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24 February, 2015 2:48 PM
Published by Kevin Mc Stravock
So after seven episodes of blind auditions, we're finally down to the Battle Rounds. The coaches must pair their acts off and make them battle against one another for a spot in the live shows. Luckily for those who are rejected by their coaches, each coach has the opportunity to steal one act from another team. So let the first week of the battle rounds commence.
Recap and videos after the JUMP...
Dean Forrester vs Aoife Smith - 'The Lovecats' by The Cure - Picks Dean
I love this song choice for these two, this was the choice for an amazing battle last year on The Voice UK and I think it has the potential to create another magic moment. It's a pretty good vocal battle, I don't think either of them have the same magical bluesy tones that the singers on the aforementioned battle had but it was good. It was missing a little light and shade, their voices didn't really go anywhere with the song. All the same, it was a solid battle, I think Dean's vocal was stronger and more distinctive.
Ashley Loftus vs Jolene Burns - 'Magic' by Coldplay - Picks Ashley
Two of Bressie's quirky girls are going head to head now on this recent Coldplay hit. I love the song and these two are two of the strongest female vocalists on Bressie's team in terms of tone. It's an interesting song choice and I'm liking the stripped back feel to it, it works better because they're both quite nervous singers so it adds to the intensity of the performance. Ashley sounds great on the song, she has a very strong voice but it's Jolene who surprises me, her tone feels slightly richer and her upper range sounds exquisite on the song. It's a tough one but I was slightly edging towards Jolene although I can see why Bressie picked Ashley also.
*Steals Sasha Hatam-Smith from Team Kian*
Kenneth Usher vs John O'Grady - 'Riptide' by Vance Joy - Picks John
Love this song choice, one of my favourite songs of the last year. I wouldn't necessarily have paired these two singers together as they strike me as being quite different from each other but perhaps in this case the contrast will work well? I'm definitely more into Kenneth's delivery of the song, John has a good voice but I find his style rather theatrical and he oversings what should be quite a stripped back, acoustic song. Kenneth's voice probably isn't as technically strong as John but I enjoy hearing his husky tone on the song, I'm disappointed that he was sent home.
Russell Hogg vs Ken Murphy - 'Get Off Of My Cloud' by The Rolling Stones - Picks Ken
Whilst I can acknowledge that vocally this was actually really rather good, I didn't particularly enjoy this performance myself. There's something about Ken's style that just irks me a little, the whole zany stage style just feels really forced to me and I much preferred Russell's more straight up rock delivery of the song. I sort of feel on a show called 'The Voice', Bressie picked Ken more for his personality than his voice, Russell's blind audition was much better than Ken's and I also feel like his vocals were stronger here.
Catherine Hughes vs Laura Enright - 'The Universial' by Blur - Picks Laura
Catherine and Laura both got four chair turns in their blind auditions. This, of course isn't Catherine's first time getting to this stage of the competition, she made the Battle Rounds on Team Jamelia last series but didn't get to perform her battle because she went into labour early on the day of her battle. So hopefully this time the battle actually takes place. It does and what a great battle it is. I know Bressie has got some stick for his song choices in the past but this is an absolutely brilliant battle round performance, it has to be said. He really brings out the best of both performers with this song, they each bring something different to the table but it's Catherine's soothing celtic tone which really impresses me. Their vocals soar on the song and I totally disagree with the other coaches' views on the song. This was fantastic, I am however really gutted to see Catherine go home, even more annoying is the confusing editing which makes it look like she could have been stolen whereas people who went to the filming have confirmed that all of the coaches' steals were gone when this battle was filmed.
