Taking on Adele: Johnny and Maybelle sing Rolling in the Deep. Photo: Channel Nine
Tonight it is Battle Round One, as we finally get past the dull old blind auditions and get down to the contestants hacking at each other with edged weapons.
At least I assume that’s what will happen. “It’s time to separate the good from the great,” says the announcer, making some fairly unfounded assumptions about the talent level on display on this show.
After an introductory segment that lasts until a few minutes before midnight, that weird Scottish guy who keeps hanging around the set announces the coaches, who walk out and sing a song, in barefaced defiance of public sentiment. Meanwhile the contestants are watching each others’ auditions.
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That cat-ears girl is still wearing her cat ears, but the others are restraining their anger at her for now. Then Kylie comes in and everyone screams and cat-ears girl makes a noise like a pig. She’s got a whole menagerie going on.
Kylie has pitted Johnny against Maybelle singing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, a poignant ballad about falling in love with a dolphin. Johnny is worried about Maybelle’s range.
Maybelle is worried about Johnny’s raspy low voice – I mean she says she is, it’s possible she’s being sarcastic. The pair of them stand by the piano while Kylie pretends to know stuff about music, and then it’s time for the battle. And the coaches are introduced again: this is a very introduction-heavy episode.
Opera time: Elly Oh sings Giacomo Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro. Photo: Channel Nine
The battle begins. The battles are duets, which really offers a lot of opportunities for contestants to screw each other over.
We quickly see why this was a great song selection by Kylie – it really allows the audience to hear just how dull and ordinary these two sound compared to Adele. We could have had it all! Johnny and Maybelle belt out, a moving expression of regret at having come on The Voice.
The crowd goes absolutely wild, though to be fair the crowd would go absolutely wild for a sheep sneezing. The coaches do a good job at conveying the impression of liking the performance, but three of the four pick Johnny over Maybelle for some reason. Will.i.am is the dissenting voice, telling Maybelle he was “so proud of that moment”, one of the most meaningless expressions of pride ever to be seen on television. The judges then have the chance to save Maybelle, but nobody does because they’ve got a lot invested in destroying her dreams.
It’s Ricky’s turn to pick his first battle. “It’s Ricky Martin, he’s right there!” says “C Major”, who we’ve apparently all agreed to actually refer to as “C Major”.
Anyway, he’s correct, Ricky is indeed right there. He cleverly creates a moment of fake tension by choosing Mia and Fely, who are really great friends and won’t like competing against each other, having been apparently under the impression that this show contains no element of competition. Also, Fely used to be in Hi-5, so it’s kind of cheating for her to be here at all really. “Fely has such stage presence,” says Mia, which is in itself a pretty unfair advantage.
Fely and Mia sing Young and Beautiful, and the crowd goes wild as the hallucinogenic gas continues to fill the studio. Ricky is moving in slow motion and looks like he literally wants to eat the singers. The winner is Fely, presumably because her outfit was better, although it was extremely unsuitable for all the little Hi-5 fans who now have some very confusing feelings.
And now Will’s battle – Julian versus Krishool. The song chosen is Stevie Wonder’s Superstition: once again, it’s important to choose a famous song by a legendary and distinctive singer in order to ensure that unflattering comparisons are extremely easy to make. Julian is a talented singer, but will he be able to match Krishool for having a weird name?
Julian has the first line of the song, but Krishool cleverly steps on it by yelling “Clap your hands, y’all!” and then doing a funny little dance routine so nobody pays attention to Julian at all. The judges pick Julian because of their inherent sense of fair play, and refuse to save Krishool to punish him for being a show-off.
Joel’s battle is between Holly and Courtney, who smile at each other in precisely that way you smile to indicate how much you hate someone. And then for some reason we don’t see them singing against each other, we go to Kylie’s second battle instead, I think they’re trying to go for a Lost-style chronology here.
Anyway Kylie’s is between Jackson and Robbie, and she asks them to sing lower, which is a mistake because when they sing lower they’re terrible. Therefore she asks them to sing higher. At this stage she’s really just messing with them out of boredom.
Robbie and Jackson, who both, in their own way, look like murderers, sing Strong, causing the crowd, which is now made up entirely of sound-activated robots, to go wild. The coaches are having trouble making a decision – which contestant is more likely to kill them in revenge if rejected? As Will says, “Jackson has a better voice, but Robbie has a thing”. And it’s true – throughout the song, Robbie’s thing was obvious for all to see. Possibly no Voice contestant has ever had a thing as much as Robbie has a thing. Kylie finds it so difficult to make her choice that she collapses into a sudden commercial break. Finally Robbie is chosen, but then Ricky saves Jackson so it’s a happy ending for everyone really, and we end on a high note.
No, wait – somehow, in defiance of the laws of physics, the show isn’t over yet. We’re back to Courtney and Holly and the vicious bloodbath they are about to generate. Courtney quickly makes it clear that she is perfectly willing to bite Holly’s throat out to win this battle.
Holly, allowing herself to be intimidated by Courtney’s raw hatred and stupid-looking dancing, is in torrents of tears as she tells us she didn’t expect to have to compete against someone with talent. To be fair nobody could have predicted the presence of creativity on The Voice.
Holly’s strategy is to remain in her own headspace – pretty brave of her. Courtney’s strategy is also to remain in Courtney’s headspace – it’s getting crowded in here. Holly begins singing, and the crowd goes wild, having caught sight of the production assistants brandishing cattle prods.
As the song continues, Courtney walks around the stage and waves her arms in the air to make it absolutely clear the contempt she holds Holly in. Holly, however, remains in her own headspace, which seems to a space in which moving off the one spot is not allowed. Joel gives Holly credit for not getting sucked in by Courtney’s tactics, and Holly actually gets through, prompting a nationwide collective yell of “SUCK ON THAT COURTNEY”.
Ricky is going to have another battle, between Jess and Elly. They will be singing O Mio Babbino Caro. “There’s nowhere to hide when you sing opera,” says Ricky, menacingly. It’s a fascinating battle between the untrained Jess, and Elly, who was trained but quit because she wasn’t good enough.
Lack of technique versus lack of talent – which will be triumphant? One thing is for sure – Will.i.am is sitting on the back of his chair. It’s a difficult decision for the judges, who have been smoking some powerful stuff and begun babbling about Pegasus. It’s up to Ricky, and he chooses Elly, although only because she’s a better singer than Jess. Will and Joel both want to save Jess though, and what aspiring opera singer wouldn’t want to be coached by two such classical music luminaries? She chooses Joel, and that’s the magic of The Voice – nobody ever knows why anything happens ever.
What have we learnt from tonight’s Voice? We’ve learnt that if Kylie Minogue tells you to sing a song differently, she’s almost certainly wrong. We’ve learnt that bullies never prosper. We’ve learnt that opera is a thing. And most of all, we’ve learnt that tomorrow night this show is also on.