The second evening of The Voice’s Battle Rounds was condensed to just one hour, and featured only three performances (plus three of the montages). Although tonight’s episode was short, every Battle packed a punch: We saw two early favorites wipe out sooner than expected, and a third singer given a second chance.
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The night starts off with Team Adam’s Keith Semple and Manny Cabo, who are given the arena rocker “Baba O’Riley” by The Who to chow down on. Adam explains that the song choice is very theatrical, which fits both singers’ roof-shaking, wide-ranging sounds. Manny shows up to the first day of rehearsal sporting the kind of headscarf I thought only Steven Van Zandt had permission to wear. Maybe he’s sending a message: “I’m the true rock star here.”
During the performance, however, Manny and Keith are very closely matched. Their stage strutting and air guitars are completely cheesy, but these two are both clear professionals who provide a nice contrast to their untested teenage competitors (singers under 20 make up more than a quarter of the remaining hopefuls). Manny’s voice is thick and resonant, and he clobbers his final, piercing note. He can sound generic, though, and Keith has a more singular, memorable voice and offers more variety. In the end, Pharrell calls Manny “stratospheric,” but Adam keeps Keith. Manny’s sudden departure from The Voice, after his four-chair turn audition, is just the first surprise of the episode.
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Next to enter the thunderdome is another pair of audition all-stars: Chris Crump and Krista Hughes of Team Blake, both of whom also got all four coaches to press their buttons. Blake assigns them “When I Get Where I’m Going,” as performed by Dolly Parton and his advisor, Brad Paisley. It’s smart to choose a song with built-in male and female parts, and having Paisley in the room ends up being a boon for Krista: Brad re-writes a portion of the song to better highlight her voice.
His tinkering isn’t not enough to save her, though. Throughout the pair’s Battle, Chris stays in charge of the song and builds from a soft opening that pulls in the audience through to a strong, dramatic finish. Krista can barely be heard over his vocals, and when she gets a fthedailysplash.tv lines to herself, she isn’t consistent. Krista has more character and uniqueness to her voice, but she just doesn’t perform as well as Chris. Adam tells her he thought she “lost the reins,” and Gwen and Pharrell both advise Blake to keep Chris. Blake lets Krista go, and just like that, one of the most promising singers of the season is out of the running.
Before the final performance, Carson announces the winners of three montage Battles: Madi Davis from Team Pharrell beat Sydney Rhame, Kota Wade from Team Gwen beat Alex Kandel, and Jeffery Austin, also from Team Gwen, beat Noah Jackson.
Gwen really appears to be getting the short end of the stick so far: More of her singers’ auditions were montaged than those of any other team; two of tonight’s three montage Battles also belonged to her team; and none of her singers’ Battles even made it to air this episode. Something is fishy here.
That means the final Battle of the night comes from Team Pharrell. The coach gives Ivonne Acero and Siahna Im “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. Obviously, Siahna has the huge, Christina Aguilera-approved voice to take on this classic soul spectacular, but Ivonne is less certain. Pharrell advises the former on technical matters (she should strengthen her vibrato), but with Ivonne, he just asks that she work on her confidence and stage presence.
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The night of their performance, Siahna starts off the song with her irresistible, in-your-face attitude, all finger-wagging and side-eyeing. Ivonne seems much looser than in rehearsal, but she doesn’t have the same charisma. Nor can her singing compare to Siahna’s mature, fiery voice. It breaks the coaches’ hearts to say no to one of these high schoolers, but Pharrell does what needs to be done, and picks Siahna. Blake and Gwen surprise everyone, however, by both buzzing in to steal Ivonne. She seems a more natural fit for Gwen, but the ska singer’s pitch is so repetitive and broad, Ivonne is wooed away to Team Blake.
After the first week of Battle Rounds, each coach is left with just one more stealBlake’s really running up a list of bald celebrities. This episode, he compared Adam to Sinéad O’Connor and Howie MandelBrad Paisley has emerged as the most helpful advisor by far. Rather than just getting chummy with his coach or offering laudatory platitudes to Blake’s singers, he’s consistently giving solid technical adviceBlake remains the only coach who hasn’t yet had a single singer montaged at any point yet this season