“The Voice” Battle Rounds: What’s Taste Got to Do With It?

Six more duets. Twelve chattering contestants. And a squeaky-clean performance of Amy Winehouse’s dirty “You Know I’m No Good” that was more ironic than Carson Daly’s deadpan delivery of “This is The Voice.” Who came out on top last night? And who’s forever banished to the cheap seats at Christina Aguilera’s next concert of monster yodels and barf grunts? Join me, dear!


Pip vs. Nathan Parrett, Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”

If you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “I tolerated a bow-tied adolescent named Pip’s bluesy lounge cover of an Amy Winehouse song today,” then congratulations: You’ve outperformed me. I didn’t want to dig Pip and Nathan’s Biebered down/DeGrawed up rendition of the late Amy’s finest jam, but I can’t say they butchered it. In fact, they left all of the song’s pronouns intact, leaving bouquets of homoeroticism for us to interpret and ponder for decades to come. Pip pipped like the beaming H&M Newsie that he is, and Nathan treated us to his dead-eyed Nico stare and adequate croon. Again: Weirdly not a disaster, for some reason. The final decision came down to whether you preferred Pip’s “carnival barker’s apprentice” getup or Nathan’s “Color Me Badd attempts at a Michael Kors palette” suit. At least a carnival barker’s apprentice has pizazz!

Pip: B, Nathan: B-

Overall: B


Erin Martin vs. The Shields Brothers, Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

I can’t believe I found myself rooting for The Shields Brothers, the boisterously cheesy “rock” duo who trotted out a Billy Idol song some weeks ago, but did I have any choice? Is Erin Martin not the most entitled, self-impressed, and TOTALLY CONTRIVED vocalist still in the competition? Serious question: WHO CAN TOLERATE HER FANCY FEAST GROWL? She sounds like Eartha Kitt trying to survive an electrical fire. I can forgive the Shields Brothers for resembling a duo of school bullies from Saved By the Bell because their harmonies worked; I can’t even look at Cee-Lo for choosing Erin as the winner. God! I’m too proud a Mary for this nonsense. (But props to Ne-Yo, a great guest mentor, for calling out Erin’s lackluster emoting.)

Erin: D-, The Shields Brothers, C+

Overall: C


Ashley vs. Jonathas, Jordin Sparks’ “No Air”

Sparks doppelganger Ashley and the competent Jonathas were well-matched to “No Air’s” inhaler-needy melodrama, and as usual, the verdict came down to visuals: Jonathas twirled the grinning Ashley with a bit of flair, but he can’t erase the sight of his clumsy, bare-armed outfit. Pop stars need to bare their arms like gangstas, not school bullies on Saved by the Bell. (This metaphor is becoming a troubling Voice motif.) Ashley’s instincts were ultimately smoother, and while she probably won’t advance far, she’s good enough to move on. Christina Aguilera, I begrudgingly agree with you and your decision. Let’s keep this off the record.

Ashley: B, Jonathas: B-

Overall: B-


ALyX vs. Jermaine, Billy Ocean’s “Get Out Of My Dreams (Get Into My Car)”

I’m spending a lot of time hating on peripheral things tonight, but let’s cope with the name “ALyX” for a decade, shall we? If you’re named ALyX, you’d better be 1) an android, 2) a computerized warlord of some sort, at least, and 3) not on my TV. And if you’re Jermaine, you better slay ALyX’s cutesy-ass posturing with some stage authority. And he sure did. Jermaine didn’t flinch once when delivering Billy Ocean’s creepy come-ons like, “Touch my bumper” and “I’ll schtup you on the dashboard” (or whatever). He simply outsang ALyX as she flailed and mugged like some early Marisa Tomei character. Quoth guest mentor Miranda Lambert, Jermaine owned “being a jackass.” That’s damn admirable. And for the record, there are Grace Jones singles that handle naughty car metaphors better. A few, actually

Alyx: B-, Jermaine: A-

Grade: B+


Katrina vs. Angel, Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”

Get this: I looked forward to this performance, and not because of the serviceable singers; I actually think “Bleeding Love” is the perfect battle round song.

Yep, yep, these two ladies can sing. Real good. They can also oversing, as they did here, lingering behind on “Bleeding Love’s” insistent throb and missing the urgency of the song. That said, Katrina’s stately coo was more charismatic than Angel’s tense trill. Loved the reassurance that guest mentor Alanis Morissette — who is stun-ning, by the way — instilled in Katrina. She may have cemented her win.

Katrina: B+, Angel: B-

Overall: B


Gwen Sebastian vs. Erin Willett, “We Belong”

Finally. An undeniable triumph for both singers, two very distinct vocalists who engaged in a true partnership, eschewed showboating, and emerged as a fantastic duet. Gwen’s whimsical, but fragile tone is like an improved, more adult version of Brandi Carlile, and the gentle boom of Erin’s sincere delivery is instantly engaging. “We Belong” was a functional tune for the duo, but I’d have preferred something a bit more introspective like “Landslide” or “You’ve Got a Friend.” I want to believe they’re really friends! And reminisce about emotional landslides and Carole King-y sentiments together. Ultimately, Erin’s engrossing warmth drew me closer, but Gwen’s sweet caw is fabulous in its own right. Sorry to see her go. Especially instead of Erin Martin! Ugh! Hairball hell!

Gwen: A-, Erin: A

Overall: A-