‘The Voice’ Battle Rounds, part 3: Girls just wanna have drama

The Voice has been all about the drama this season, whether it’s new coach Jennifer Hudson’s rampant shoe-throwing or all four coaches’ bizarrely delayed-reactive tendencies to hit their red buttons at the very last nanosecond. But on Monday, night three of the Voice Season 13 Battle Rounds, a couple of drama-mamas really upped the intensity, with a Battle royale so over-the-top (and occasionally over-sung), J.Hud should have removed and hurled both her stilettos.

As it turned out, the accessories were indeed flying during the showdown between Miley Cyrus’s contestants Janice Freeman and Katrina Rose, when Janice belted the Etta James barnstormer “W.O.M.A.N.” forcefully enough to make one of her bracelets come loose and fly across the stage. But that was nothing compared to Katrina’s freak-flag-flying performance. A kickboxing instructor and former Vegas entertainer who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word “subtle,” Katrina took the show to an entirely new unsubtle level.

Miley’s team adviser, dad Billy Ray Cyrus, compared both loud ladies to Janis Joplin, but Katrina was giving me Joe Cocker realness, and a bit of Elvis the Pelvis lip-curliness, with her crazy facial contortions. At times Katrina seemed to be trying too hard — like, way too hard — and sometimes she was more scary than scary-good. But hey, at least she was entertaining, and this W.O.M.A.N. had zero fear. Janice was more easy-breezy and comfortable in the song’s groove — and, as Miley later noted, had much better vocal control — but it was difficult to even pay attention to Janice when the focus-pulling Katrina was pounding all over the stage like she was teaching one of her advanced kickboxing classes or auditioning for a role in STOMP.

“Music does possess us, some more than others — Katrina,” quipped a slightly spooked Adam Levine. “I feel like these women came up here and just ripped the roof off of the house. That wasn’t even girl power. That was like something above girl power.”

“In 13 seasons of doing this show, I have never seen somebody so wrapped up in the moment as what you displayed for us right then,” an equally stunned Blake Shelton told Katrina. “If you weren’t such a great singer, I would tell you that maybe the WWE would be a good place for you, because you get in that ring, [you are] ready to kill somebody. Do you do that every time you sing? Have you ever pulled a muscle or broken a bone or anything?”

“Katrina, girl, you sang your head back to the back of your head. It was a whole ‘nother hairstyle when you got done,” laughed Jennifer.

The coaches were so fascinated by Katrina’s frantic antics that it was almost a surprise when Miley picked Janice instead — even though when it came down to the actual vocals, that was the obvious correct decision. However, kickboxing Katrina still had some fight left in her. “I will never forget words you and your dad said to me: ‘Live life like there is no box.’ And I’m done trying to fit in other people’s boxes, man,” Katrina told Miley proudly. And just like that, Jennifer buzzed in (at the last second, of course) for Katrina. “Here at J.Hud Productions, we don’t believe in limits or boxes! So come on, little sister, let’s go!” she said.

I honestly don’t know if Katrina can survive the next round without pulling a muscle, breaking a bone, or at least losing one of her own pieces of jewelry, but at least she’ll keep Season 13 interesting for as long as she sticks around.

Monday’s other standout Battle, for totally different reasons, was also between two female Team Miley hopefuls, and it also (spoiler alert!) resulted in a dramatic Steal. Addison Agen and Karli Webster proved that singing softly and carrying a small microphone can be just as effective as screeching at the top of one’s lungs (are you reading this, Katrina Rose?), with their gorgeous ballad version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” They didn’t sound like they were having fun, necessarily — this weepy remake, reminiscent of Greg Laswell’s or Cory Monteith’s from Glee, was “like two sad girls that really wished they were having fun,” according to Blake — but they sounded amazing together, and their honeyed harmonies gave Billy Ray Cyrus “chillbumps.” Really, Addison and Karli won over all of America’s achy breaky hearts with this duet, which emphasized the hidden sorrow in the lyrics about how being a woman really isn’t all that fun sometimes; their “Girls” became the first recording of this Voice season to crack the iTunes top 100.

