Seeing red: Reba McEntire doles out much-needed tough love during 'Voice' Battles

Reba McEntire delivers some tough love on 'The Voice.' (NBC)
Reba McEntire delivers some tough love on The Voice. (NBC)

New The Voice coach Reba McEntire has had some difficulty settling into her red chair in her inaugural season, reportedly not enjoying the audition process. But now that the Season 24 Battle Rounds are fully underway, she seems to have gotten into her groove. As a three-time Voice adviser dating all the way back to Season 1, she was in her element. Finally this 68-year-old “third-generation rodeo brat” was able to put her decades of experience to practical use.

Reba was even willing to dole out the sort of rare honest criticism not witnessed since straight-shooting Adam Levine was on the show — although she delivered her critiques in a kinder and gentler way, of course.

For instance, when Reba’s young contestants Alison Albrecht and Angelina Nazarian performed Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” (which Niall Horan called a “beast of a song”) on Monday’s Battle Rounds episode, Reba invested a lot of time and energy mentoring them during rehearsal. She instructed them to “come in with this ball of energy at the pit of your stomach that you’ve got to talk about it. That’s going to touch everyone inside a 75,000-seat stadium.”

Reba further explained, “This is a song, in my mind, between me and the Lord. I am in a very depressed state, thinking I’m worthless. It’s very humbling. It’s baring your soul.” Reba told the contestants to display “not much movement” during the performance to convey the sense that they were “broken.”

But when 17-year-old Alison and 23-year-old Angelina got onstage, they clearly buckled under the pressure and became jumpy and nervous, quickly forgetting everything their coach had just taught them. And Reba actually mildly scolded the singers, telling them what they needed to hear to perfect their craft.

“Emotion, to me, means a lot,” explained the disappointed Reba after Alison and Angelina’s shaky duet. “If you can’t portray an emotion to your audience, it’s [just] a song. Y’all did that in rehearsals. You were still. You were meaningful. I was crying. But today, you went back to the way you did it the first time.” Reba eventually decided that Alison connected more in the end, so hopefully Alison take Reba’s above-mentioned tough-love advice to heart, as she moves on to the Knockout Rounds.

Reba wasn’t afraid to offer guidance to singers from rival teams. When Team Niall’s even younger and greener contestants, Julia Roome and Olivia Eden, performed endearingly but amateurishly, she doled out some sage wisdom instead of just fussing over their girly cuteness, saying: “If I could give you a little advice, stay in the moment of the song. When you’re not singing, stay in that moment. Smile. Making contact with the audience is very important.”

It remains to be seen how long Reba will remain on The Voice as a coach, but if NBC wanted to hire her to be a permanent in-house mentor, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. As of now, she is supposed to coach Season 25 next year, and Season 24’s Battle Rounds continue Tuesday. These were Monday’s other Battles”

TEAM GWEN: Jacquie Roar vs. BIAS, “Need a Favor”

There was a whole lot of hype at the start of this season about Reba, but surprisingly, the country legend didn’t scoop up all the country contestants. These two mavericks — BIAS, who auditioned with a song by Gwen Stefani’s husband Blake Shelton, and the aptly surnamed Tragic Kingdom superfan Jackie, whose agenda is to inject “grunge-rock” into country music — chose Gwen instead. But that’s where the resemblance between these two ended. While Gwen admitted that four-chair rocker Jacquie was the “obvious choice,” BIAS was clearly the “interesting” and “electric” song stylist and entertainer (“It’s really hard to keep my eyes off of you,” said Gwen), and his voice had what Gwen called “unbelievable character.” Gwen admitted she’d underestimated how good a singer BIAS really is. Eventually, Gwen made the right decision and “went with her heart”… and then Reba ended up with Jackie anyway, hollering, “I wanted you in the first place!” as she went in for the Steal. Jacquie, who’d auditioned for The Voice “nine of 10 times” before, needed a favor, and she got one.

Jacquie: BIAS / STOLEN: Jackie Roar moves to Team Reba

TEAM NIALL: Julia Roome vs. Olivia Eden, “Kiss Me”

This winsome Sixpence None the Richer duet, complete with high school talent show choreography, between theatrical 13-year-old Julia and 15-year-old folky Olivia was total cute overload. Olivia’s voice — the kind of “standout” voice that Niall said “makes your ears perk up” — cut through more, even if it was a bit too Leigh Nash soundalike. John Legend pointed out that Julia’s deeper voice, which Gwen called a “rare tone” and Niall called “weird and cool and captivating,” wasn’t “exactly tuned” for this sort of song, but she still managed to hold her own and adapt. Niall eventually, grudgingly rewarded originality — and so, Julia remains the youngest singer in the competition, with plenty of room to grow. (Olivia might have been stolen, had she not awkwardly called Niall the “best pick!” while the other three coaches were sitting right there.)

WINNER: Julia Roome

TEAM LEGEND: Stee vs. Willie Gomez, “Tacones Rojas”

These powerful singers promised to bring “the fire,” and they definitely delivered. “That’s what it looks like when you put two four-chair singers together!” raved Niall. Gwen called Stee’s voice “perfect,” but professional dancer and bilingual crooner Willie, who Niall called a “great all-around package,” was the star of the show in terms of entertainment value. John immediately regretted putting these two together, confessing, “Very rarely am I so stumped!” as he deliberated this tough decision. John ultimately went with the man who “executed the song perfectly,” but I was genuinely shocked that no one stole Willie.


TEAM GWEN: Juliette Ojeda vs. Kristen Brown, “That’s the Way It Is”

Juliette is a Latin singer and Kristen sings country, so this was an odd pairing — and an odd song choice. Celine isn’t easy for anyone, of any genre, to take on. But Niall praised the ladies for not “overdramatizing” Celine’s song, and Kristen did a good job heeding her coach Gwen’s advice to not be too “princessy.” This was a fairly even match, with Juliette showcasing a lovely tone, but there were more dynamics to Kristen’s vocals, which Gwen called “flexible.” Kristen proved she can sing just about anything, and proved she’ll be a strong Team Gwen asset as the competition progresses.

WINNER: Kristen Brown

TEAM REBA: Ms. Monét vs. CORii, “New Attitude”

Ms. Monet is a 50-year-old background vocalist with 33 years of experience singing with Huey Lewis, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Queen Latifah, and even Gwen Stefani, while CORii, a former Songland contestant, is a one-chair contestant whose Blind Audition was montaged. I think everyone, maybe even Reba herself, expected Ms. Monet to wipe the stage floor with CORii. But just like Patti LaBelle’s song declared, CORii had a new attitude. She was fierce, and she held her own against her powerhouse opponent. John noted that Ms. Monét had been, as expected, “consistently amazing” throughout, but once CORII “found her footage,” this was a true Battle. “Why did I not turn?,” Niall gasped incredulously, remembering CORII’s one-chair audition, then marveling at how the difference between CORii’s Blind Audition weeks ago and this week’s Battle was “night and day.” Gwen said this Battle “just kept getting better and better and better.” Reba admitted she was “stressed” over this decision, but at least she didn’t have to worry about bidding a guilty goodbye to CORii, when both Gwen and Niall swooped to steal.

WINNER: Ms. Monét / STOLEN: CORii moves to Team Gwen

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