Why ‘The Voice’ Can’t Lose Adam And Blake

The Voice

Can you imagine The Voice without Adam Levine and Blake Shelton?

We can’t either.

The Internet’s been abuzz this week following the news that Pharrell Williams is signing on to NBC’s Emmy-winning singing competition for Season 7. Everyone wants to know if the Maroon 5 hitmaker and the multiple CMA award winner will be joining Pharrell in those big red chairs this fall. The network, for its part, has only said that the identities of the other three coaches for the show’s next cycle will be revealed “at a later date.”

But there is absolutely, positively no way The Voice should go on without Adam and Blake.

Not if anyone knows what’s best for everyone – for NBC, the show, the singers competing, and even the superstar coaches themselves. A Voice without its two most popular coaches would likely survive, depending on who uber-producer Mark Burnett could secure to replace them, but it wouldn’t be the same ever again. And right now is not the time to make that kind of drastic move.

Coaching on The Voice isn’t just about being one of “the biggest names in music,” to quote host Carson Daly. It’s also about being a TV personality that can entertain America and have a good rapport with the other panelists. More important than that, it’s about being the best possible mentor for a dozen would-be singers. And being able to commit to weeks of coaching, live tapings, and press appearances. Finding somebody who fits all those criteria is an uphill battle. Not only do Adam and Blake tick off all those boxes, it’s pretty clear that they’ve set the standard for what a coach on The Voice should be.

NBC obviously doesn’t want to see them walk, and they certainly shouldn’t want to see it in Season 7. The addition of Pharrell – and the previously announced permanent departure of Cee Lo Green – already has one question mark hanging over the upcoming cycle, so it wouldn’t be wise to add two more. Especially not during the more competitive fall TV season, where the other networks will be rolling out more than just midseason replacements. With the demise of The X Factor and the continued struggles of American Idol, The Voice is in position to definitively be the top singing show – and possibly the top reality-competition show – on the air. NBC doesn’t need to have anything jeopardize its biggest hit just as it reaches the top of the mountain.

The Voice itself needs Adam and Blake in those outside seats. The show was able to continue when it replaced Cee Lo and Christina Aguilera with Usher and Shakira for Seasons 4 and 6, but Cee Lo and Christina were also the two coaches that had other factors around them – Cee Lo has been contending with legal issues, and Christina seems to be the one that fans either love or love to hate. Adam and Blake have no such concerns. They’re pretty much beloved by The Voice‘s audience. Most of the show’s best moments, from a TV standpoint, involve one or both of them. Jokes about Blake’s sobriety, Adam’s impressions of Shakira, the infamous “bromance” – there’s your entertainment value.

What really matters, though, is how well Adam and Blake can coach: better than anyone else. Between them, they have all of the show’s five championships (Blake’s three bookended by Adam’s two). Watch any episode and it’s easy to tell what makes them stand out. Adam gives very specific constructive criticism, and he’s unafraid to be honest, to the point where he called out everyone in Season 2 for not giving enough effort and directly led to the creation of the Instant Elimination. Blake has shown the ability to nurture talent, particularly the less experienced artists, which is crucial as The Voice‘s talent pool seems to skew younger every season. All of the coaches can do the job, but these two operate on another level.

That extends to what they do off-camera, too. Both Adam and Blake have maintained relationships with their Voice artists well after their time on the show has ended. Adam appeared on Javier Colon’s album, signed Tony Lucca to a record deal, has had both of them open for Maroon 5 on tour, and just recently tweeted about Melanie Martinez’s new release. Blake hired Gwen Sebastian as one of his backup singers, brought Dia Frampton on tour, and he’s stuck his neck out on social media to defend his artists against uncalled-for commentary. They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty here.

And that’s also made them great ambassadors for The Voice. Ask any former Team Adam or Team Blake member and they’ll not only tell you about what they learned from a coaching standpoint, but praise their coaches for being amazing people. We were all witness to Erin Willett competing in Season 2 through the loss of a family member, and how Blake was there to support her, not just to get her ready to perform but to take care of her. We can personally swear to Adam going backstage during commercial breaks to speak with his team members. This show’s pitch is that it’s different than all the other ones, and these two are the two biggest examples of that.

Adam and Blake would be crazy to leave now, too. They’ve benefited immensely from their “second jobs” – Maroon 5 toured not once but twice last year alone, and Blake is preparing for his second tour in two years. Both of them have seen the tremendous success of albums released during the show’s run; Maroon 5′s Overexposed was certified Platinum by the RIAA, as was Blake’s Based On A True Story… They were successful well before they became coaches, but they’ve obviously gotten a boost from TV viewers who may never have listened to one of their albums otherwise.

