Yet another round of battles took place on "The Voice" this Tuesday, and by the end of the night, I was feeling a little beat-up myself. Seriously, it seems like this Season 6's draaaaaagged-out battles have been going on since Adam Levine was still in Kara's Flowers and Blake Shelton still had a mullet. Bring on the Live Playoffs already, I say.
However, during Tuesday's episode, there was some stellar singing that got me excited to see what the surviving battlers can do on the imminent live shows. So I won't drag out this intro any longer. Here's what happened:
TEAM BLAKE: Biff Gore vs. Sisaundra Lewis
Blake's R&B powerhouses-of-a-certain-age took on James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" — a huge, huge, huge song that could've felled a lesser-lung'd contestant (read: not Biff or Sisaundra). These two belted it so intensely, they practically blew each other's faces back until they resembled skydivers in freefall. And yet, they made it seem like an easy-breezy singalong, like "Happy Birthday" or "My Humps." High-kicking Biff was certainly a JB-style entertainer, but I've always thought this song feels like more of statement, so much more important, when a female artist interprets it. (Remember when Juliet Simms brilliantly covered it in Season 2?) So Sisaundra had the edge here. "That's a man," said Usher, pointing at Biff, before turning towards Sisaundra and drawling, "but that's a woman." (Yowsa.) "Sisaundra, your register's sick! Sick, sick, sick!" howled Shakira. "Sisaundra, I'm 80 percent sure you're not from Planet Earth," chuckled an amazed Adam. (Really, Adam? Only 80 percent?) Blake was torn, or he at least pretended to be torn, telling the pair: "You guys solidify why 'The Voice' is the best singing competition on television." But he ultimately had to go with Sisaundra, who was a total beast on the mic. "You're changing this show. You're that good," Blake told her. Guest advisor Chris Martin of Coldplay had actually warned Sisaundra earlier that she might be "too good," but I don't think Blake needs to worry about that. This lady won't be returning to "Planet Sisaundra" any time soon; she's sticking around in this competition. I'm more than 80 percent sure of that.
WINNER: Sisaundra Lewis
TEAM SHAKIRA: Ddendyl vs. Deja Hall
This battle between two very young, very sweet singers seemed troubled from the start. Ddendyl felt lost and scared without her piano, while romantically inexperienced teenager Deja struggled to bring enough gravitas to their cover of A Great Big World's heartbreak ballad "Say Something." (Suffice to say, this "Say Something" duet was not going to come to close to the greatness of Alex & Sierra's series-redeeming version from "The X Factor.") Onstage, Ddendyl was shaky and whispery, but somehow that fragility lent itself well to the sad song, and her performance was more believable. Deja's vocals may have been more robust, but she came across as pageanty and child-starry, and she didn't make me feel anything. "Ddendyl, you're so artistic, and your voice is just so special. It's probably the most unique voice here right now. Deja, your voice is earthly and at the same time heavenly; there's something so authentic about you," mused Shakira. I totally would have gone with Ddendyl, but Shakira saved the malleable and "sponge"-like Deja instead. And no one stole Deja. Sigh. The words "I'm giving up on you" never rang so true.
WINNER: Deja Hall
TEAM SHAKIRA: Kristen Merlin vs. Emily B.
I was hoping we could have one night of battles without a ruthlessly edited segment…but of course, with the minutes ticking away on this merely hour-long episode, that wasn't the case. Poor Kristen. She started off the season so strong, with Shakira wildly raving about her awesome audition and even recruiting Miranda Lambert as a mentor just to make sure that the rebellious country singer received proper guidance. But then Kristen's first battle was relegated to a montage, and then this week, she ended up on NBC's cutting-room floor again. Kristen's abbreviated battle with Emily B. (another contestant I'd once considered a frontrunner) flew by so fast, I couldn't even figure out what song they were doing without rewinding. (It was "I Can Love You Better" by the Dixie Chicks, FYI.) I'm glad Kristen survived, but seriously, how many more episodes must I sit through before I get to hear her sing an entire uninterrupted song again? And will the great first impression she made, weeks ago, be enough to sustain her momentum going into the Playoffs? We shall see.
WINNER: Kristen Merlin
TEAM USHER: Stevie Jo vs. Morgan Wallen
These two gruff, gravelly belters took on One Direction's "Story of My Life," and honestly, they should consider forming a boy band of their own. Or a man band, as it were. I was shocked by how nicely this performance gelled. Recreating five singers' harmonies is not easy (even the amazing Matthew Schuler couldn't quite do it when he sang "Story" last season), but Morgan, with his Phillip Phillips-esque rasp, and Stevie, with his Journey-man falsetto, somehow pulled it off. And Morgan even debuted a new falsetto of his own, too. ("I just found out I have one," he quipped.) "That was a song originally sung by boys, but it was sung by a couple of men up there on that stage," declared Adam. Usher decided to go with Stevie, and Adam thankfully swooped in for the most last-minute Steal in "Voice" history...which would have been totally suspenseful, if CARSON DALY HADN'T ALREADY SPOILED THE SURPRISE before the commercial break. Someone please make Carson stop doing that!
WINNER: Stevie Jo
STEAL: Morgan Wallen moves to Team Adam
So next Monday, the final Chris Martin-mentored battles will take place…and then it's on to the top 20 Live Playoffs! Fina-frickin'-lly! I'm more than ready for some live TV action. See you next week!