawnya sang "Hell on Heels" by Pistol Annies
This was OK. I love her little yodel, and think she's got a bunch of potential. But she didn't bring it more than Garrett did. She had the chance, but the song wasn't interesting enough, and it wasn't a show-stopping performance. Sometimes she started to bring the spunk she needed to make a real impact, but it was intermittent.
Bottom line: I haven't been a huge Garrett fan, and I never would have chosen him over J'sun in the Battle Rounds. But he deserved this win.2. Kris vs. Mary
Kris sang "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
Very Johnny Mathis! This was a lovely crooning song, but he had an intensity that didn't make it throwaway or too lackadaisical. He finally won me over on this one.
Mary sang "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
OMG, what a bastardized, easy listening version. Blerg. Off key on out-of-melody high notes she tried to throw in to be impressive. I didn't think she should have won the battle with Katia, and I just found this to be abysmal.
Bottom line: To me it was a no-brainer for Kris to win.3. Karina vs. Monique
Karina sang "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz
I thought that was pretty awesome. She even threw in some James Brown moves. I did not at all mind the lack of vocal range, because I thought it was a strong, charismatic performance.
Monique sang The Power of Love"" by Celine Dion (yawn)
That was worthy of a state pageant talent competition. I couldn't have been less interested in that performance.
Bottom line: To me, it was no contest. I have no interest in seeing Monique again. I want to see what Karina can continue to do. I get what people were saying about the song not having enough range, but the performance was excellent.4. Sasha vs. Shawna
Sasha sang "At Last" by Etta James
She's just hot. Adam should NEVER have let her go. She's all Olivia Pope with a Beyonce voice.
Shawna sang "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney
I love this song. A lot. And she was good, but I do find her face contortions a little much. Mostly because they feel a bit put on. Like she's working very hard to be the female Joe Cocker, and we don't really need one of those, do we?
Bottom line: For me, it's been Sasha since she auditioned.
So Team Shakira is: Garrett, Kris, Karina, and Sasha.TEAM BLAKE 1. Savannah vs. Justin
Savannah sang "As Long As You Love Me" by Justin Bieber
This was a weird version that completely altered the verse to be unrecognizable. She seems like she watched Melanie last season and wants to be her. Did not love. But I tend to like that kind of singer in general, just like I liked Melanie.
Justin sang "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus
This took a long time to get going -- but mostly, my problem is that this is such an insipid power ballad. Which, I guess, is why it gets sung a lot on competition shows. I just hate hearing songs like this and "The Power of Love" on The Voice. I want more: I want more. (See, those AT&T commercials totally are working on me.) Anyway, he was just yelling at me the whole time. I didn't like it.
Bottom line: This was a tough call. I didn't love either of them. I think I'd go with Savannah, because I just don't care for yelling power ballads. But his big ole notes won Blake over.2. Holly vs. Luke
Holly sang "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw
That high note at the end was a mistake, IMO: It took you outside the song and said, "Hey, lookee here at the note I can wring out of my body!!" I did not find that remarkable. She has a nice, strong set of pipes ... and I feel like Blake has a bunch of folks just like her.
Luke sang "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry
Guys have sung this before...hello? Anyone remember Blaine's introduction on Glee? But this was a different take, and I liked the Al Green-ish approach. I was afraid it didn't show enough range, and I think that's what got him.
Bottom Line: I totally thought that was all about Luke. Holly puts me to sleep, but she's what Blake knows. Blerg.3. Danielle vs. Taylor
Danielle sang "Jesus take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood
Sigh. Danielle is just cute as a button, I totally concede, ad she has a nice, clear voice. but her lack of performance experience does show. In the generic furrowed brow of concern (and aimless pacing back and forth). That doesn't equal a winning performance in my book, even if the vocal was fine.
Taylor sang "Russian Roulette" by Rihanna
Well, Danielle wasn't winning until Taylor came along and just tanked. The beginning was too low, but honestly, I don't know the song that well, and I couldn't even tell if that's how bad the song is, or if it was just her. In general, this sounded tuneless even when she was on key.
Bottom line: Well, by default this would go to Danielle for me, because Taylor choked.
4. Grace vs. The Swon Brothers
Grace sang "I can't Stand the Rain" by Tina Turner
That was really odd and mannered. Seemed sort of like an SNL skit. And didn't really offer any sustained singing to hang on to and judge her by.
The Swon Brothers sang "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray
They sounded very nice, and they seem like very nice boys. But perhaps they were as bland as she was mannered.
Bottom Line: I'm a little torn. Usually, I'll pick interesting over bland. But I can understand picking the Swon Brothers. Grace just didn't rein it in and deliver a great vocal.
So Team Blake is: Justin, Holly, Danielle, and the Swann Brothers. All Country artists. Shocking. But let's remember he didn't win either of his season wins with a country artist.TEAM USHER 1. Josiah vs. Jess
Josiah sang "Back to Black" by Amy Winehouse
It was kind of an intriguing performance with a lot of dynamic range. But I was distracted by the guitar playing and his weird physicality. He would have been better off focusing on just his singing.
Jess sang "Give Me Something" by James Morrison
I haven't been a huge fan of hers from the beginning. She has pitch issues, and her throat sounds so tight when she sings. At one point, she was just riffing in a way that sounded completely unrelated to not only the actual melody, but also the backing music from the band. It was pretty weak.
Bottom line: To me Josiah was the clear winner, even though he gave only an OK performance.2. Audrey vs. Michelle
Audrey sang "How to Love" by Lil Wayne
That was really weak. Strained. I couldn't even tell what she was trying to accomplish. I guess she wanted to prove her indie spirit, but pick a better song you can actually sing, chica.
Michelle sang "Raise Your Glass" by P!nk
Great song, and she was just full of fire. I might eventually get tired of her lunges while singing, but I'm not tired yet :)
Bottom line: Michelle's round, no doubt.3. C. Perkins vs. Vedo
C. Perkins sang "She Ain't You" by Chris Brown
Well, singing a Chris Brown song is kind of a strike against him, from my perspective. He's a good performer, but he should have focused more on his vocal. It seemed like a throwaway so he could try to rile the audience up, but it backfired big time.
Vedo sang "Everything I do I do It For You" by Bryan Adams
OK, obviously we were manipulated into being totally moved by this, right? Well, it doesn't matter. That was sweet, and not overplayed. His "restraint and grace," as Adam put it, was exactly right. How could you not fall for that? Don't care if I was set up to feel that emotion...he delivered on the manipulation 100 percent.
Bottom line: This was no contest. Vedo's all the way4. Katia vs. Ryan
Katia sang "Mr. Know It All" by Kelly Clarkson
Oh, she was so behind the beat, it was distracting. But otherwise, a great, lucid, conversational performance: She is really singing words, sentences, paragraphs. She is telling a story on a melody. I fall for that every time.
Ryan sang "I Don't Wanna Be" by Gavin DeGraw
Meh. This song is pretty overplayed on competition shows. It's like the male "Power of Love" or something. This was bar singing at its "finest." Meh redux. I wouldn't have picked him in the Battle Rounds, and I certainly wouldn't pick him for that performance.
Bottom line: I would continue to go for Katia. I just find her to be a live wire with tons of potential. And Usher saw that, too :)
So, Team Usher is: Josiah, Michelle, Vedo, and Katia
So, who do you think has the strongest team?
I vote: Team Usher....much to my surprise.
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