The show has also given deserved attention to how outstanding both of them are as people. We now know that Adam isn’t just the photogenic face of his band; he’s a smart, funny and down-to-earth guy, and we can personally say that he is the best person we’ve worked with in 14 years in the entertainment business. Blake isn’t far behind on that list, equally pleasant and accessible, and as loyal as they come. They’ve both managed to balance touring and recording with their Voice duties so far; why not stay with a good thing when it’s poised to get even better?

Add that to all the things we’ve discussed above, and the bottom line is glaringly obvious.

Season 7 of The Voice needs Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Let’s just hope that everyone involved can make that happen.

The Voice continues its sixth season Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC; stay tuned Monday for our interviews with all four coaches and host/producer Carson Daly.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 2nd Battle Rounds, Part 2

The Voice

After an opening episode that was sometimes great and sometimes underwhelming, and featured entirely too little Chris Martin given how much we heard about his advising debut, The Voice is back on Tuesday with more second-round battles. Here are the results of the action.

1. Team Blake: Sisaundra Lewis vs. Biff Gore, “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”

Probably one of the more obvious pairings on the board, this is another case of Blake whittling down two similar artists to just one spot on his team. They get to choose between Otis Redding, Eruption and James Brown for their battle song, and after one of the more analytical discussions between partners, select the James Brown tune. Not that we expected them to choose anything else, really. “Can you do it again just for fun?” Chris Martin asks after their first run-through, adding, “I feel like if James Brown saw that, he would feel great.” Talk about endorsement!

After a battle just as powerful as you think it was, Usher votes for Biff (after pointing out that Biff used to be Team Usher). Shakira is just baffled. Adam believes Sisaundra may not be human (in a good way). Blake selects Sisaundra as the winner, and Biff is not stolen a second time, but somehow we think he’ll be okay.

Winner: Sisaundra Lewis

2. Team Shakira: Deja Hall vs. Ddendyl, “Say Something”

It’s the matchup of the young female pop artists, again not really a surprise. Shakira urges both ladies to find their confidence and comfort zone. We don’t know what songs they got to choose between, but they ultimately pick the hit from A Great Big World. (One wonders what Christina would think, were she here.) Chris Martin makes a One Direction joke. Shakira wants tighter harmonies. We once again break out the “microphone stand as physical assistant” concept. It all seems to hinge on which performer can connect with the song, and therefore with the audience.

We’re going to recuse ourselves from offering an opinion on this battle, because we’ve heard the original, pre-Christina version of this live when A Great Big World opened for Maroon 5, and it’s a tearjerker. As Adam points out, the song also was performed by the duo and Christina on The Voice last season, too. He doesn’t offer Shakira a real opinion, though, and neither does Blake. Usher says that Deja would be his pick, because he thinks there’s so much to discover with her. Shakira agrees with him.

Winner: Deja Hall

3. Team Shakira: Kristen Merlin vs. Emily B., “I Can Love You Better”

These two ladies get an abbreviated version of their battle over this Dixie Chicks song, which is frustrating because Kristen got montaged in the last battle round, too. What does she have to do to be on our TV screens for more than a minute and a half? Aside from our general dislike of editing, one wonders if that puts her at a disadvantage for live shows, when she’ll need to have a connection with the audience – one that’s harder to make when we hardly have seen you in action.

Winner: Kristen Merlin

4. Team Usher: Stevie Jo vs. Morgan Wallen, “Story Of My Life”

Stevie and Morgan happen to have become friends, which makes this round just a tad bit awkward. However, from NBC’s hyping of a steal being used tonight and the knowledge that it hasn’t happened yet, we can easily deduce that both these guys are still going to be here in 15 minutes, so it’s not quite so bad. Usher has constructive criticism for each artist, and he’s looking to see which one of them improves the most. Their choices are The Script, Collective Soul and One Direction, and they opt for the British boy band. Chris doesn’t have another joke about them, but he does have some good advice for the guys.

Who will stay on Team Usher and who ends up on either Team Blake or Team Adam? Both artists have clearly filled that ‘cute guy the girls in the studio audience shriek over’ void this season, but more importantly, both of them occupy the same general musical space, too. Shakira calls Morgan “another member of One Direction” and Adam is surprised at how Morgan put up a good fight against Stevie. Blake echoes Adam’s sentiment, while he favors Stevie. Everyone, including Morgan, is surprised that he has a falsetto. “I just found out,” he admits, while Adam quips, “Good timing.” After Usher sticks with Stevie, Adam decides to see what else Morgan can do that we don’t know about.

Winner: Stevie Jo and Steal: Morgan Wallen to Team Adam

It’s worth noting that with only four battles in this episode and an entire hour to get through them, we still couldn’t escape without another TV cut-down. What’s up with that?  Anyway, with only Blake having a steal left, it really is pretty much win or go home as we narrow things down to the Top 20. Live shows are just three weeks away!

