The Battles delivered on every level promised, with towering performances and the odd shock or two.
The coaches pulled in help from industry people whose judgements they trust and who they felt could help bring the best out of each contestant: Danny called on Paloma Faith, Tom brought in Cerys Matthews, Jessie worked with Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters and Will called upon his own mentor, Dante Santiago.
Eight out of my ten moved into the live shows, with my one huge disappoint coming courtesy of Jessie, when she ditched David Faulkner in favour of Cassius Henry. David, he of the Stevie Wonder audition, I'd have happily swapped for pretty much everyone else with the exception maybe of Jaz. David was my shoe in and Cassius will have to totally blow me away to justify the decision. I'm still yet to be convinced he can last the distance, he appears to work so hard for every note, whereas David was effortless. Beat It the song, see their battle here.
Eslewhere in Jessie's team, Vince Kidd went through against Jessica Hammond. I preferred Vince in the mellower part of We've Found Love but Jessica when it rocked. Overall though, Vince got my vote and, more importantly, Jessie's. Kirsten and Toni went head to head on Aretha Franklin's Think and again, I'm disappointed with Jessie's choice. Toni has a great voice but can be a tad scary with the facial expressions and eyes; I found Kirsten much more engaging and fun. It's got nothing to do with the fact that she's the sister of a friend of my son's ...
Ben versus Ruth-Ann I wasn't too fussed with but thought Ben nicked it from a personality stance, I Wanna Dance With Somebody a real challenge and not the only one this weekend. However, Jessie once again went against (seemingly) general consensus and took Ruth Ann through. As for Indie&Pixie versus Becky, I really had no interest in either. Becky's voice just doesn't go anywhere, while the smacked arse look of the blonde one in rehearsal put me right off. I can't even remember what they sang, let me find the clip: there you go. You see, initially, it's all about The Voice. But likeability and personality also come into it when everyone in the competition can sing; the only one left in Jessie's team that I've taken to is Vince. Maybe the others will grow on me.
Team Jessie: Becky; Vince; Toni; Ruth-Ann; Cassius.
Will's pairings were tough: Joelle versus Jenny in a Power-Off to Chaka Khan's I'm Every Woman took Joelle through, although Jenny was also fantastic; J Marie versus Sophie was equally powerful with their version of Firework, with Sophie totally holding her own after it appeared she might be overawed - both should have gone through but it was Sophie that got Will's vote, room to grow whereas J Marie is already there. Jay versus Jaz and it was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. And concerned I was when Will compared Jay to Justin Timberlake. But Heard It Through The Grapevine was enough to see Jaz through. I think I may have actually given up watching had I lost both Jaz and David! Frances and Kate sang Ironic and Frances impressed me more there than in the audition, but overall I preferred Kate; Will preferred Frances. Another pairing I didn't care much for was Tyler versus Heshima and it was Tyler Will chose.
Team Will: Frances; Sophie; Tyler; Joelle; Jaz
Tom had, I think, probably the toughest job - all of his singers were power singers, with perhaps the exception of Adam and Matt & Sueleen, who are so mellow in comparison. Sam versus Aundrea put a grin on everyone's face, attacking the ultimate Vegas Elvis track, A Little Less Conversation with gusto. They could've done with some more bling though, to really ramp up the camp! I didn't mind who went through and it was Sam who got the nod. Deniece versus Ruth singing No-one was a clash of soul styles - the slickness of Deniece, too slick, and the rawness of Ruth, sometimes a little too raw. But like Tom, it's Ruth I want to hear more of, to see what he can teach her. Barbara versus Leanne with Edge of Glory and Barbara for me became too karaoke as she piled on the power, whereas Leanne was much more controlled and retained her lovely tone. Tom duly took her through. Matt & Sueleen were against Lindsey, two of my ten. Singing Born To Run, it's Matt & Sueleen who have the edge, I just feel the need to hear more from them and Tom agrees. Adam versus Denise with Use Somebody in one of the quieter performances of the evening, but with Leanne and Ruth already booked for the live shows, Tom needed Adam for some balance and so Denise loses out. I hope Adam gets over his shyness though, because I wasn't as impressed as during his blind audition.
Team Tom: Matt & Sueleen; Adam; Sam; Leanne; Ruth
Danny seems to be on my wavelength - four of his choices I agreed with, and the other originally in my top 10 anyway. Max versus Bill with Beggin gets a little manic, with Max showing a much more attacking side to his nature, I loved the rawness of it and glad he made it through. I preferred the stage presence and vocal of Vince to Bo in their battle of With or Without You, however, my flimsy is Danny's vulnerable quality and Bo goes through. I still like her but if I hear the same vocal week in week out I'm not sure how long that will last. Broken Strings was the song for Aleks versus Emmy J and I'm pretty ambivalent on this one - Aleks starts flat again but does pick up and his vulnerability appeals as opposed to Emmy J's confidence-bordering-arrogance. I'm looking forward to see if Danny can deliver and help Aleks realise his potential. Murray versus Hannah was another close call with Kids; I was rooting for Hannah and think Danny needed a strong female voice but Murray was great in that. Hannah it is though,a complete contrast to Bo. The final place was between David and John James, the closest in styles, personalities, stage presence and vocal ability and my favourite battle overall, with both delivering on every level. Dakota the song, those sweet notes of David's just nicking it for both me and Danny.
Team Danny: Aleks; Max; Hannah; Bo; David
Of Team Scatty there remains: Vince; Joelle; Jaz; Matt& Sueleen; Adam; Max; Hannah; Bo. But honourable mentions for David, Leanne and Sophie, who all made a big impression.
The live shows kick off next week at 7pm on Saturday, with a group performance from the coaches before Will and Tom's artists sing for us. The results show is at 7.25pm on Sunday and one artist from each of Will and Tom's teams will bid farewell. Teams Danny and Jessie will both give group performances and Lana Del Rey performs her new single.
Note: The results show is recorded on the Saturday night. So when they say 'live results show' they mean a recording of the results as they happen live, not that it's actually live on the telly now. There's always a lot of confusion on the Strictly message boards over this so I thought I'd mention it. Not that you lot need to know: you're obviously intelligent or you wouldn't be here ;)
Anyway, no spoilers will appear here because a) I like to see it unfold naturally and yell at the telly in shock or joy, as and when required and b) I'll be grumpy all day Sunday if my favourite goes out.
Until then, fair folk :)