There’s nothing like watching the dreams and promise from The Voice’s Blind Auditions get immediately obliterated during the Battle Rounds. Unlike in the Blinds, where coaches Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher and Blake Shelton just about guarantee victories to win over many of the contestants, the Battles are where it gets real. How real? “Sorry, you put your life on hold to get eliminated in the first round” real.
It’s only sad if you think about it.
Bringing the happiness levels up a tick are a new crop of superstar mentors. Coming in to help coach the teams through the Battles are Miranda Lambert for Team Shakira (which must be spicing things up at home), Aloe Blacc for team Adam, The Band Perry for Team Blake and Jill Scott for Team Usher. Together with their coaches, these mentors helped produce some memorable performances on night one of the Battle Round. Here’s who made — and missed — the Knockouts.
Team Usher: Biff Gore vs. T.J. Wilkins
Usher puts 40-something church pastor Biff Gore up against young South Central Los Angeles native T.J. Wilkins. The two face off with The Temptations‘ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” but not before some signature Usher-sizing. Telling his team members, “Don’t dial back the emotion,” Usher has them deliver impassioned performances to Jill Scott during rehearsals, and tells them to translate this toward Shakira on the big night.
The 20-year gap between the two is all but eliminated by Biff’s energetic stage presence, which includes some impressive kicks and squats. The coaches feel a strong energy, and the two deliver evenly matched vocals.
“Technically I have nothing to add,” says Shakira. “That was amazing.”
“You really had a blast up there,” says Adam. “You guys both killed it.”
“That was just pure entertainment,” Blake adds.
It all comes down to coach Usher, who is proud of both men. “I’m really happy not only for your performances, but also that you represented yourself very well.” Faced with a tough decision, Usher chooses T.J.
But the first elimination of the night will have to wait, as Blake jumps in to steal Biff. The high kick celebration that results is a GIF waiting to happen.
Team Blake: Jake Worthington vs. Lexi Luca
In a battle of the teens, returning country artist Jake Worthington faces off against previously untelevised country-pop artist Lexi Luca. Jake works on enunciating his mumbles while singing Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This,” and Lexi works on not crying the entire time. She is certainly a bundle of nerves, and has a tough time keeping her emotions in check.
“Clearly, Jake has the advantage,” Blake admits during rehearsals.
Despite a shaky start, Lexi keeps it together for the performance, and Jake pulls out the most charisma that he’s demonstrated thus far. Jake is vocally stronger, which is perhaps why Lexi cries during the entire feedback process.
“That was pretty incredible,” says Usher. “Lexi, I could tell that you were a little bit nervous.”
“I was blown away,” Usher tells Jake.
“Lexi, I feel like you have a lot of potential,” says Shakira, which is basically the “let’s just be friends” of feedback.
“It was really nice to hear two big voices fill the room,” Adam adds.
Blake praises both of his team members, but warns Jake about flubbing the lyrics. “That stuff doesn’t slide,” he says.
Lexi’s tears were, indeed, warranted, as Blake advances Jake to the Knockouts.
Team Shakira: Dani Moz vs. DeShawn Washington
Shakira puts two of her underdogs up against one another. Both Dani Moz and Emeli Sande’s “My Kind Of Love,” which better showcases Dani’s abilities. “Dani knows her strength. She hits those big notes with conviction,” says Miranda Lambert.
During the actual performance, both are slightly off-pitch, but deliver a crowd-pleasing show.
“You guys had a lot of great movement and natural chemistry,” says Adam.
“DeShawn is the one who surprised the heck out of me,” Blake says.
“I think you really understood what the emotional need for that record consisted of,” Usher tells Dani, but notes that he would still pick DeShawn.
Shakira struggles with her decision. “DeShawn, you have this unique timbre,” she says. “Dani you have grown so much, and I see this fire for you that just really makes this a tough decision.”
In a bit of a surprise pick, Shakira advances Dani. She reasons that she can see herself doing so much more with Dani in the future, so get ready for a pop star in the making. Although Usher ponders a steal, ultimately DeShawn goes home in the first heartbreaker of the Battles.