The Voice continues next Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 2nd Battle Rounds, Part 1

The Voice

The Voice is giving us a second helping of battles, with a side of Chris Martin (ironically as the Coldplay singer’s personal life is making headlines). Are more battles better than the knockout rounds? Does Martin bring anything to the table that previous advisors Aloe Blacc, The Band Perry, Miranda Lambert and Jill Scott didn’t? What’s it like when four teams have one advisor? So many questions, only two hours to answer them in. Let’s get battling.

1. Team Blake: Audra McLaughlin vs. Megan Ruger, “The Climb”

Unlike the first battle rounds, Carson doesn’t give us a handy introduction to the pairings, so you get to figure them out for yourself. Blake matches these two ladies because he believes they both occupy the same space on his team, and he only needs one of their type of singer going forward. He hands them a short list of three songs and they must mutually agree on which one to perform, so there goes the artists having full creative control. Audra and Megan settle on “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, and they’re going to have to work to make it better than Justin Rivers’ performance of it.

“Does she twerk in that song?” Chris asks when he finds out about the selection. “When she performs it these days, probably,” Blake quips. Blake thinks both ladies have performed better than what he hears in their first rehearsal. Chris suggests that they fill the stage space better, and perform outward more.

And that’s all the rehearsal time we get; instead, time is filled with footage of the artists meeting with their families, similar to how we saw them confer with their coach before their last round. One thinks we could use more actual competition, and less filler, even if it is nice filler.

Audra and Megan find a nice vocal middle ground, and seem to have taken Chris’s note about filling more of the stage, except for at the end a little bit. Usher – who must be trying to one-up Pharrell in hat choices – votes for Audra.  Shakira agrees, saying that she connected more with Audra. Adam calls Audra “one of the best singers on the show” but argues that Megan held her own. Blake offers constructive feedback to both his artists, before keeping Audra.

Winner: Audra McLaughlin

2. Team Usher: Cierra Mickens vs. T.J. Wilkins, “Get Here”

Usher wants to match one of his strongest artists, T.J., aganst Cierra, whom he stole from Shakira last week. Out of his three choices – one of which is Maroon 5′s “One More Night” – they decide on “Get Here” by Oleta Adams (although the original artist was, in fact, Brenda Russell in 1988; Adams’ cover was in 1990). This is one of the great soul ballads in music history, and proves to be a pretty good choice, though Chris wants them to “work together a little more.” He does call the song a duet, though, which it’s not; we’re going to guess he meant the performance is a duet.

Being longtime Brenda Russell fans who’ve actually heard her perform this song live, we’re biased when it comes to evaluating this particular battle round. We get what Chris means, though, as both Cierra and T.J. seem to be performing more toward their respective sections of the audience than to each other during large parts of the song, which given that this is a love song, is a missed opportunity for them to really move us with the music. They’re technically great, but a little more performance would’ve made them even better.

Shakira calls this battle “perfect.” Adam is surprised by how Cierra rose to T.J.’s level. Blake uses the word “perfect” again in reference to Cierra. With nobody actually having chosen a favorite, Usher and his furry hat are on their own here. He sticks with his original artist, though Cierra gets a farewell hug from each of her coaches.

Winner: T.J. Wilkins

3. Team Blake: Tess Boyer vs. Jake Worthington, “Have A Little Faith In Me”

Blake matches up two artists who are on their second chances: returning singer Jake Worthington, and Tess Boyer, who was stolen from Team Usher. We don’t get told what their song choices are, but they settle on John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith In Me.” Blake tells them that they’ve got a lot of power, but some pitch issues on certain words.  “It’s just about making us as an audience believe in what they’re singing,” Chris tells us.

Maybe it’s because of the battle that preceded it, but we’re particularly conscious of how Tess and Jake are performing together, almost more to each other than the audience. They clearly enjoy each other’s company and earn a standing ovation from all four coaches, so you can guess how the feedback is going to go. Usher compliments both artists; Shakira calls Tess “a revelation,” and Adam declares this an “A-level” performance that wouldn’t be out of place at the CMAs or Grammys.

With nobody else offering a strong opinion, Blake worries about his liver, before he picks Jake – which he stresses is through no fault of Tess’s, but strictly out of loyalty, because Jake is an original Team Blake artist. Although Usher, Shakira and Adam all want her, Tess moves on to her third coach, Shakira. We’re not sure, but that could make her the first artist to be part of three different teams. So congrats, Tess, you may have just made history.

