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A new New Edition? 'The Voice' goes old school with spectacular soul duo

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The Voice felt more like Star Search Tuesday night, when Team Adam’s Battle Rounds partners DeAndre Nico and Funsho went totally old school on a new-jack-swinging, quiet-storming rendition of the New Edition flashback ballad “Can You Stand the Rain.” In the words of the late, great Ed McMahon, this performance deserved four stars.

“I was in it!” exclaimed a nostalgic, excitable Jennifer Hudson. “YÆall better take me back!”

As was the case with several other fantastic Battles this week, Texas powerhouse DeAndre and Nigerian soul man Funsho sounded like a ready-for-prime-time professional duo. (“That’s what we hope for in these Battle Rounds, two incredible vocalists making great music, but also laying it all out on the line at the same time,” noted Blake Shelton.) The two velvet-voiced crooners, who’d both auditioned earlier this season with hits by the ’80s/’90s-inspired Bruno Mars, were a natural fit for this retro song and for each other — exhibiting gorgeous harmonic blends and an authentic, obvious onstage connection. “It seems like you’ve become friends. That’s what makes the best music,” observed a proud Adam Levine.

The positively Vandrossian DeAndre’s thick, syrupy tone was the standout here — sometimes relegating Funsho to background singer status — but both proved themselves as two key Team Adam players. “This is one of the great bonehead moves, Adam putting these two guys together,” cracked Blake Shelton. Blake had a point. But then again, if Adam hadn’t arranged this Battle, we would have never witnessed this BET Awards-worthy (as in, the 1989 BET Awards) performance. I just wish DeAndre and Funsho had auditioned for ABC’s Boy Band instead, so they could have been paired off permanently. (Their suggested boy band name? “New New Edition,” of course!)

Adam eventually chose DeAndre, but luckily the non-boneheaded Blake stole Funsho. I now hope that these two men team up again in the finale, maybe doing some Al B. Sure! or Club Nouveau.

The Season 15 Battle Rounds wrapped spectacularly with DeAndre and Funsho’s dramatic duet, leading us into next week’s Knockout Rounds — which will be mentored by Mariah Carey, bringing to The Voice a whole other sort of drama. But before then, let’s look at the other final Battles of this week.

Team Kelly: Sarah Grace vs. Erika Zade, “No Roots”

Both of these young belters possessed the pipes for this funky Alice Merton barnburner, but the “stankfaced” and supremely sassy Sarah was much more comfortable and commanding onstage. Erika came across as a girl-group side player, like someone from Diddy’s Dream or Danity Kane, and she seemed to be holding back. “I felt like Sarah did some of the heavy lifting with the big notes,” said Adam. “Sarah has that attack. It’s like she’s a little bit mad at the song, and I love that,” said Blake. Kelly Clarkson understandably agreed.

Winner: Sarah

Team Blake: Kameron Marlowe vs. Kayley Hill, “Only Wanna Be With You”

Blake’s two “current country artists” faced a challenge with this Hootie & the Blowfish tune (from the days before Darius Rucker went country), but Blake told them, “When something’s that far out of your lane, it gives you a chance to step up and take ownership and make it yours.” I’d say Kayley, giving me Kacey Musgraves vibes with her guitar strumming and rainbow-sequined shorts suit to match her equally sparkling voice, did the better job of that here. But this was another Battle that worked really well as a duet. What a disappointment that Kayley wasn’t stolen.

Winner: Kameron

Team Kelly: Claire DeJean vs. Josh Davis, “All This Love”
Team Blake: Caeland Garner vs. Kirk Jay, “Let It Rain”
Team J.Hud: Kennedy Holes vs. Lela, “Battlefield”

I barely remember any of these contestants, and these were brutally brief montages, so I will just judge them based on their sartorial style. Claire was definitely the Team Kelly standout with her rhinestone Kesha/Nudie suit and Ariana-esque power-ponytail; Caeland looked pretty cool with his Fast Times-checkered guitar and lank Neil-from-The-Young-Ones hair; and Lela was rocking that Trixie Mattel RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3 yellow pinafore. Oh well. One out of three ain’t bad.

Winners: Claire, Kirk, Kennedy

See you next week for the emancipation of Mimi, when frequently American Idol-bashing former Idol judge Mariah Carey joins the gang on The Voice.

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