June 24, 2018 / 10:49 AM

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'The Voice' Season 8 Recap & Review: Powerful Singers Round Out Teams as Blind Auditions Close & Battles Begin



Wow. The Voice sure did manage to fill in a lot in just two hours. For season eight, the producers decided to eschew the annual blind auditions clip show and more straight into the battle rounds. While it's good for momentum, it's a lot to take in for one night. But, here we are.

The final five auditions took up the first hour of the two-hour broadcast, with Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton picking one final performer and Pharrell Williams rounding out his team with two more singers.

Check out a rundown of the final five auditions and the first three battle round performances below:

Nathan Hermida, "Sure Thing": Between biology and music, Nathan Hermida is picking music for now, much to the chagrin of his parents. But, this R&B crooner has a solid backing behind him, so maybe he really does have a shot in the unstable music industry. For his blind audition, Nathan chose the Miguel track "Sure Thing," and underneath his smooth, mid-range R&B tone, there's a guy with raw talent and that Ed Sheeran-esque ability to create drippy guitar riffs while crossing together R&B, pop and rock. Think "Thinking Out Loud." It's all very sensual. After some battling between Adam and Chistina, Nathan was the final performer to round out Adam's initial pack of 12.

Paul Pfau, "Fly Me to the Moon": Normally, aged song choices like this can be incredibly boring, but Paul Pfau (and what is that last name?!) made this Frank Sinatra classic feel fairly modern. Despite being a non-professional musician, there was something incredibly seasoned about Paul's performance. He was breezy and relaxed, all while blending in his bluesy, soft, smooth vocals. This performance could be a little one note, but there's potential here. Team Pharrell.

Vance Smith, "Reach Out I'll Be There": At first, this audition seemed a little on the forgettable side. He was good, but not great. Sweet and smooth and Vance Smith was clearly enjoying himself. But then, at the very end, Vance pulled out some major tricks. It's something Pharrell correctly called "some 11th hour stuff." He reached out into his falsetto, pulling in plenty of runs and it sounded really, truly beautiful. It was something you didn't necessarily expect 10 seconds in. Even if all the notes weren't totally right, the personality was there and this endearing guy ended up filling out Team Christina.

Caitlin Caporale, "Impossible": The Voice is loving to have an artist who is just such an obvious pick for one team come in right after their favorite coach filled up their pack. Enter in: Caitlin Caporale, Christina Aguilera's biggest fan. She even chose Christina's Alicia Keys collaboration "Impossible" as her audition song. At first, Caitlin sounded just like any other throaty Christina disciple, but soon it became clear that she, too, is a powerhouse performer. After nailing her high notes, she was a bid for Teams Pharrell and Blake, and she eventually follows her R&B roots to round things out for P.

Hannah Kirby, "The Letter": The Voice has something for performers who have incredibly original tones, and Hannah Kirby really is one of those. There's a little bit of a country side to this gamer, but she has one of the most unique vocals on the show this year. She has a very throaty, almost froggy, sensibility to her, but she's still strong, soulful and a little scratchy. It works on every level almost purely because it should not work. After a slew of generic performers in a cutting montage, Hannah was what this show needed to round out the blind auditions. Team Blake.

Mia Z vs. Ashley Morgan, "Put the Gun Down": And, we move right into the battles, with Team Pharrell's Mia Z and Ashley Morgan kicking things off. They took on ZZ Ward's "Put the Gun Down," and boy, was this a battle for the ages. Mia and Ashley came into this round from two very different perspectives - Mia is all soul and technically proficient, while Ashiley is all technical perfection with the personality of a piece of plaster. When it came to the actual performance, it was clear just how similar these two girls are, so the pairing made a lot of sense. Mia has a bit more of a baby voice than Ashley, though that could have purely been her age. Ashley was far and away the more technically accurate singer, but there's something about Mia that makes her a star.
Who technically won the battle? Mia. Pharrell is all about the performers who are "other," and Mia has more raw personality, even if she isn't as perfect. And that does make her more interesting and more of a star.
Who should have won the battle? Though subjectively, I prefer Mia's personality like Pharrel, objectively this should have been all about Ashley. The fact that three coaches turned their chairs for her for the steal made it fairly clear that she was the stronger singer. Even though Mia is more interesting, with a whistle register for the ages, she just isn't as consistent as Ashley.

James McNeiece vs. Tonya Boyd-Cannon, "PYT (Pretty Young Thing)": It's a hard task to tackle Michael Jackson, but that's what Adam Levine put this duo up to for his first battle of the season. James McNeiece's vocal is actually closer to Jackson's originally, so this song seemed a little better suited to him. But, in the end, Tonya sang him out of the water. Her personality and her voice are so infectious and powerful....
Who technically won the battle? Tonya Boyd-Cannon. Simply put, she just out sang him, far and away. Her voice was more powerful, more interesting and she was louder. This should have been James' to lose, and he lost it to someone who was just all around better.
Who should have won the battle? Tonya. Adam picked correctly here.

Brian Johnson vs. Joshua Davis, "Knocking On Heaven's Door": What battle round performance could be so powerful that it made Meghan Trainor cry? Well, turns out this was it... a soft rock, acoustic version of this Guns N Roses classic. Like in his audition, Joshua was pretty unremarkable at first, playing like a coffee house musician, hiding behind his guitar. Eventually, the minor rasp in his voice allowed him to stand out, but Brian's silken and sweet vocals just dripped with raw emotion. Brian was so pretty and sweet, and that was truly captivating.
Who technically won the battle? This was an emotionally charged performance, so everyone really won. But, Brian's uninterrupted smooth tone and his big heart shined through, leading him to win the spot left on Team Blake.
Who should have won the battle? This is really hard to say... both men performed flawlessly. Despite not liking Joshua at first, as he went on, he really proved his own worth, landing a steal from Team Adam.


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