‘The Voice’ Recap: Let the Battles Begin


The blind auditions are over, the teams are full and now it’s up to the coaches to submit their pairings for The Voice Battle Rounds to start narrowing the competition.

THE VOICE -- "Battle Rounds" -- Pictured: Jordan Smith -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Battle Rounds” — Pictured: Jordan Smith — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

But first things first … it’s been a while since the Blind Auditions took place as we see in the new looks for the coaches. Of particular note is the cleanly shorn white Kobe Bryant look for Adam Levine, leaving some obvious Lex Luthor jokes waiting for Blake Shelton.

We also get to meet the mentors for the Battle Rounds and early on it looks like strong props should be given to Adam for pulling from the knowledge of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty and Blake for calling in country superstar Brad Paisley. Gwen Stefani will be assisted by ingenue pop star Selena Gomez while Pharrell gets an assist from rap icon Missy Elliott. How much will the mentors lend to the process? Let’s get into the battles and find out:

First Battle — Team Adam: Jordan Smith vs. Regina Love

The Prediction: Given the love showered upon Jordan Smith in the Blinds and the fact that older contestants often get passed on fairly quickly once the novelty of not being able to see them passes, you’ve got to think that Jordan is the favorite going into the Battle. Regina has real chops, so I’m a little nervous that this might be too tough a battle for her, but hopefully she’s a candidate to steal.

The Battle Itself: Regina and Jordan meet with John Fogerty and Adam, but it’s clear from the pre-package that they’re both dead on with Sam Smith’s “Like I Can” and there’s little tinkering to be done. As Fogerty states, “The two of them together is magic.” During the battle, both vocalists hit notes that raise their performance and garner the attention of the coaches.

The Decision: Blake says he feels like they were at the Grammys with that performance. Pharrell calls it a masterful performance and credits Regina Love with the way she floated across the stage. Gwen guffaws over both and says that she’s really turned on by Jordan’s voice, a comment that Adam says he should “take in” cause that just happened. As expected, Adam picks Jordan but admits he feels dumb for putting them together. Luckily Gwen comes to the rescue and snatches up Regina Love with her first steal.

Second Battle – Team Blake: Tyler Dickerson vs. Zach Seabaugh

The Prediction: The soulful and gritty Tyler Dickerson vs. the silky smooth Zach Seabaugh is an interesting pairing and Blake has them doing Travis Tritt’s “I’m Gonna Be Somebody.” Given their Blind Auditions, I would tend to favor Tyler as he tends to be more in Blake’s wheelhouse, but Zach has the potential to go further given his matinee idol looks and powerful if not spectacular voice. I’m guessing Tyler if it’s close at all.

The Battle Itself: Brad Paisley feels that the song is more in Tyler’s wheelhouse, but doesn’t underestimate the more traditional voice and charisma of Zach. Blake points out that Tyler seems to know the song real well, but is in danger of making it seem like it’s something he’s performed a million times, whereas Zach needs to get in touch with what the song means to him. On the second rehearsal, Zach seems to have made up any gap while Tyler stumbles a bit. Once they hit the stage, it’s a solid performance but not one with a true “wow” moment. It’s probably a tough decision for Blake, but more because neither really nailed it.

The Decision: Pharrell credits Tyler’s stage presence. Gwen calls Zach “a phenomenon,” wondering how he has that voice at 16. Adam says that Tyler’s comfort level seemed to hinder him a bit, which goes back to Blake’s rehearsal critique, and he feels that Tyler didn’t have the fire of Zach. Blake has some praise, though it seems begrudging, for the pair. The table was set by some of the past comments and Blake advances Zach.

Third Battle – Team Gwen: Ellie Lawrence vs. Tim Atlas

The Prediction: Ellie Lawrence had the “wow” moment in the Blind Auditions and gravitated toward Gwen while Tim Atlas has the indie vibe going, but didn’t register as much. The bet has to go with Ellie on this one.

The Battle: Gwen gives Ellie and Tim The Neighborhood’s “Sweater Weather” as their song and the guitar wielding Tim seems like a natural. During the first performance, Tim has the edge as Ellie’s notes are trailing off. However, Tim’s use of guitar makes it feel like he’s accompanying Ellie and Gwen suggests he shed the instrument for the performance. However, minus the instrument, he needs a few tips on interacting with the crowd. It’s starting to feel like the more seasoned performer Ellie is making up ground. When they hit the stage, Tim hits a bit of a sour note in the opening lines, but quickly makes good with a vocal that sounds very close to the original. Ellie, meanwhile, offers a strong counterpoint.

The Decision: Adam credits both for committing to the moment. Blake praises both their personalities, with Ellie being more outgoing and Tim being more intense, but feels like Tim would be his pick. Pharrell calls both artists very gifted, great catches. Gwen shares her love for what Tim did, but in the end she picks Ellie. Luckily, Pharrell comes to the rescue and uses a steal on Tim, complimenting him on his passion.

