“Manic Pixie YouTube Nannies”
Christina Grimmie vs. Sam Beyhymer
Sam does not seem particularly thrilled to be paired with Christina, because she knows her airy voice might be drowned out by Christina’s more powerful approach, and maybe because she also knows it might be difficult for a coach to turn down a contestant who comes pre-packaged with 400K+ Twitter followers. It might be the same reason that I and some others have been a little weary of Christina Grimmie’s presence on our humble struggling artist vehicle, The Voice. But I have to say, the combination of Christina’s engaging personality and genuine desire to grow throughout the rehearsal process won me over. (I’m sure she was just waiting for my approval, so I guess she’ll probably hang up the ole webcam and retire now.)
I also appreciated Sam’s honest acknowledgment last round that she sometimes hides behind her voice’s quirks. But as much as she tries, she’s never quite able to get on top of them, and it leaves the door open for Christina’s confidence in performing to shine through. The two take the stage with “Counting Stars”; Adam thinks it's “an interesting choice,” which he would immediately take back if he could just time travel two weeks into the future from whenever this was filmed (or just over to the American Idol set where you sing this, or Grace Potter’s “Stars,” or you sing nothing at all). Christina is in full Man Repeller mode in her blazer and oxfords, furthering the affect that this performance is her very own concert. Sam's lower register is a steadier vocal that we haven’t heard from her before, but it never really soars.
The judges are kind of all over the place, with Blake liking Sam’s finesse (he is a sucker for quirk, isn’t he?), and Shakira not really seeming to like any of it too much, but siding with Christina’s confidence and maturity. Adam is happy with both because he asked them to keep it in the pocket (pocket!) of the rhythm and they did that; he votes that Christina did it with more command of the stage.
“Your Favorite Science Teacher and Your Favorite Fun Uncle”
Josh Murley vs. Patrick Thomson
When Shakira reminds us that she stole both Patrick and Josh from Team Adam, this one is destined to be a second-to-last-performance lull. Steals are usually the type of performers who take a little while to win over their audience, and neither Josh nor Patrick is quite on the level of many of the other duos tonight, performance-wise. Vocally, though, they bring some interesting range, and they choose to show it off on Bryan Adams’ “Run to You.”
Chris Martin helps bring out their rock side by throwing a couple of mic stands in their general direction: “Bono has his sunglasses, Mick has his arms, Jay-Z has his hat, and I felt like Josh and Patrick needed mic stands.” You’re in good company, fellas. Up onstage, Josh rocks out more than his wire spectacle would indicate he could and gets in a few interesting runs. But it’s Patrick’s rasp and unique tone that convince Shakira she’ll be able to coach him best. Josh is supremely genuine in his gratitude for the opportunity, and it’s true – this is a great opportunity. Now he’s “The Voice’s Josh Murley.” Go out there and use it, Josh!
“Soul Brothers from Another Mother”
Delvin Choice vs. Josh Kaufman
Ah, yes, here we are in the Steal Spot. You may recall Delvin and Josh as the two contestants with the best career-paths-as-depicted-by-The-Voice: the part-time Starbucks worker and SAT prep tutor, respectively. And they certainly carry themselves in the parts they’ve been cast in, with Josh as the more reserved cerebral type and Delvin, the chipper extrovert. But when they open their mouths, it’s all gold, just two very different types of gold.
They both decide on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” because they are smart men who know how to give the people what they want. The people want Stevie Wonder! Adam realizes in their first rehearsal that this pairing was a mistake, as Josh’s voice is always a soulful character-filled surprise, and Delvin has somehow managed to find a whole new mastery over his already powerful instrument in the last few weeks. From his perma-perch on the floor, Chris tells Josh not to try to compete with Delvin’s huge voice, but also not to hold back on what he wants to do naturally with his own.
Josh hugs his cute little wife and his cute little mom before he takes the stage; likewise, Delvin kisses his cute little grandma and says he isn’t singing for anyone else but her tonight. It must be said that their blazer game is almost as strong as their vocals: Josh in a subtle buffalo plaid and Delvin in a rich caramel with gray vest underneath (you heard me -- gray and camel, and I liked it). Josh is a tiny pocket (pocket!) of soul and Delvin reels in his excess vibrato to for a controlled, but spirited performance. Shakira’s got her shoulders going and Usher is flaring his nostrils and close-mouthed smiling, so you know exactly what’s coming: STEAL!
Everybody agrees that Delvin has reached a new level of hotness (OK, it’s mostly Blake who thinks he’s sexy with his hair pushed back) and that both singers gave the vocal performance of the night. But there can only be one, and Adam goes with Delvin, leaving Josh to hop into Usher’s waiting arms. Those should make for some pretty interesting coach/contestant duos, come live shows; and I am surely hoping both of these guys make it there.
So, what did you think -- did Battle Rounds 2.0 make for a few entertaining performances, or would you rather just get on with it? Is there anyone we lost tonight that you would have stolen if you had access to the magical red button? And if Usher’s hat isn’t full of secrets, then what exactly is he storing in there?