'The Voice': Contestants Grapple with Ne-Yo, Marvin Gaye, Who Classics
'The Voice': Contestants Grapple with Ne-Yo, Marvin Gaye, Who Classics

Oldies radio staples and Ne-Yo's "Closer" were used to whittle down "The Voice" field Wednesday (May 17), with the four coaches making four smart decisions as they assemble their teams of four singers each.

Only one of the battles was truly close. Tje Austin and Nakia duked it out in the show's boxing/singing ring on "Closer," demonstrating that soulfulness works in gritty and smooth textures. Nakia, a burly fellow with untamed hair, put more personality into his singing than Austin, a slim attractive guy with a mile-high globe of hair. The judges all had Nakia winning on their scorecards, but Cee Lo Green, who was picking for his team, went with Nakia despite his sidekick, Monica, giving the nod to Austin. Could it be that a glamorous one was picking appearance over vocal skills? It certainly felt like it.

Video: Tje Austin vs. Nakia, "Closer"

Blake Shelton's approach was a curious one, pitting Jared Blake against the country duo Elenowen on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Shelton can say it's a Marvin Gaye song all he wants, but that Motown classic is, was and always will be a duet number. Advantage Elenowen. But once Jared Blake absorbed the advice of Shelton and Reba McEntire, he appeared to better understand Shelton's concept -- take a song outside of two singers' comfort zone and see if they can meet in the middle. Elenown wobbled to get there; Blake strode in confidently.

Video: Jared Blake vs. Elenowen, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

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That meet-in-the-middle element played again in Javier Colon and Angela Wolff cheerfully oversinging "Stand By Me" and Beverly McClellan and Justin Grennan getting wasted on the Who's "Baba O'Riley." Colon, who needs to lose the crooked ballcap look, easily dusted the young Wolff, though he did not seem to fully embrace the advice of his coach Adam Levine.

Video: Javier Colon vs. Angela Wolff, "Stand By Me"

Christina Aguilera, who went last and again brought along Sia, brought out a song that every American white male between the ages of 21 and 61 knows -- except Justin Grennan. He got to go up against bald rocker McClellan, who has probably owned "Who's Next" in every format from 8-track to iPhone app. The minute Grennan decided the audience needed words of encouragement beyond the opening line of "out here in the field," he had lost; of all the singers, he was the one who did not express a belief in the power of the song he was singing.

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