Good news for NBC: If Blake Shelton ever decides he needs to sit out a season of The Voice — and heaven knows, at some point he probably will — the network has an obvious replacement part that should keep its reality-singing machine chugging along in fuel-efficient, ratings-potent fashion.
No, I’m not referring to Cee Lo’s red cotton rehearsal-room pajamas — riveting as they may be. The obvious Coach-in-Waiting can be described in a single syllable: Cher.
Yes, yes, yes, the “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” singer proved during Night 2 of the Season 5 Battle Rounds that she’s got the rare combination of qualities that make for a perfect mentor: She’s invested enough in the process to really pay attention to contestants (evidenced by her note to Monika Leigh that the Colorado hotel employee sang “Some Kind of Wonderful” a different way on every take). She’s brutally honest (sample quote: “You’re gonna have to pull from your bootstraps to sing against him!”). And she’s damn funny, too — able to openly taunt Blake without ever coming off as small or mean-spirited.
And heck, if contestants ever fail to take her advice, she can always channel her Academy Award-winning role in Moonstruck, smack ‘em in the face, and holler, “Snap out of it!”
But while you mull Cher’s ability to occupy the chair on the far right side of the screen, let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner (and bear in mind I’ll be back overnight to update this recap with more detailed reviews of the three central Battles):
3. Team Cee Lo: Kat Robichaud defeats R. Anthony on Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” | Note to reality competition producers: If you click the following link, it’ll take you to the Wikipedia page labeled “Aerosmith singles discography.” It’s not prohibitively long, but you’ll see the band has dozens of tracks for your contestants to cover that aren’t titled “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (from 1998′s craptastic Armageddon). How about “Sweet Emotion”? Or “Livin’ on the Edge”? Heck, I’d take “Janie’s Got a Gun” at this point. Comprende? Good. Anyhow, getting back to the actual battle at hand, while Kat definitely earned her win over R. by virtue of her gut-busting commitment to the cause, I felt like there were at least three or four big moments where she overshot the mark, her husky runs veering from almost sublime to borderline caustic. R. kinda of fell apart on the bridge, too — not that any of the coaches mentioned it — which is one of the main reasons I found myself wincing during his post-elimination declaration about never going back to his day job. (Dude, your dreams contain 0% of the recommended daily allowance for any of the vitamins and minerals your children need!) I might be dining on my words about Kat come mid-December, but my crystal ball predicts she’s more a Top 16 or Top 12 player than a true contender for the win.
2. Team Xtina: Matthew Schuler defeats Jacob Poole on Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” | Can I be honest and admit that Xtina announcing she’d chosen a Fall Out Boy ditty for this matchup was about as welcome as hearing my dental hygenist yell, “Omigod! Blood!”? And can I continue my candor by sharing that, to my shock, I actually kinda dug the end result — especially the way neither dude ran out of breath while delivering the song’s rapid-fire lyrics and bouncing around the stage like it was a trampoline? To me, that speaks volumes about the potential of both of these preachers’ sons — that they managed to make me reconsider a band for whom I have zero affinity — and about the subtle improvement in Xtina’s Season 5 coaching. Girlfriend suddenly seems less focused on promoting/glorifying herself, and more excited about her roster of acts, than in past seasons. My only problem with Matthew-Vs.-Jacob was that I found their voices almost impossible to tell apart, leaving me ambivalent about the outcome. Matthew, though, had a slightly more engaging stage presence (and a killer red-shirt/black-suspenders combo), so I wasn’t mad at Xtina for handing him the win.
1. Team Blake: Ray Boudreaux defeats Monika Leigh on “Some Kind of Wonderful” | I went into this battle completely #TeamMonika over #TeamWhosThatDudeAgain?, but as Adam pointed out, Ray showed a lot of skill in the Battles that simply wasn’t evident in the Blinds. Dude has a huge range, a tone that soothes like a backscratcher and what appears to be a genuine understanding of the blues (despite having a ridiculously cute toddler daughter). Xtina was right that Monika was less consistent with her pitch and phrasing, but there’s still something hypnotic about her voice that makes me refuse to give up on her competitive fortunes. Paired with a fellow blues brother like Cee Lo, she could just as easily emerge as the Season 5 dark horse as she could get flushed during the Knockouts.
Shown in Snippets With Not Enough Information to Judge
Team Cee Lo: Cole Vosbury defeats Lupe Carroll on Toto’s “Africa”
Team Blake: E.G. Daily defeats Sam Cerniglia on Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About”
Team Adam: Ashley DuBose defeats Justin Blake on Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera’s “Just a Fool”
And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of the second set of Season 5 Battle Rounds? Did anyone deserve to get the Save and didn’t? Who gave the best overall vocal of the night? Sound off below!