Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Voice Season 7 Battle Rounds: Day Number Two

Let's get the poop jokes out of the way first.

When Team Pharrell singer Jordy Searcy was backed up, unable to get any movement as he tried to bear down on The Script's "Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)" Pharrell's number two, guest mentor Alicia Keys, pushed him to sing the crap out of the song, telling him to "push your belly out as if you're gonna go take a poop."  After she dropped that brick of wisdom, it was easy to guess that bloggers would be sitting on their stools, dumping a load of puns on tonight's episode. 

And that's too (#2?) bad, because it may have eclipsed some very good performances from the second day of battle rounds.  The Jordy battle against Taylor Phelan was far closer than expected and showcased two strong vocals.  Jordy has a sweet, clear voice that blended beautifully with Taylor's grittier, heartfelt vocals.  But Taylor has that certain something that makes him more memorable, while Jordy falls into the nice voice but forgettable category.

Going in, Taylor was the clear favorite and Jordy seemed clearly outclassed.  But, again showing how important a good mentor is, after rehearsals Jordy had really upped his game.  He sang powerfully, holding his notes and hitting strongly in his upper register.  Pharrell Williams' fellow judges did not envy him having to choose, but it was clear that Taylor was the winner (putting two Taylors into the next round).  He looks and sounds like a performer, not a contestant, and he's one of the few whose performances I listen to repeatedly and look forward to seeing in future weeks.

Less obvious was the duel pitting Alessandra Castronovo against Joe Kirk.  My personal preference was for Joe as it takes far less time to type his name and it doesn't cause spellcheck to go nuts.  The Team Adam members battled on Rihanna's "Stay" a touching, gentle, melodic song that gives you nowhere to hide.  Going in, I thought Joe would be the clear winner as I did not even remember Alessandra from the blind auditions.  Like Jordy, she was only seen briefly in a montage of "others" who had made it through the blind auditions.

During rehearsals, it seemed as if Alessandra felt like the underdog as well. She worried that even if she sang her best, it wouldn't be enough.  She was up against a cute, freshly scrubbed Jonas brother lookalike with a young, current sound.  Did the world really need another Haley Reinhart?  But something happened to Alessandra when her life on the show was on the line and she sang with passion and power and eclipsed the occasionally flat youngster.  She was as solid on her deeper tones and she was on the high notes showing great range and consistency.

Surprisingly, Blake Shelton called Joe's the best performance on the show thus far and Pharrell guaranteed him that he'd have a future in the music business while calling Alessandra a "diva" in the great vocalist, not demanding princess, sense of the word.  Gwen Stefani called it a tie and it appeared that Adam Levine would choose the more marketable one. Adam agonized about his choice, going so long that Blake quipped he'd had a birthday during the wait.  But it didn't seem for show and when he went against the obvious choice, picking the girl over the boy band cutie.  

If you thought I was rooting against Alessandra, you know I had a clear favorite in the duel involving Team Gwen members Menlik Zergabachew (gesundheit).  We might as well have former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski try out for The Voice.  But I digress.  Menlik was matched up against Troy Ritchie and there was no clear favorite going into the battle.  It was a clash of styles and genres with a Reggae artists taking on an alt/pop singer on a song that is one of the most annoying, trite, silly, cheesy and tuneless songs ever to be recorded.

Troy's karaoke version of "Out of My League" by Fitz and the Tantrums during the blind auditions did not seem worthy of even the single chair that Gwen turned around for him.  Menlik had a better audition with Sublime's "Santeria" and Gwen had to win him over Blake to the great disappointment of all of us who were dying to see what Blake would do with him.  What would happen when two mediocre singers took on a god-awful song?

It was a painfully boring performance that was not unlike two drunk groomsmen on the dance floor near the end of the wedding reception.  Winner of the battle gets to go home with the bridesmaid who is currently sobbing under Table No. 7.   Troy had slightly more stage presence, as the extent of Menlik's move is to swing his arm around him like a tether ball.  But neither vocal was particularly on point.

Still, the judges managed to wring drama from the duel as Gwen agonized over this tough decision (which reminded me of the old days when Blockbuster was still around and on a Friday night you had to pretty poor choices as all the good new releases were already gone).  Her choice of Troy made some sense in that there is zero market for Reggae, the last Reggae artist from the show has sold 28 records, and the most impressive thing about Menlik is the Scrabble value of his last name.

What was surprising was that Adam and Pharrell both hit their buttons to steal appropriate, take, assume, redeem, reclaim, save, rescue, retrieve, salvage Menlik from obscurity.  Not surprising was Menlik's decision to go with super-producer extraordinaire Pharrell. 

In addition to these full battles, we saw montages of other battles.  If we've learned anything about the rules of Reality TV, the "winners" of those battles will shortly be cannon fodder, never to be heard from again, so no need to waste our time on them.  You can catch their few moments of screen time on the video below.

We're about halfway through the battle rounds with two more episodes to come.  Check out The Voice next Monday at 8 on NBC to see if a song even worse than "Maneater" is selected, if Alicia Keys has any more suggestions on how to deal with creative blockage, or if  someone singing a genre even less in demand than Reggae (Rock perhaps?) makes it through. 

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