Madilyn Paige vs. Tanner James
“The 16-year-old pop vocalist” vs. “the determined indie artist”
First: They’re both from the same school in Provo, Utah, and you have to wonder if they’re actually friends (spoiler: they’re not) and what cruel joke Usher is playing by pairing them together. Madilyn is apparently more creative than most girls, while Tanner left college after one semester because he couldn’t stand not being in the music scene. Together the two of them look like they could be a multitude of things, including but not limited to siblings, cousins, craft store co-workers, community service partners, candy stripers, Saturday morning cartoon sidekicks, student council treasurer candidates, or Amber and Link in a local dinner theater production of Hairspray.
Usher plays what I think is another funny joke, which is giving them the Taylor Swift song “Everything Has Changed.” It’s actually well-suited for their voices, but there’s a certain glee to be had in guessing Madilyn’s mindset at trying to emulate the Tay. But see, she’s never had a boyfriend, so she can’t connect (dare I say, we’re having Deja Hall vu?). And then something incredible happens.
During “the most adorable battle ever” (not patronizing at all!), I can’t even pay attention to the vocals because I am completely hypnotized. There is MAGIC HAPPENING on stage. I just want to watch Madilyn and Tanner gaze into each other’s eyes and sing at each other and defiantly hold out berries and run offstage and survive together in the wilderness living off of goat milk and wheatgrass and the songs in their hearts. If they both fail to make it in the competition, I hope we get a "where are they now?" package during the season finale that tells us exactly how they fell in love and eloped.
Usher picks Madilyn, and I’m sad because Tanner looks great in a skinny tie.
Dawn & Hawkes vs. Josh Murley
“The passionate indie-folk duo” vs. “the Texas dad and rocker”
Aha, another duo! And this one is not nearly as nauseating. They’re best friends, they’re band mates, they’re going to spend the rest of their lives together, and they’re…not engaged? (Oh, they’re one of those couples.) Josh is a very Anthony Rapp-esque single father, but he’s got a rock-ish voice and a bookish look that’s sort of like Chris Daughtry meets The Guy Who Fixes Your Computer at Work.
The pairing here of D&H and Josh is really interesting, because they’re not very well-matched for each other (unless they’re both different off-shoots of Gavin DeGraw’s personality, with Dawn & Hawkes representing Gavin in a coffee shop and Josh representing Gavin in, like, OfficeMax). Poor Josh is even called the third wheel by Adam, which is just super depressing on Josh’s part. Does he even stand a chance here?
“Stuck in the Middle with You” is not a particularly thrilling song, but we’re in for one chill-as-hell battle. I find myself rooting for Josh out of principle, but I really want to see more of Dawn & Hawkes (well, mainly the oddly seductive Dawn, not so much the long-lost Henson brother Hawkes).
Blake sums it up: “There was never a moment where it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that guy did that’ or ‘They did that,’” he says, which translated on my closed-captions to “That was boring.” Usher also echoes this sentiment, saying that nobody showed up. Shakira wants a beer. Adam, at this point, realizes that everyone was bored by the battle and disavows himself from it, saying, “It wasn’t meant to blow the roof off the building.” He half-heartedly picks Dawn & Hawkes because obviously. Out of absolutely nowhere, Shakira steals Josh in the most vanilla turn of events ever.
Bria Kelly vs. Tess Boyer
“The powerful 18-year-old blues singer” vs. “the former NFL cheerleader and pop vocalist”
Who are either of these girls? I don’t even remember. They’re both gorgeous but former NFL cheerleader Tess definitely thinks she’s hotter because she can pull off black lace even though Bria is the one you would actually rather take to prom. Jill secretly calls out Tess’s façade, which is the most awesome moment Jill has had all season long.
It’s a Janis Joplin battle with “Piece of My Heart,” and I have to imagine that given everything I know about Janis Joplin, I’d give the edge to the blues singer and not the one who spent her adult life doing pirouettes to the theme from Space Jam. Every bit of my being is rooting for Bria the underdog here, but I can’t ignore that Tess has a really powerful and amazing voice. I’m sort of nervous that Usher’s going to go with the more star machine-accessible Tess, but he does me a solid and picks Bria. And of course, Blake uses his last steal for Tess, so maybe there’s still a chance we’ll get to see her halftime routine after all!