I’m going to be sad when all the duet battles on The Voice end. I honestly can’t tell you how much I love the idea of duet battles. They’re such an awesome hook for a reality show like this one, and the show pulls off every goofy thing they do with them. The neon-and-glass boxing ring is total cheeseball brilliance; I just wish someone had used it for a rap-battle show at some point. The rapping-at-each-other-over-a-pool-table thing on Fight Klub was fun, but it had no sense of the theatrical about it. This is just some other shit. And because people are competing directly against each other, there’s a foaming-at-the-mouth urgency to every song. It’s great. This week’s battles were generally nowhere near as good as last week’s, but they were still a lot of fun.
This week, Cee Lo started things out by pitting obnoxious single-named beardy guy Nikia against Tje Austin, the black guy with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour-looking white parents. During the coaching bit, Cee Lo called out Nikia for suggesting “soul by numbers” vocal runs, and I love the idea of a singing-show judge actually coming out against pointless pyrotechnics. Also, Monica did a tiny bit of singing and reminded me that I miss hearing Monica sing. Cee Lo also got them to sing Ne-Yo’s “Closer,” which is a great song. This show is just getting a lot right right now. When the song actually started I decided within three seconds of Nikia opening his mouth that I hated this fuckbag. He’s nothing but empty growl. Austin didn’t do that well either; his voice sounded thin and soft, and the harmonized bits were hell. After all the judges got together to say nothing of consequence, Cee Lo referred to himself as an “endorseer” and picked Nikia. That’s fine. I’m going to need someone to hate during the live shows.
For his battle, Blake Shelton paired up a couple of weird wild cards: Growly fake Daughtry Jared Blake–who, we learn, has way too many kids–and too-cute married couple Elenowen. Neither of these entities would make a whole lot of sense going up against anyone, so I guess it made sense to bunch them in together. The whole idea of letting singing duos into the contest still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but oh well. They all sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and Blake sounded like a Saturday Night Live skit about turn-of-the-century nu-metal, like Horatio Sanz doing a guy-from-Staind impression or something. Elenowen, meanwhile, made it clear that the girl should be the only one in the contest and that her sad-sack husband will continue to drag her down until she kicks him out of her parents’ basement. Blake made it through, which at least means we won’t have to deal with Elenowen’s awkward-ass onstage body language anymore.
Adam Levine’s pick: Javier Colon, the guy who ripped through a coffeehouse-R&B version of “Time After Time” during the auditions, against Angela Wolff, the stalkery Blake Shelton fan who wears a hipster-chick headband thing that I hate. They sang “Stand By Me,” and Levine made sure to warn Colon not to oversing. This show! Anti-oversinging! A pleasant surprise! Colon did oversing a little bit, but in this buttery, tender way that actually worked. Wolff had no chance whatsoever; she tried as hard as she could, but the show never even bothered to manufacture anything resembling suspense. In a total foregone conclusion, Javier won, and all the judges tripped all over themselves to praise him. That dude can sing.
Finally, we got another absolute squash. Beverly McClellan, the growly bald lady who was in all the show’s early commercials, took on Justin Grennan, who I don’t remember ever seeing before, on “Baba O’Riley.” Singling out the two of them, Xtina said, “This’ll be a good battle!,” and she didn’t seem remotely convinced that this was true. During the practice bits, Grennan revealed a pretty nice white-soul verse, but he also looked like someone had told him his dog just died. And during the actual battle, he sported a black leather jacket/white t-shirt rebellious-dude combo and pretty much came off like the wormiest, clammiest motherfucker in your company’s IT department. He worked hard and came off surprisingly well, but this was a coronation moment for McClellan, whose overbearingly yarly Melissa Ethridgey style could get old during the season but who is coming off like a force of nature right now. She won. Big surprise. Xtina praised Grennan for growing since “day one,” which is pretty funny since he was sent home on day two.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 18, 2011