Liz Davis and Nicole Johnson squared off on 'The Voice.' (Tyler Golden / NBC )
Before President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in the second presidential debate Tuesday night, six pairs of singers (three glimpsed only briefly) went toe-to-toe in the battle rounds of "The Voice."
The singers may have been less combative, on the whole, than the politicians, but for them the stakes probably felt just as high. Which is why I feel compelled to express my pity for the poor contestants who get barely any screen time on these hourlong battle-round episodes, despite having been found worthy of making it past the blind auditions and, in half their cases, past these battle rounds as well. Those eliminated won't really get much exposure from their experience on "The Voice," and those who have advanced won't have earned much loyalty from the audience that will soon play a hand in selecting a winner.
I'm sure eliding these battles is a logistical necessity, now that more team members and an additional round have been stirred into this season's mix, but it has not been without its casualties.
Oh well. Those are the breaks, I guess. On to the battles:
Pairing: 25-year-old country singer Liz Davis vs. 18-year-old country singer Nicole Johnson
Song: "Baggage Claim"
Thoughts going in: Davis, though beautiful, isn't getting any younger, Blake Shelton noted, adding, that her break in the youth-oriented music biz "needs to happen now if it's ever going to."
The performances: Both came out swinging, and if either showed signs of the things Blake Shelton had warned them about -- diction problems in Davis' case and pitchiness in Johnson's -- I didn't notice.
The response: All the coaches praised the performances, which they found similarly strong, but Shelton had to make a pick, and he went with experience over youth (and occasional breathlessness): Davis.
Winner: Liz Davis
Steal? Sadly, no, leaving young Johnson in tears.
Pairing: Confident Kayla Nevarez vs. careful Alessandra Guercio
Song: "Wide Awake"
Thoughts going in: Nevarez's performance style and voice are looser, more instinctive, whereas Guercio approaches the work like a cautious student. It wasn't difficult to predict who would prevail.
The performances: Guercio did seem to have scuttled some of her reservations, approaching the performance with greater confidence than may have been expected, but it was easier to relax into Nevarez's onstage style.
The response: The coaches were split, but after a long lecture about confidence and humility, Adam Levine chose Nevarez.
Winner: Kayla Nevarez
Steal? Yes! Christina Aguilera said she understood Guercio's confidence issues and wanted to help.
And the quickie rounds …
Pairing: Ben Taub vs. Mycle Wastman
Winner: Mycle Wastman
Pairing: Adanna Duru vs. Michelle Brooks-Thompson
Winner: Michelle Brooks-Thompson
Pairing: Beat Frequency vs. Laura Vivas
Winner: Laura Vivas
Pairing: MacKenzie Bourg, who came back from a near-death illness to compete, vs. country-esque cutie Emily Earle
Song: "Good Times"
Thoughts going in: Neither singer seemed terribly strong, but that may have been a factor of the song their coach gave them, which didn't showcase either of their skills. CeeLo Green said he wanted to push them out of their comfort zones and challenge them, but did he push them too far?
The performances: The performances were serviceable, not rousing. Bourg was the more interesting singer to watch, though.
The response: The coaches were split. Levine and Shelton were underwhelmed, but preferred Earle, while Aguilera said she had a "better time" watching Bourg. Green expressed "mixed emotions," but said Bourg might be the more flexible singer and so named him the battle's winner.
Winner: MacKenzie Bourg
Steal? No. Shelton seemed tempted by Earle's country style, but ultimately felt he hadn't seen the "breakout moment" he was looking for.