The battle rounds of The Voice can always be a little bit hard to swallow. Good singers on good teams go home for seemingly no reason other than order of performance and song choice.
That was, of course, some of the case here on the premiere of season 9's battles. With some help from John Fogerty (Team Adam), Selena Gomez (Team Gwen), Brad Paisley (Team Blake) and Missy Elliott (Team Pharrell), the second round of singers tried to keep moving on. How did it all play out?
Jordan Smith vs. Regina Love, "Like I Can": Adam Levine probably has the strongest team this season on The Voice, and that showed from this very first battle, wherein he placed gender-bending (at least vocally) singer Jordan Smith against the gospel powerhouse radio host Regina Love. On paper, this maybe didn't make sense but their voices are both so big, it had to happen. They sang this song to the moon and back, so it was a logical opening for the battles.
Who technically won the battle? Jordan and Regina were pretty evenly matched in all technical respects but there's something just a little special about Jordan (probably that he's a big man who sings like a woman), and as such he kept his spot on Team Adam.
Who should have won the battle? Regina Love sang circles around Jordan (almost literally) and her experience showed with her comfortable stage presence. Her big, bombastic voice made her a keeper, and she got swept up by Gwen with a steal.
Tyler Dickerson vs. Zach Seabaugh, "I'm Gonna Be Somebody": When it comes to these two guys, they don't have much in common beyond a sort of general range. Tyler Dickerson is the old veteran who had troubles in rehearsals, and Zach is the white bread 16-year-old with a classic country voice of gold. On this smart song choice, Travis Tritt's "I'm Gonna Be Somebody," it was a question of who would just happen to do better on that day. And though their tones couldn't have been any more different, when it comes to natural talent, it was clearly Zach who had the edge.
Who technically won the battle? And that natural talent came through. At times, it seemed as though The Voice was setting up Tyler for a long stay on the show. They just loved his story. However, the vocals couldn't lie.
Who should have won the battle? Blake Shelton picked the right guy. It was always Zach.
Ellie Lawrence vs. Tim Atlas, "Sweater Weather": Gwen Stefani sent her "indie" artists Ellie Lawrence and Tim Atlas head-to-head with this The Neighbourhood track. And though Tim's voice is a little more suited to the original version of this track, there's something undeniable about the artistry and raw talent that Ellie brings. Though the coaches all seemed to dig Tim a little more, Ellie just has a cooler, prettier voice and a comfort on stage sans guitar.
Who technically won the battle? Even though Blake, Adam and Pharrell all gushed over Tim, there was something undeniable about the artistry of Ellie, and she stuck on Team Gwen. Plus, Tim was apt to get stolen by Pharrell, which he did.
Who should have won the battle? Ellie has more natural talent; Tim just happened to show up better than she did on that one day. But I'm with Gwen here.
Celeste Betton vs. Mark Hood, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough": Of course Pharrell picked an old standard for his first battle round. He will never change as a coach. :-/ First off, both of these guys seemed to be sitting a bit in the middle of the show. Mark Hood immediately and irritatingly started rapping Missy Elliott when he saw his advisor, and Celeste Betton could do nothing but try and keep up. When it came to the actual battle, Mark has amazing, magnetizing stage presence but Celeste held her own too. It was a big, bold battle.
Who technically won the battle? Of course, it was Mark. His vocal was really solid and unique but his stage presence and actual performance was just leaps and bounds ahead of pace for where should have been at this point in the show.
Who should have won the battle? Mark rightfully won. Celeste has a beautiful voice but she lacked a certain something. It's shocking she wasn't stolen, even after she did that obvious singing ploy to get someone to press for her. Apparently, this was the last battle filmed, so it explains the lack of stealing.
Dustin Monk vs. James Dupré, "Fortunate Son": These men had to perform a Creedance Clearwater Revival song in front of Adam Levine's advisor John Fogerty - that is pure fear. Like a few other battles this night, it seemed like this song was more in the pocket of rocker Dustin Monk than it was for the country-leaning James Dupré, but James really brought his A-game to the performance and had a stunning vocal. Given, Dustin had more stage presence and a level of comfort, but one has to rule.
Who technically won the battle? This show is called The Voice not The Stage Presence, so this one went to the better, raw singer: James.
Who should have won the battle? It has been a night of the right singer being chosen, and Adam continued that here.
Barrett Baber vs. Dustin Christensen, "Walking in Memphis": Barrett Baber and Dustin Christensen have similar nuances in their vocals, even though Barrett leans country and Dustin toward rock, so this Marc Cohn classic sort of blended those arenas together well. Right out of the gate, Barrett brought out the big guns, really delving into the emotions of this song and delivering his big lines ("Ma'am I am tonight") with a lot of thought and gusto. Meanwhile, Dustin was able to keep up just due to the range and power of his voice.
Who technically won the battle? Barrett has a little bit of everything, from a big voice to the ability to perform and his vocals took him to the next round on Team Blake.
Who should have won the battle? Barrett was the right choice to go, but both boys brought it to the table. So, it felt pretty fair that Adam and Gwen both pressed their button for Dustin. He landed on Team Adam.