The Voice is back with six more battles, and only a handful of steals remaining. Let’s break down the matchups, the winners, and who gets one of those lucky second chances – one from Blake, one from Shakira and two for the very discerning Usher.
1. Team Adam: Austin Ellis (1 chair in blind auditions) vs. Josh Kaufman (4 chairs), “Happy”
On paper, it’s a one-sided battle over a song that you’ve probably heard two dozen times by now. But it’s so not that simple. Advisor Aloe Blacc thinks the pairing will help “to show how diverse soul music is.” Adam wants to see more vocally from Josh and more performance-wise from Josh. He’s looking for both artists to engage the crowd, which to him is a must for any successful singer. (And if you’ve seen Maroon 5 in concert, you know that’s something Adam excels at.) In the ring, Austin more than proves a match for Josh; these two guys should record together immediately. Pharrell and his Arby’s hat would be proud.
Blake is feeling the energy of the performance. He calls Austin a “solid singer” but “can’t keep up” with Josh’s bag of tricks, so he picks Josh. Usher refers to Austin as a “caged beast” with a powerful upper range, even though he also would give the win to Josh. Shakira believes this is “one of the best battles, hands down” and can’t decide between the two. Adam doesn’t really surprise us when he selects Josh, but there’s no doubt that Austin acquitted himself well. Why didn’t Usher steal this guy?!?
Winner: Josh Kaufman
2. Team Blake: Alaska & Madi (2 chairs) vs. Audra McLaughlin (4 chairs), “When Will I Be Loved”
Blake has matched these ladies up because “they’re all country singers,” so it’s unsurprising that he gives them a Linda Ronstadt song. “It only takes one of you to mess one of you up,” Blake warns the duo, while of course Audra has the problem of matching one voice against two – but it can be done (Remember Justin Rivers knocking out The Morgan Twins? And they were the four-chairs in that battle.) While we resist the urge to say “Clap for Alaska”, Audra proves that our worries about her having to compete against a duo were totally unfounded.
Usher says pretty much what we just said, and even as Blake begs for help, gives him none. Shakira declares herself “Switzerland” and also refuses to tender an opinion. Is Adam going to offer any assistance to his BFF? No, he’s just going to “whine about the fact that I can’t steal whoever he doesn’t pick.” A nonplussed Blake has to make the decision totally on his own, and he sticks with the chalk, picking Audra. Both he and Adam seem annoyed that Shakira and Usher don’t use a steal on the duo; Adam even comes backstage to console Alaska and Madi afterward. Say it with us: Awww.
Winner: Audra McLaughlin
3. Team Shakira: Deja Hall (3 chairs) vs. Music Box (1 chair), “Eternal Flame”
Advisor Miranda Lambert doesn’t think Deja’s found her full voice yet, which might be a problem against the older and more experienced Music Box. “I can tap into what I’ve gone through and use it,” the latter tells us, as Shakira and Miranda try to coach the former into reaching beyond her comfort zone. Both artists actually regress a little in their second rehearsal, because they’re both thinking too much. After a random promo for Shakira’s new album, and a commercial bumper that spoils Usher using one of his steals on this battle, we get a not uncommon matchup: raw talent versus experience.
Adam tells the artists that “both of you guys have really special qualities” and leans toward Deja because he’s curious about what she could develop into artistically. Blake echoes Adam, but flips the script and goes with Music Box. Usher, who we already know has a stake in these results, compliments both artists and makes it clear he’s about to steal regardless of Shakira’s choice. That choice is Deja.
Winner: Deja Hall and Steal: Music Box to Team Usher (1 steal remaining for Usher)
4. Team Usher: Madilyn Paige (2 chairs) vs. Tanner James (1 chair), “Everything Has Changed”
In the battle of young singers from Provo, Utah, things get off to kind of an awkward start. So awkward that in second rehearsal, advisor Jill Scott suggests they sing facing away from each other. They’re having a hard time connecting with each other and the song, and that’s really a must to get the best battle out of them. On stage, though, they seem to relax a bit and finally make things click.
Adam quips that these two should’ve done something out of The Little Mermaid. Everyone talks about how adorable these two are, including Carson in the voice-over, before Usher sticks with Madilyn. We all know it’s hard for America to resist the power of cute teenage girls who can sing (see: Danielle Bradbery).
Winner: Madilyn Paige
5. Team Adam: Dawn and Hawkes (2 chairs) vs. Josh Murley (1 chair), “Stuck In The Middle With You”
We don’t think there are enough guitars in this battle. And here comes Adam with another classic rock song choice. Josh is slightly scared and intimidated, and Adam tells him he’s got to “stand out” from them, before coaching the duo to inject more attitude into their performance. “It’s loose and sloppy and drunk and cool,” he says of the Stealers Wheel tune. He emphasizes the harmony between the three singers, while advisor Aloe Blacc wants Josh to give Dawn and Hawkes a bit more love, as he’s not quite connecting with his partners or the audience. On the stage, we’re not thrilled with all those microphone stands keeping the artists relatively still, but they’re probably a must when everyone’s on the guitar.
Blake doesn’t think anyone stands out, with Adam quipping, “I do respect you. I don’t like you.” Usher sides with Josh, while Shakira wants a drink. “I think that we achieved what we wanted to by making Shakira want a beer,” Adam jokes, before he keeps Dawn and Hawkes. Shakira then decides to take a chance on Josh, and uses her final steal to give him a second life. “You had to wait,” Josh jokes, once he stops having a heart attack. Adam professes his love for Shakira, while Carson quips, “So Shakira, you want to have a beer with Josh that bad.”
Winner: Dawn and Hawkes and Steal: Josh Murley to Team Shakira (0 steals remaining for Shakira)
6. Team Usher: Bria Kelly (4 chairs) vs. Tess Boyer (1 chair), “Piece of My Heart”
Our last battle of the night is a good one (as if NBC would let the show end on a subpar note). Bria is impressed by Tess’s voice, saying it’s not every day that you get to sing with someone “as good as she is,” but Tess thinks it’s Bria who has the advantage. Jill Scott advises both artists that they have to “let loose” in their performance, which they’re starting to do by the time their second rehearsal rolls around. The actual battle itself is pretty even, with both singers having found that diva-esque confidence that their coach was looking for.
Shakira thinks the battle was “equally matched.” Adam quips that he should start toting his Grammys around like Usher. Blake votes for Tess. And that’s fine, because he takes her off Usher’s hands.
Winner: Bria Kelly and Steal: Tess Boyer to Team Blake (0 steals remaining for Blake)
We’re down to six battles remaining and just one precious steal on the table. The first phase of The Voice battles (there’s now a second round) ends tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC.