Film and TV

The Battles Begin: Week 1 Sing-offs on The Voice

As much as I enjoyed the first two episodes of The Voice on NBC, I find this new "sing-off" battle format confusing. I understand the concept of elimination, and I guess I even understand having the battles pitted between teammates to keep the numbers of each team even, but I think the concept is muddled. First of all, the judges are pairing off their top singers against one another--don't you want your top singers to stay? Why would you want to eliminate your best singers in the opening rounds? Second, not all of the songs the battle pairings end up with are really "battles," which makes the competition uneven, in my opinion. Some of the songs require the singers to out-sing each other, while other song choices require great harmonies to showcase the best of the singing abilities. Also, no one hits any buttons and no chairs swing around, and what's a reality show without a cheesy gimmick?

Oh wait! The show has constructed a faux-boxing ring/stage for the performers' battles. Phew! Now we can go ahead and start Round One of The Voice Battles.

Team Christina

Christina chooses Taralynn Ramsey and Frenchie Davis to face-off in the first battle of the night, singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." Christina has brought in Australian singer/songwriter Cia to help her coach Taralynn and Frenchie, but their advice is pretty basic and boils down to, "sing good." Insightful. In an interview, Frenchie throws out a bit of a diss, saying that Taralynn and Christina have a tendency to "attack" everything they sing, while she is "more concerned with tone, pitch and face--that's what I do." I guess that's why Christina is Christina Aguilera, and you, Frenchie, were on Broadway but still need to audition for amateur singing reality shows, right? In Taralynn's interview she says she's going to under-sing to throw Frenchie off, but Frenchie isn't fooled and knows that's what Taralynn is up to. When it comes to the performance we know neither of these powerhouses is going to "under-sing" anything.

The performance: Both girls come out bellowing, and the song is a hit with the audience. Taralynn is a great singer and hits some beautiful notes, but it's really hard to tell with Frenchie's strong competing vocals. Also, Frenchie looks so much more relaxed on stage than Taralynn, whose voice is great but whose face shows every nerve she's feeling. Christina picks Frenchie to move on to the next round. I'm a little bummed, because Frenchie's snotty attitude has put me off; she was kind of a bitch-face, right?

Team Blake

Blake pits Patrick Thomas and Tyler Robinson against one another, assigning them "Burnin' Love" by Elvis Presley. When Tyler says he's not familiar with the song I'm stunned, but then I remember he grew up Mormon. Still, I know Mormons who know Elvis, so I'm puzzled. Blake's guest judge is Reba McEntyre. (Have you ever seen her video for "Does He Love You"? It's amazing). I'm a closet Reba sitcom fan, and I'm excited she is making an appearance. The coaches advise Tyler to be pickier about choosing where to place runs in the music--country music doesn't lend itself to that kind of thang, after all--and they want to see Patrick take more risks.

The performance: Carson Daly announces that the "confident cowboy from Texas, Patrick Thomas" will be singing against "the soulful voice from California, Tyler Robinson" and they're off! Tyler's vocals are strong, but his unfamiliarity with the music is obvious through his nerdy bopping and finger-snapping; Patrick's styling is very country, and he's obviously comfortable with the song. Still, I think Tyler's vocals are stronger so I am shocked--shocked!--when Blake picks Patrick to win. Texas is in it!

Team Adam

Adam selects Tim Mahoney and Casey Weston to perform the Don Henley/Stevie Nicks duet "Leather and Lace." This is one of my all-time favorites, but I know this will be tricky because it's so iconic. Whenever anyone sings Stevie--or Janis Joplin, or anyone else with really distinctive vocals--it can end badly. Adam brings along his Maroon 5 musical director Adam Blackstone, and rehearsals consist mostly of teaching Casey the song and explaining to Tim that his phrasing sucks. In an interview, Tim tells the viewing audience that he wants to prove to the other judges that they should have turned their chairs around, which smells like a foreshadowing of GOODBYE to me--just concentrate on singing better than Casey, Tim. He also calls himself the "King of Almost," having come so close to success so many times. Casey says she just wants to make Adam (Levine) proud.

The performance: Casey comes out and HOLY HELL. Her dad is watching backstage and gasps, "is that my little girl?!" I'm pretty sure he doesn't mean that in a 100 percent positive way, because they've tarted Casey up good, with a push-up bra and a short mini-dress and heels. I'm 34 and married and I'm pretty sure my dad would ground me for wearing that outfit. But what about the song? For someone who doesn't know it, Casey is singing it beautifully; Tim listened to the coaches' notes about phrasing, and Adam comments on the improvement during the performance. The harmonies were well-executed, which brings me back to my original point about songs like these not really being "battle-worthy." In the end, Adam chooses Casey over Tim, and Tim remains the King of Almost--long live the king.

Team Cee-Lo

Cee-Lo pits singers Vicci Martinez and Niki Dawson against one another, and asks them to sing Pink's "Perfect," saying he likes their youthful zeal and optimism. Singer Monica is Cee-Lo's co-coach, and rehearsals go well, without any remarkable moments. In the stage rehearsal Cee-Lo gushes about the pairing, saying he loves their voices, the song, and the arrangement; he's already freaking out about having to choose between them.

The performance: The styling on this show is terrible--Niki's hair has been styled into a weird bang/sausage roll/forward comb-over and she's in STIRRUP pants. Annoying. Anyway, the two girls together sound great--in fact, their voices add up to one Pink, and the arrangement sounds eerily like the original. I have no idea how Cee-Lo is going to choose, these two are so similar. Niki breaks out at the end with some really perfect notes. (Get it?) Cee-Lo compliments both girls but ultimately he picks Vicci to move on to the next round.

What did you think of The Voice this week? Am I the only one who hates this sing-off format?

NBC's The Voice airs again next week on Tuesday at 9 p.m. CT. You can catch up on past episodes of The Voice online, and read my recap of The Voice Episode 1 and The Voice Episode 2 on Art Attack. I'll recap Battle Episode 2 next week, so stay tuned!

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Christina Uticone