After last week’s surfeit of exemplary battles and too-close-to-call races, it was probably inevitable we’d get a handful of bum competitions and blowouts on this week’s episode of “The Voice.” Hey, they can’t all be winners—although six of last night’s contestants still officially were, with 18 of the show’s final 24 competitors now set. One more and then the live shows, so let’s enjoy the last vestiges of professional editing and pre-meditated drama before we get into the Anything Goes livemania of the next round. Here are ten things that happened on last night’s weird and (not quite under- or over-)whelming episode of The Voice.
1. We have our first openly gay contestant. And it wasn’t Pip, the theater alum with the bowtie and suspenders, but rather his competitor Nathan Parrett, whose audition must have been one of the montage passings, because I certainly don’t remember ever seeing him before. “My father found out that I’m gay…he took it pretty hard,” explained Parrett. “I haven’t spoken to my father in a few years.” We didn’t get much time with Nathan, though, as Pip out-dueled him in an uninspiring duet of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” Neither were threats to win the overall competition, but Pip had a bit more of the professional glow to him, and Adam Levine decided to pass him due to his being “more versatile.”
“You come across to me as having done Broadway or something before,” correctly predicted Christina of Pip. “It’s the pants! Look at those pants!” exclaimed Blake. Sorry, Nathan—I thought you were a little more interesting, at least.
2. We had our worst song selection yet… Why Cee Lo Green, or the powers that be pulling the strings behind him, thought it would be a good idea to pair quirky ex-model Erin Martin and Wayne’s World-reminiscent (according to Babyface, anyway) rocker duo the Shields Bros.—or to give them Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” for their battle—is a question that will haunt this show forever. (Or the next 24 hours, at least.) The Shields Bros actually had the easier go of it in rehearsals, actually getting Babyface to drop the Wayne and Garth comps, whereas Erin seemed to get swallowed up by the song completely, pouting through lessons with Cee Lo and Ne-Yo and hoping her cuteness would be enough. “I see you, OK, you’re cute,” Ne-Yo explained to the camera of Erin. “What else you got? Because…there’s a lot of cute in the world.”
3. …and it resulted in our worst duel yet. Suffice to say, not many people will be buying the Erin Martin and Shields Bros’ version of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” on iTunes this morning. Martin’s part was a total disaster, her thin voice positively unable to carry the song and her pitch totally inconsistent from line to line. (She yelped a lot at the end of her verses, evidently hoping that would denote some kind of personality, but it just ended up sounding ridiculous.) The Shields Bros were better, since at least they stayed on pitch, but their need to turn everything into a Dio song (in a different key, no less) made for an awkward transition from Martin’s verses, and the final product was a total mess. “THAT WAS SO WEIRD!” exclaimed Adam repeatedly afterwards, and not without reason.
Erin, despite giving possibly the worst performance of the entire season, ended up advancing, simply by virtue of not being a duo of overweight male metalheads with absolutely no chance of winning the whole shebang. To his credit, Cee Lo didn’t even pretend like Erin was better on the night. “I don’t know what else we could do outside of [the rocker schtick], and that frightens me a little bit,” he explained about the Shields Bros. “The one that I feel like I have the most prospect with is Erin.” Really, neither has much upside—Erin, despite being gorgeous, has a voice that limits her almost as much as the Bros’ School of Rock schlock, not to mention the difficult, entitled personality of an ex-model—but it’s hard to blame Cee Lo for going with her 100 to 1 odds over the Bros’ 10,000 to 1. Play to win, people.
4. Oh yeah, and Erin wore this thing with the shoulderpads.
And apparently Blake Shelton was a big Mad Mad Beyond Thunderdome fan from youth, since he did everything to convey to Erin just how turned on he was by her getup short of actually describing his boner.
5. And speaking of awkward coach-contestant interactions… After expressing how hot he was for Christina Aguilera during his audition episode, Jonathas got to take his relationship with Xtina to the sort of next level during rehearsals on Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks’ “No Air.” Christina adopted the Jordin parts during Jonathas’ tutoring sessions, saying she wanted to give him that “female energy,” but the singer admitted he found his duet partner distracting. “I did get lost a little bit,” he explained. “I just kept staring into those beautiful blue eyes.” Yeah, that was definitely what you were staring at, Jonathas.
6. But it wasn’t enough to save Jonathas from an upset. Christina and Voice producers did everything but give Jonathas a first-round bye, giving him a song by one of his most obvious vocal comps and a competitor in the milquetoast Ashley De La Rosa that seemed to pose no real threat. It was Jonathas’ battle to lose, but lose it he did, as he appeared to coast on his considerable charisma and gave a mediocre performance of the song. “You definitely to me have more character to your voice,” Blake commented. “But as the performance went on, it just kinda stayed in one place, you know?” All three of the non-Christina coaches chose Ashley to advance, and when it came her turn, Christina had to agree, resulting in the first true upset of the season—the one winner you wouldn’t have thought had a chance before the actual performance.
“The thing that matters at the end of the day is not how great you are in rehearsal, or how comfortable you are with a song during the process, it’s what you can deliver at the end of the day on the stage,” Christina explained after the fact. “And tonight, Ashley took it.” Sure enough.
7. Blake Shelton introduced his team to Mandatory Fun Time. “Whichever one of you can cut loose and have the most fun on that stage,” Blake instructed contestants Jermaine Paul and Alyx [something], “Is going on to the live shows.” Of course, you’d think that it’d be hard to not have fun with a song as historically silly as Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” but Alyx still gave it a fight, struggling to drop the seriousness in rehearsals. “I’m not sure that she’s ever had fun and cut loose,” said Blake assistant coach Miranda Lambert, sympathetically. “She doesn’t seem like that kind of person that can just give up all control and own being a jackass.”
“I can have fun, but I take what I do seriously because I love it, seriously,” yelled Alyx after Blake as she was leaving rehearsals. “OK, now that you said that, go have fun…stop talking about it…” responded an increasingly irritated Blake. (“I don’t think she’s having fun,” he lamented after she left.)
8. Jermaine’s name turns out to actually be Billy Ocean, baby! You wouldn’t think many contestants on a show like The Voice would hear “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and think DREAM SONG, but Jermaine went for the gusto, to say the least. The non-Xtina coaches were so busy raving about the one-time Alicia Keys backing singer that they almost forgot to mention that there was another contestant involved in the performance. Blake did salute Alyx for finally following his HAVE FUN DAMMIT directives, but there was no doubt who was advancing. “I love that guy,” Christina gushed to Blake after he selected Jermaine. “I’m so jealous!” One to watch in the live rounds, no doubt.
9. Two pretty good contestants competed over Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.” And one of them, Katrina, won. Moving on.
10. Erin Willett overcame personal tragedy with help from Pat Benatar. Her duel with Gwen Sebastian on Patricia’s “We Belong” was probably the best competition of the night, two of the round’s strongest voices going in on a song that was a good fit for both, for different reasons. Gwen gave it her all, but Erin absolutely destroyed her verse, with one of the strongest, richest voices we’ve heard yet on The Voice. Plus, Erin had the backstory—she got a call from her mom during staging that said that her sick dad probably only had 24 hours to live, but urged her to stay on the competition to follow her dreams. You knew there was no way she was losing after that, and luckily, she didn’t deserve to lose either.
Unfortunate for Gwen, though, who might have won against nearly any other of the night’s competitors. “Amazing. Unbelievable” gushed Blake after the performance. “Seriously, I wish y’all weren’t that good.” Sorry, Blake, but at least one’ve got one of the season’s real keepers in Erin W.