Night one of The Voice Battle Round begins, and the coaches are clearly ready to fight. Shakira, notably, gave birth in between the Blind Auditions and the Battle Round, and rocks a post-baby body that makes no sense to mere mortals. Accenting the look with a gold lame shirt, she says of her team, “I get so passionate about these guys!”
Usher, who was at no point pregnant, counters back with, “Team Usher’s about to blow your mind!”
Adam Levine, showcasing that he understands the rules, says, “It’s tough because you know you’re going to have to send somebody home.” And Blake Shelton pipes in, explaining, “The Battle Round separates the pros from the amateurs.”
Beyond the coaches, it was the mentors turn for their debuts, albeit mostly quiet ones. Adam has seven-time Grammy winner Hillary Scott in his corner, nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow advises Team Blake, three-time Grammy winner Pharrell Williams consults Team Usher…and Shakira got Joel Madden. It happens.
Onwards and upwards — here’s how the Battle Round played out!
Team Adam: Amber Carrington vs. Sasha Allen
Adam puts Texas country singer Amber Carrington up against Brooklyn soul singer Sasha Allen. Sasha, the vocal powerhouse who turned four chairs in the Blind Auditions, seems like the clear frontrunner going into this battle. That said, never underestimate a country girl on a mission!
Adam picks Pink’s “Try” for their performance. That’s perfect for Amber, because, she states, “The words ‘get up and try’ are kind of like my motto.” So adorably earnest, that one.
Hillary Scott doesn’t have too much advice to give, but tells Amber, “You are you, and you’re beautiful.” Very sweet, but some advice on how to win would probably go a bit further.
Adam, who notes that Sasha is way too focused on the technical aspect of the performance, tells her, “Stop thinking and just sing the song.”
Sasha never manages to get out of her own head, and, while singing a very technically strong rendition, inserts very little emotion. After the performance, Adam tells her, “Initially I might have thought you were going to wipe the floor with [Amber].”
As it turns out, it’s actually Amber doing the wiping. Adam selects Amber to move on to the Knockout Round in the first major upset of the Battle Round!
Never fear, Sasha fans, Shakira and Usher both jump in for the steal. Usher tells Sasha, “Some of the greatest moments in our careers are those that could be perceived as a loss. But I perceive this as a success. I think I could win this entire show with you.”
Shakira, also convinced she can win with Sasha, tells her, “Stage presence is very important from now on in this competition.”
Sasha chooses Shakira, which utterly floors Usher. “I was flabbergasted. Dumbfounded,” he says.
Team Adam: Judith Hill vs. Karina Iglesias
Adam, Adam, Adam. We get that you want to show off, but when you have two incredibly strong singers on your team, don’t put them up against one another in the Battle Rounds, or you’ll (obviously) lose one of them! Hasn’t anyone explained the rules to you?
Apparently not, because Adam puts former Michael Jackson duet partner Judith Hill against the powerful Karina Iglesias. It’s clear early on in their rehearsals of James Brown’s “It’s Man’s Man’s World” that neither of these ladies is going home tonight. “You’re both mega singers,” Adam tells them.
The two bow to each other when they take the stage, which is weird, but then they follow that up with easily the strongest battle of the evening. Their voices are flawless and dynamic, and they end with a run that is absolute perfection. Adam, Shakira and Blake all give the two a standing ovation.
“I’m just freaking out. That was just so good,” says Blake.
“You guys shook this entire room,” says Usher.
“It was almost deliciously contradictory to experience so much female power on the stage and hear them sing, ‘This is a Man’s World,” says Shakira.
Adam, stuck with a tough decision, says, “That was not a great battle. That was the best battle I’ve seen on this show.” He ultimately chooses Judith, noting her “charisma and confidence” (perhaps code for “well, if she’s good enough for MJ…”).
The crowd goes wild chanting for a steal, and Shakira jumps in and makes it happen. Even though she uses both on night one, Shakira certainly made good use of her steals!
Team Shakira: Garrett Gardner vs. J’Sun
For Shakira’s only battle of the night, she puts the second-time New Jersey Voice contestant, Garret Gardner, against Brooklyn soul singer, J’Sun. Shakira selects The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?”, a song with a little bit of rock and a little bit of R&B, playing to both singers’ strengths.
During the rehearsals, Joel Madden jumps in with support for J’Sun. “J’Sun has this tonality that’s really sweet. He could be unstoppable,” says the former Voice Australia coach.
Ever the voice of wisdom, Shakira gives Garret some practical advice on why he needs to tone down his rasp. “It’s like when I shake my hips,” she says, “I can’t shake them every verse!” Presumably, if she did, the world would explode from too much joy. Don’t make the world explode, Garrett.
