It is the second and final week of the Battles! It might have been my mood or how busy I was for last week’s Battle Rounds , or that I didn’t drink as much, but this week’s Battles certainly kept my attention. Almost each pair had something about it that kept me riveted. There were some great performances and some seriously great coaching going on this week. Charlie even offered up a suggestion or two!
COACHES AND MENTORS
It is pretty clear that at least Adam, Blake, and Miley have a plan and agenda for how they want their team to form. I’m undecided if Alicia has thought this completely through. I might be having a hard time reading her because she’s more of an introvert. Miley talks about what she learned from Adam when she was an advisor at one point, and that she has a strategy in who she pairs up and what song she selects for them to sing. I was hopeful about Miley before the start of the season, but she continues to impress me beyond all expectations.
I am not sure if any mentor has impressed me more than Bette Midler. OK, maybe Pharrell. The specific little details Bette mentions to the artists are very insightful. She gave advice on specific notes, specific words, specific gestures. I’ve seen her perform in person, and she’s not just a singer, but a performer. She’s a pull no punches kind of mentor, and win or lose, all the artists will be able to walk away with something from her that will help them. Tuesday’s show opened with a lovely conversation between Bette and Blake, with Bette saying she was a bit nervous because this is so important to the artists and she really appreciates the care Blake puts into the job and helping them.
It was so hard to pick my Top Battles – I could say something about each one. Performance and song wise, Monday’s two hours was better than Tuesdays, but Tuesday was still interesting to watch. I felt badly for two artist who went home, but I didn’t think the performances were worthy of my Top Three. Two that failed to impress were even in my list of top talent during the Blinds. Blaine Long went home. He admitted that he has never done a cover before singing Have a Little Faith in Me. He was clearly uncomfortable with it during practice, and just simply couldn’t get over that, even with Bette Midler’s help. Bette really busted his balls over his outfit when they practiced with the band. She told him to go to Wardrobe right after he finished, and to not wear those pants again!
The duo, sisters Whitney and Shannon, were one of my Top Talent picks, but I thought this week that one was pretty weak when singing solo. However, the harmonies they produced together wowed Alicia. I felt badly for Gabriel Violett, their opponent in the Battle – he cried when he lost. I did write in my initial notes during his audition that he hadn’t found his niche yet. One wonders if he would have had an easier time against just one person. Blake said he did amazing, but did not steal him.
Team Miley: Darby Walker vs Karlee Metzger
Song: Brand New Key by Melanie
Winner: Darby Steal: Karlee
Darby is the chick that both Alicia and Miley sang with in the Olympics. Karlee is a bit shy, and Darby definitely has personality. Karlee has a lovely voice though, and can hold her own in that department. Miley actually talks about how she is trying to be strategic in her match ups, that these two can learn from each other.
Joan may not be able to move her cheeks anymore, but she knows her shit. She had GREAT advice for them, especially the changing up the tones on this song. (I do love this song. So quirky, and a very interesting pick.) Miley even discussed that she’s being strategic in her match ups – and that they were paired not only because of their voices sounding good together, but that they can learn from each other. I was happy that Karlee got stolen (and so was Miley!). I think Blake will be good for Karlee, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from her.
Team Miley: Aaron Gibson vs Sa’rayah
Song: I’ll Take Care of You
Winner: Aaron Steal: Sa’rayah.
Others may disagree with me, but this was the best performance of the week! (Lord knows my mom did – when I was texting her “Wow!” she was texting me “I really don’t like this song”.)
In the practice, Joan advises Sa’rayah to be genuine and just ‘cause you can sing five octaves doesn’t mean you should. She was pulling out all the vocal tricks she could and as Miley said, we already know she can really wail out those notes from her Blind Audition. Miley wants every performance to be one that can build each artist’s’ fanbase. She’s smart, and this one will do just that for both these artists. Their hard work practicing is obvious. In the Battle Round, it is like they’ve been performing together professionally for a long time. The glances to each other, her touches, his guitar playing. All so natural and genuine!
Aaron Gibson won the battle, and he earned it. Sa’rayah was literally walking off when Blake hit his button, then Alicia hit hers.. Alicia did her usual kumbaya speech, but added how she appreciated her not being overbearing with the notes. I think the similarity to Joan’s advice is what made her pick Alicia as her new coach.
Team Blake: Austin Allsup vs Preston James
Song: Bad Moon Rising
Winner: Austin. Steal: Nope.
Austin Allsup is older, and I thought Preston James was kind of ballsy in an unattractive way. Walking in to see Bette Midler, he decides to sing under his breath a nasally line of “Under the Boardwalk”. Bette heard it too, I think. This is our first impression of him since we didn’t hear his Blind Audition, and now I don’t like him already.
They give us a little background on Preston, and maybe he’s a bit cocky because his mom has been a publicist for people like Miranda Lambert and the Dixie Chicks. Kind of ironic then that he is paired with Austin Allsup, whose father is Tommy Allsup. Tommy isn’t a household name, but he’s worked for decades with people who are icons, such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Buddy Holly.
Bette and Blake really helped them improve their initial performances. Austin is clearly comfortable on the stage, and was enjoying himself. He really does remind me of real old school country, which I like. At the final practice, Bette said their performance felt like family, and that is true for their Battle as well. Preston had a “I know I’m hot stuff” look on his face though. He tried to high five Austin or Carson – I’m not sure which and the cocky little bastard irritated me enough to where I don’t want to go back to look. Austin won, and Preston was looking at the other judges like he knew they were going to hit their buttons. It makes me wonder if they were told there were no more steals at that point. (Only Blake had one left, and he couldn’t use it on his own pair.)
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BATTLES, FIRST THOUGHTS ON THE KNOCKOUTS
Clearly strategy was on every coach’s mind. Miley openly talked about hers, which was nice. I was very surprised that a few people, like Ethan Tucker and Gabriel Violett, were not stolen and others were. I firmly believe that every judge had a top two or three people they wanted to steal, and if those people were later on the Battle Rounds, that really sucked for people who performed well early on, like Ethan. I think if he had been one of the last to perform, and a coach still had a steal left – he would still be on the show.
I’m looking forward to the Knockouts. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw look like they are going to be excellent Knockout Mentors. The Knockouts work a little differently than the Battle Rounds. They are still paired up by their coach, but each artist sings his or her own song. The songs are picked by the artists, which really gives the coaches some insight of whether or not the artist really knows his or her own voice. Just like the Blinds, song choice is everything.
There will be a lot of strategizing by the coaches for this round as well. The stakes are a little higher for the artists too as each coach only gets one steal. It will be interesting to see who the coaches have in mind!
Thoughts, theories, predictions? Please comment below!