So the doldrums of the blind auditions are finally over, and that means it’s time for the battle rounds. But don’t settle in just yet, because with the new “steal” button this season, we barely recognize our old favorite. The button, which gives each of the judges two chances to pick up any artist they feel deserves that 11th hour save, took the competition to a new level tonight, and brought the battle from the stage right back to the judges’ front line. Take that, X Factor!
With that new development, the singers really came out ready to earn their original spot or maybe even set up camp on a new team.
Casey Muessigmann vs. Terry McDermott
First to duke it out were Casey Muessigmann and Terry McDermott. While Casey used to be an overweight wrestler to Terry’s Scottish rockstar, coach Blake Shelton termed them both “loud powerful singers” and handed them “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas.
Ready to coach them at the piano was a nicely coiffed Michael Buble, doling out advice like a “cool uncle,” complete with out-of-date slang usage — asking for fist bumps and everything. Casey’s far more confident about his chances than maybe the rest of us are, announcing he was ready to “kick [his] ass,” which seemed excessive and intimidating if you saw his boot size.
Inside the ring, it was the all-American cowboy against the would-be American Dream, both singing at about the exact level of energy the high octane testosterone fest called for. Christina said they brought the proverbial “it,” while a clean shaven Adam said that he was “thoroughly impressed.”
When it came down to it though, Blake gave a labored sigh and the win to Terry McDermott, discarding the “Music Man,” which, if he ever wanted to get back into wrestling, should absolutely be his stage name.
Bryan Keith vs. Collin McLoughlin
Then we had Team Adam’s Collin McLoughlin and Bryan Keith. Helping mentor the two was R&B royalty Mary J. Blige, who was the perfect choice given the two would be singing Sublime’s “Santeria,” a song that called for an emotional delivery.
And honestly, this feels like a bit of setup in favor of Mr. Bryan Keith, who killed it in the blind auditions with his gritty version of “It Will Rain” that already had a sublime quality.
And on stage, Collin really tried, he really did, but when Bryan’s languid voice curled out those lyrics, it seemed like the song was made for his cool raspy tone. So it’s no surprise that Adam went with Bryan, but what did surprise us, was a double steal button press from Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green!
And just like that Collin is back in the game, and it’s like the blind auditions all over again, as the two get into it over the former grad school dropout, who was probably already practicing his exit interview in his head. After some familiar back and forth, Collin went with the country superstar, officially changing his hashtag to #TeamBlake.
JR Aquino vs. Diego Val
Next from Team Cee Lo, we had the Alaskan JR Aquino versus the Peruvian Diego Val. Walking into the piano room, they were greeted with their coach and guest mentor Rob Thomas who was all too ready to get the secret to JR’s YouTube success, while he praised his smooth voice quality as they rehearsed the 80s anthem, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield.
Diego meanwhile wasn’t having quite so much fun with the classic record, reminding everyone that he was from Peru and Springfield wasn’t quite as big of a deal over there. Fair point, but Peru’s loss.
Once the lights were strobing though, Diego managed to get a hold of it, because both he and JR rocked the classic, engaging in a little one up manship throughout the battle.
The coaches were pretty evenly split, and even Cee Lo took a few dramatic moments to choose Diego, who he thought he could get “stranger” with. Somehow that’s a compliment coming from the “Crazy” singer. We guess it’s back to YouTube for JR.
Nelly’s Echo vs. De’Borah
And then we were escorted over to Christina Aguilera’s chandelier and hydrangea-flooded seduction space for her first battle grouping of the night. Once there, we got a peek at a little fangirling from the ultimate diva over Billie Joe Armstrong, who served as her co-mentor to her first two singers, Nelly's Echo and De'Borah.
Taking on The Police’s “Message In A Bottle,” it felt like the two were singing two very different songs, and we’re not sure which one was better. Nelly’s Echo got into his falsetto, delivering a silky tempoed performance, while De’Borah completely took her mentor’s advice to heart, and just infused the rock tune with a soul edge that turned the song on its head.
The performance so touched judge Adam Levine that he got a little choked up as he talked about how the former church girl rose above and beyond. So it came as no real surprise that Christina went with De’Borah who was utterly overwhelmed by the honor, as were her enthusiastic parents, who cried right alongside her. Excuse us as we wipe our eyes, it’s a little dusty in here.
2 Steel Girls vs. Gracia Harrison
Next we had 2 Steel Girls and Gracia Harrison who interrupted a bro moment of totally natural laughing between Blake Shelton and Michael Buble to start their battle round session.
Gracia was already feeling a little out of her league going up against two singers, but really she should have been counting her blessings that she didn’t have to make sure she sounded twice as good with The Dixie Chicks’s, “Sin Wagon.”
Even though the mother-daughter duo had a bit of trouble harmonizing on stage, they managed to really color coordinated well, bringing their “sin” game, complete with teeny black dresses and leather pants, trying their best to overpower the lifesize cupcake that was Gracia. But Gracia somehow held her own in the ring, and after the obligatory, “this is so tough for me,” Blake went with her.
Amanda Brown vs. Trevin Hunte
And we weren’t so sure about the final battle of the night. Not because we had any doubts about their talent, but because we had doubts about Cee Lo decision to even put them in the ring together. Amanda Brown and Trevin Hunte are arguably two of Cee Lo’s, if not the whole competition’s, best singers, and the prospect of losing even one of them was not a welcome thought.
Singing “Vision of Love” by fellow powerhouse Mariah Carey, the two literally ignited the practice room with their absurdly powerful voices, leaving a stunned mentor Rob Thomas to basically stand there in awe and fan them down. Something that did need stoking though was Trevin’s low confidence level, despite his enormous talent. Has he heard himself lately?! But it was too late for pep talks, because that strategically placed Kia Sorrento was already dropping off the two for their red carpet walk to the battle stage.
But Trevin had nothing to worry about because that performance had us seeing visions. Honestly, just WOW. The coaches sure agreed, with all of the remaining judges pressing their steal button way before Carson even started the bidding. But first, Cee Lo had to decide who to keep, and who he was going to throw to the all too willing wolves, and in the end, he choose the humble Trevin. But of course, the real fight was over Amanda. Poor Blake and Christina were no match for Adam’s enthusiasm or his sly dimples though, which pretty easily won him the talented girl.
And tomorrow, we’ll continue with the all new battle rounds, and see how that steal button works out for the next batch of dueling divas and divos!