During the performance, J’Sun has soaring falsettos and balances the rock and soul line perfectly. Usher raves, “I almost felt like you guys were having a sermon up there. I felt like [J’Sun] won this battle.” Garret tones down his rasp quite a bit to rise to the occasion, but it seems like J’Sun has a lock on the win.
Things are not always as they seem, though. Shakira, who looks at Garret as a “young Jim Morrison” (not to be hyperbolic, or anything), advances him to the next round. It’s pretty surprising — equally so, not one judge leaps in to steal J’Sun.
Team Blake: Holly Tucker vs. Michelle Raitzin
Blake pits four-chair-turn country singer Holly Tucker against previously un-televised Michelle Raitzin. You all see where this is going, right?
Blake selects Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away,” because it’s not only country, but also R&B. Can’t wait for Taylor Swift’s heavy metal jam “22” in the future.
The two have similarly outstanding ranges, and can both handle the song. During the rehearsals, Blake encourages Holly to get a little more mean, because her take on the song is just a bit too sweet for a song about abuse.
“I’m just so ready to show Blake that I can get angry,” says Holly. She does so with a smokey eye and a tough girl vest on performance night. Michelle, on the other hand, apparently wants to show Blake she can fight like a superhero, so she wears an outfit that Wonder Woman may have styled for Katy Perry.
Golden lasso or not, Michelle’s pitchy performance doesn’t match Holly’s effortless one. Blake, kindly, calls it a tie.
“When I’m faced with a dead-even tie, I have to go with what is natural with me and what I’m good at. That’s country, so the winner is Holly.”
Team Blake: Christian Porter vs. The Swon Brothers
Blake’s next duo puts “The Energetic Country Duo” against “The Bar Singer Who Takes Chances With His Music” (leading us to wonder: who on earth writes these titles?). Pairing the Swon Brothers and Christian Porter seems like a real missed opportunity to set the bros up with the Doublemint twins, but perhaps Blake is trying to prevent any early-season accidental pregnancies (not everyone loses weight as quickly as Shakira).
Blake selects Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” for the battle. The selection on its own puts The Swon Brothers at an advantage. It fits their genre perfectly (remember, they sang another Tom Petty song, “American Girl,” during the Blind Auditions).
The other thing that puts the Swon Brothers at an advantage is that they are a lot better than Christian Porter. Christian’s Blind Auditions performance of “Sexy And I Know It” masked the fact that his range is somewhat limited, and he really struggles with the high notes during rehearsals.
Even though Christian gets a little better, earning a “You’re singing the crap out of it!” from Coach Blake, the Swon Brothers performance hits all the right notes… not to mention that Christian opens with some pretty terrible interpretive hand movements. Blake selects the brotherly duo to go to the Knockout Round, prompting a “You’re the Swinners!” from their mom. Apparently, that’s a thing now.
Team Usher : Jess Kellner vs. Taylor Beckham
Future contestants of The Voice take heed: when you are filling out your pre-show paperwork, note that you will probably be identified by your pre-Voice profession. In this particular battle, it’s “The Former Hairdresser” Jess Kelner against “Former Olympic Gymnast” Taylor Beckham. Go with “Master Of The Universe” and you should be set.
Usher selects Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” for the two to perform. He tells the ladies, “It’s a bit of a cat fight,” but urges them to connect on the harmonies to draw the audience in.
Aiming for the tough coach title, Usher tries something different during the rehearsals. While he stands at one end of the room, the ladies are at the other end and try to will him over with their performance and presence. One might call this “come hither” coaching, or “bar pick up” coaching, but whatever it is, it’s awkward. Jess gets the seductive show
that Usher wants, therefore impressing him during rehearsals (this translates to she knew to get up in his business). Pharrell, meanwhile, stands by, wondering how he got himself caught up in this mess.
The battle is tight, but Taylor has some minor pitch problems, and Jess delivers the better performance. Their coach is proud of each, telling them, “You both came out here and 100% lit the stage on fire.” Proud papa or not, there can only be one teammate that advances on his team. After a little deliberation, Usher selects Jess.
Just as Taylor is about to break down on stage, Blake jumps in for the steal! A pretty bold move from the guy that said he would have picked Jess, but a tearful Taylor is relieved.
There are more battles to come on Tuesday (April 16) night, along with the much-teased Usher contestant smackdown. Maybe the mentors will even chime in with something meaningful, or the coaches will invite Carson Daly to have lunch with them? (Just kidding. It’s a little early in the season for a surprise of that degree).