As The Voice Season 22 Battle Rounds came to a close Tuesday, new coach Camila Cabello faced a decision that has daunted many of her more experienced Voice predecessors: Should she pick a Battle winner based on past promise and future potential, or go with the moment and simply go with the superior singer in this particular instance? In the case of her two “emotive singers” Andrew Igbokidi and Zach Newbould, she went with the former strategy — a verdict that was both surprising and controversial.
At first, it seemed likely that four-chair contestant Andrew would blow 19-year-old Zach, a two-chair turn, right off the stage Tuesday. But the onetime Season 22 standout really sabotaged himself, coming to rehearsal all tense and throat-tightened and second-guessing his every note. “I think it’s nerves, but I’m just going to flush it out,” Andrew insisted, but he just couldn’t seem to regain his confidence, despite multiple pep talks from Camila and her guest adviser Charlie Puth.
Camila tried to get Andrew out of his head so he could fully, bodily connect with a “sad emotional piano version” of the Whitney Houston classic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” telling him: “I think you’re being too hard on yourself. .. You have to remind yourself, ‘I don’t have to be perfect. I will probably mess up, because I’m human and that’s normal.’” Charlie added, “You’ve just gotta own it. Even if you go off-pitch a little, who cares? Just own it! Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, all the greats never were unbelievably pitch-perfect. It’s not going to be human if it’s perceived as ‘perfect.’”
Sadly, though, Andrew the perfectionist still looked terrified when he got onstage. “It almost seemed like something was holding you back. Every time there was an opportunity to get to a note, it just didn’t quite land. I just think you’re better than what happened here today,” Blake Shelton told Andrew.
“You have this incredible talent, but I think that your hypercriticism of yourself is keeping you from accessing the freedom and the fun to go to that next level,” Camila lamented.
All of the coaches, even Camila herself, thought that Zach was the more “consistent” contestant who “really shined” — and yet, Camila went with Andrew anyway. Andrew more shocked than anyone by this outcome. “I don’t think he knows how good he is, and I just want to pull that confidence out of him,” she explained. Some viewers didn't agree with her logic.
Hopefully Camila won’t regret this gamble, because she let a solid singer — one that proved he could withstand the pressures of a live competition — go home. “I wish I had another Save!” admitted Camila. “If I had another Steal, I would have stolen Zach,” Gwen Stefani added.
As it turned out, there was only one Save left in play, Blake’s — and with Tuesday’s one Team Blake Battle occurring last in the episode, we all knew how that was going to pan out. But Tuesday did feature one other surprise, during the performance by Team Legend’s Omar José Cardona and Lana Love. These were the final Battle Rounds of Season 22:
TEAM LEGEND: Omar José Cardona vs. Lana Love, “Into the Unknown”
This song assignment was a genius pick for both singers: Cabaret stylist Lana, with her “musical theater energy,” totally tapped into her inner Elsa on the Frozen 2 anthem, but since this was a Panic! At the Disco-inspired version, it also allowed ‘80s-esque belter Omar, who’d auditioned with Journey’s “Separate Ways,” to showboat as well. (Omar may have had the Disney edge here, though, since he has experience performing at Orlando theme parks.) This performance was very extra and honestly made me think both contestants would have been better off auditioning for You’re the One That I Want or The Glee Project or some other theater-centric talent show. But it was definitely a big adrenaline rush to start the night. “I think I speak for everybody here when I say… what the hell? How is there even enough time to rehearse? That would be like an eight-month run on Broadway,” exclaimed Blake. “Why are you not on Broadway singing every single night?” gasped Gwen. John Legend picked Omar even though he freely acknowledged that Lana had delivered her best vocal of the season, and I think he made a mistake. All of the coaches have been so enamored with the “unreal” and “unbelievable” Omar (Blake even called him “one of the best singers I’ve ever heard”), and John seems convinced that Omar could win the show, but I think Omar would be better off sticking with cheesy amusement park gigs. But hopefully we’ll see Lana on Broadway soon enough.
WINNER: Omar José Cardona
TEAM CAMILA: Chello vs. Constance Howard, “Leave the Door Open”
I am surprised that this Battle was not shown in full, as both singers sounded great, alone and together. But based on this brief snippet, it did seem that Chello was the one with more “magical star quality,” as Camila put it, and was the more unique performer. I hope his Knockout Rounds performance receives a more generous edit.
TEAM LEGEND: Kara McKee vs. Peyton Aldridge, “More Than Words”
I barely remember either of these contestants from the Blinds — this is the problem with having a supersized batch of hopefuls this season (56 instead of the usual 48) — so I was OK with this performance being a montage. (Besides, no Voice rendition of this Extreme ballad could ever top the coaches’ campfire versionfrom 2019!) This duet was pleasant enough, but Peyton definitely seemed more suited for the song — John praised his voice’s “power and edge” as he made his logical decision.
WINNER: Peyton Aldridge
TEAM GWEN: Kayla Von Der Heide vs. Sadie Bass, “Everything I Own”
I was disappointed that this Battle was a montage, considering how vocal Gwen has been this season about her fondness for Bread. (I am, however, kind of surprised that Gwen didn’t assign Kayla and Sadie the Ken Boothe/Boy George reggae version of this Bread ballad; that would have been a brilliantly box-checking move.) This did seem a little snoozy, so maybe the montage treatment was for the nest after all. Kayla won the Battle, but I suspect she’ll get lost in the shuffle of the three-way Knockout Rounds that kick off next week.
WINNER: Kayla Von Der Heide
TEAM BLAKE: The Dryes vs. Bryce Leatherwood, “Red Dirt Road”
The Battles are always so awkward and lopsided when it’s two-against-one, and poor Bryce was the odd man out in this threesome, so to speak, attempting to create three-part harmonies with a married couple; much of the time, Bryce just seemed like the Dryes’ guitar accompanist. Also, the tempo was “completely out of the pocket,” as both Blake and Camila noted, when the Dryes started off the song, which the couple said was because they couldn’t hear the band’s drums. I will say, though, once the performance settled in and finally got going, and Bryce finally got his chance to solo, he was the one that stood out, despite being outnumbered. “I felt more at ease watching and hearting him,” Camila said. Blake ended up keeping both contestants — which was hardly suspenseful, since, like I said, this was the last Battle of the season and he still had a Save in play. But I think Bryce, who has the most country-sounding name in The Voice history, was the clear winner here. When the Knockout Rounds commence next week with a new format change — three contestants singing onstage at once, instead of the usual two — it’s going to be interesting, and possibly messy, with a duo like the Dryes in the mix. See you then.
WINNER: Bryce Leatherwood / SAVED: The Dryes
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