With five weeks of blind auditions sending excited singers through to the next round, “The Voice” has been a love fest so far. But now it’s time for “battle rounds,” in which each coach pits two team members against each other — literally, in a boxing ring — singing the same song, and then chooses who sang it best.
As Adam explains it, “You are guys are going to be singing in harmony, and secretly trying to destroy each other.”
After what seems like about 10 minutes of host Carson Daly explaining the rules for this show — battle rounds start now, six singers from each team go through to the live shows, then the audience votes, one person is the winner and gets a record deal — we begin.
Team Adam Levine, round 1
Contestants: Tony Lucca, 35 (former Mouseketeer who was forgotten by Christina Aguilera) vs. Chris Cauley, 27 (inspired by his grandmother, who played bluegrass music)
Song: “Beautiful Day” by U2
Mentors: Alanis Morissette helps mentor Tony, and they have a deep talk about shattering the glass ceiling on his career and integrity. It sort of turns into a therapy session when Alanis gets him to admit he’s scared of a certain vocal range.
Robin Thicke is assigned to Chris, who asks how he can beat Tony. Robin encourages Chris to work on his body language, while Adam advises him to convey more emotion. “I have a tendency to rely on my vocals too much, but at the end of the day, we have to be great performers,” Chris humblebrags.
Battle: Tony starts things off on the reserved side, but Chris immediately one-ups him by belting the second line. Plus, at first, Chris gets all the lyrics while Tony is relegated to singing the “aaayyys” in the chorus, and it looks like he might never recover. Tony starts to gain steam later in the song and belts out a few impressive notes.
Judges: Christina takes the opportunity to remind us all that she was in the Mickey Mouse club “with Justin and Britney” (no last names required). “Any more names you wanna drop?” Blake asks. Blake says he expected Tony to dominate the stage, but that Chris was more consistent, vocally. Christina admits she’s pulling for her good friend Tony, but that Chris surprised her — still, she goes with Tony. Cee Lo also prefers Tony.
But it’s Adam’s vote that counts, and he goes with ... Tony!
Team Blake Shelton, round 1
Contestants: Adley Stump, 22 (the sorority girl who just discovered she could sing) vs. RaeLynn,17 (country singer who names Miranda Lambert — Mrs. Blake Shelton — as her biggest inspiration)
Song: “Free Fallin’ ” by Tom Petty
Mentors: RaeLynn squeaks uncontrollably when she sees her mentor is none other than Miranda Lambert. Blake and Miranda tell RaeLynn it’s not about competing with Adley (except that it is, so that’s questionable advice) and to focus on improving her performance style. A few minutes later, “The Voice” takes a moment to become a car commercial as we see RaeLynn cheerfully driving in a car for seemingly no reason at all, listening to a voicemail of encouragement from Miranda.
“American Idol” alum Kelly Clarkson jumps singing competition ship to mentor Adley, who seems much more comfortable. Kelly tells Adley to rein in her big voice so she can compete with RaeLynn, who is much quieter but just as compelling.
Battle: Poor RaeLynn looks terrified as she starts the song, but manages to quake her way through the first verse. She doesn’t stand a chance when Adley launches into the second verse of the tune, which is tailor-made for her big voice. RaeLynn kicks it up a notch about halfway through, but seems to lag behind.
Judges: Christina is impressed Adley’s vocal power, and she and Cee Lo agree that Adley did a better job. And Cee Lo says RaeLynn is so young, she has plenty of time to mature. Adam also agrees that Adley was overpowering.
Blake goes back and forth, since country music is about storytelling, not necessarily being a powerhouse. And he goes with ... RaeLynn! No one looks more surprised than RaeLynn, who should be very grateful that her idol happens to be Blake’s wife.
Team Christina Aguilera, round 1
Contestants: Chris Mann, 29 (the opera singer) vs. Monique Benabou, 23 (tragic back story with a mother who has cancer)
Song: “Power of Love” by Celine Dion
Mentor: Lionel Richie shows up to help Chris, who has trouble being spontaneous because of all that pesky classical training. They both encourage Chris to “get out of his own head,” because sometimes the vocal imperfections are the best moments that people remember.
Jewel arrives to mentor Monique, and the two of them look back at her blind audition. Rookie singer Monique has a problem with breath control, but Christina reminds Monique that she’s doing this all to help her family — and with all her emotion, she might be able to take over Chris, who’s basically a well-trained robot.
