A strange hybrid episode of The Voice began with the final battle round matches and ended with the first two three-way knockouts Monday night.
The biggest take away from the first half of the show — Huntley established himself as a front-runner on Season 24.
And, perhaps, even as the guy most likely to win in a season dominated by talented ladies.
Meanwhile, Brandon Montel nabbed the final steal of the battles, and my choice of verbs there is intentional.
To my ears, Brandon wasn’t as impressive as either of the females eliminated during Monday’s show. Those being Crystal Nicole and Brailey Lenderman.
If you’ve ever wondered why some singers are stolen and others aren’t, it could boil down to the order in which they performed.
The Voice split the 28 Season 24 battles into four taping sessions. As usual, the coaches used their steals early.
By the time the first session of seven battles ended, five of the eight available steals had already been used. Two more were used during the second taping session.
That meant just one steal remained when the final 14 battles — half the Season 24 cast — performed. And it was gone before the fourth taping began. That’s when Huntley and Brailey performed.
Seem fair? Sure doesn’t to me. Never has, though it happens season after season after season.
I’ve long argued the coaches should be making their steal decisions only after they’ve watched everyone perform.
I actually think having all the at-risk singers on stage while the coaches make steal decisions would add more drama than the current format, when we know the last battle we see in every episode is going to end in a steal.
And that way, every singer would have a chance to be stolen.
But, alas, The Voice will never change.
On to the recap.
BEST OF THE NIGHT
The match: Huntley vs. Brailey Lenderman
The song: “Hold My Hand” by Hootie & The Blowfish
The background: Brailey, 33, of Rosswell, Ga., turned two chairs in the blinds. Huntley, 33, of Spring Hill, Fla., turned four.
The feedback: Gwen Stefani called it “amazing” and said she’s worried Huntley “might win the show.” She gave him the edge. John Legend called Brailey “powerful,” but complimented Huntley on the crackle in his voice and the magnetism he brought to the stage. Reba McEntire called Huntley a “force of nature” on stage.
The decision: Niall declared Huntley the winner, Brailey was eliminated.
My take: Huntley won me over with his raspy opening line. And continued to impress with his stage presence and command of the performance. Brailey, as in her audition, turned in an impressive vocal. She just ran into a powerhouse opponent.
Special Note: No steals remained when this battle was filmed.
THE NIGHT’S HEAD-SCRATCHER
The match: Kara Tenae vs. Brandon Montel
The song: “Have You Ever” by Brandy
The background: Brandon, 29, of Memphis, Tenn., turned four chairs in the blinds. Kara, 33, of Riverside, Calif., turned three.
The feedback: John Legend called it “so good.” He loved the range Brandon showed off. He called Kara “powerful and brilliant.” He didn’t express a preference. Reba McEntire gave the edge to Kara. Niall Horan gave the edge to Brandon. Gwen Stefani called them both “so talented.”
The decision: Gwen named Kara the winner. John then swooped in and stole Brandon with the final steal remaining in the battle round, adding yet another four-chair turn recipient to his team.
My take: I did not like this performance. Not in the least. As in, I never want to hear that performance again. When they were singing at the same time, it sounded like Brandon and Kara were trying to sing over one another rather than singing a duet. But after a bit of a shaky start, Kara recovered and turned in a solid vocal. I’m not sure Brandon sang a single line without a run or some other vocal frill. That made his steal a complete head-scratcher for me. Lots of other singers were more deserving.
THE COACH GOT IT WRONG
The match: Caitlin Quisenberry vs. Crystal Nicole
The song: “The Song Remembers When” by Trisha Yearwood
The background: Caitlin, 27, of Denver, Colorado, turned two chairs in the blinds. Crystal turned one in a montaged audition.
The feedback: Niall Horan gave Caitlin the edge on her story-telling ability. Gwen Stefani applauded both singers. John Legend said Caitlin’s voice seemed more at home in that song. Reba loved the performance from both singers.
The decision: Caitlin was declared the winner by Reba. Crystal was eliminated.
My take: The twang in Caitlin’s vocals served her very well during a solid performance. But Crystal’s powerful vocals should have won her the day on a song that’s not exactly up her alley. So ended Crystal’s stint on the show, a stint that began by being montaged even though SHE WROTE her Grammy-winning audition song, “Only Girl (in the World)”, which became a smash hit for Rihanna. Way to go, The Voice!
Special note: Only one steal remained during the taping in which this battle was filmed.