*Steals Kayleigh Cullinan from Team Una*
Denise Morgan vs Hannah Stockwell Quinn - 'No Rain' by Blind Melon - Picks Denise
Former Voice UK contestant Denise and Hannah both got all four coaches turning in their first audition. Why has Bressie paired his four strongest contestants together out of interest? It makes zero sense considering that some of the other pairings have been significantly weaker, it just means that we're most likely going to lose one of these two talented ladies. I'm not totally sure of the song choice, it's nice but it doesn't really go anywhere. That said, they both have fantastic voices, Hannah probably has the technically stronger voice but Denise's tone and performance ability really shines in this battle. Again, just like the last battle, it's pretty much neck and neck between these two, I'm glad that Denise gets through but gutted for Hannah, again I can't understand why nobody chose to steal her, what are they waiting on?Chloe Wilders vs Emma Humber - 'We Don't Eat' by James Vincent McMorrow - Picks Emma (Una steals Chloe)
This is an absolutely fantastic song choice for these two girls, Emma did a great cover of 'This Woman's Work' in her initial audition whilst young mum Chloe wowed with a Jason Mraz cover. This is such a storytelling song and both of them have captivating stage presence, Chloe's country twang and powerful voice is beautiful to listen to whilst Emma has a much more vulnerable, tender voice and gives a really sincere cover of the song. This is without a doubt my favourite battle of the series, the song suited both of them to a tee and they each added something totally different to the song. I expected Bressie to pick Emma but it was only right that Chloe was given a second chance as her vocals were also stunning. Great result. In my opinion, the winners of the last three battles on Team Bressie should make his quarter final line-up.
Chris Brady vs Adam Cummins - 'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' by Aerosmith - Picks Chris
I don't really remember either of these guys' first auditions if I'm being honest, there's quite a few samey male vocalists and sadly these two both sort of fell into that category for me. Not a fan of this song choice, it's a pretty dated choice and I'm not sure why you would decided to give it to two singers with very limited voices because it really exposes their voices. They did the best with the song that they could but how can you expect to give two singers with relatively small ranges a song which is normally belted out, it needed someone with a massive vocal range who could absolutely belt the big notes out. There were pitch problems on both sides but I slightly preferred Adam's interpretation of the song. Overall, it was a pretty dreadful song choice for both guys though.
Sasha Hatam Smith vs John Bonham - 'Animal' by Def Leppard - Picks John (Bressie steals Sasha)
Interesting pairing and a pretty great song choice, I had a feeling that Sasha might be a bit of a rock chick so it's nice to see her getting the chance to just belt this song out. After such a tame arrangement of another rock classic earlier for two of his team, it's nice to see Kian just letting these two absolutely belt it out. The song is clearly better suited to John as this is where his strength lies, but I'm really impressed by Sasha, she does a fantastic job of the song and really nails all of the tricky notes. John was in his element with this song and as a result, deserved to go through but I'm glad that Sasha got stolen by one of the other coaches. Both Una and Bressie try to steal Sasha but she decides to join Team Bressie meaning she's through to the live shows.
*Steals Caoin Fitz from Team Rachel*
Kate Purcell vs Rebecca Kelly - 'Torn' by Natalie Imbruglia - Picks Kate
Bit of a strange song choice this, it probably suits Kate better than Rebecca but I would have personally hoped for something a little bluesier. This wasn't great to be honest, both of them had pitching issues but Kate was generally stronger than Rebecca. Rebecca sounded very nasally in the song and I felt got swallowed up a little when they were singing together. Moments like this make me really question Kian as a coach to be honest, it just feels like a really lazy song choice.
Kathleen Mahon vs Fionn Gardner - 'Some Nights' by Fun. - Picks Fionn (Una steals Kathleen)
Finally we actually see a really good battle in Team Kian and a smart song choice for his two contestants. These two were a real surprise, I liked both of them in their blind auditions but wouldn't have thought of them straight away when I was thinking of contestants through to the Battles Stage. Actually, although I love Fionn, there's something so captivating about Kathleen during this song choice, she just radiates enthusiasm and her voice sounds great in this performance. I expected Fionn to make it through and I'm happy for him but I'm delighted that Una stole Kathleen because I think she's a real dark horse in the competition, she has a fantastic voice.
Stuart Bond vs Helena Bradley Bates - 'Free Bird' by Lynyrd Skynyrd - Picks Helena
Not sure on this song choice, it's a little dated for my liking even if it is a timeless rock track. Helena has a really powerful voice but I actually think Stuart has the better tone for the song. Before taking to the stage, Helena reveals to Kian that she's pregnant and due to give birth before the live shows end. It's deja vu for Kian who previously had Kellie Mongan in his team in Series 2 who was heavily pregnant by the time the live shows came around. In the actual battle itself, it's very close but although I love Helena's powerful rock voice, Stuart's tone is surprisingly great, he really improves on his blind audition and I actually loved his voice in this performance. It's Helena who gets the place in live knockouts however.
