Two men singing Alicia Keys, two women singing Tom Petty: Literally the best and worst of "The Voice" as it moves from blind auditions to the battle rounds that pit singers against each other in front of their coaches.
Jesse Campbell gave the performance of the night on Keys' "I Ain't Got You" and unfortunately for Anthony Evans, his performance on the same song was the second or third best performance of the night. It's not clear what Christina Aguilera was thinking in pitting two smooth soul crooners against one another -- the song played to both their strengths and both hung in there on am emotional level , pinpoint in their delivery. Sorry to see Evans depart.
"The Voice," which has become network TV's most watched series among the key demo of 18- to 49-year-olds, was down to four teams of 12 when the night began. Each judge -- Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green -- will cut their rosters in half before the live rounds begin. Taped in December, the show featured all of the judges eliminating contestants.
The only curious one came from Shelton who stuck with the squeaky teenager RaeLynn, a pitch-challenged farm girl form Texas who beat out Adley Stump, an Oklahoma native. The two were put in the boxing ring to duke it out on "Free Fallin'," and suddenly Tom Cruise's version in "Jerry McGuire" sounded crisp and refreshing.
RaeLynn started in an uncomfortable key and Stump came in with significantly more confidence, if not vocal prowess. Inexplicably, Shelton went with the youngster despite a marginally better performance from Stump.
RaeLynn was also part of an embarrassing product placement moment involving a car and phone call that has to go down as one of the biggest false notes "The Voice" has hit.
Having attended a battle round shooting 2-1/2 month ago, one thing that is generally clear is the ability of the judges to discern who deserves to move forward. At the shooting I attended, the battle of Cee Lo Green's teams of Cheesa Laureta and Angie Johnson, the Air Force staff sergeant, was a complete toss up. The two singers delivered powerful interpretations of the Bonnie Tyler hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Cee Lo would not have made a wrong choice not matter who he selected, but Cheesa had the sort of edge one hopes for in this competition.
"It's scary," Laureta told Billboard.com earlier in the day Monday before the show had aired. "You have to have a lot of faith that you're (singing) the way you should."
Elsewhere, former Mouseketeer Tony Lucca topped Chris Cauley in a mediocre rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day"; Jordis Unga outsang Brian Fuente on Alanis Morissette's "Ironic'; and, in another close call, Chris Mann topped Monique Benabou in their duet on the Celine Dion hit "The Power of Love."
Mann, who left "Glee" and the Warblers for the show, got to show off his classically trained chops that he hopes to turn into pop gold. "I want to be a pop classical crossover artist," Mann said Monday, citing Josh Groban and Harry Connick Jr. as role models for an ideal career. "Sing big, dramatic beautiful and exciting songs -- the sorts of songs that the world loves to hear that aren't necessarily played on the radio."