The third Battle Rounds episode of "The Voice" Season 4 aired this Monday, and while Shakira used up all her Steals last Monday like a giddy kid opening all her Christmas presents on December 1st, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Usher still had Steals in play this week. And those three coaches came ready to do some serious poaching. They were stealing and dealing all over the place. By the end of Monday's show, Blake and Adam had given away their last Steals, while Usher, who hadn't stolen anyone yet, finally snagged one of Shakira's castoffs for his own team. Some of these coaches' decisions made sense. Others, not so much. And some, not at all.
Here's what went down during Monday night's surprising Battle Rounds:
TEAM USHER: Jessica Childress vs. VEDO
Usher pitted two of his best R&B singers against each other, which wasn't exactly the shrewdest move. Why would he want to give up either of these contestants--or run the risk of having one of them stolen away by a rival coach and used against him later? Anyway, as a duet, this performance was about as awkward as when Usher himself recorded that "Same Girl" duet with R. Kelly--except not as amusing. Jessica and VEDO's voices, while great on their own, just did not mesh well. And the song Usher assigned them, Bruno Mars's "Locked Out of Heaven," worked much better for VEDO's poppier, less bluesy style (despite the fact that Jessica had covered Bruno before, during her initial audition). I appreciated VEDO's showmanship, as he dropped to his knees to serenade Jessica, and while I know sob stories should not matter, it was still impossible not to root for VEDO, knowing that his cancer-stricken mother had died shortly after his Blind Audition. Overall, I thought Jessica had the superior voice--based on the two singers' first auditions, that is--but I thought VEDO narrowly won this Battle. And apparently, so did Usher. Blake said there "wasn't a right or wrong decision" here, but yes, there were actually two bad decisions: Usher's decision to put both of these singers in the same ring in the first place, and the joint decision on the part of Adam and Blake, who still had Steals up for grabs at this point, to let Jessica go. Someone really should have saved her. I bet if Shakira hadn't blown all her Steals already, she would've poached Jessica right away.
TEAM SHAKIRA: Luke Edgemon vs. Monique Abbadie
I had already decided that if Luke (my favorite male contestant of Season 4) didn't win this Battle, my Purrfect-like claws were going to come out. I knew Luke was going to slay Lady Gaga's "You and I," but still I feared that Shakira would feel more allegiance to Monique, a Latina pop singer who, like Shakira, started off as a tween star in Latin America. Monique did her best in the ring (despite a shaky start), but Luke stole the show. This Battle was more like a massacre. "Where did Luke come from?" cried an incredulous Adam. "He came from heaven!" answered Blake. But Shakira then stupidly sacrificed literally the best contestant on her entire team and kept…Monique. I guess Shakira just likes losing or something. Fortunately, I scarcely had time to put my fist through my TV screen/throw myself out of the nearest window/start my "Boycott 'The Voice'" petition before Shakira's clearly wiser co-stars, Usher and Blake, both buzzed in to make a Steal. (I was surprised Adam didn't try, too.) "That was one of the most energetic, pitch-perfect performances that I've seen in the Battle Rounds in a long time," raved Blake--and soon after, he picked up Luke for his already very strong team. I have a feeling Shakira is regretting her foolish, foolish decision right about now. If not, she should be.
STEAL: Luke moves to Team Blake
TEAM BLAKE: Jacqui Sandell vs. Savannah Berry
Savannah once sang at the ACM Awards with Sugarland. Jacqui sang in a rock band on the Warped Tour. Blake gave them Little Big Town's "Little White Church" as their Battle song. It seemed pretty obvious which singer he was favoring, and how this Battle would pan out. Jacqui, with her self-described growly "touring voice," was up for the challenge, taking Blake's advice to sing in a clearer, smoother, less rockish manner, and she made an admirable attempt--her voice definitely sounded better than it had during her underwhelming Blind Audition. "You both did everything I asked for, and kudos," acknowledged Blake. But Savannah was clearly so much more in her element (despite her claim that Blake had pushed her out of her comfort zone), so Jacqui never really stood a chance. Perhaps one of the most anti-climactic Battle Rounds results ever came when Blake picked Savannah, and no one stole Jacqui.