Karla Chubb vs Ciara Monaghan - 'Wide Awake' by Katy Perry - Picks Ciara
There's a first for the series as Kian walks out on these two girls during the second day of rehearsals, frustrated at the lack of practice they have been doing overnight. Whilst I can't blame him, their struggle is mostly due to the totally unsuitable song choice he has given them. This song has quite a big range and neither of them are particularly powerful singers, Ciara is stronger than Karla but it just feels like a bad song choice, something that didn't require quite as much power, perhaps Team by Lorde would have fitted them far better than this. The battle honestly isn't great, Ciara is definitely stronger but neither of them are vocally brilliant. I'd put most of the blame with Kian for the song choice to be honest but it was definitely the right decision, Karla's quirky tone came across too forced on the song.
Jo Petit vs Colm Conlon - 'Wrecking Ball' by Miley Cyrus - Picks Colm
Singer turned trainee music producer Jo and singing farmer Colm are the final pairing on Team Kian. A bit of a left-field song choice this but I think it's a risk that could well work for them. Jo is a bit apprehensive to begin with but as rehearsals go on, he begins to feel a little more comfortable with the track. Neither of them sound great on the song to be honest, their voices crack way too much during the performance, Jo has more raw potential than Colm in my opinion, I think he has less bad habits than the latter. Kian made a mistake in allowing them to do arrange the runs in the latter half themselves though because to be honest it just sounded a bit of a mess. Colm's tone is unique but he's constantly hitting bum notes. I'm kind of surprised that he made it through over Jo though neither were great.
*Steals Pat Fitz from Team Una*
Kieran McKillop vs Patrick Donoghue - 'You Give Me Something' by James Morisson - Picks Patrick (Rachel steals Kieran)
This is the most obvious battle result of the night, Patrick's voice is massive and although it's pleasing to see Kieran improving quite a lot on his blind audition, Patrick's deep, soulful tone absolutely cements his rightful place in the live shows. I was actually impressed to see how much better Kieran sounded in this battle than on his first blind audition where I wasn't that impressed by his voice. That said, Patrick reminds me a lot of Ash Mitchell from The Voice UK, his voice is just SO strong and sadly Kieran is just no match for him on this song. He not only can sing fantastically but he really harnesses the emotion of the song. I'm glad Kieran gets stolen by Rachel though as he had improved a lot.
Nicola Lynch vs Rachel Murphy - 'Roar' by Katy Perry - Picks Nicola
This is probably the most closely matched battle so far in terms of vocal ability, I would probably put Nicola and Rachel at similar levels in terms of talent. For me however, when it comes to it, Rachel's voice absolutely soars on this song, she just takes the song on and does it justice, her voice sounds so pure and effortless. I like Nicola's quirky tone but at times she overdoes it with the runs and tricks and they can get a little tiresome. I feel on technical merit, Rachel deserved to get through, she definitely had the stronger vocal. I can see why the coach chose Nicola because she certainly has a distinctive voice but for me, Rachel was better on the night.
Sinead Hansard vs Kelley McArdle - 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)' by Kelly Clarkson - Picks Kelley
This is the second absolute clunker of a decision that Una has made. It was fairly obvious who sounded better during this performance, I enjoyed Kelley's first audition but she was quite weak during this battle, Sinead had a much richer and stronger tone and definitely sang the song better. I'm not sure what has possessed Una to kick out two of her strongest female singers (Rachel Murphy and now Sinead) because although Kelley is good, like Nicola I find her voice quite thin and a little grating after a while.