Winner: Jake Worthington and Steal: Tess Boyer to Team Shakira

4. Team Adam: Christina Grimmie vs. Sam Behymer, “Counting Stars”

Why does Adam keep matching people that we like together?!? Anyway, Adam sees room for improvement in both these young ladies. Although we have no idea what their other song options were, these two select OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars,” which is definitely not an easy pick and, as Adam says, an interesting call for them. Initially, he thinks they’re “a little all over the place,” and wants more control; as he points out, this song is all about rhythm. Can they stay in the pocket and keep themselves together on such a fast-paced, wordy song? Well, we’re about to find out.

Maybe it’s because this was originally performed by a man, but it takes awhile for the ladies to find the power that makes this track so addictive. Once they get there, though, the whole thing seems to come together and overcome the very slow start. Plus, you have to give them credit for not tripping over any words, too. Blake sides with underdog Sam; Usher likes both performances; Shakira calls Christina the more mature and confident artist. So basically, it’s a wash before we get to Adam, who is faced with another hard decision, one so difficult he signals for the studio audience to quiet down while he deliberates. His gut tells him to choose Christina, and we weep because we really liked Sam, too.

Winner: Christina Grimmie

5. Team Shakira: Patrick Thomson vs. Josh Murley, “Run To You”

It’s the battle of similar dudes both stolen from Team Adam who both hate to watch themselves on TV. Patrick and Josh prefer this Bryan Adams tune over…whatever other options they had, and Shakira thinks it might favor Josh more. Chris believes that Patrick and Josh need props – in this case microphone stands – to get the best out of their performances. They have to bring conviction to their words. (Meanwhile, Nate from The Voice Band is just shredding on the drums as usual. This man is superhuman behind the kit.)

Patrick and Josh could just form a duo and stay in the competition. That’s a valid idea, right? No? Ah, well. Because they seem like a pretty good match, and we give them bonus points for using the mic stands but not staying stationary behind them. Adam, who watches the whole thing like a proud parent, refuses to have an opinion since he’s already had to cut both these guys loose before. Blake thinks it’s really a matter of taste for Shakira, but he likes Patrick. Usher and Usher’s Hat give us sophisticated analysis but no actual decision. Shakira elects to stay with Patrick and his fabulous hair.

Winner: Patrick Thomson

6. Team Adam: Delvin Choice vs. Josh Kaufman, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”

Once again, NBC spoils that there will be a steal, so we know this is a no-lose battle before it even starts. These two were expecting to be paired together. Everyone also seems to have a fondness for sweaters, and Josh may also be the one person who likes watching his first battle. We do get to see the three options Delvin and Josh have, which are all classics from the Righteous Brothers, the Doobie Brothers, and of course Stevie Wonder, which the guys agree on. While Adam and Chris both are impressed from the go, they offer a few minor suggestions to the pair.

Are we sure these two aren’t secretly related? Maybe one of them is adopted? Because they just fit together musically, both of them hitting some crazy notes. We get our second standing ovation of the night afterward. After Blake hits on everyone except Carson, he votes for Delvin, who is probably the Comeback Player of Season 6 thus far. Usher praises both artists, and Shakira admits that she expected Josh to win before she was so shocked by Delvin. But we know it’s all good, as while Adam keeps Delvin, Josh gets picked up by Usher.

Winner: Delvin Choice and Steal: Josh Kaufman to Team Usher

The Voice continues its second battle rounds tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 Battle Rounds, Part 4

The Voice - Season 4

It’s hard to get excited about The Voice finishing up its battle rounds now that we know there’s more battle rounds in store around the corner. Nonetheless, the final handful of first-round fights concluded on Tuesday, so here’s who made it through to the Top 32.

1. Team Adam: Cary Laine (4 chairs in blind auditions) vs. Sam Behymer (2 chairs), “Give Me Love”

Here’s an interesting way to star the evening: two talented artists on Adam’s team that we’d honestly rather keep around. But one of them’s gotta go. Their coach hands them an Ed Sheeran song in hopes that they’ll “meet in the middle” on it. Cary is impressed by Sam’s originality, while Sam respects the power that her colleague brings. Advisor Aloe Blacc warns Cary about getting pitchy, while Adam coaches Sam not to be too quirky. “I want her to kind of break out of her shell,” he tells us. Meanwhile, we realize that Sam sort of reminds us of a young Keri Russell. There’s your random fact for the night.

In the ring, both ladies do well by the song; it’s really a matter of preference, with Cary’s power and the unique, as Aloe Blacc calls it, “yodel” Sam is capable of both highlighted.  Blake lightly criticizes both artists’ pitch, but both he and Usher say that the result will be a matter of Adam’s taste. Shakira doesn’t name a pick either, so Adam’s on his own when it comes to selecting which artist that he retains. He tells the singers that he actually sees a “striking similarity” between them, and that he’s making his decision “in the moment.” It’s an upset for Sam, who we love, but we get a little sad that Usher doesn’t push his button for Cary.