“You guys both broke my heart. As a performance and as an arrangement, it was perfect,” gushed Adam, vowing to steal whichever contestant Miley didn’t choose. Miley agonized over that decision, saying, “Once I put you together, it crushed my soul into 1,000 pieces because I would love to keep you both. … This is the hardest decision I maybe have ever made on this show as a coach.”

Ultimately, Miley picked Karli (I would have gone with Addison, one of my favorite contestants of the season), but while Adam made good on his promise/threat and hit his red button, Jennifer also attempted to steal Addison away from Miley’s all-female team, to “keep this girl power thing going!” Adam, who’d fought hard for Addison in the Blind Auditions, eventually got his way. I think on Team Adam, Addison could be the one to walk in the sun, all the way to the Season 13 winner’s circle.

These were the other Battles of the night:

TEAM ADAM: Brandon Brown vs. Jon Mero

Brandon, a 19-year-old violin teacher, seemed intimidated going up against Jon, a 31-year-old corporate gig singer who turned four chairs in the Blinds and whose confidence borders on cockiness. This was a full-on Davey/Goliath setup. Performing the Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain,” Brandon’s voice was pleasant, particularly when he sang in falsetto, but it was tentative and feathery. Jon, on the other hand, was more of a belter, with more personality, yet he didn’t seem as likable or natural.

All of the coaches seemed taken aback that, for the most part, Brandon had held his own against Jon; clearly they had written Brandon off as fodder. “I’m just so happy for you that you hurdled that, that you got over that,” Miley told him. “Brandon, I was surprised. You stepped up to the plate and you delivered,” said Blake, though Blake added that Jon was “special” and “one of those once-in-a-lifetime vocalists.” And  Adam said, “Brandon, if I’m thinking about who captured the spirit of the song, you really became that guy. Jon didn’t do that. You transformed in the short time we’ve had from a good singer to an incredibly good singer.”

Adam picked Jon anyway; he plays to win, and I guess he thought the more seasoned Jon would be a stronger long-term competitor. I think Adam made a mistake. America would probably buy Jon’s records (assuming that anyone buys Voice contestants’ records, that is), but they would vote for sweet Brandon.

WINNER: Jon Mero

TEAM BLAKE: Red Marlow vs. Ryan Scripps

Neither redneck Red (an old-school, 40-year-old “country as cornbread” type) nor scruffy Scripps (a new-school Nashville heartthrob) brought much grit or dirt to their performance of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark.” That being said, the song definitely seemed selected for Red, who sang it like a dyed-in-the-flannel heartland everyman (seriously, the dude should land a gig singing MTV beer commercial jingles or the Stater Brothers theme song if The Voice doesn’t work out) and brought some corny personality to the performance. However, Ryan had the clearer, rangier, less pitchy vocals. But even though this TV show is called The Voice, not The Personality, it is a TV show, so Blake picked Red, the zany guy who rattles off one-liners like “I’m as excited as a fat kid at a candy store,” over the kid that Jennifer somewhat disparagingly dismissed as “laid-back.”

WINNER: Red Marlow

TEAM BLAKE: Anna Catherine DeHart vs. Kristi Hoopes
TEAM J.HUD: Alexandra Joyce vs. Jeremiah Miller
TEAM ADAM: Emily Luker vs. Gary Carpentier

You would’ve thought, with Monday being a two-hour episode, that producers could’ve found time to show all of the performances. But no. Of the night’s three unfortunate montages, I was most saddened and surprised to see bellbottomed hippie chick Kristi go; it’s a shame she never got a chance to join Team Miley, where she clearly belonged. I don’t remember Alexandra at all, but I remember not liking Jeremiah, so that Battle was basically a wash. But most shocking was the fact that — right after Alexandra and Jeremiah had performed a snippet of “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth, Charlie’s old YouTube-duet buddy Emily got brutally edited as well. Ouch. Poor gal can’t catch a break. But we will “see her again” (see what I did there?), because as least she survived this round.

