The battle rounds of "The Voice" were shot in December long before anyone had an inkling as to who would be competing. At one three-hour session that saw five head-to-head battles, I walked away with four thoughts: too many songs from the '70s; no talent reached out and grabbed you by the throat; the judges got each decision correct; and how strange that the best performances of the night were on the same song, Journey's "Faithfully."
Producers obviously saw the Justin Hopkins-Tony Vincent battle as a main event, saving it for the finale on the final episode in which teams are selected before going to live shows next week. Hopkins could have out-sung every other competitor on Monday's telecast, but he was stuck in the frontier of Steve Perry and the Broadway chops of Vincent won over Cee Lo Green.
Up to that point, though, singers on the NBC series were consistently shaky and ill-prepared to move forward, especially if they were being asked to step out of their comfort zone.
James Massone began a mediocre night with a version of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" that was a few off-key notes shy of Wade's tally. Adam Levine said that in general he was let down by the performances of Mathai and Nicole Galyon, but he at least made the proper decision in selecting Mathai after their unstable version of Sara Bareiles "Love Song."
"Easy," the Commodores hit, took down blues boy Orlando Napier, who had never heard Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl," as Karla Davis made it to the next round. Naia Kete's pitch problems were easier to accept than those of Jordan Rager on Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," pushing the Santa Monica busker onto the live rounds despite some horrific fashion decisions.
As if to prove the genius of Devo and Otis Redding, Christina Aguilera picked the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as the central meeting ground for her country duo the Line and hip-hop artist Moses Stone. Jewel's look of panic was priceless as the country crooners' turned Mick Jagger's lines into non-threatening, easy listening pablum. Stone had the good sense that the rhyme scheme is no different than a lot of old school rap, even if his delivery lacked the ferocity of Jagger or the two performers who made the song their own, Redding and Devo.
"The Voice" contestants have yet to demonstrate ownership of a song and perhaps that will change when the live rounds begin next week. It's wide open right now for the 24 contestants.
- Reality Check