Winner: Sam Behymer

2. Team Blake: Kaleigh Glanton (4 chairs) vs. Noah Lis (2 chairs), “Everything”

This battle involves another of our favorites. It’s over a Michael Buble tune, so it gives a little bit of an edge to Noah, but not as much as you might think, as Kaleigh impresses The Band Perry right away. Blake wants to know “which one of these two can show a clear path of the artist that they want to be.” The second rehearsal confuses Blake a little bit, at least when it comes to Noah’s ad-libs, which he calls “way over the top.” At least we have no worries about whether or not these two can work together. They’re clearly having fun.

That positive vibe spills over into the actual battle, where these two wring every last drop of romance out of the song for one of the best battles of the season. “That was the nicest battle I’ve ever seen,” Carson quips. “So polite.” Usher calls Noah’s performance “too lounge,” and we respectfully disagree, but he does vote for Noah. Adam picks Kaleigh, and we skip Shakira to get to Blake’s decision time. Blake sides with Kaleigh, and we weep at the departure of Noah. Hopefully we’ll hear more from this young man very soon, because he could’ve broken out in this competition with a little more time.

Winner: Kaleigh Glanton

Not Aired: 3. Team Blake: Ryan Whyte Maloney (4 chairs) vs. Cali Tucker (1 chair), “What’s Love Got To Do With It”; 4. Team Adam: Christina Grimmie (4 chairs) vs. Joshua Howard (2 chairs), “I Knew You Were Trouble”; 5. Team Shakira: Kristen Merlin (2 chairs) vs. Lindsay Bruce (2 chairs), “Turn On The Radio”

Another montage, with the winners being Ryan, Christina and Kristen. We’re going to metaphorically downvote this for montaging Cali for the second time. There should be some rule against being montaged more than once and we should call it the Adanna Duru rule. It’s totally not surprising that NBC saves the battle in which Usher uses his final steal for last.

6. Team Shakira: Cierra Mickens (3 chairs) vs. Emily B (3 chairs), “Brave”

These two ladies wrap up this phase of competition with the Sara Bareilles hit from those phone commercials. Shakira doesn’t want Cierra to focus on singing it how Sara performs it; as Miranda points out, this is where you’re supposed to put your own spin on the song. Emily has tremendous volume that she has to rein in. Second rehearsal prompts Shakira to break out the Blake Shelton slow clap, to Miranda’s amusement.

We already know a steal is going to be used here, so it really just depends on who Shakira would like to keep, and who she will be giving to Usher. You’ve got to smile at the little fistbump at the beginning of the battle, though. Both of these ladies hit big notes but also have their issues, so again it comes down to preference. Adam votes for Cierra, Blake goes with Emily, and Usher calmly just avoids the issue because he doesn’t have to say anything. Shakira hangs on to Emily, and Cierra gets a new coach.

Winner: Emily B and Steal: Cierra Mickens to Team Usher

The Voice begins its second round of battles on Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. If you missed the announcement of what that means, click here for our breakdown.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 Battle Rounds, Part 3

The Voice - Season 4

The Voice is back with six more battles, and only a handful of steals remaining. Let’s break down the matchups, the winners, and who gets one of those lucky second chances – one from Blake, one from Shakira and two for the very discerning Usher.

1. Team Adam: Austin Ellis (1 chair in blind auditions) vs. Josh Kaufman (4 chairs), “Happy”

On paper, it’s a one-sided battle over a song that you’ve probably heard two dozen times by now. But it’s so not that simple. Advisor Aloe Blacc thinks the pairing will help “to show how diverse soul music is.” Adam wants to see more vocally from Josh and more performance-wise from Josh. He’s looking for both artists to engage the crowd, which to him is a must for any successful singer. (And if you’ve seen Maroon 5 in concert, you know that’s something Adam excels at.) In the ring, Austin more than proves a match for Josh; these two guys should record together immediately. Pharrell and his Arby’s hat would be proud.

Blake is feeling the energy of the performance. He calls Austin a “solid singer” but “can’t keep up” with Josh’s bag of tricks, so he picks Josh. Usher refers to Austin as a “caged beast” with a powerful upper range, even though he also would give the win to Josh. Shakira believes this is “one of the best battles, hands down” and can’t decide between the two. Adam doesn’t really surprise us when he selects Josh, but there’s no doubt that Austin acquitted himself well. Why didn’t Usher steal this guy?!?

Winner: Josh Kaufman

2. Team Blake: Alaska & Madi (2 chairs) vs. Audra McLaughlin (4 chairs), “When Will I Be Loved”

Blake has matched these ladies up because “they’re all country singers,” so it’s unsurprising that he gives them a Linda Ronstadt song. “It only takes one of you to mess one of you up,” Blake warns the duo, while of course Audra has the problem of matching one voice against two – but it can be done (Remember Justin Rivers knocking out The Morgan Twins? And they were the four-chairs in that battle.) While we resist the urge to say “Clap for Alaska”, Audra proves that our worries about her having to compete against a duo were totally unfounded.