Battle: Monique and Chris sing at each other while switching up some pronouns (“I am your lady”/“I am your man”). Chris’s magnificent voice is not a great match for the song, though he pulls out some fancy vocal tricks, while Monique sounds right at home with the tune.
Judges: Cee Lo chooses Chris, saying he’s one of the best singers in the whole competition. Adam wavers, but ultimately says Chris did the best job. Blake sympathizes with Monique for having to sing with a voice like Chris, and he ultimately chooses Monique.
Christina says Monique was an “angel” while singing, and the strength in Chris’s voice is undeniable — and at the end, she goes with Chris.
Team Cee Lo, round 1
Contestants: Cheesa, 21 (moved from Hawaii to California with her family, who run an elderly care facility out of their home) vs. Angie Johnson (staff sergeant in the Air Force Band who caught Carson Daly’s attention with a video on YouTube)
Song: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
Mentors: Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds works with Cheesa after Angie decides to raise the notes — even though Cheesa can’t really hit them. “It would be great if you could hold that note,” Babyface says, stating the very obvious. “That’s the money note.”
Ne-Yo steps in with Angie, who is much more in her element with a big song than Cheesa. Ne-Yo thinks Angie’s holding back, but Angie isn’t sure about that. “The finger’s gotta stay off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot,” she says, reminding them both that she’s in the military.
Battle: It’s the first sing-off of the night that truly seems like a battle, as both women stand at the opposite end of the boxing ring for most of the song, Angie singing with all her might directly at Cee Lo. But Cheesa holds her own, managing to hit the dreaded high note.
Judges: Adam is impressed with both of them, and after getting bleeped, tentatively chooses Cheesa. Blake says they went between great and average moments, but goes with Angie.
Cee Lo compliments Angie’s emotion, but says that Cheesa had the articulation. And the winner is ... Cheesa!
Team Blake Shelton, round 2
Contestants: Jordis Unga, 29 (former contestant on CBS competition “Rock Star: INXS”) vs. Brian Fuente (Nashville lead singer going solo)
Song: “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette
Kelly Clarkson senses Brian’s nerves and that he’s holding back, and Brian admits that he’s used to singing with a whole band behind him. But Kelly assures him that he better step it up, because otherwise, Jordis will full-out attack the song and win.
Miranda Lambert hangs out with Jordis, who has trouble connecting with the song. Blake and Miranda sit down with Jordis for a fireplace chat, and tell her to get out of her own head and just focus on “being Jordis.”
Battle: Jordis sings with more conviction than anyone we’ve ever seen about getting a death row pardon two minutes two late, while Brian goes with a more groovy approach to the story of a man who waited his whole life to fly, only to get in a plane crash. Neither singer attempts to make this a cohesive duet, and overall, neither of them comes off very well.
Judges: Christina points out that they both had some pitchy and shaky moments, but she goes with Jordis; Cee Lo, on the other hand, liked Brian’s energy. Adam chooses Jordis.
Blake, however, wasn’t impressed by either performance, as neither hit the “rock star” moment he was looking for. But if he has to choose one ... it’s Jordis.
Team Christina Aguilera, round 2
Contestants: Anthony Evans, 33 (son of a famous pastor) vs. Jesse Campbell, 42 (single dad who used to be homeless)
Song: “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
Mentors: Jesse is thrilled to see Lionel Richie. Lionel diagnoses Jesse as talented but “extremely ambitious” and basically tells him to tone it down and to not go too over the top. Jesse interprets it as, “You don’t want to work really hard to shine, because you could outshine yourself.”
Jewel tells Anthony to work on keeping up with Jesse technically, but he also can’t lose the emotion in the song. Jewel and Christina talk over each other several times, which could lead to a very amusing power struggle.
Battle: By far the most equally matched, Jesse and Anthony perform all sorts of vocal gymnastics, making this the closest — and most impressive — battle of the night. Still, Jesse manages to edge him out based on pure emotion.
Judges: Cee Lo says both performances were stellar, and he can’t even choose. “The sheer level of talent is so insane to me,” Adam notes, before ultimately going with Jesse, and Blake agrees.
Christina complains about getting so attached to her team that she can’t choose, but she ultimately goes with...Jesse!