"No woman should feel not confident on any level." - Christina in her own words
Last season, Jamie Lono and I were placed head to head during the Battle Rounds. I met Jamie fairly early in the audition process and we became instant brothers bonding over a shared sense of struggle and survival. I was confronting my fears head on by talking about living with HIV and Jamie was battling his own giants (Jamie was a hundred pounds heavier in high school and lost his family home in a fire). We'd joke and laugh and say things like, "Cee Lo better not make us battle."
In the beginning of rehearsing for our battle song, I Wanna Know What Love Is, we decided we'd do some ultra cool harmonies and make it really hard for Cee Lo to distinguish a winner. However, as the date for our battle approached, something happened; a shift, of sorts. I got weird, he got weird. I began to think the producers and Cee Lo were spending more time coaching him to give him an advantage. He thought that I was trying to hog most of the song. I unhappily watched our friendship morph into something we didn't recognize anymore. All of a sudden, we were barely speaking to each other, weren't rehearsing together and we had a really big argument at one of our final rehearsals. Eventually, before the battle, we came back from the ledge, but I learned something very valuable: if you don't shut your brain up sometimes, your emotions will end up getting the better of you.
A constant refrain from the coaches this week was about awkwardness on stage and I had to agree that I saw more than a few performances that didn't shine brighter than the nerves.
Julio Cesar Castillo vs. Terisa Griffin
When I saw that Julio had the most unfortunate task of singing against powerhouse, Terisa, my first thought was, "What the hell?" These two couldn't be any more different. Julio is a young, bashful mariachi singer and Terisa is a 42 year old soul singer with a LOT of attitude (she kinda scares me). Blake reasoned he pitted these two against each other because "Terisa is a powerful vocalist, but her voice also has a Latin type feel to it."
Again I said, "What the hell?"
You gotta give it to Terisa, she has gusto. She felt as though perhaps Blake was trying to get rid of her, and she said so to his face in front of Michael Buble. If I were in her position, I would've felt the same way.
Julio was super intimidated by her (with good reason, her voice is pretty amazing) and we could hear the timidity in his voice during rehearsal. Terisa and Julio were both completely rational in their concerns. But left unconstrained, those concerns will turn into worry, which will expand into fear. Before you know it, you're on stage reaching for notes you shouldn't reach for (Julio) and losing control and making sounds like a macaw from the jungle (Terisa).
This battle was a train wreck, even though I did find Terisa's dancing (salsa meets the soul train line) amusing. Obviously, the stress got to these two talented singers and we, the audience, were subjected to a less than stellar duet.
Blake chose Julio as the winner (probably because he realized that the show already had a Kim Yarborough last season and didn't need an incarnation of her this season) but Terisa is not finished. Cee Lo hit his button to steal her, which has me curious as to what bird sounds she'll make in her next song.
Lelia Broussard vs. Suzanna Choffel
I was not happy seeing these two artists go head to head since I've heaped accolades on both of these ladies in previous blogs. Suzanna has a voice that is warm and fuzzy; Lelia has a quirky tone with a beautiful falsetto. Blake chose these two to duke it out because they're both "indie artists who play guitar and have gypsy souls."
In their initial rehearsal, Lelia was killing it (in a good way, that is) by making changes to the melody that didn't come off as a bunch of vocal acrobatics. Even Suzanna had to admit that Lelia's artistry made her feel a little insecure. Just because you have a great voice doesn't mean you know how to perform, and Suzanna definitely felt the pressure because she's been out of the performing loop for awhile. Blake urged Suzanna to just cut loose and forget about all of the technical rules that come with singing properly.
His advice must've worked because in their final rehearsal, Suzanna had control of the song while Lelia struggled with pitch. Now, it was Lelia's turn to start doubting herself and she admitted that the pressure was getting to her.
On the night of the battle, Suzanna started the song and I immediately remembered why I fell in love with her voice in the first place. Lelia had some good moments, but nothing near as good as what she's capable of. I realized that their performance was very one dimensional and I can only attribute that to them thinking too much.
I understand why Blake chose Suzanna as the winner. Her voice truly is remarkable, but Lelia's great in her own right and I can't help but wonder how this battle would've turned out if she had been able to turn off her mind.
Sam James vs. Benji
Nerves can also kick up a little fight in you. Such is the case in this battle. Benji was the clear front runner going into this. He has the whole screaming on pitch thing down pat, he has a great back story (ex-race car driver) and great mutton chops. Sam, on the other hand, was shown for 4.2 seconds during the Blinds.
Adam really wanted to stretch both of these guys by encouraging Benji to pull back some (that hollering can be a little much at times) and by having Sam ramp it up a notch. During the rehearsal, Sam missed a few notes and it was obvious he, too, thought this was Benji's for the taking.
Each contestant has about three weeks between finding out who they're battling to the actual night of the performance. I thought having that much time would solidify my performance, when in all actuality, I spent that time literally freaking out. I'm guessing that during those three weeks Benji's confidence began to falter and Sam found his mojo. Sam started the song with a confident aggression and super cool tone. Benji's performance, for me, however fell flat. Sam has this really cool singer/songwriter/folksy voice that sounded really good on Bon Jovi. And Benji…well, he just screamed a lot.
Adam surprised everyone by picking Sam as the winner of this battle and after the coaches' high accolades of Benji; I was shocked that no one stole him. I'm hoping to hear some really good things from Sam in the Knockout Round and if you haven't purchased his blind audition song, Imagine on iTunes, then you are truly missing out.
Emily Earle vs. Mackenzie Bourg
Cee Lo said he wanted these two to battle because they represented youthfulness and energy. Emily is used to singing Country/Americana, so she was not feeling having to play Carly Rae Jepson in this song. Mackenzie was bummed because Cee Lo wouldn't let him perform with his guitar, so he, too, felt like a fish out of water.
This performance reeked of clumsiness and felt a bit like amateur night. I've had the pleasure of meeting both of these contestants and I really like their point of view, I just wish they could've gotten over the self doubt and really made the song their own. For instance, Emily could've played her twang up a little more as opposed to being Mackenzie's honorary back up singer. I respected Mackenzie's approach because, though he was uncomfortable, he looked as though he were having a really good time. That, my friends, is performing. Cee Lo picked Mackenzie for the win and I think he made a good choice, I'm just a little disappointed that we didn't get hear more of the coolness that is Emily Earle.
Special Shout Outs
There were a few stand out performers this week (I see you Kayla Nevarez, Liz Davis, Dez Duron) but I wanted to take a moment to shout out some other awesomeness I witnessed.
1. Nate Morton is the drummer for The Voice band and I saw him show boating a bit in the back twirling drumsticks and what not. Just wanted everyone to know his name. He's a good guy.
2. Adam's Navajo print sweater he wore to rehearsals. I'd like to know where he got that from so I can rock it and look equally, if not cooler than him. If anyone is able to find out where he copped that, tweet me @Jsquidward!
3. Nicole Johnson. Even though she lost her battle to Liz Davis, this girl is a winner. She has a kind heart that literally outshines her. Nicole, don't give up, baby girl.
4. Christina's surprising steal of Alessandra Guercio. It even took Carson off guard and the audience went nuts.
5. Mackenzie Bourg's performance suspenders. Suspenders never go out of style.
We're in for one more week of Battles before we've arrived at the newly installed Knockout Rounds. Here's to hoping that the remaining contestants have learned to quiet the self doubt in their heads. And let this be a reminder to you, my brothers and sisters, that you have what it takes to leave a lasting impression on the world. Please don't allow your voice to be quieted simply because you don't believe in yourself. You deserve much more than that. See you next week!