Usher says pretty much what we just said, and even as Blake begs for help, gives him none. Shakira declares herself “Switzerland” and also refuses to tender an opinion. Is Adam going to offer any assistance to his BFF? No, he’s just going to “whine about the fact that I can’t steal whoever he doesn’t pick.” A nonplussed Blake has to make the decision totally on his own, and he sticks with the chalk, picking Audra. Both he and Adam seem annoyed that Shakira and Usher don’t use a steal on the duo; Adam even comes backstage to console Alaska and Madi afterward. Say it with us: Awww.

Winner: Audra McLaughlin

3. Team Shakira: Deja Hall (3 chairs) vs. Music Box (1 chair), “Eternal Flame”

Advisor Miranda Lambert doesn’t think Deja’s found her full voice yet, which might be a problem against the older and more experienced Music Box. “I can tap into what I’ve gone through and use it,” the latter tells us, as Shakira and Miranda try to coach the former into reaching beyond her comfort zone. Both artists actually regress a little in their second rehearsal, because they’re both thinking too much. After a random promo for Shakira’s new album, and a commercial bumper that spoils Usher using one of his steals on this battle, we get a not uncommon matchup: raw talent versus experience.

Adam tells the artists that “both of you guys have really special qualities” and leans toward Deja because he’s curious about what she could develop into artistically. Blake echoes Adam, but flips the script and goes with Music Box. Usher, who we already know has a stake in these results, compliments both artists and makes it clear he’s about to steal regardless of Shakira’s choice. That choice is Deja.

Winner: Deja Hall and Steal: Music Box to Team Usher (1 steal remaining for Usher)

4. Team Usher: Madilyn Paige (2 chairs) vs. Tanner James (1 chair), “Everything Has Changed”

In the battle of young singers from Provo, Utah, things get off to kind of an awkward start. So awkward that in second rehearsal, advisor Jill Scott suggests they sing facing away from each other. They’re having a hard time connecting with each other and the song, and that’s really a must to get the best battle out of them. On stage, though, they seem to relax a bit and finally make things click.

Adam quips that these two should’ve done something out of The Little Mermaid. Everyone talks about how adorable these two are, including Carson in the voice-over, before Usher sticks with Madilyn. We all know it’s hard for America to resist the power of cute teenage girls who can sing (see: Danielle Bradbery).

Winner: Madilyn Paige

5. Team Adam: Dawn and Hawkes (2 chairs) vs. Josh Murley (1 chair), “Stuck In The Middle With You”

We don’t think there are enough guitars in this battle. And here comes Adam with another classic rock song choice. Josh is slightly scared and intimidated, and Adam tells him he’s got to “stand out” from them, before coaching the duo to inject more attitude into their performance. “It’s loose and sloppy and drunk and cool,” he says of the Stealers Wheel tune. He emphasizes the harmony between the three singers, while advisor Aloe Blacc wants Josh to give Dawn and Hawkes a bit more love, as he’s not quite connecting with his partners or the audience. On the stage, we’re not thrilled with all those microphone stands keeping the artists relatively still, but they’re probably a must when everyone’s on the guitar.

Blake doesn’t think anyone stands out, with Adam quipping, “I do respect you. I don’t like you.” Usher sides with Josh, while Shakira wants a drink. “I think that we achieved what we wanted to by making Shakira want a beer,” Adam jokes, before he keeps Dawn and Hawkes. Shakira then decides to take a chance on Josh, and uses her final steal to give him a second life. “You had to wait,” Josh jokes, once he stops having a heart attack. Adam professes his love for Shakira, while Carson quips, “So Shakira, you want to have a beer with Josh that bad.”

Winner: Dawn and Hawkes and Steal: Josh Murley to Team Shakira (0 steals remaining for Shakira)

6. Team Usher: Bria Kelly (4 chairs) vs. Tess Boyer (1 chair), “Piece of My Heart”

Our last battle of the night is a good one (as if NBC would let the show end on a subpar note). Bria is impressed by Tess’s voice, saying it’s not every day that you get to sing with someone “as good as she is,” but Tess thinks it’s Bria who has the advantage. Jill Scott advises both artists that they have to “let loose” in their performance, which they’re starting to do by the time their second rehearsal rolls around. The actual battle itself is pretty even, with both singers having found that diva-esque confidence that their coach was looking for.

Shakira thinks the battle was “equally matched.” Adam quips that he should start toting his Grammys around like Usher. Blake votes for Tess. And that’s fine, because he takes her off Usher’s hands.

