After lukewarm blind auditions, we’ve finally arrived at the meaty battle rounds. A quick reminder of how this goes down: the coaches pair up their team members, assign a song, throw them to the mentors, and then slice their team in half after they perform. Sounds simple enough, no?
As we enter the battles, the biggest development is that Usher has cut his hair. And with that, we’re off!
Biff Gore vs. TJ Wilkins
“The worship leader and family man” vs. “the south central L.A. music student"
We start the night with two singers from the House of Usher, who assigns them “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations, a solid staple that should be right up both of their alleys (Biff auditioned with Sam Cooke, TJ sang Elton John, so maybe it’s more just up one of their alleys). Mentor Jill Scott calls them the smooth and the rough, saying, “Trying to choose between TJ and Biff is like trying to choose between air and water.” High praise, Jillybean.
Usher makes a fun decision using Jill as the woman both are trying to win over in rehearsal. He’s really into the idea of having them act out the song and be “desperate,” which might be a little too much (it’s about the vocals, not character work).
The battle’s on and funky camerawork tries to show us that, like in rehearsal, they’re all vying for Shakira’s attention. TJ throws in some riffs to stand out; Biff sounds fine but I’m thinking that if you completely eliminated TJ from the song, Biff’s rendition really wouldn’t stand out. Remember, he’s got 22 years on TJ and it certainly shows.
Following the performance, everyone has relatively nice things to say – calling it pure entertainment, smiling from ear to ear, etc. etc. – but it’s Usher’s opinion that matters here, and he wisely chooses TJ. Not a surprise. Out of absolutely nowhere, though, Blake steals, which is a total surprise. I would have liked to see Biff sing more but during the brief moment when he was eliminated, I wondered where he would even go in this competition. Guess we’ll see.
Jake Worthington vs. Lexi Luca
“17-year-old second-chance country artist” vs. “17-year-old country-pop hopeful”
First, let’s remember that after his audition Jake gave Blake an adorable head-snuggled-on-chest bear hug. So there’s that.
This was a solid pairing between two age-appropriate, genre-appropriate matches. With the guidance of mentors The Band Perry, Blake chooses to give the teens a song called “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett, a young artist whom Blake says is exactly where country music is today. (If you are a country fan and you agree, please let me know in the comments as I have no clue whether that’s an accurate statement.) In the rehearsal package, Lexi seems like she might have stronger vocals than Jake -- even as she nervously tears up when she hits a few off notes.
Lexi approaches the battle having to overcome her nerves; Jake says he needs to make sure he pronounces all his words and shows emotions. Now, I giggled a bit when Jake said this, but it becomes immediately apparent when the battle begins that yes, pronunciation is actually a major problem for him (and I even had jaunty closed captions on and still couldn’t understand him). Lexi, meanwhile, allows her nerves to seep in and she sounds pitchy as a result -- like a little Katharine McPhee but with more episodes of Chrisley Knows Best on her DVR.
After the song, Usher and Adam put their support behind Jake winning the battle, and Blake’s gut agrees when he declares Jake Worthington worthy. Lexi’s post-performance cry probably didn’t help her chances, but everyone seems to say that Jake is pure and a star, so her tears didn’t even matter. The best part of this, though, was Jake’s gentlemanly consolation of Lexi backstage. That is why he’ll stick around.
NEXT: An awful, awful pairing on Shakira's behalf