The VoiceMon 7:30pm/Tue 8pm, Ch9
It all began a couple of weeks ago when a bunch of singers the great majority of Australia didn’t care a whole bunch about came and sang on a show. Some sang soft while others sang loud. One after another, singers sang and revealed their inner most secrets (“I don’t know if anyone turned around just then, because I’m so drunk I’m legally blind…”). Tonight the judges enter an entirely new stratosphere of contrived as J-Madd does his best David Caruso to explain to us that now – it’s time for the battle rounds.

What does it mean? Two people enter, one person leaves. It’s the Mad Max III of singing competitions, sans Tina Turner, though this time we DO need another hero – now more than ever. A singing hero that can defeat their opponent with a deft vocal lick and beguiling audience hook. Each team of 12 will, over the course of the next few shows, partake in the battle rounds until we’ve cut down the 48 contestants to 24.

We also meet the mentors that will be working with the coaches to help prepare the singers for their upcoming battle duets: Darren Hayes with Delta; Rikki-Lee Coulter with Seal; Benji Madden with Joel; & Megan Washington with Keith. To add more tension to an already tension-filled thing that is full of tension, if the coach cannot decide who stays and who goes they can call a time out to discuss with their team mentor their choice and then return to deliver their verdict. It’s brutal, it’s recapped after every ad break, it’s not as dramatic as you think it might be… this is The Voice Australia.

In a performance to allegedly inspire their teams and meet their contractual obligations, the show opens with the four coaches performing a cover of U2’s ONE. It’s a very good rendition but it asks too many obvious questions. Like Delta asking “Did I disappoint you?” (well, yes) – that’s a dead-set gimme and whoever who sang what lyric is either picking on her or doing her no favours.

Seal breaks the news gently to his team regarding the Battle rounds and who is singing off against whom. By gently, I mean in a manner that’s somewhat confusing and convoluted. “There is nothing else” says the piece of paper he gave them. “What it will come down to is who wants it more,” says the British soul singer. But there was nothing else! HOW DOES HIS LOGIC WORK??? His team are all entranced by him so perhaps it was a subconscious suggestion being revealed after some preparation earlier by a hypnotist? Cray cray.

The first Team Seal battle will be between Karise v Paula, singing Amy Winehouse’s BACK TO BLACK. The girls give Seal a group hug as he inadvertently cops a feel on Paula’s right breast – he really misjudged that hug. The girls front for their mentoring session with Seal & Rikki-Lee, where Seal advocates mass murder take place in advising Karise to kill people with her voice. No more Mr Nice Seal. The rehearsal goes well, and Rikki-Lee provides her own special insight to the girls: “You can do stuff she can’t do, and you can do stuff she can’t do.” It’s a coach/mentor match made in reality television heaven.

The girls bust out the song to the crowd and score a standing ovation for their efforts. All the other judges deliver their thoughts on the performance with all of them backing Karise. Seal’s advice to Karise earlier paid off as she’s selected and Paula unfortunately misses out. We get to see host Darren McMullan again on stage for what feels like the first time out of the voiceover booth and his choice of blue highlighted suit is somewhat disturbing, but what do I know from fashion.

Joel picks Ben to face off against Chris, singing THE ONLY EXCEPTION from Paramour. Seems like a pretty even match up until you hear the boys rehearse it in their mentor session. Ben’s having his own little personal moment as the lyrics remind him of his brother who passed away a few years ago. Nothing funny about that – just accurate. When it comes down to their performance, it’s clear that while Chris really wants it Ben has harnessed his memories and used them for good and not evil and busts out a major performance. Delts calls it for Ben; Keith calls it for Ben (by the narrowest of margins); and Seal calls it for Chris – but they don’t count for much. Joel is super impressed – he connected with Ben, but he sees Chris as the dominant front man… but in the end it’s all Ben.

The first Team Delta pairing for the night is Glen v Matty, to sing Maroon 5’s MOVES LIKE JAGGER. Their mentoring session is pretty painless, and when it comes to their performance both of them own the song and the stage. Keith loved the way Matty performed and he loved the vocal hook Glen gave it, all the while picking splinters out of his bum. Seal preferred Glen barely, and Joel goes with his gut and would select Matty. As the Delts struggles to make a decision on her own (AND WHAT’S WITH THOSE NOISY BANGLES SO CLOSE TO THE MICROPHONE?!?!), she calls a time out to discuss the decision with Darren (contractual obligation – check). You can hear the indecision in her voice, but ultimately she chooses Glen. It’s bittersweet for Glen as he’s become quite close to Matty, but only in a Brokeback Mountain kind of way.