Winner: Bria Kelly and Steal: Tess Boyer to Team Blake (0 steals remaining for Blake)

We’re down to six battles remaining and just one precious steal on the table. The first phase of The Voice battles (there’s now a second round) ends tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘The Voice’ Changes Format Again: What Does It Mean?

The Voice - Season 4

On Tuesday, NBC announced a handful of changes to The Voice, confirmed the return of the hotly contested Twitter save, and revealed that Coldplay frontman Chris Martin will join the show as another guest mentor. As the network once again shakes up its biggest hit, we’re here to give you the breakdown of each change and what impact it may have on Season 6.

1. Chris Martin will be the “key advisor” for the next phase of competition.

The Coldplay singer’s addition follows the appointment of OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who was named the show’s in-house songwriter and producer in Season 5. Tedder co-wrote “Tumbling Down,” the first single for Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin.

It’s not the first time The Voice has brought on additional celebrities for spot starts; every squad but Adam Levine’s team were granted additional advisors for the Top 10 round in Season 3. Taylor Swift also visited to help out Michelle Chamuel in Season 4, though that wasn’t a pre-planned “get” for the show – Swift just happened to be nearby.

2. Instead of the knockouts, you’ll be seeing another set of battle rounds.

Officially called “The Battles: Round Two,” this newfangled part of the show will re-match the artists on each team who survived the currently airing first battle rounds. According to NBC’s description, artists who are paired together will be performing “an agreed-upon song.” Whether that’s between the artists, or the artists and their coach, we don’t know.

This differs from the knockout rounds, in that during knockouts, matched-up artists each performed individually, and with songs of their choosing. It’ll be a disappointment if the artists don’t retain at least some measure of song selection – the choices they make in knockouts have often clued us in to the kind of singers that they want to be.

What stays the same is that each of the four coaches will have one last steal in this part of the competition.

“Round two” begins in two weeks, on Monday, March 31, and will whittle the Top 32 down to the Top 20 (four battle winners plus one stolen artist per team). This part of the competition presumably lasts three weeks, as live shows begin on Monday, April 21st and usually start with the Top 20.

3. Yes, unfortunately, the Twitter Instant Save is back for Season 6 – and it’s now more complicated.

The most contested part of last season will return for Season 6, with an additional part. Now, the bottom three artists will have to perform again for your Twitter vote during each live results show. According to NBC, “These artists will each perform a new song that represents why they should earn the save.”

Whether that’s all three artists singing the same selection, or three different performances is not specified. What we do know is it sounds kind of like the “last chance” performances we saw in Season 2 – except now, it’s the public voting rather than the coaches deciding who to keep. At least this will mean less filler in the results shows?

So what does this all mean for The Voice?

It all amounts to more changes for a series that adds new developments every season. The return of the Twitter Instant Save will likely upset many viewers, and understandably so. It’s a wrinkle that favors the viewers who are able to see the show live on the East Coast, forcing audience members in other time zones to spoil the results show for themselves if they want to participate. Having the bottom three artists perform for that Twitter save probably won’t ease the annoyance about it existing in the first place, but it will add more contestant content to the results shows, which sometimes get overrun by guest performances.

Whether the new “round two” of battles is a good idea, we honestly don’t yet know enough to judge. It’s a different way to get to the same end result – the Top 20. But if this takes away the artists’ ability to choose their own song – even if it’s just having to take into account the opinion of a teammate – it will definitely remove something from the show. Their getting to select their own track says something about them as an artist, and the knockout round is the one time they’re guaranteed to have that ability. Oftentimes we see their coaches allow that in live shows, but that’s not for sure.

As for the addition of Martin? We’ll see once he starts coaching if it’s a good idea or just another celebrity cameo. Some guests have been great advisors, like Tedder when he worked with Team Adam in Season 4, or Jill Scott and Aloe Blacc this season, just to name two examples. Others, not so much. As long as The Voice doesn’t keep so many known names hanging around that the focus is taken off the contenders, we should hopefully be okay.

What do you think of these new changes? Are you excited or are you cringing? And do you like the constant changes to The Voice or would you prefer a show that stays relatively the same between seasons? Sound off in the comments.

The Voice continues Season 6 Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 Battle Rounds, Part 2

The Voice - Season 4

We’re now halfway through The Voice‘s battle rounds, and there were six more head-to-head matchups that went down on Tuesday night. Which also happened to be coach Adam Levine’s birthday. And the day that two Team Adam alumni released new music. Here’s who won, who lost, and who got one of the five second chances remaining in the competition.