*Steals Kathleen Mahon from Team Kian*
Shauna Nolan vs Shannon Doyle - 'Heart Attack' by Demi Lovato - Picks Shauna Nolan (Rachel steals Shannon)
Una's next all-female pairing is Shauna and Shannon, she made two stinkers of decisions with her last two all-female battles so hopefully she doesn't repeat form with this. Shauna is a lot more comfortable with this song than Shannon, who is happy with it but doesn't quite have the same vocal capacity as Shauna who powers through the high notes with ease. This is a pretty good performance actually, the start is a little pitchy on both girl's parts but they seem to get into the performance and actually both deliver very strong vocals. For me it was Shauna who really delivered the performance although I was pleasantly surprised by Shannon's tone, it was really nice on this song. I loved that little falsetto she did towards the end as well, both of them deserved to get through, there is certainly room to improve for both of them as they were flat at points but it was a good performance.
Niall O'Halloran vs Kayleigh Cullinan - 'I'll Be There' by The Jackson Five - Picks Niall (Bressie steals Kayleigh)
Another battle of the four chair turns, I'm not sure why the coaches are pairing all their four chair turners together because surely that means they're getting rid of some of their stronger artists? Anyway, I do think this is a pretty good pairing as both of them have similar styles, they're quite soulful singers with massive ranges. Clichéd song choice, I would have loved to hear them doing something like 'Remember Me' by Daley and Jessie J. This is a step down from their first auditions, Niall sounds a little flat at times and Kayleigh, although vocally probably the more consistent one just clams up and delivers practically no emotion. They're easily amongst the top singers technically in the contest but I don't think this was a great performance at all, Kayleigh's voice starts to go a little flat in the lower parts of the song but her upper range is superb. Unsurprisingly, Bressie steals her having raved about her at the blinds, I do think there have been better battle round performers who weren't stolen but Kayleigh's talent is undeniable, Niall is great too.
John Sheehy vs Pat Fitz - 'Love Runs Out' by One Republic - Picks John (Kian steals Pat)
Yoga instructor John and former You're A Star contestant Pat are facing off on this One Republic track. I don't really like this for either of them, it becomes very pitchy particularly in the second half of the song and the transition between the falsetto parts and the rest become very sloppy. I kind of feel that this song needs a bit of rasp to make it work, that's why the original is so good and Pat has a slight hint of that in his voice, John's voice is a bit nasally for my liking if I'm being honest. That said, there's a part of the song where Pat goes off the melody so I can understand where Una was coming from. To be honest, I wasn't massively in love with the song for either of them, I personally prefer Pat's voice because I find John's a little irritating at times but it wasn't a great song for this pairing.
Mark Joyce vs Evan Cotter - 'Eleanor Rigby' by The Beatles - Picks Evan
I actually had forgotten both of these guys so I was sort of shocked that Una paired them together as opposed to pairing them with some of her strong singers as they sort of strike me as battle round fodder. Una originally gives them 'Superhero' by The Script but they're both struggling with it so she changes it to this. Not a great change to be honest, the song literally goes nowhere so it's the most anti-climactic battle ever, there's absolutely no atmosphere because it's just not a battle type song at all. Evan certainly has a stronger voice, Mark's tone feels a little forced and I just think he has a much more limited voice than Evan. Not a particularly strong performance, I don't know that I can see Evan making it past the live knockouts if I'm being honest.
*Steals Chloe Wilder from Team Bressie*
*Steals Kieran McKillop from Team Una*
Sarah McTiernan vs Tara Gannon - 'Everything's Changing' by Sigma feat. Paloma Faith - Picks Sarah
This seems like another fairly obvious result as Sarah was one of the clear standouts in the blind auditions. This is actually kind of pitchy on both parts, I love Sarah's tone but the way she does her runs, her voice tends to wobble a little. I like Tara's deep, soulful voice but it's a similar story, she does sound a little pitchy and her voice cracks a bit. Both girls have good moments and weaker moments in the song but I just slightly prefer Sarah's tone, she does need to watch that she doesn't go off pitch though as they both sounded off towards the end. I think it's the right result however, I did notice an improvement in Tara's voice but thought Sarah was the overall stronger singer.
Caoin Fitz vs Paddy Kennedy - 'Purple Rain' by Prince - Picks Paddy (Kian steals Caoin)
This is a strange song choice for a battle, it doesn't feel very much like a battle song and I'm not sure that it really works. They basically sing it like two solo singers, each singing their own part with a small section where they sing together and I'm a bit underwhelmed. Caoin does it better than Paddy who still has the habit of singing from really deep in his throat causing his voice to crack a little. It's not a terrible performance but it's not a particularly great one, I'm sort of surprised that Rachel picks Paddy as I felt that Caoin's vocals were stronger but good to see Kian give him another shot, especially considering that this is his second time in the Battle Rounds where his coach hasn't picked him.