Team Adam: Kat Perkins vs. Patrick Thomson
Rockstar Mary Poppins, AKA Kat Perkins the singing nanny, faces off against fellow rocker, Patrick Thomson. Though it’s hard to pay attention to anything in the rehearsals other than Adam Levine’s ridiculous Hawaiian shirt (and the fact that he looks ridiculously sexy in said dad vacation gear), one can glean that the two gravelly singers go into the Battle neck and neck.
On the big night, Kat and Patrick perform Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks’ “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend.’” They are both incredibly talented, although Patrick falters during some of his high notes, while Kat reaches hers effortlessly. Adam gives the performance a standing ovation.
“The tie breaker, for me, was in that bridge where you both had high notes to hold,” says Blake. “For this type of song, Kat had more of a presence there.”
“I found your delivery, Kat, really, really great,” says Shakira. “I find your voice, Patrick, to be really really timeless.” That said, she would really, really go with Patrick.
“I am just so impressed by the way you took the notes that I gave you,” says Adam, who struggles with the choice. Ultimately, he selects Kat for her “overall strength.”
Never fear, Patrick fans, Shakira wasn’t paying lip service when she said she would choose Patrick. Shakira jumps in for the steal, citing as her three reasons that he is, “so good, so good and so good.”
Team Blake – Paula Deanda vs. Sisaundra Lewis
Up next is former pop semi-star Paula Deanda and former Celine Dion tour director Sisaundra. Inspired by Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga’s live duet of “Do What U Want” last season (because, come on, who wasn’t?), Blake attempts to recreate the moment with his team members.
While the two have powerhouse moments, one cannot simply re-create such a mind blowing duet, especially without any gold lamé. Nonetheless, Sisaundra comes the closest, out-singing Paula consistently, and sealing her fate with one helluva high note to end.
“I feel like you completely drove each other to give great performances,” says Usher. “Sisaundra, what an incredible talent.”
“Two powerhouse singers,” says Shakira, who tells Sisaundra, “That high note, when you hit it, it was just the perfect moment.”
“I thought [Paula] sang the crap out of that,” says Blake, but adds “I heard you fall out of the pocket a little bit.” He, too, is blown away by Sisaundra’s Hail Mary high note, telling her, “That note is just: my God.”
Presented with a clearcut decision, Blake advances Sisaundra.
Team Usher: Jake Barker vs. Stevie Jo
In the final performance of the evening, Usher puts Jake Barker, who claims to suffer stage fright, against metal-turned-soul singer Stevie Jo. The choice of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” seems to do both men a disservice, not allowing for any truly exciting moments (except during rehearsals, when Usher, unhappy with their progress, seems like he might just straight up murder both of his team members).
It’s an elevator ride of a performance, but if someone were to be declared slightly less boring than the other, it would be Stevie Jo. Inexplicably, “Higher Love” has Blake enthusiastically singing in his chair, and Adam and Usher standing in applause.
“You guys just drew us in, and it was just so well executed,” says Shakira. Although she gives the performance to Jake, she strategically hedges her bets, adding, “or Stevie!”
“Here’s the good news: you’re both going to make it,” says Adam. “Whoever loses is going to make my team.”
“I’ve never seen a more evenly matched battle,” says Blake. “You both just brought a lot of energy and entertainment.” Perhaps it’s just different live.
“In all of my time, it’s never been this hard,” says Usher, but he ultimately advances Stevie Jo. Both Shakira and Adam buzz in immediately for the steal, followed by Blake.
“I did win The Voice last season,” says Adam. “I’m sure if we were to both share iPods we’d have something in common.”
“You reminded me of Justin Timberlake. I really get you and I love your voice,” says Shakira, sweetening the pot by promising him an introduction to Rihanna.
“What you and I have to do is figure out what America reacts to, drive it home, and you win this show,” says Blake, stating the obvious.
Jake, who has yet to demonstrate any proof of this alleged stage fright, joins Team Adam.
More aggressive steals and heartbreaking eliminations are promised when The Battle Round continues tonight!
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