WINNERS: TEAM BLAKE: Anna Catherine DeHart, Jeremiah Miller, and Emily Luker, respectively

TEAM J.HUD: Shi’Ann Jones vs. Stephan Marcellus

Shi’Ann, at age 15, is the youngest singer of this season. Twenty-six-year-old Stephan is the guy who embarrassingly messed up his lyrics when auditioning with Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” but somehow inspired Jennifer to turn around anyway. So both contestants seemed like underdogs here, both with something to prove. “Whichever one can perform with passion, soul, and intent is going make my decision for me,” Jennifer stated at the top of this Battle.

I wondered if little Shi’Ann would have enough life experience and raw emotion to tap into for the Beatles’ yearning, passionate, and unhinged “Oh! Darling,” a throwback heartbreak ballad that frankly would have been a nice fit for Katrina Rose. At first, Shi’Ann sounded way too low and, for lack of a better technical term, weird; she simply didn’t seem comfortable with the song. Meanwhile, Stephan, who was still ashamed over his flubbed audition and said it was “hugely important to rise to the occasion and make Jennifer proud,” did just that. As “the most commercial artist” on Team J.Hud, according to J.Hud herself, he delivered, and he redeemed himself with a self-assured and solid vocal. And he got all his words right!

However, as the Battle waged on, Shi’Ann started to fight for it, and it became a more even match. Shi’Ann whipped out a couple spectacular runs, Stephan dropped to his knees, and drama ensued. Both contestants obviously really wanted this badly.

“This one is definitely crushing my heart, because I don’t want to let either one of you go. Stephan, thinking back to the Blinds when you came out and you completely blew the whole moment, and then to see you take my notes, follow through, perform, and come out here and do that today, I take my hat off to you,” said Jennifer. But perhaps it was foreboding that Jennifer did not take off her shoe. She then told Shi’Ann, “You remind me of myself when I started singing,” and that sentimentally sealed the deal for Shi’Ann.

But Stephan’s redemption story arc wasn’t over! In an unexpected turn of events, Miley broke up her Season 13 girl squad and allowed Stephan to enter her team’s ranks via a (super-last-minute) Steal. As Team Miley’s only male member now, Stephan may have an advantage going into the Knockout Rounds… or he may find himself the odd guy out. We’ll see.

WINNER: Shi’Ann Jones / STOLEN: Stephan Marcellus moves to Team Miley

TEAM ADAM: Anthony Alexander vs. Michael Kight

Anthony and Michael performed “I Feel It Coming,” the Weeknd’s buoyant disco jam with Daft Punk. I wish they’d performed it wearing Daft Punk space helmets; that would have been awesome. But I digress. This was another mismatched Battle, innocence vs. experience: Seventeen-year-old Anthony is the son of a former Voice camera operator, while 25-year-old Michael is a professional arranger and producer in Nashville. While the Weeknd song seemed picked for a radio-worthy pop kid like Anthony, onstage he looked scared and nervous, and his voice quavered and wavered. I actually dug Michael’s rendition, which was groovy and vibey and very yacht-rock. His mellow gold vocals made me want to drink piña coladas and get caught in the rain.

“Anthony, I think you probably had the stronger range of your voice, but I heard pitch issues throughout the performance. Michael’s pitch was so dead on, especially when you guys would harmonize — that’s where it would really become apparent,” said Blake. But Adam countered, “There’s something about you, Anthony. As raw as you are, when you start singing, it’s just like, wow.” And with that, it was time for yacht-rocker Michael to sail away.

WINNER: Anthony Alexander

Tune in Tuesday for a final night of Battles, which host Carson Daly has urgently warned will culminate in (…wait for it…) A DRAMATIC STEAL. Get ready to throw your bracelets and/or shoes, and, if you don’t like the outcome, maybe throw a brick at your TV. See you then.

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