Published: Monday, 06 June 2011 | Written by Karen Moul
By Karen Moul
The Voice's second Battle Round brought few surprises as several high-profile contestants moved on to the next stage of the competition. Powerhouses Javier Colon, Beverly McClellan, and Nakia all blew the coaches away with their blind auditions, so wins in the Battle Round were not a big surprise.
The toughest battle of the week was probably Tje Austin vs. Nakia, a matchup Austin described as "kind of like pairing Sade up against Janis Joplin." They were both great singing Ne Yo's "Closer" but when it was over, Austin went home. Nakia has been featured heavily in NBC promos, so his victory was not a huge surprise to regular viewers.
Leaving early was difficult for Austin. "I think that getting eliminated from the Battle Round is probably the hardest round to get eliminated from. For me," he said, "it would be great to be eliminated by America's choice."
"It's just hard," added Austin, "getting eliminated in the Battle Round when I feel that while Nakia is a great artist - he's a great guy, great artist - I would love to know what America would have thought, you know?"
In the David vs. Goliath matchup, Angela Wolff had to sing "Stand by Me" with Colon. Javier is so good, even many of the contestants consider him the favorite to win the whole thing.
Angela took the draw in stride. "It was just so much fun," she said. "It was such a fun song and it's a classic tune. Javier is amazing. It just felt really cool to be on that stage at that moment. He's just so good."
"I was definitely worried. He's such an amazing talent," Wolff continued. "I always had that little feeling that there was a possibility something could happen where I could surprise everyone, or something could take a different twist. But, my gut feeling was that Javier had it all the way."
Justin Grennan was not familiar with The Who's "Baba O'Riley," the song he sang with gritty hard rocker McClellan. The pair turned in an amazing performance and Grennan nailed the song, but the selection gave Bev the advantage.
"Pretty much any song would have been better than that song," said a disappointed Grennan after the episode. "Something maybe other than rock, which was pretty much all I got during the competition. I'm more of a soul singer and I really didn't feel like I got to show that side.
"But I think I killed that song...I was like, 'Damn, that was pretty good for a guy who didn't know the song.' "
Second chance contestant Jared Blake also advanced. The hardworking father of six is a fan favorite, and his performance with duo Elenowen (spouses Josh and Nicole Johnson) was the closest contest of the evening. It was also the most awkward performance yet this season, as the trio struggled to make "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" work for three voices.
The key, said Josh Johnson, was "instead of treating it like a battle we almost went into it as a trio performance...changing the key a little bit so it kind of worked well for all of us, and distributing the verses between all three of us."
Nicole Johnson agreed. She felt the song "was equally a challenge for me and Josh as it was for Jared, but we were all kind of figuring out how to make it our own and make it individual and unique for each of us. Once we kind of talked about it we were like, 'Hey, let's just go at this from the standpoint of just being a trio performance and let's not worry about anything else besides that.' "
After the episode, Austin, Wolff, Grennan, and the Johnsons joined a conference call with reporters. The Voice continues Tuesdays at 10 pm.
NBC UNIVERSAL Conference call with Justin Grennan, from Team Christina, Elenowen (Josh and Nicole Johnson) from Team Blake, Angela Wolff from Team Adam, and Tje Austin from Team Cee Lo.
May 18, 2011 12:00pm CT
QUESTION: Angela, you said when you got paired up with Javier that you were really excited to sing with him, but you also felt like he was the best singer in the whole competition. So, were you nervous right from the start that you were going to get sent home?
ANGELA WOLFF: Oh, yeah. I was definitely worried. He's such an amazing talent. I mean, we all admire Javier. I think everyone would agree with me that he's just absolutely fantastic. So, I was just looking at it more - the performance. I just wanted to enjoy being on stage with him and make it a great memory.
But, you never know, I mean I always had that little feeling that there was a possibility something could happen where I could even, you know, surprise everyone or something could, you know, take a different twist. But, my gut feeling was that, you know, Javier had it all the way.
SCIFI VISION: On the show last night, Tje, you talked a little bit about employing a strategy [of] holding back a little bit in rehearsal in the hopes of taking your opponent by surprise and the judges.
Looking back, do you think you did surprise them, and do you think a lot of the contestants are also sort of employing strategies? So far, only you and Tarralyn have really talked about it.
