The Battle Rounds for season 9 of The Voice are in full swing, with the contestants pairing up for their most important performances yet. Some prevail, others are sent home and a handful get second chances when the coaches use their Steals.
BuddyTV spoke with some of the advancing artists from the second Battles episode during a conference call. They discussed having to perform with their competitors and if they felt nervous going up against strong talent, as well as what it’s like to sing a song in front of the original artist. Also, the singers that didn’t get much air time (only featured in a montage video) give some insight into what we didn’t see on the show.
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Pairing Up for the Battle Rounds
The Battle Rounds are a lot different than the Blind Auditions because now the contestants are performing with another singer. And sometimes they’re wondering if they can measure up to the other person’s talent. Jeffrey Austin said, “When I found out I was going to be paired with my partner Noah Jackson, I was pretty scared because the guy’s got incredible control and such a great tone for someone his age; he’s only 19. And furthermore, our song ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ by The Weeknd was absolutely more in his wheelhouse, and so I was definitely nervous. And going into the rehearsal with Gwen and Selena, that definitely showed.”
Sometimes, a pairing happens where the singers know right away why they were put together. Madi Davis said, “I knew I was going to be paired with Sydney [Rhame] as soon as I found out that she was going to be on Pharrell’s team because out of everybody on our team, it just made the most sense to put her and me together, not only because we’re close in age but because we have similar styles.” She also admitted that she and Sydney have been friends since the beginning of the season. Madi was “kind of upset” at first but found it to be a great opportunity to sing with a close friend.
Keith Semple expressed the same sentiment, about knowing who he was going to be paired with before it even happened. “Any other pairing would just be silly, the two rockers and all that.” But he admits that he had “a little bit of an unfair advantage over Manny on that song [“Baba O’Riley”] because I have sung it literally maybe a thousand times. I have sung that song inside one of the medleys that I do with my band.” But he loved being able to perform with Manny because, as he put it, “Everybody loves Manny.”
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Performing One of the Coaches’ Songs
Song choice is important on singing competition shows, but there’s even more pressure when they’re singing a song by one of the coaches. Kota Wade and Alex Kandel performed “It’s My Life” by Gwen’s band No Doubt. “When I found out I was going to be singing a song that No Doubt had done, I was really, really, really nervous,” Kota said. “And it proved to be a really difficult song to battle with.” She went on to say, “And it was really nerve-wracking having to perform a song that was special to Gwen to her face, and know that she was thinking about it in a completely different way than we were thinking of it.”
They weren’t the only ones having to sing a song in front of the original artist. Chris Crump and Krista Hughes took on “When I Get Where I’m Going” while Brad Paisley mentored them. The song wasn’t in Chris’ genre (“It was way out of my wheelhouse,” he said), but he realized, “It’s about the story you tell, and the story was very personal to me. … They played that song at my grandfather’s funeral … not even a month prior, so it meant something to me, and it still does.”
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The Montage Singers Speak Out
Some singers are relegated to montage clips since there’s not enough time to feature everyone. Kota Wade was one of them. To give some insight into what we didn’t see, she said, “My strategy going into it was I was literally going to leave everything on the table. … What you didn’t see was how crazy I was running around the stage and just singing my lungs out and it apparently worked. The coaches all said it was an interesting way that I performed it that pushed me over the top. So my strategy worked.”
Jeffrey Austin, also included in the montage video, mentioned that in rehearsals with Gwen, she wanted him to connect to the song more on an emotional level. “While she appreciated the ability that you have as a vocalist and a technical singer, she really doesn’t care about it if there’s nothing behind it with emotion.” Gwen obvious saw that improvement. “There was just a clip of her feedback [on the show], but it was really all about the progress that I’d shown from the first piano rehearsal with Selena to the performance on stage.”
The other pairing in the montage was Madi Davis and Sydney Rhame. Madi said, “What you guys didn’t see about the rehearsals was that Sydney has this really strong voice that’s really loud and just really powerful. And Pharrell thought that I was going to be overshadowed by her power if I didn’t find a little bit of my own.” She admits that it was “really frustrating” to hear that because “I felt like no matter what I did, I wasn’t going to be as powerful as Sydney and I was just going to be really dull compared to her as far as vocal strength goes.” But she ended up winning the battle, so obviously Madi rose to the occasion.
The Voice airs Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)