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‘The Voice’ Review: Usher Uses Final Steal as Battles End

THE VOICE -- "Battle Rounds" Episode 610 -- Pictured: (l-r) Cary Laine, Sam Behymer -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

This Monday and Tuesday marked the final week of The Voice’s battle round competition.  It also marked the final ‘Steal’ to be filled by one lone coach: Usher Raymond.  In last week’s battle competition, Adam Levine was the one of the first to fill up his ‘Steal’ slots right off the bat, closely followed by both Shakira and Blake Shelton.  With the final two nights of singing, who would wow Usher enough for him to hit his button for the final time?

Here’s the breakdown of performances from Monday and Tuesday night’s shows that caught my attention.  Remember all performances from that night will not be mentioned but rather my review to focus on what really stood out to me.

On Monday night, the battles kicked off with Austin Ellis and Josh Kaufman from Team Adam.  I love Josh’s style of singing, so it was clear for me that he (in my opinion, of course) should be the one to stand out.  They were given the song, “Happy” by Pharrell.  Austin has a powerfully commanding voice, however, he tends to strain when trying to show off his vocal capabilities.  Due to his booming vocals, I felt that Austin lost a little bit of the emotion with singing the song.  Josh, on the other hand, who has a soft, old school soulful tone, just captured my attention.  One minute he was giving clear falsettos, then the next he’d switch it up to going a bit lower in his vocal register.  Bottom line, Josh earned his spot on Adam’s team.

The pairing of team Alaska and Madi up against Audra McLaughlin from Blake’s team seemed a bit unfair, but it was a great performance from the three of them.  The ladies took on Linda Ronstadt’s hit song “When Will I Be Loved”.  Each had perfect harmonies going into the start of the song.  I was proud of Audra not letting the duo of Alaska and Madi outshine her.  I personally couldn’t see the duo moving forward in the competition, because they didn’t branch out individually in the battle.  It was tough for Blake in his decision of choosing between Audra or Alaska and Madi.  While Audra advanced, I was very surprised that neither Shakira nor Usher chose to keep the duo but then again, with Usher’s obvious pickiness, I could see that not happening.

I think Deja Hall is just the cutest thing on stage.  When she got paired with Ayesha Brooks, who goes by the name, Music Box, I automatically assumed the obvious.  Shakira gave them the song, “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles, and it was natural for Music Box to just own the song.  She has a lot more experience than Deja, however, during rehearsal, she was a bit too showy.  Yes, she has the pipes to hit the high notes and do trills and runs, but with this song, she needed to learn how to be more vulnerable.  Deja, on the other hand, lacks a great deal of vocal experience in terms of bringing out the emotions when singing.  When in rehearsals, it was clear that she was unsure as to how to sing the song or connect with the lyrics.  On stage in front of the coaches and the audience, it was Deja that seemed to have more to offer than Music Box.  Shakira decided to keep the young Deja, while Usher scooped up Music Box.

The final performance that stood out to me was that of the couple duo, Dawn & Hawkes and Josh Murley.  I had mixed feelings about the duo during their blind audition.  I just felt that they were just basic and didn’t carry much stage presence or emotions.  That changed when they were paired up with Josh.  Adam chose the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel.  This time out, it was Josh, who I originally liked, that didn’t stand out against the two of them.  In their first rehearsal it was clear that he was intimidated by them.  The second rehearsal he found his footing, while Dawn & Hawkes struggled with finding the right timing to hit their notes.   Originally I didn’t like Adam pairing the three of them up together, but after seeing them again, it was a good challenge for them.  Josh, after taking his pointers from Adam, really stood out and had the attentions focused on him.  The couple of Dawn & Hawkes, for me just lost a bit of their individuality.  I was very disappointed that Adam decided to keep them over Josh.  Thankfully for Shakira, Josh gets another chance to prove himself.

The final night of battles, which was last night, wrapped up very quickly, especially with just one hour of viewing.  The show left off with Usher being the only one not filling his final ‘Steal” slot.  I have a bone to pick with him, but I’ll discuss that a bit later.  The final night would not only give Usher his final slot to fill but also present an announcement of what was to come next week on the show.

There were three full battle performances that were seen last night and there were two of them that I loved a lot.  The first was that of Cary Lane and Sam Behymer from Team Adam.  I love the unique quality in tone from Sam.  The two women performed the Ed Sheeran song, “Give Me Love”.  The vocals in the song just brings out emotion when sung.  Sam and Cary both really were evenly matched in their performance.  Even though Cary had similar pitch problems as Sam, it was Sam that stepped up in using her unique style of singing.  I’m glad that Adam decided to go with Sam.

Shakira took a risk with choosing the Sara Barielles song, “Brave” for Cierra Mickens and Emily B, but the risk paid off.  I’m glad that Cierra took note from Miranda Lambert, Shakira’s advisor, on not trying to make the song too similar to that of Sara’s original version, but rather tap in on making it her own.  She also had to be careful of trilling too much with certain notes in the song.  While Cierra had issues with her trills, Emily had her own problems during her rehearsal.  She tends to shout her lyrics at times, which makes her lose the emotional connection with the song.  When Emily and Cierra took to the stage, Emily was kind of outshined by the vocals of Cierra.  I personally felt that Emily over-did her runs during the final notes of the song.  I also disagreed that Shakira went with Emily B.  I thought that Cierra would have been much better suited with her.

Here’s what rode my nerves: Usher’s signature prolonged decision to hit his button for the steal.  After Shakira made the decision to keep Emily B., Cierra was left on stage believing that her time was over.  As she walked halfway off the stage, Usher, sitting there with that goofy grin, with hand on the buzzer, decided to push the button.   That drove me crazy.  It was clear that he only had one steal, it was also clear that he had to use it to fill up his last spot; so why go through all the antics?  That’s the one thing that drove me crazy

Next week Monday and Tuesday, will mark something new happening on The Voice.  For the first time ever, the contestants that made it through the battle rounds, would be reliving it all over again.  There will be a second battle round, but this time, the pairing will be left a mystery for the contestants competing. Once paired up, the two artists in competition must agree on their song choice.  Also this time around, instead of the four advisors that helped each coach, there will be one advisor that will help out during the second round of battle.  The advisor that was chosen was Cold Play’s lead, Chris Martin.

Lastly, the all famous ‘Steal’ will take place again, so it will be another chance of saving a contestant from being sent home.    Next week looks like it’s going to be much anticipated.  Make sure to stay tuned for The Voice.

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