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Team Kelly has earned the nickname “Team Estrogen” this Voice season, since up until this Monday’s Battle Rounds, Micah Iverson was the only male singer out of coach Kelly Clarkson’s 10 contestants. But it looks like Team Estrogen will have a double-shot of testosterone this season, as this team’s demographics notably shifted during the course of the night.
First, Kelly was smart to put emo-indie-pop singer Micah to good use in a heartbreak duet of Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” with Gigi Hess, who was clearly basking in Micah’s masculine energy. Gigi and Micah shared chemistry that was so intense — during rehearsal, they actually seemed to forget that Kelly and guest mentor Dua Lipa were even in the room — that Kelly not only wanted them to become a duo, but suggested that they date in real life. I think they were an even match in rehearsals, but once they got in the big ring, their connection was slightly diminished, and Micah truly stood out. His emotion was so palpable and convincing, he was serving it and pulling focus even during Gigi’s solo lines. Micah was giving the audience theater, and they ate it up — as did Kelly, who declared him the obvious winner of this Battle.
But then came Team Legend’s Mandi Castillo and Cammwess. Kelly has a well-known obsession with Spanish-language singers and desperately wanted four-chair bilingual contestant Mandi for her team during the Blinds, so I knew she would swoop in for the Steal if she got her chance during this Battle. What I didn’t expect was Kelly stealing… Cammwess.
Of course, stealing Mandi was never going to be an option: While the Camila Cabello-Shawn Mendes Latin/pop/soul crossover hit “Señorita” was a good song selection for these two very different vocalists, Mandi and Cammwess didn’t have the same sort of onstage connection that Gigi and Micah had shared, and Cammwess’s performance was generic and restrained while Mandi’s was confident and bubbly. But their coach, John Legend, said Cammwess reminded him of himself, and Kelly explained, “I love John, so I love you too!” So, there ya go. Or maybe Kelly just wanted some more testosterone to balance out Team Estrogen?
These were the other Battles of Monday night:
TEAM BLAKE: Toneisha Harris vs. Jacob Daniel Murphy, “Good As Hell”
This Lizzo bop seemed picked for powerhouse Toneisha, and Jacob, a one-chair contestant, seemed all too aware that he was the “underdog” in this Battle. But Jacob was a revelation here. Sure, Toneisha, one of the strongest vocalists of the season, was in her element and her expected good-as-hell self. But my eyes and ears were drawn to Jacob, with his irrepressible sassiness and playfulness and Stevie Wonder-ful falsetto. “Jacob, you are a firecracker!” exclaimed Kelly, who declared this one of her favorite Season 18 Battles yet. Even Jacob’s own coach had to admit, “Jacob, the way you controlled the audience and controlled the stage, you’re the reason that this is a great Battle.” But of course, Blake Shelton still had to go with dynamite diva Toneisha. I had hoped that Kelly would steal Jacob (this was before she used it on the frankly less deserving Cammwess), but she instead just told Jacob to “please keep singing” and sent him on his way. Too bad. I also would have much preferred Blake to use his one Save of the season on Jacob, instead of on last week’s Todd Michael Hall.
WINNER: Toneisha Harris
TEAM BLAKE: Kailey Abel vs. Cam Spinks, “What Ifs”
Cam, a traditional country singer, was surprisingly intimidated by this Kane Brown/Lauren Alaina duet, simply because of its pop-crossover appeal. Apparently his “comfort zone” is very, very narrow. So Bebe Rexha — a pop singer who co-wrote the best-selling digital country song of all time, Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant to Be” — was a great guest mentor in this instance. Blake additionally warned Cam to be more open-minded and not shy away from his higher register. Cam, to his credit, took that advice to heart and, as Blake noted, “put it in the work,” selling the drama and rising to rocker Kailey’s level. They seemed so genuinely connected, I was almost hoping these two would date! That being said, I wish Blake had ultimately given Kailey a chance. Immediately after winning this Battle, Cam eagerly expressed his desire to return to his comfort as soon as possible, so he clearly learned nothing from this experience, and I expect a bunch of boring performances from him this season. Kailey would have been the more interesting choice.
WINNER: Cam Spinks
TEAM NICK: Anders Drerup vs. Tate Brusa, “Circles”
I wouldn’t have expected a road-warrior veteran sideman like Anders to be utterly upstaged by a 16-year-old, but that’s pretty much what happened here. Their vocals didn’t blend at all (Kelly call the combination “chaotic”; Blake grunted, “You two weren’t meant to sing together”; and John joked, “You two should not go on the road together as a duo”). But when they had their individual moments, Tate, despite possessing the technically more limited voice, showcased a more distinctive husky tone. “There’s something about you I’m drawn to. … Maybe I see a little bit of myself in you,” former teen star Nick Jonas told Tate, before making the obvious decision. (Update: Snowflake, the puppy that Blake used in an attempt to bribe Tate to join his team, remains missing in action.)
WINNER: Tate Brusa
TEAM LEGEND: Darious Lyles vs. Nelson Cade III, “Come Together”
At first, the Beatles’ barnstormer seemed more suited to Nelson, a versatile blues-rocker who’d auditioned with a Stevie Ray Vaughan song, than to straightforward soul crooner Darious. Nelson certainly had the right vibe in the ring, but much to my surprise, Darious, arguably the superior singer, really delivered. His crisp tone just cut right through the song, and he committed to the performance 100 percent. So John said, “Part of it is me thinking about styles and tones and what I think has the most potential going forward,” and he went with Darious. At first I was shocked to see Nelson, a contestant so pimped by NBC that his Blind Audition was “leaked” early onto YouTube, get the boot so soon. But apparently John had been saving his Save for a reason, telling Nelson with a smile, “We’re not letting you go that easy!” So now Nelson is headed to the next round’s four-way Knockout, where he will likely wipe the ring floor with Team Blake’s Todd Michael Hall, Team Nick’s Michael Williams… and whichever woman gets dispatched from Team Kelly.
WINNER: Darious Lyles / SAVED: Nelson moves to four-way Knockout
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