Amy Hansard vs Ronan O'Healey - 'Human Nature' by Michael Jackson - Picks Amy
Considering that her sister has been eliminated by other coach Una, hopefully Amy fares slightly better with Rachel. Again, I'm not loving this song choice for them, seems I really can't be pleased this season. Just like Kate vs Rebecca, both of them are quite pitchy, I'm going to blame it on the song choice but nerves may take a factor too. Amy sounds slightly better than Ronan who I feel was quite out of tune throughout a lot of the song. They had a good rapport on stage but the song just didn't translate well into a battle performance, the deciding factor for me were the higher notes towards the end which Amy hit and Ronan simply didn't go for, overall it was a weak battle but I would have chosen Amy also.
Cristin Nolan vs Paul Taylor - 'Jackson' by Johnny Cash and June Carter - Picks Paul
This is probably the best pairing and song choice Rachel has made so far. Country girl Cristin is paired against Paul, who reveals that he is currently living in his car with his only source of comfort being his two dogs, he busks on the streets then returns to sleep in his car at night. I actually really enjoyed this performance, Cristin improved a lot from the first audition and Paul surprised me with how much he really owned the role in this song. It's the first battle where I feel that they really gel as a duo and have fun with it, the coat thing was a little cheesy but we all love a little cheese. Paul has something that vocal lessons can't teach you, he just has music within him and emotion is so effortless with him. His blind audition was a highlight of the series so far for me, I'm delighted that he makes it through although credit to Cristin who was also really good.
Ellie-May Bopp vs Leanne Power - 'Just Like A Pill' by Pink - Picks Ellie-May
18-year-old leaving cert student Ellie-May and 29-year-old Leanne (pronounced Lann-e) are a very well matched pairing, they both have quite left-field voices and both have very distinctive styles. I think this song is actually a decent choice for them but Leanne appears to be struggling with her nerves in the rehearsals, feeling like she doesn't stand a chance against Ellie-May. Vocally, I don't think there's a lot between them but Leanne just seems to be holding back so much. When it comes to the actual battle, Ellie-May has been having throat problems leading to her voice cracking a little during the song. To be honest, Leanne was probably vocally better on the song but Ellie-May definitely gave more in the performance aspect of the song, I feel like Leanne was still holding back a bit emotion wise which is a shame as I loved her first audition.
Cian O'Melia vs Malcom Urquhart - 'Bonfire Heart' by James Blunt - Picks Cian
Actually for once it's not vocals that are the big problem with a battle, both of these guys are pretty decent actually apart from when they sang together and sort of just sang over each other. What's lacking big time with this performance is...well the performance itself. They look so awkward on the stage and just kind of stand in the one spot. It's probably nerves but they don't look comfortable on the stage at all. I preferred Cian to Malcom based on his voice, I loved the little falsetto bits he did and thought he was that bit stronger overall.
Gemma Lomax vs Brian Dunne - 'Always' by Bon Jovi - Picks Gemma
Rachel sets this song to the worry of Brian who feels like the high parts of the song are way too high for him to reach, whereas it's the lower bits of the song that Gemma is struggling with. Seeing her acts struggling, Rachel changes the notes slightly and lowers some of the higher parts of the song. It does sort of take away from Gemma's moment to shine as it sounded like she was nailing those parts in rehearsal but Brian manages some pretty decent falsetto notes. That said, Gemma is most definitely the stronger singer here, she powers through the song with ease, I agree with Bressie that she didn't have as much of a chance to shine with the song being lowered to suit Brian. The parts towards the end were a little shouty but Gemma definitely had the stronger voice.
So that's the battles OVER... Join us next week when the live knockouts will begin. This year, each coach will whittle their nine acts down to just three to take through to the quarter final. I'm not sure how I feel about that, I quite liked how we saw a lot more of the acts than we do on the UK version so it'll be a big change but I'm open minded.