TEAM SHAKIRA: C. Perkins vs. Kris Thomas
This was probably the most evenly matched Battle of the night, the two soulmen's voices melting together like buttah on Bruno Mars's "It Will Rain." (Wow, Bruno sure gets a lot of love from "The Voice" these days, huh? And by the way, I am the only person who thinks that Kris Thomas actually does NOT sound like a girl, but like a grown man?) Kris received a huge amount of screentime earlier this season, while the sadly montaged C. Perkins got diddly squat, so it was no surprise that Shakira chose Kris. What was surprising was how, at the very last minute, Usher suddenly stole C. for his team, in his first Steal of the season. So it looks like C. will end up getting a little more (deserved) screentime after all.
STEAL: C. moves to Team Usher
TEAM ADAM: Midas Whale vs. Patrick Dodd
Nine years ago, when one half of Midas Whale, Jon Peter Lewis, competed on the third season of "American Idol," he made it into the top 12 by singing Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" in the Wild Card round. Then he was eliminated in eighth place after he performed Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock." So I can only imagine what Jon was thinking when he found out that his "Voice" coach Adam had assigned yet another Elvis song, "Burning Love," for this Battle Round. Jon had switched singing shows, but he still couldn't escape the shadow of the King. Personally, I was concerned for Midas Whale, my favorite overall "Voice" act this season, hoping that this Battle would not be "Jailhouse Rock Revisited" for Jon and his Midas Whale partner, Ryan Hayes. But I needn't have worried. Beale Street bar-band rocker Patrick was perfectly capable of carrying a tune (and apparently he was carrying a giant, steroid-fed frog in his throat), but his gravelly gruff was NO match for the Whale's twangy harmonies, infectious sense of fun, and overall adorkableness. Patrick just did not have the Midas touch, so to speak. "You guys are perhaps one of the most charismatic, charming duos I've ever seen perform," Adam told the Whale boys. The coaches praised (somewhat hyperbolically) Patrick's war-torn, world-weary vocals, and Adam hemmed and hawed over his supposedly agonized decision, but I could have used a little less conversation in this case. The winner of this Battle was so obvious. And eventually, Midas Whale did prevail. All hail the "Voice" kings!
WINNER: Midas Whale
TEAM USHER: Orlando Dixon vs. Ryan Innes
This was the strangest, most mismatched pairing of the evening, and probably of this entire season so far. Usher felt Orlando was the technically smoother singer, and Ryan the more emotionally raw one, so he believed that they could bring out the best in each other on "Ain't No Sunshine." Or something like that. Usher sat down the more cucumber-cool and collected Orlando during rehearsals and grilled him about him personal life, the way Tyra Banks interrogates the hapless, trying-to-smize girls on "America's Next Top Model"--and by the end of their conversation, Orlando was sobbing about his tough life back home. This breakdown was supposed to be some sort of artistic breakthrough for Orlando, but when he got in the ring with Ryan, he still did not emotionally commit the way Ryan did. Ryan's front-the-gut performance just felt more real. In the long run, Orlando would probably be the more marketable recording artist of these two, but "Ain't No Sunshine" was absolutely THE wrong song for him, which is ultimately why he lost; if Usher had given this pair something by, say, Jason Derulo or (yes) Bruno Mars, this Battle may have turned out very differently. But as it turned out, Orlando impressed Adam enough to get a Steal anyway. Now let's wait and see if Orlando can make a true breakthrough during the Knockout Rounds.
STEAL: Orlando moves to Team Adam
So this Tuesday will bring the final Battle Rounds episode of Season 4, and--if Carson Daly's ceaseless hype is to be believed--the most shocking Steal yet (by Usher, obviously, the only coach with a Steal left to use). All I know is, Usher's contestant Michelle Chamuel BETTER make it through, or I'll be circulating that "Voice"-boycott petition after all. See you then!