After Tuesday's "American Idol" finale descended into a lackluster debacle of lethargic country and limiting laryngitis, the bar has been sufficiently lowered that I'm really looking forward to tonight's quartet of "Voice" Shout-Battles.
Game on, "The Voice."
[Full recap after the break...]
10:01 p.m. ET. Last week, due to Slingbox difficulties, I missed the "Previously on 'The Voice'..." segment. Why does it take so long to explain what came last week?
10:01 p.m. Christina Aguilera's up first. Her batter will pit Raquel Castro against Julia Eason. They're going to sing "Only Girl In The World." Christina explains that these are her two dynamic dynamos. And what better way to showcase your dynamos by asking them to sing a Rihanna song that's much more about production and sexuality than singing. Ask "American Idol" bootee Tatynisa Wilson how much you gain from singing Rihanna in a competitive environment.
10:03 p.m. Awesome. Raquel admits that she was, indeed, the little girl in "Jersey Girl." I'm glad that NBC has put together a talent show aimed at giving people like Raquel the chance to escape their past associations with Ben Affleck movies. If gives me hope that Jennifer Lopez may have a career again some day! [Do I need to explain that that last sentence was a joke? Twitter has taught me that sometimes my sarcasm just doesn't hit home for all people all the time.]
10:04 p.m. At mentoring, Sia tells Julia that she needs to relax her vocal chords. "I think that's great advice," Julia gushes. Christina admits that she often gets nervous before performances and wants to throw up or pee her pants. There are some people with oddball fetishes who are very happy right now. Raquel asks if she should use her dancing experience to prep for performances. Christina isn't sure what to make of that question and goes to her fall-back advice: Bring it. At rehearsals the next day, Christina is worried about her charges and their pitch problems.
10:06 p.m. The time has come for Battle No. 1, Julia vs. Rachel... Welcome to Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots Arena, the only place Carson Daly has any role on this show. In the beginning, the duet is... awkward. Julia forgets the melody and Rachel forgets the words. By the time they get to the chorus, Jersey Girl is locked in. She's belting like a champ. Julia? Not so much. Regardless of what her sequestered parents are saying, Julia's pretty much beating the melody with a sack of oranges. Raquel's strong enough by the end that Julia would be well-served to just tap out and leave the Singing Octagon.
10:09 p.m. Cee-Lo calls it wonderful and praises "Little Mama" Raquel. Blake disagrees and says that while Raquel is better overall, Julia is better when she opens up. Adam says that they were equal vocally, but Raquel has "this thing." By "this thing" he means "singing talent" and not "An IMDB page featuring an embarrassing Kevin Smith movie."
10:10 p.m. Christina loves that Raquel and Julia were both receptive to her notes. She loves them both, but her choice is... after a commercial break.
10:13 p.m. Oh. Right. Results... Christina chooses... Raquel. Duh. Rock it, Jersey Girl. Raquel is the first member of Christina's team to advance and also have hair.
10:14 p.m. Blake's Battle will pit Dia Frampton and Serabee in a "Can't Hurry Love" showdown. Blake's pleased with this pairing because he figures that neither Dia nor Serabee expected to find themselves singing this particular song against each other.
10:16 p.m. Everybody's always impressed when Reba shows up. She's Blake's not-so-secret weapon. Serabee's voice annoys me. It's all nasally and affected. I far prefer Dia's quirky, indie singer-songwriter tone. Also, she's adorable. In private mentoring, Reba and Blake tell Dia that stagefright is part of the fun of performing. Blake advises Serabee not to oversing everything. Serbabee says that her oversinging comes from her background in church. She vows to break Dia, if she has to. I'm gonna be partisan on this one, kids. Go Dia!
10:19 p.m. Yup. Six minutes of programming there. NBC's gotta milk "The Voice" for all it's worth.
10:22 p.m. Time for... Battle No. 2, Dia vs. Serabee... No matter what evil plan Blake thought he was enacting by pairing these two, the results are unpleasant, right from the beginning. Dia's voice isn't right for this Motown favorite all. She's swallowing the words and losing the notes in her nose. The Serabee comes out and starts doing unnecessary runs all over the place. When Christina Aguilera is rolling her eyes because you're showboating, that means you're doing something wrong, Serabee. That was pretty unpleasant. But Serabee's friends and loved ones are overjoyed.
10:25 p.m. Adam praises Serabee's "carefree vibe" and complains that Dia was "timid." Cee-Lo just calls it "bizarre." And he means that as a negative. But Cee-Lo liked Dia. Christina says it's too odd a pair for her to make a decision.