The Fourth Battle – Team Pharrell: Mark Hood vs. Celeste Betton

The Prediction: The smooth Mark Hood was one of the highlights of the early Blind Auditions, while Celeste Betton was soulful, but her audition didn’t exactly have the wow factor that Mark’s did. She definitely has a voice, but would benefit from a song tailored to her wheelhouse. Mark Hood would have to be the early favorite, but Celeste has the power to make things interesting.

The Battle: This one’s going to be interesting as Pharrell gives the pair the Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which should compliment both of their soulful voices, giving neither a distinctive edge. Missy Elliott gets emotional after hearing the initial rehearsal, clearly moved by the performance. As Pharrell reveals, there was no critique for either. Celeste is going to make this interesting though Mark is probably an early favorite. When they hit the stage, both have plenty of personality, lots of vocal power and range and even have the stage presence to pull off moves that look like they belong together onstage. It’s the standout performance of the night.

The Decision: Gwen calls it her favorite battle she’s seen. She calls Mark incredible and loves Celeste’s attitude. Adam says Celeste’s tone is the most unique. Blake reveals that Celeste’s performance came as a surprise to all the coaches. Pharrell says it’s a mistake that they performed together cause neither deserves to lose. But Pharrell’s gut tells him to choose Mark. However, surprisingly Celeste was not stolen by one of the other coaches. Given Gwen’s decision to take Regina Love earlier in the evening, it’s not surprising she didn’t jump in, but Blake and Adam, who hadn’t used a steal yet, could have. She exits by singing a soulful and tearful goodbye. This looks like a bad decision by all as her performance easily topped some of those who advanced.

The Fifth Battle – Team Adam: Dustin Monk vs. James Dupre

The Prediction: Dustin Monk had a solid audition, but given that James Dupre has country written all over him and chose Adam over Blake, you have the feeling that Adam is going to try to not mess this one up. Dupre for the win. Knowing Blake is lurking, it’s doubtful that Adam let’s this country artist get away.

The Battle: Talk about pressure. Adam gives them “Fortunate Son” and has the man who originated the track there to mentor them. Fogerty says Dustin has the more rock and roll voice, while he had his mind blown hearing the “Americana” vibe of James. Fogerty shares the story of the anger behind the song, being drafted and channeling his feelings into the track. After a tentative first run by the pairing, Fogerty’s story gave them some inspiration to work from. Once Fogerty straps on his acoustic guitar and reworks the arrangement, the guys seems to be clicking more with the track. However, the arrangement has a few issues going into the Battle. Once they hit the stage, Monk’s vocals seem more suited to the song, with Dupre’s vocals feeling a little thin, but neither really takes command of the performance. And neither vocalist really shows much charisma in terms of their stage presence.

The Decision: Blake feels that James was more consistent, but credited Dustin for taking more risks. Pharrell follows by saying Dustin’s performance showed more heart while James showed more precision, but stated that both needed to let their bodies be as free as their voices when they sing. Gwen says James’ voice felt more effortless. In the end, Adam chose James.

The Sixth Battle – Team Blake: Barrett Baber vs. Dustin Christensen

The Prediction: Barrett Baber was a standout during his Blind Audition, which Blake comparing him to Garth Brooks, while Dustin Christensen fell in the middle of the pack during his evening with a familiar yet professional sound. Baber has to be the favorite going in.

The Battle: While Baber leans country, Christensen feels more AC, so Blake picks something that falls in the middle with Mark Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.” Blake points out that Barrett needs to watch his enunciation, while Dustin needs to pick up his energy. Brad Paisley tells Barrett the line in the song that will win him the competition, so that may ultimately be the key to this battle. Once they hit the stage, both vocalists are on their game. Dustin sounds more like the original, but Barrett has the energy and nails “the line.” It’s gonna be a tough decision as both singers outdid expectations and all the coaches rise to their feet.

The Decision: Pharrell praises both, but admits he’d probably pick Barrett. Gwen loves both as well and Adam calls Blake an idiot for putting them together, meaning that one will be available for a steal. Blake agonizes, but ultimately chooses Barrett. However, both Adam and Gwen press in for a steal and Adam hard sells Dustin. Gwen teases that she just keeps thinking about what duet they’ll do together. And Blake weighs in asking if he’ll go with Superwoman or Lex Luthor (zing!). Dustin chooses Adam and the battles for the night are done.

The Rankings
Honorable Mention: Celeste Betton
9. James Dupre (Team Adam)
8. Ellie Lawrence (Team Gwen)
7. Regina Love (Team Gwen)
6. Zach Seabaugh (Team Blake)
5. Tim Atlas (Team Pharrell)
4. Dustin Christensen (Team Adam)
3. Barrett Baber (Team Blake)
2. Jordan Smith (Team Adam)
1. Mark Hood (Team Pharrell)

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