It's the battle rounds, when the coaches match their artists against each other to see who can stand taller when sharing a stage. They also risk losing talented singers, since losers can be stolen by other coaches for their own teams. Here is everything you need to know about the first night of the battles.
Blasts from the past.
Like a good adult-oriented radio station, tonight the artists of The Voice play the hits of the '70s, '80s and today. First up are Biff Gore and T.J. Wilkins of Team Usher singing a duet of a song popularized by both the Temptations and the Rolling Stones, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." It's a good choice for a couple of R&B singers, but are they too even a match? Usher's advisor Jill Scott thinks so, saying choosing between T.J. and Biff will be like choosing between air and water. Usher likes to make it challenging for his artists and himself.
Having gone through some exhausting rehearsals, Biff and T.J. tear the roof off the soundstage with their performance of "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Biff, the preacher and natural performer, throws in some leg kicks that might have a viewer pulling a groin muscle. The coaches all love it, but Usher's pick is the only one that matters. He chooses T.J. Blake, who made a hard push for Biff in the blind auditions, wastes no time in stealing the preacher for his team now. Biff's six kids are going to have to deal with daddy not coming home for a little while longer.
Also bringing back a hit from the '70s is Team Adam. Kat Perkins, the rockin' nanny from Minneapolis who caught Adam's attention in the auditions with her take on Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" (and her athletic leap into his arms after she chose him as her coach) faces off against the gritty sound of Patrick Thomson, the mobile phone store manager who also dug into a 1970s classic, The Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See." Adam assigns the two another '70s hit, the Kenny Loggins-Stevie Nicks duet "Whenever I Call You 'Friend.'" We already know from the blind auditions that Kat can do a good Stevie Nicks impression, and she's a more seasoned performer, having fronted her own rock band for several years. Throughout the rehearsals with Adam and his advisor, singer Aloe Blacc, it looks as if Kat might wipe the floor with the more tentative Patrick. But the Zach Galifianakis look-alike rises to the occasion, making this a difficult choice for Adam. He picks Kat, who can barely contain her excitement, and Shakira immediately steals Patrick, who lives to sing another day.
Having already given two team members a '70s hit, Usher turns to the '80s, assigning "Higher Love" by the high-falsetto-voiced Steve Winwood to the equally high-falsetto-voiced duo of Jake Barker and Stevie Jo. Both artists like R&B, and Stevie has a background singing metal; so Usher wants to stretch them out of their comfort zones. The last rehearsal starts off poorly, with Usher very unhappy. But the duo pulls it together for the performance, bringing the crowd to its feet early and getting all four coaches bopping along in their chairs. "Here's the good news," Adam says afterwards. "You're both going to make it through because whoever doesn't make it is gonna be on my team." Shakira also might try to stake a claim. It's a tough decision for Usher, because whichever one he lets go might come back to haunt him later. Finally he picks Stevie Jo. Barely is the name out of his mouth before Adam and Shakira are already tapping their steal buttons, and they keep doing it until a stage manager somewhere turns them on. Blake also gets in on the action, mostly to needle Adam. Despite Shakira's offering to introduce him to Rihanna, Jake chooses to join Team Adam.
And now, the hits of today!
The coaches only have but so many saves, so not every loser in the battle rounds gets to stay on The Voice. Having saved Biff Gore at the top of the show, Blake Shelton has to let go of teenager Lexi Luca after her battle with fellow teen Jake Worthington. Blake has brought in country stars The Band Perry as advisors, and the big challenge is making Lexi fearless. Her nerves are a contrast to the laid-back Jake, who never seems ruffled even if he is not totally convinced he's as good a singer as everyone tells him. The two kids give an electric performance of Thomas Rhett's 2013 country song "It Goes Like This," and there is a sweet chemistry between them. Though Lexi had settled down quite a bit by the final rehearsal, onstage her nerves show through, and Jake clearly wins the battle, sending Lexi home.
Shakira also finds herself swapping one artist for another. Tonight her team members Dani Moz and DeShawn Washington battle each other in a duet of Emeli Sande's recent hit "My Kind of Love." It's a tough song for DeShawn, who turned Shakira's chair in the blinds with the upbeat "Twistin' the Night Away," but just the right kind of ballad for Dani's powerful voice. Still DeShawn rises to the occasion, and by the final rehearsal with Shakira and advisor Miranda Lambert, the big concern is that the two artists are trying to out-sing each other. But once onstage for the performance, everything comes together. The other coaches are particularly impressed by DeShawn, who, they are all surprised to see, has more range than they expected. Still Shakira, thinking she can do more with Dani's talent, picks her as the battle's winner, sending a disappointed DeShawn home to Louisiana.
The other Team Blake battle tonight is the teaming of two of a type of singer not usually found in Blake Shelton's corner: powerhouse divas. Paula DeAnda goes up against Sisaundra Lewis in a duet of Lady Gaga's "Do What U Want," a giant and loud slice of power pop mixed with R&B. And the two people singing it will be coached by country artists. As Adam says to Blake after hearing them sing, "They're on your team, that is so bizarre." Even Blake can't seem to believe it himself.
Paula and Sisaundra take the stage and trade some big notes. They complement each other almost perfectly, but unfortunately, the show is not called The Voices. Only one can stay, and although Paula "sang the crap out of that song" according to Blake, he still picks Sisaundra.
And with that, the first night of battles is over, with three coaches having already used up one of their two steals. Which means we'll be watching some tough eliminations for the next few episodes.
The artists face off in the first night of head-to-head elimination duets and steals.