Tarralyn vs. Frenchie > Blake Shelton's comic relief > Niki vs. Vicci > Cee Lo's red getup > Casey vs. Tim > Reba > All other guest coaches rolled into one > Patrick vs. Tyler > Carson Daly > Previously on The Voice > Next up on The Voice
What's a show to do when its primary gimmick peters out after two episodes? Get another!
See, The Voice, self-proclaimed to judge vocalists on the "vocal" rather than the "ist," found itself a bit unable to do that once the coaches became familiar (we hope) with said voices. Tough, right? But nothing a little voice-to-voice combat can't fix. It did, at least, for Frenchie Davis, Patrick Thomas, Casey Weston and Vicci Martinez, all of whom departed winners.
The "battle round" concept—coaches pick two teammates to face off on the same song, sometimes a duet and sometimes an adapted solo—is practically flawless. After all, when you've got two singers doing the same thing, someone's bound to do it better. There's no "poor song choice," no wheelhouses, none of that. Just two singers, one of whom will outshine the other, whether by striving or pure talent. It's a welcome shot of tension for a show that thus far has sorely lacked it. That last glorious decision—Cee Lo's "It's bothering the hell out of me, but I think I... I... I've gotta pick Vicci"—was more affecting than anything on The Voice to date. Not a single commercial-break cliffhanger needed!
And the show, suddenly in possession of a killer conceit, got rid of all the padding to showcase it best. Inter-coach bantering? Almost nonexistent; Blake Shelton contributed a few comic-relief bits (his delivery of "hunka... hunk... a... burning love" must be heard to be believed), but the rest mostly stayed bland. Pesky backstories? Back-burner. And forget entirely about those much hyped guest advisers; aside from a few motherly teases by Reba, they were non-entities. Even Carson Daly, The Voice's resident charisma vacuum, managed to squeeze himself into a wrestling-announcer niche to make sound-bite bios out of the night's contenders. The emotional diva! The confident cowboy! The fiery soul singer from the Pacific Northwest! It's built-in drama even before the first note is sung.
So about those winners. For the most part, we can't complain. Casey vs. Tim Mahoney would've been no contest even if Cee Lo hadn't dubbed Weston a "young Stevie Nicks" for her take on "Leather and Lace." The "battle" between Patrick and Tyler Robinson on Elvis's aforementioned "Burning Love" may well have been one guy singing at himself in the mirror for how good-yet-similar the two sounded. Who won? Who cares?
And sure, Tarralyn Ramsey and Niki Dawson (remember her? The four notes of "Teenage Dream"?) bested respective competitors Davis and Martinez on purely vocal grounds. It wasn't exactly a surprise either time. "Single Ladies" was taken up a step right into Ramsey's range and out of Davis's, something no amount of Broadway cachet could fix. And Martinez's audition was shaky where Dawson's couple of seconds were super-poised, a disparity that carried over to both their performances of Pink's "Perfect." But let's face it: they lost on backstory. Call it Pia Toscano Syndrome, perhaps. Even on a show called The Voice, powerhouse vocals alone only get you so far, and an underdog-with-a-trajectory like Martinez or a familiar face (and Idol screw-you) like Davis scores points from the start.
You know what won't score you points, though? Filler. The Voice still hasn't shaken its duplicate-material problem; if anything, it's gotten worse. Let's do some math. Say three minutes per sing-off, and that's being generous. That's only about a quarter of the hourlong show dedicated to what we really came to hear. The rest isn't: recaps of what we just heard five minutes ago, previews of what we're about to hear five minutes later, exposition about what we're hearing right this second. Hey, at least the live rounds aren't so far off...