Keith’s first battle pairing is a pretty easy decision – but making the decision is tough for the country icon. He picks Diana to go up against Jaz, and wants them to sing MR KNOW IT ALL by Kelly Clarkson – something Jaz is stoked with but not something Diana would pick. “They’re both sassy out the wazoo,” says Keith, “but I’m confident one will eat the other alive on stage.” In their mentoring session, Megan warns Jaz not to belt it out from the get go as it will leave her with nowhere to go. Except out the door. In the ring it’s a great performance from both girls, but Diana owns it with her vocal range for mine.

The coaches are positively beige with their recommendedations – if only Seal would be direct and tell us what he thinks. It’s like the coaches don’t want to upset the loser on the night. Why doesn’t someone stand up and say “Hey you Loser – you were crap, so you lose, Loser”?? Keith is the worst – “factoring in a million things” – however he sees sense and picks Diana. The judges hold court after the performance and discuss Keith’s decision, with both Joel & Delta surprised he picked Diana even though they both recommended her. Idiots.

There’s still time for more match ups – Seal matches Mitchell v Fatai to sing I LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE by Rhianna. Rikki-Lee thinks Fatai is the bomb and Seal thinks Mitchell has to watch his phrasing. “I’m most concerned about my phrasing,” says Mitchell in his after rehearsal interview. At least he’s paying attention. When they sing it’s a pretty decent performance which everyone goes gaga over, but I didn’t get it. The coaches are pretty evenly split (“On the night, my heart went to Mitchell,” says Delta). “Firstly, I want to tell both of you how proud of you I am,” says Seal, “I want to, but I can’t – you call that battle singing? There was no injuries!” Seal takes a time out to discuss it with Rikki-Lee which leads him to choose Fatai. He could have picked either and the crowd would have been happy. It’s brilliant hearing Darren with his Scottish accent pronouncing Fatai’s Tongan last name. Poor bastard. Keith would go and buy Mitchell’s album tomorrow given the chance if it existed.

Delta matches Adam against Rachael to sing SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW, made famous by Judy Garland. The stage rehearsal is a tense one for coach Delta and mentor Adam as both of them feel that the magic that Rachael had in her audition wasn’t there, AND Adam stepped it up. It’s a most hilarious moment when Darren announces for the battle to begin and the soft, lilting song begins – it hardly conjures up the thoughts of a battle. This feels like it’s song that will have Adam up against it from the get go – it feels very skewed in Rachael’s favour. The judges were all blown away by the performance from both (they were both very good)… the judges are again split though Joel would pick Rachael describing her as a shooting star (“blink and you’ll miss her”), which is a weird analogy as surely if she’s a shooting star she’ll only last for a moment and be gone. This must be her moment as Delta picks Rachael and confirms parents and Grandmas around the country will continue to tune in to future episodes of The Voice.

The second last battle pairing of Adam and Abbey from Team Keith singing The Fray’s HEARTBEAT, and it ends up being a somewhat controversial one as Seal feels neither singer delivered a connection with anyone in the audience. “Boo!” screams the audience. “Well, you know what – it’s an opinion,” says Seal, judging the audience. They’re not making it through to the next round. Given their performance it’s clear who won, so splinter-bum Keith has to find it a hard decision and ultimately picks Adam.

Far too much is made of the Prinnie v Mahalia duet pairing, singing Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE. Yes, we get they’re both massive singers; yes, we get they’re both friends and their kids play together; yes, we get this’ll be the “mother of all battles” (shudder). If only it weren’t a reality television program and we didn’t have to create a whole bunch of fake tension and drama. TENSION AND DRAMA ALL THE THINGS! Rehearsal sounds amazing, and when the girls get on stage for rehearsal it’s slightly better again somehow. As for the big performance: the build up is massive, but when they start singing it’s clear both ladies are massive talents… but Mahalia SMOKES Prinnie off the stage. The crowd and the coaches are right into it – it’s an amazing duet, and crowd shots of now Ch9 talent David Campbell (there to support Mahalia) never hurt. The friends embrace as the song ends.

Delta chooses Prinnie as she couldn’t stop watching her(!!); Keith things the audience is the winner for getting to watch it, but picks Mahalia; and Seal talks a lot about something before advising he’d pick Prinnie. Joel admits this was a very hard match up (ANOTHER “mother of all battles”?? Ew.), so he takes a time-out to allow an ad break to squeeze in right before the end of the show. Though there might be time for another if they’re lucky. The brothers converse in serious tones, with concerned faces (as concerned as their punished facial muscles will allow with all those piercings). In the end, Joel feels he could have gone with either equally but after some quality reality television reveal dragging it out, but considering it “was about this performance tonight” he has to go with… BIGGER PAUSE… Prinnie. Controversy, but everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.

Tuesday night we get to do it all again with a whole bunch of other singers. Who will be triumphant? Who will deliver the best performance? Who will be this season’s new MasterChef?