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'Worst episode ever'? 'The Voice' fans are cross about the new Cross-Battles

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On Monday, The Voice introduced a crazy new round, the Cross-Battles, during which — for the first time — two contestants from opposing teams faced off for the public’s votes. Presumably this was an attempt to shake up the series after 16 seasons. Host Carson Daly hyped up what was supposed to be a historic and epic night … but instead, it was just an epic fail. The night was historic, all right, but for all the wrong reasons. One disgruntled viewer even tweeted that it was (Simpsons Comic Book Guy voice) the worst Voice episode ever, and not just because of Adam Levine’s latest haircut.

OK, it wasn’t that bad. (We all know #Bathrobegate was the worst Voice episode ever, let’s get real.) And not everything that went wrong Monday was the contestants’ fault. But it was painfully obvious that some of Monday’s performances were off-key, and that many of the performances in general were plagued by audio problems. How could this be happening in Season 16? Some sound engineer at NBC is probably getting fired right about now.

Thankfully, a few stellar performances — by Presley Tennant, Kayslin Victoria, Domenic Haynes, Oliv Blu, and especially Maelyn Jarmon — redeemed this iffy episode. The public voting window opened immediately after the East Coast broadcast, and on Tuesday, the winners earning spots in the top 24 Live Playoffs will be revealed — with each coach having one Save and one Steal. Let’s hope Tuesday’s episode goes a little more smoothly than Monday’s. Until then, below are this week’s Cross-Battles (the series will do it all over again with the other half of the remaining 32 contestants next week):

Kim Cherry (Team Blake) vs. Betsy Ade (Team Kelly)

Blake Shelton went after the reigning champ, Kelly Clarkson, who decided to pit her resident rocker against Blake’s rapper. Kim, who’d proven she could legitimately sing during the Battle Rounds, unfortunately regressed to her novelty-act ways with a drunk-karaoke rendition of Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” Betsy’s cover of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” was like a bad audition for an Off-Off-Broadway production of that Jagged Little Pill musical. It was a screechy, gaspy mess. Honestly, both of these women should be eliminated. But I suppose the winner of this round was Kim, only because she was at least trainwreckingly entertaining.

Mari (Team Adam) vs. Selkii (Team Blake)

The adorable Mari took on Troye Sivan’s “My My My!” and, despite the muddy audio, put on a charming performance. This felt cool and contemporary, from the song choice to the styling to the free-spirited dance moves. Then Selkii sang the Natalie Imbruglia version of “Torn,” and her throat sounded torn up. This was weak, total amateur-hour stuff. What was going on? Selkii had sounded awesome just last week. I’m not “torn” about this one: Mari was the clear victor.

Lisa Ramey (Team Legend) vs. Karen Galera (Team Kelly)

Lisa has been inconsistent (she was rejected when she tried out last year, and turned only one chair this season), but her take on Susan Tedeschi’s bluesy “It Hurts So Bad” was surprisingly solid. In some moments, she really wailed, and she oh-so fierce in all that red Loverboy leather. And at least this wasn’t a disaster. Sadly, that could not be said for Karen’s dreary cover of Rihanna’s “Unfaithful.” She was nasal and pitchy from the start and sounded very nervous, delivering none of the original’s fire and drama. Her phrasing was way off, too. This was the performance that hurt so bad; Lisa was the obvious winner.

Matthew Johnson (Team Kelly) vs. Domenic Haynes (Team Adam)

Matthew’s “Who’s Loving You” was vocally competent, but so, so conservative and old-school. This was like something from Kelly’s American Idol season in 2002. Domenic’s rendition of the Alex Clare version of Etta James’s “Damn Your Eyes” was just the opposite: edgy, interesting, and even a little bit angry, with a distinctively sexy tone. Hot “Damn”! Domenic has to win this one; this boring Voice season really needs him. As his coach Adam Levine put it, he’s “one of the most honest, raw, emotional and powerful singers this show has ever seen.”

Presley Tenant (Team Kelly) vs. Kayslin Victoria (Team Legend)

What a shame that two of the best contestants of the season, the teen prodigies, had to go head-to-head this soon. The Cross-Battles suck! First, Presley did RiRi justice and made up for Karen’s lackluster performance as she tore into a fearless and ferocious “Love on the Brain.” Then Kayslin was a pint-sized pop star, seeming more like she was on the MTV VMAs than The Voice as she strutted the stage to Zedd and Alessia Cara’s “Stay.” Both girls need to stay. If I had to choose, I’d go with the superhumanly confident Kayslin, but this is one Cross-Battle that needs to end in a Steal.

Celia Babini (Team Adam) vs. Oliv Blu (Team Blake)

This was another pairing of seemingly formidable opponents, two once-promising quirky girls. But Celia, while being one of the most fascinating contestants of the season so far, sounded totally off doing Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” She was throaty and froggy, and the song seemed to be in an entirely low a key for her. This felt like it dragged on for a thousand years. Oliv’s “Gravity,” however, was sublime. This was a bit of a departure from her usual jazzy-scatty style, but it was a risk that paid off. This was a class act. “Gravity” was definitely not working against Oliv, and she should win this round.

Dexter Roberts (Team Blake) vs. Andrew Jannakos (Team Adam)

I was surprised that the hyper-competitive Adam would sacrifice his one country contestant to traditional country crooner Dexter, who is sure to be a favorite with viewers. (Dexter already has a TV track record, having gone all the way to seventh place on American Idol Season 13.) Dexter played it safe, and played to Blake’s base, with Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe”; it was unremarkable, but polished and professional. I’d actually go with Andrew this one; his cover of Russell Dickerson’s felt a little fresher, his voice a little richer. Even Blake admitted that this match was a “tough one.” But given Blake’s Voice history, especially with country singers, there’s not much hope for an Andrew upset. His only hope is getting a Steal.

Maelyn Jarmon (Team Legend) vs. Rod Stokes (Team Adam)

And there’s not much hope for Rod, either. His belty and soulful “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” was strong, and up against other opponent he’d probably have a good shot. But Maelyn’s “Mad World” was the master-class performance of the night. It was so compelling and exquisite, in fact, that it made up for all the shortcomings of this shaky episode. It will be a mad world indeed if Maelyn doesn’t make it not only to the top 24, but to the top 10.

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