The battles are almost complete, and man are things getting rough. And I’m not just talking about Blake Shelton’s never-ending series of jabs against Adam Levine, either (although tonight’s winning rib would have to be that comparison of his bleached, spiked do to Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fame - yow).
This season, we’ve already seen some promising hopefuls come and go, but we’ve yet to have a real knocking-off-socks shocker, which is what we get with one of tonight’s decisions. Here’s how the remaining battlers from Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, and Blake Shelton’s teams fare in tonight’s third and penultimate battle round of The Voice.
Team Blake: Josh Hoyer vs. TSoul
“In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett
When Blake Shelton first recruited TSoul to his team, he told him there was no one else on his squad who was quite like him. And as much as the panel might say he and Josh Hoyer harmonize well and occupy the same musical space, Blake’s original statement remains true. Even though Blake’s not completely comfortable with the sheer volume of TSoul’s run game, he can’t deny the crisp energy he’s got onstage.
Whereas Josh is a little one-noted, TSoul does his best to make this repetitive number pop in surprising places. Whereas Josh tops out at a half-yell, TSoul’s got three different octaves to play with in his pitch. When TSoul goes up against the likes of JChosen or Chris Blue, he might have some trouble. But this is an easy, decisive victory.
Team Alicia: Autumn Turner vs. Vanessa Ferguson
“Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack
Autumn Turner and Vanessa Ferguson might both be built for the R&B world, but they definitely don’t cancel each other out. In fact, unlike a lot of these battlers, they really mesh well together because Vanessa’s got this sultry, seasoned thing going for her in appearance and sound, while Autumn’s able to harmonize with her softer, sweet tones. Vanessa’s basically the Monica to Autumn’s Brandy, and it works.
Which makes this battle a downright horse race, with Adam literally prompting Alicia to pick Vanessa with the assurance that he will steal Autumn to keep her on the show, guaranteed. Ultimately, Vanessa wins the day by coming out of her shell and showing some flexibility and growth throughout the prep process. She’s got a voice that isn’t a carbon copy of anyone. Even so, both still deserve to be here and advance to the knockouts, so Adam’s decision to steal Autumn from expulsion was the right call, too.
Winner: Vanessa Ferguson
Steal: Autumn Turner to Team Adam
Team Adam: Johnny Hayes vs. Julien Martinez
“Hard to Handle” by Otis Redding
Has there ever been a pair more indistinguishable than these two? From the similar growls to the equal attempts at diction throughout this tongue twister to their similar stage swag, there’s very little that sets Johnny Hayes apart from Julien Martinez. But the coaches almost universally see enough of Johnny’s rock-and-roll-ready posturing to give him the edge - according to Blake, Julien wasn’t there with the punch quite as much as his competitor, for example. Their tones were pretty well matched, if you ask me, but somebody had to walk away with the win, and Johnny did seem a little more cozy with the performance atmosphere.
Winner: Johnny Hayes
NEXT: Alicia lets a good one get away
Team Gwen: Caroline Sky vs. Stephanie Rice
“The First Cut is the Deepest” by Cat Stevens
There’s a risk in pairing such opposite artists as these that they’ll force themselves to start sounding like the other. In the case of Caroline Sky and Stephanie Rice, each one completely talented in her own way, the results are straight-up disastrous. From Caroline forcing herself to wax and wane between her typically saccharine soprano tones into some boisterous rocker vibe that just doesn’t fit, to Stephanie bouncing from an ear-splitting head voice into her normal, husky tones, it’s a mess.
That said, it’s not really either of their faults. They shouldn’t have been put together on this song. And they shouldn’t have been asked to take on each other’s styles like this. They’ll both fare much, much better on their own. Neither of them really won, TBH. Blech. This one should’ve been resorted to the montage reel.
Winner: Stephanie Rice
Steal: Caroline Sky to Team Blake
Team Adam: Kawan DeBose vs. Malik Davage
“Love Me Now” by John Legend
There have been plenty of rehearsals where the contestants weren’t really ready for the big stage before showtime, but Adam Levine seems particularly fit to be tied over how off base these guys are. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re being matched with an ambitious song, which they’re expected to sing in front of John Legend himself, or perhaps it’s the fact that they are very, very alike and need to find a way to stand out from the pack.
After tonight’s performance, the feedback is almost universal that Kawan has the more soothing tones, but Malik brings forth a presence and hunger that takes all the focus of the battle. Adam said he was hoping for Kawan to come out of his shell once the actual competition came down, and while he did have some serious falsetto run game to play with, Malik was just undeniable throughout the showcase. Tough call, though, for Adam either way.
Winner: Malik Davage
Team Alicia: Hunter Plake vs. Jack Cassidy
“Dancing On My Own” by Robyn
Hunter Plake is a star. Seriously. To think that this guy has only been on the church stage before this one is remarkable because his ease with his character-filled instrument is mesmerizing. Even Adam, who had his doubts during the blinds, is totally stunned by what he hears coming out of him tonight.
And look, Jack’s nice and safe and tries really hard and all that. But let’s be real here. He’s egg white omelets to Hunter’s Balik salmon. One’s very ordinary, and the other is something special. The fact that Alicia actually gives Jack the win over Hunter is just plain shocking. She had to know someone would pipe in with the steal to save him; and even then it’s a terrible call. Hunter’s easily the best and most intriguing artist of the evening. Someone’s really pushing for a Partridge Five family reunion or something, ’cause this decision makes zero sense.
Winner: Jack Cassidy
Steal: Hunter Plake to Team Gwen
The montages: For those of you who are sick of the montages, sorry, but they’ve done it again. This time, we have Enid Ortiz who beat out the promising Valerie Ponzio with her rendition of “Love Triangle” by RaeLynn to stay another day on Team Blake; then Hanna Eyre bests Sheena Brook in what Adam calls a “spectacular” battle with “Try” by Pink; and, finally, Jozy Bernadette is taken down by Troy Ramey on Team Gwen with his heart-channeling modality in “Angel Eyes” by the Jeff Healey Band.
- Team Adam: Johnny Hayes, Mark Isaiah, Jesse Larson, Taylor Alexander, Josh West, Malik Davage, Hanna Eyre, Autumn Turner
- Team Gwen: Joshua “JChosen” Hunter, Stephanie Rice, Brandon Royal, Troy Ramey, Aaliyah Rose, Johnny Gates, Davina Leone, Brennley Brown, Hunter Plake
- Team Alicia: Anatalia Villaranda, Lilli Passero, Quizz Swanigan, Jack Cassidy, Lauryn Judd, Vanessa Ferguson, Chris Blue, Ashley Levin, Dawson Coyle
- Team Blake: Lauren Duski, Aliyah Moulden, Casi Joy, Enid Ortiz, TSoul, Andrea Thomas, Felicia Temple, Caroline Sky