10:26 p.m. Reba praises Dia for not freaking out when Serabee was going postal right next to her. "Just because you can sing certain notes doesn't mean you have to do it all the time," Blake tells her. After commenting that Dia looked uncomfortable, he ends up choosing Dia anyway. Hopefully Dia will be more at ease in the live shows.
10:27 p.m. Adam pairs Rebecca Loebe and Devon Barley to sing "Creep." This is another of those weirdly over-thought/under-thought song selections. Adam figures that "Creep" is ominous and creepy and Rebecca and Devon are the opposite of that and that the result will be gold. Well... OK.
10:29 p.m. Rebecca loves "Creep." Devon doesn't know "Creep" at all. That makes the rehearsal strange enough that Adam has to step in and go all Thom Yorke for them. At mentoring, Devon is instructed on the importance of stepping out of his comfort zone. On the stage, it appears that Devon and Rebecca are treating "Creep" as a strange love song. Adam thinks it could be a great moment. NBC thinks that eight minutes of programming is sufficient.
10:36 p.m. Let's rock it with... Battle No. 3, Rebecca vs. Devon... Is anybody else disturbed that Devon may just be an incognito Kevin Covais? Just me? Oh well. They actually *are* playing this as a rock opera sort of love song, complete with choreography that screams "yearning" and "internal monologue." It's the story of two people who hate themselves, but are falling in love in a low income East LA apartment complex. I like it! Even the cameraman seems to be enjoying this performance more than the night's first two Battles. And although some of the harmonies are a little rough, there's a weird sensation that Rebecca and Devon are singing together, rather than against each other. If I had to choose, Rebecca just wants this more. After all, if she loses, she's back to being functionally homeless. If Devon loses? It's off to medical school? Oh, poor baby.
10:39 p.m. Blake tells Adam to never separate these two. Christina disagrees and says Devon stole the choruses. Cee-Lo also picks Devon because he doesn't look like his voice.
10:40 p.m. Adam's "pretty split-down-the-middle right now." But Carson Daly forces him to make a choice. He goes with... Devon. Back to your care, Rebecca. Sorry. Adam gives the losing singer a big hug and tells her not to quit. Five minutes. Off to commercial.
10:43 p.m. Cee-Lo pits "American Juniors" veterans Tori and Taylor Thompson against Kelsey Rey. You may remember Kelsey as that poor young lady who has been persecuted her entire life for being smoking hot, who turned to "The Voice" as a chance to finally escape the prejudice Americans have against the aesthetically more fortunate. The sisters are already intimidated by Kelsey even before hearing that they're Battling to Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten."
10:46 p.m. At their first rehearsal, Cee-Lo and Monica have to figure out how to make three voices into one. Or, at least, into two. Kelsey vows to bring out her foxy boxing gloves to take out the Thompsons. Tori is worried about a song that is, perhaps, a bit too high for her. "Competition doesn't always come to meet you where you are comfortable at," Cee-Lo teaches us. "I really take everything that Cee-Lo says to heart," Kelsey says wisely and attractively. Cee-Lo calls Kelsey "a one-woman army," going against the bonds of sisterly love. Six minutes. Off to sell stuff.
10:53 p.m. Time for... Battle No. 4, Kelsey vs. Tori & Taylor... The sisters pray. All three girls vow to show Cee-Lo what they've got. Poor Kelsey's best friend is also used to being judged on her hotness. I feel miserable for all concerned. Kelsey's pretty solid, opening the song. And she's definitely not attractive in her short black-skirt and platform heels. The sisters are bit better singing together than individuals. When they harmonize, there's a really impressive hive-mind thing they have going. It takes a while, but by the end, all three girls seem to be having fun. This is going to be a tough choice for Cee-Lo.
10:56 p.m. "So much cuteness happening on this stage right now," Adam says. "I can't pick. It was just too cute," he adds. Blake thinks Kelsey is a more seasoned singer. Christina says she'd pick Tori and Taylor.
10:57 p.m. The only vote that counts is Cee-Lo's. He praises the charming innocence of the Thompson Sisters. And while it sounds like he's going with Kelsey, he ends up choosing The Thompson Sisters. That was the pick he needed to make, because if the live show were just 12 solo singers, "The Voice" would have looked like an "Idol" clone. Instead, we have at least one pairing to offer America. And even if America doesn't remember it, they've voted for Tori and Taylor before and some of that "American Juniors" muscle memory may kick in.
What'd you think of tonight's four Battles? Would you have made the same choices the mentors made? And is Javier still pretty much unbeatable?