TJE AUSTIN: ...We come into the game, you want to give your best performance possible. I already knew that Nakia was a strong singer and I'm kind of a mellow singer, so it's kind of like pairing Sade up against Janis Joplin. You know, you've got this mellow tone and this huge voice, you know? So, I really wanted to see what his take was going to be on it.
But, my whole goal was to get up on stage and do me, sing a great song. I think we had a great duet, and I think I succeeded. You know, I got a lot of people in my corner, I did impress the judges, but they were definitely intrigued by his delivery.
QUESTION: Justin, is there a song that you wish you could have sung instead?
JUSTIN GRENNAN: Yeah, pretty much any song would have been better than that song, you know? Yeah, something maybe other than rock, which was pretty much all I got during the competition. I'm more of a soul singer and I really didn't feel like I got to show that side. A Stevie Wonder song, you know, maybe "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," something with a little more soul really would have shown people that, "Damn, you know, dude can actually sing that stuff."
So to be honest, quite frustrating, but I think I killed that song last night. I mean, I hadn't even really seen that performance yet and I was like, "Damn, that was pretty good for a guy who didn't know the song."
QUESTION: The, what would you say is the most important lesson you learned from the time you spent on the show?
TJE AUSTIN: The most important lesson that I learned? I guess be myself. You know, that's all - that's how I got on the show. They liked me because of how I sang. I learned a lot from all the other artists. I liked seeing how - where we all are in our careers. It was very inspiring.
So, I really - what I've taken from this show is how great we all were, where I want to be in five years, what type of career I want to have, and I'm just glad that I made so many great friendships. You know, everybody is so freaking awesome. This is like the best experience I've ever had in my life.
QUESTION: Justin, can you talk about exactly how you found your stride with "Baba O'Riley" and what you did since you weren't familiar with it?
JUSTIN GRENNAN: Well, you know, I can pick songs up pretty quick and the melody on that song's pretty simple, so that was actually one of the nicer parts about that tune. And I don't know, I've listened to it a million times, you know, over a very, very short period of time in between receiving the song and actually performing it.
So, that's kind of what I do. If I really need to know a song I just kind of immerse myself in it and just listen and listen and listen and listen, and sing it a million times, sing as much as I can, and kind of put my stank on it and that's what I did.
QUESTION: Out of the contestants that are left, who you are rooting for, if you have any favorites?
NICOLE JOHNSON: I don't know. It's hard to pick our favorites, so...
JOSH JOHNSON: Dude, everybody's so incredibly talented. As far as uniqueness, we really love Bev...
NICOLE JOHNSON: We love Bev.
JOSH JOHNSON: ...and just her energy that she brings, and she's just a loving person and has such a great personality, and yeah, she just was everybody's friend on the show, and probably the most loving person we met.
NICOLE JOHNSON: Yeah.
JOSH JOHNSON: ...She's just all around great singer and great person.
ANGELA WOLFF: ...I think I love Bev too. She's so awesome. Beverly is amazing. And I think that, for me too though, I can't help it, I'm kind of pulling for Javier, because he's a friend of mine and we had a lot of fun performing together and I just think he's - I think he's fantastic.
TJE AUSTIN: I love everybody, but I am rooting for - it's going to be a list, is that okay?
I love Frenchie. I love Javier. I'm such a big fan of Javier. I went fanboy a couple times after I met him. Sara Oromchi, you know, she's got such a great voice. Lily has a great voice. Casey Desmond is awesome. You know, it's such a hard question ... they're all so great. Everybody's so great, you know? And the four of us that are on this call right now, I feel like we're going to be doing some great things in the future. I feel like we're all awesome, so I'm still rooting for us.
JUSTIN GRENNAN: You know what, one of my better friends on the show is Jared Blake, and I'm really pulling for him, especially with his situation with his kids and I got to spend some time with him. And the other contestants know this, but he is just a real grounded solid guy, and he's a kick in the butt.
I have a feeling that Javier's going to take the whole shooting match, but you never know. There could be a dark horse somewhere that we're not - you know, that we haven't really heard everything from yet, but I got a feeling Javier will take it, but I'm still pulling for my boy Jared.
QUESTION: Josh and Nicole, how different was the whole experience being that it's two of you and not just one of you?