1. Team Shakira: Clarissa Serna (4 chairs in blind auditions) vs. Jeremy Briggs (2 chairs), “Cold As Ice”

The two rockers on Shakira’s team are paired together on a Foreigner song. Shakira compliments Jeremy’s range, while advisor Miranda Lambert likes Clarissa’s grit, but also thinks that she was “holding back” in first rehearsal. They’ve both got to work on holding out notes and finding their chemistry. “When you don’t make it a performance together, you end up both looking bad,” Miranda tells us. In the ring, these two seem to have taken those notes, coming together to make an entertaining classic rock duo.

Adam says “the end of it was the best part” and chooses Clarissa as the battle’s winner. Blake points out both artists were singing in the same key, and also votes for Clarissa. Usher thinks the song selection was a challenge, and says both artists complemented the record, but sides with Jeremy. Coach Shakira wishes things had been “a little less dramatic,” but is ultimately happy with the finished product. Again using the “I can do a lot more moving forward [with this artist]” argument that she invoked on Monday night, she selects Clarissa.

Winner: Clarissa Serna

2. Team Adam: Delvin Choice (4 chairs) vs. Caleb Elder (1 chair), “The Man”

As if battling isn’t stressful enough, try having to rehearse an Aloe Blacc song in front of Aloe Blacc. That’s what happens to returning artist and four-chair winner Delvin Choice and the final member of Adam’s team, Caleb Elder. Adam wisely decides to let Aloe coach his singers on the performance of his song. Aloe not only explains the song’s origin and meaning, but he gives specific tips to each artist and also performs part of the song to help them out. Awesome advisor? We think yes. But the second rehearsal falls apart, leading Adam to point-blank say, “That wasn’t good.” He then makes Delvin and Caleb speak the lyrics as if they were rappers in order to find the rhythm.

This is a fun song to begin with, so that certainly helps, but the love these two guys have for each other comes through in a performance that energizes the crowd. Blake says that obviously the pair were having fun, but says that Caleb had “a lot more problems” and takes Delvin. Usher sees what Adam must have seen in Caleb, and says “it’s truly a blessing to have a coach like Adam, because he’s going to push you.” Shakira calls the performance “fun” and “an amazing time on stage,” and picks Delvin. Adam takes a moment to note that Shakira, for whom English is a second language, speaks it better than Blake – before choosing to keep Delvin. It’s a shame nobody steals Caleb, because he could probably have continued to grow with more coaching.

Winner: Delvin Choice

Not Aired: 3. Team Blake: Megan Ruger (2 chairs) vs. Ria Eaton (2 chairs), “My Happy Ending”; 4. Team Shakira: Ddendyl (1 chair) vs. Lindsay Pagano (1 chair), “I Feel The Earth Move”; 5. Team Usher: Morgan Wallen (2 chairs) vs. Brothers Walker (1 chair), “Hey Brother”

NBC continues its tradition of montaging battle rounds in Season 6, with three matchups that didn’t make air on Tuesday night. Sadly, they’re not available on YouTube either. We can tell you that Megan, Ddendyl and Morgan were the winners of these pairings, and no losing artist was stolen in any of them. Hey, that Morgan-Brothers Walker combination looked like fun.

6. Team Usher: Brittnee Camelle (2 chairs) vs. Melissa Jimenez (2 chairs), “Give It To Me Right”

Usher paired these two young ladies together so that they’d challenge each other, and he’s looking to see “the aggressor” in each of them. He thinks they’re holding back initially, and advisor Jill Scott believes that Brittnee is creating “a wall” between herself and her audience with her persona. Can the two singers avoid stepping all over each other? They’re certainly trying. Brittnee continues to get the majority of the notes from Usher and Jill, and Melissa thinks “I can do better” than her final rehearsal attempt, so there’s room for improvement on both sides.

The commercial bumper once again spoils that this battle ends in a steal, so it’s really just who’s changing teams and who’s staying with Usher. Both these ladies know how to strut, slink and sing their way across the stage, making this battle really one of personal preference.

Shakira is impressed by the battle, which Adam thinks may have given Blake a heart attack. “The only thing you didn’t do is punch each other in the face with boxing gloves,” he quips, before he sides with Brittnee. Blake, having taken a moment to recover, tells Usher that the pairing makes a lot of sense before voting for Melissa. So it’s down to Usher, who decides to keep Melissa on his team. Almost instantly, both Shakira and Adam make a play for Brittnee, who ultimately joins Team Adam. Adam is now out of steals in this part of the competition, and is the first coach to exhaust both steals.

Winner: Melissa Jimenez and Steal: Brittnee Camelle to Team Adam (0 steals remaining for Adam)

The Voice continues its battle rounds Monday night at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. In other related news, Season 2 finalist Tony Lucca released a new EP; you can read about Drawing Board here. And Season 5 finalist Will Champlin released his new single, “Last Man Standing,” on iTunes. Give those new tunes a listen while you’re waiting for more of Season 6.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.