by Lyn Jensen
Tuesday night brought us the final three battles of The Voice Season 11. Because Blake was the only coach (judge) left who could steal a discarded contestant from another team, we knew his steal would come at the end. We also knew one of his contestants was going to leave the show–unless and/or until this season features a “Wild Card” twist that brings contestants back for a second chance.
1. Team Blake goes first, because we know there can be no steal at the end of this battle. It’s Austin Allsup vs. Preston James, “country singers with an edge,” Blake calls them. It’s also our first chance to see Preston James, who’s ID’ed as 15 during the rehearsals and 16 during the performance–maybe he had a birthday in the middle of the taping. It also makes him barely older than Gabe Broussard, this season’s youngest contestant. The song the contestants are battling on is “Bad Moon Rising,” classic rock with a Southern flavor, which fits them both. Once again Blake’s faced with the choice between rough-edged youth (James) and someone more mature and experienced (Allsup). Alicia says about the performance, “You both have your own style. Both are really strong.” Miley gets so confused about which singer she favors, she starts to sound like a certain Republican candidate. Adam restores a bit of order with, “They’re both great, you can’t really go wrong.” Blake picks Austin, on the basis of more experience. That means James leaves the show, but given his age and talent, we’ll probably see him again–somewhere.
2. Team Alicia is coming down to a battle of Broadway actor Gabriel Violett vs. Whitney and Shannon, the singing sisters who are this season’s only duo. Alicia gives them an unusual song choice, the power ballad “More Than Words” by Extreme (the nineties rock band, not the new-century Hispanic group Xtreme). Celebrity guest advisor Charlie Puth tells Gabriel to “start nasal, then go breathy,” which tells us essentially all we need to know about his vocals. Puth also suggests Gabriel is overthinking. The performance turns out to be very pretty and romantic, despite the off-balance between a duo and a solo artist. Miley and Adam both say they don’t have a favorite–but they like the girls. Blake, however, says he’s impressed with Gabriel, that he’s not getting “full credit.” Alicia keeps the young girls over the more experienced Violett, and Blake doesn’t use his steal, despite being impressed with Gabriel both here and during the auditions. Then again, we don’t see Carson Daly saying anything about a steal, so maybe this performance came after Blake had used his steal.
3. Team Adam gets the last battle, Brendan Fletcher vs. Bindy Liebowitz, so Blake’s getting whoever Adam discards. Celebrity guest advisor Sammy Hagar pronounces Fletcher’s voice as “beefy” and “like a big old oak” while Liebowitz’s, he says, is classic and soulful. Adam says he paired them because they’re so different–but they both need to feel what they’re doing. They belt out the swamp-rocker “(Take me) Home” by Marc Broussard. Blake says it’s hard to tell who out-sang each other. Adam compares Liebowitz to Rhianna but he keeps Fletcher. Right on cue, Blake steals Liebowitz, who he wanted during the auditions.
Next week comes the next round of cuts, as contestants are paired for “knockout” performances. The celebrity guest advisors are going to be Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Each team is going to be reduced to a final five in another week or two, then the live voting begins.