NICOLE JOHNSON: Well, it was very helpful to have each other to lean on - not that we didn't like make fabulous friends while we were there and everybody that was in the show is so supportive. And I honestly didn't feel like there was ever that negative competition underlining kind of thing going on.
But, as far as having me and Josh be together it was really great. I think it really strengthened our marriage in a lot of ways.
QUESTION: What surprised you most about working with the judges, any stories you can tell us about them?
JOSH JOHNSON: ...It's almost expected that they would come in and treat it like another paycheck, but they completely - they were totally there for us. They were there to help us. They were completely invested in the whole process and it wasn't just kind of clocking in and clocking out. It just was really refreshing.
TJE AUSTIN: I was so freaking excited to be on Cee Lo's team. It's amazing to be given this opportunity to work with someone of such amazing caliber. You know, I was constantly in awe. He's such a great artist, a great writer, and I just wanted to take something away from that. It really helped motivate me, you know?
To be in the music industry, to make my own mark, what type of career do I want to have? It was great when he said that he could see pieces of him in me, and then to meet Monica. Man, she's beautiful, you know?
But just nobody else can say that they've had this experience that we've had, to be around these artists. It was just very inspiring and it just pushes me to do so much.
QUESTION: Angela, during the entire performance with Javier, you were just gleaming, smiling ear-to-ear. What you were thinking or what was going on in your head?
ANGELA WOLFF: It was just so much fun. It was such a fun song and it's a classic tune. Javier is amazing. It just felt really cool to be on that stage at that moment. I think because Javier has really been standing out along the way, even from before the show even started, just from the commercials and the advertisements, he was already almost a favorite, you know? It's like, he's just one of those guys. He's just so good.
And so, I didn't have many nerves for that moment. I mean, I think after it was all over the nerves kind of rush[ed] in right when it was done, but I was just excited to be on the stage, and it was nothing like the blind auditions. It was a totally different feeling. It was just fun. And we had a lot of fun in rehearsals and everything. So it was just cool. It was a fun performance.
QUESTION: How much time do you get to rehearse a song, and it is it enough time to help relieve some of the pressure?
JUSTIN GRENNAN: You don't really have a whole lot of time. Gosh, I can't remember exactly how long it was. I guess I could go back and actually figure it out. It'd take me a while, but probably - I mean, gosh, less than 48 hours, from the time you receive the song until the time you're performing it.
If you guys think if I'm wrong, please chime in and tell me I am, because I honestly don't remember. But, I think it was about 48 hours or so. It could have been a little longer. It could have been 72 hours. I'm not sure. But, yeah...
ANGELA WOLFF: ...I don't remember exactly, but I know it was really short because I think we all were kind of nervous.
For me, we had, I think, enough time on certain levels because you're just focusing on a portion of the song. But, I think we all just wished we had more time with the band because most of us come from a background where we do play out live all the time, and so you kind of get your groove going with a group of musicians that helps you get through shows.
But, that was my only thing. I wished we had more time with the band, but I think we had just enough time to pull it off because everyone sounded great, I thought. I was really impressed with you guys last night.
QUESTION: Josh and Nicole, Blake said the song wasn't working for you guys. What did you and Jared do to make it work?
JOSH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think instead of treating it like a battle we almost went into it as a trio performance. Well, I think changing the key a little bit so it kind of worked well for all of us...distributing the verses between all three of us.
Unfortunately, Nicole's verse didn't air on the show last night, but it's on the recorded version, but we each got to sing a verse and we each got to lead a chorus. But, I guess that was mainly it, just a lot of going over the song together...
NICOLE JOHNSON: ...During that moment, when we're saying his isn't working, I think it was like Josh said. We were all kind of...trying to figure out how we're going to make it work.
Definitely the song is so different for all of us. I think it was equally a challenge for me and Josh as it was for Jared, but we were all kind of figuring out to make it our own and make it individual and unique for each of us.
And, you know, really pulling back and talking through it as a team, because honestly this is how Josh and I posed it with Jared from the get go – we're not going to look at this as, "Hey, we're going to come in smack you in the face with our vocals." It's like what Josh said, a trio performance. And I think it really - I think we achieved that.
So yeah, once we kind of talked about it we were like, "Hey, let's just - let's kind of go at this from the standpoint of like just being...[trio] performance and let's not worry about anything else besides that."
QUESTION: Is it easier to walk away knowing that you got beat by somebody who's a great singer, rather than someone who just had a lucky night?
ANGELA WOLFF: I think it would be a lot easier towards the end of the show. But, we were all just kind of getting started and I'm sure everyone wanted an opportunity to sing more songs and kind of reveal themselves a little more.
So walking away on that level is hard, but I didn't have too much shame walking away from Javier. He's so good that for me it was kind of comforting, I guess. I think I understand what you're asking. It is a little comforting that you lose out - if you lose out to someone like Javier.
But, everyone's so great that a lot of people have different opinions, you know? I mean it's pretty funny the feedback that they're getting from the show just because everyone has fans on the show, and there are a lot of people that have to walk away and their fans don't think they should, and so it goes both ways.
TJE AUSTIN: I think that getting eliminated from the Battle Round is probably the hardest round to get eliminated from, because you know we made it through the blind audition. Yay, America knows who we are. Yes, finally.
And now, for me it would be great to be eliminated by America's choice, where they are picking me out of 16 people. It's very hard to get eliminated when I'm just up against one guy and I haven't even made it to the live round.
So, it's just very frustrating to get eliminated, even if it's a great singer or either way. If it was a great singer or if someone just had a lucky night, it's just hard getting eliminated in the Battle Round when I feel that while Nakia is a great artist - he's a great guy, great artist - I would love to know what America would have thought, you know?
So, for me that was the hardest part.
JUSTIN GRENNAN: I'm not going to add anything to what he said, but I feel the same way as Tje. I feel like if it was left up to America with my battle, it would have been a very, very different outcome, but you know that's not how it was. It was definitely the hardest round to do because we're all friends.
I mean, I'm...staying and playing Words with Friends with Bev constantly, so it's difficult to go up against one of your friends.
SCIFI VISION: For those of you who are solo artists, what was it like going through the process of singing a duet, to have to share equal time and work out your harmonies or whatever with another person?
TJE AUSTIN: I enjoy singing with somebody else. You know, I love being a solo artist, but I love harmony. That is my big thing. I love blending voices and my whole goal singing with Nakia was to try to make the best performance possible, which I really do think that we did.
So, I enjoyed singing with Nakia. I thought it was great. I would love to do more with him in the future because I think we have really good chemistry, and he's my friend, you know? So, the fact that we were friends and we were singing such a great song together, that was really uplifting, so I enjoyed that. I really did.
JUSTIN GRENNAN: Yeah, you know, a lot of people in my circle, they'll see me play or sing and whatever, and they're intimidated, even if it's a female vocalist or a male vocalist. And we'll talk and I'll say, "Hey, well, we should do a duet sometime," and they're like, "Oh, no. I don't really want to do that."
And I love singing by myself, but I probably like singing duets better than I do singing solo because there's just an energy, a transfer of life, it seems, when you're singing with someone else. I mean, how perfect would it be to be in Elenowen's position? You know, to have your wife to sing harmonies with. God, that would just be ridiculous.
So, I'm honestly very jealous of that, because they already have a connection, intimately, and then they have a connect musically, so I love that. I love singing duets. I mean, if I could sing - if every other gig I could have someone with me singing harmonies or I can sing harmonies for them, I mean that would just be, shoot, that'd be a kick in the head.
TJE AUSTIN: Yeah, I think Elenowen does it so well too. I'm sorry; this is just on a side note. I think it's so hard to be in a relationship with someone and be in the industry, because you're constantly - I feel like someone puts their career over their partner's career. You know, like they're focused on themselves.
So, I think that what you guys do together and how you guys support each other, it's really awesome, so I really admire that from you guys.
JOSH JOHNSON: Thanks, Tje.
NICOLE JOHNSON: Oh, thanks, Tje.
JOSH JOHNSON: You guys are sweet.
QUESTION: Was there anything that surprised any of you? Any curveballs or anything that you didn't expect to happen?
ANGELA WOLFF: I was definitely surprised because I came back.
Because you know, they didn't (unintelligible) ask me the first time and I was packing my bags and was completely sure that I was going home, so that was shocking when they brought a few of us back for second chances.
NICOLE JOHNSON: I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Reba walk out that day. I think we got like, yeah, there was going to be an advisor (for support). But, definitely pleasantly surprised to see Reba McIntyre walking out towards me, and she just was awesome to work with, so that was a great surprise.