After a frenzied first week of battles, do we have the strength for more? Here is everything you need to know about night three of the battle rounds on The Voice.
It is make-or-break night for the two duos on The Voice.
Duos are a rarity on The Voice, and after tonight, both of this season's could be on the way home. First up are country-singing teenagers Alaska and Madi, best friends from Blake Shelton's home state of Oklahoma, which gave the star an advantage in convincing them to join his team over Adam Levine's after the girls' blind audition. They are singing "When Will I Be Loved" (the Linda Ronstadt country arrangement, not the more 1950s-oriented pop original by the Everly Brothers) against Audra McLaughlin, a powerhouse of a singer who got four chairs to turn during her blind audition. A soloist going up against a duo is not actually the tall order one might think despite the two-against-one optics - though there is the possibility of a lone singer being drowned out, the duo has to make sure its harmonies are perfect while the soloist just has to worry about herself. Still, Audra is nervous. She's going to have to really work to keep her voice under control.
The coaches are blown away by the performance and despite Blake's whining for help, Shakira and Usher remain neutral, refusing to tell him which artist they would choose. Adam is angry because he doesn't have any steals left, so he can't grab whichever singer Blake doesn't pick. The country singer agonizes over the decision but chooses Audra. Usher and Shakira do not push their buttons to steal Alaska and Madi, which has Adam writhing in his seat with frustration, calling the other coaches crazy and cruising backstage afterwards to hug the two girls and tell them how pissed off he is that they are gone. But sometimes, there can only be one winner.
Adam coaches the other duo, folk singers Dawn and Hawkes. He pits the two against single dad Josh Murley and gives them the infamous "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel. During rehearsals, Adam and advisor Aloe Blacc push the singers to have more fun, to make the song the sloppy anthem of an irritated drunk who would much rather be home than stuck in a bar surrounded by other drunks. Despite some worries from Adam and Aloe that the performers are not making a connection in rehearsals, something about it clicks when the three take The Voice stage. It must work, since it makes the teetotaling Shakira want a beer. Adam chooses Dawn and Hawkes as the winner, which leaves Josh so disappointed he is nearly in tears. He says goodbye, hugs Adam and is almost out of the studio on his way back to supporting his daughter by working in a wine bar, when Shakira slaps her steal button. Nothing like waiting until the last second! She does like the guys with a little gravel and grit in their voices. Having stolen Patrick Thomson last week, she now has two.
Speaking of parents singing for their kids...
Josh Kaufman is a 38-year-old father of three who struggles to support his family by playing local gigs in Indianapolis. This may be his last chance to kick-start his singing career. He's up against Austin Ellis, another terrific soul singer. Their coach, Adam, assigns them the song "Happy," by former Voice advisor Pharrell Williams. Both are determined, and Josh isn't ready to go home. With three kids under the age of five waiting, who can blame him?
The two singers are evenly matched, and there is an infectious energy and theatricality to their performance that has the audience on its feet and the coaches bopping along in their chairs. Their coach is very proud but has to make a decision. He chooses Josh, who is mobbed by his wife and kids backstage. Sorry, little girl: Daddy's going to be in Los Angeles for a little while longer.
Another singer trying to be an inspiration to her child is the pseudonymously named Music Box, a single mom and Berklee College of Music graduate who gave up pursuing a career when she had her son. Her coach, Shakira, has matched her up against Deja Hall, the 16-year-old wunderkind, to sing the Bangles' "Eternal Flame." In rehearsals, Deja seems tense. Advisor Miranda Lambert thinks the girl has not yet found her true voice, which still has a lullaby quality to it. Plus with her youth, she doesn't have the life experiences to draw on to find an emotional connection to the song. On the other hand, Music Box has always struggled with stage fright and with the ability to open herself up and be vulnerable in front of an audience. In fact, taking on a stage name was her way of trying to get past those nerves in the first place.
So it's anybody's ballgame the night of the performance. Deja, having an intensely competitive nature, digs deep and impresses everyone, though the coaches seem to lean more towards Music Box. But Shakira is the only vote that counts, and she picks Deja. Usher wastes little time in stealing Music Box for his own team, so her dream of being an example to her son will continue.
Speaking of teenage phenoms...
Usher matches up team members Madilyn Paige and Tanner James, two teenagers from Provo, Utah, who actually briefly attended the same high school but never met. Their coach gives them the Taylor Swift-Ed Sheeran duet "Everything Has Changed." Usher and advisor Jill Scott push them to find a connection to the song and to each other, and really work on the staging - getting the two to start the song with their backs to each other, moving towards each other when they feel the emotions pushing them together. The entire rehearsal process begins to look like another remake of "Endless Love."
The performance is the most adorable battle yet - "Like watching golden retriever puppies frolic through fields of wheat," according to Adam. "Like 'The Notebook Part II,'" says Carson. The other coaches are at a loss as to whom to pick, since both deliveries were nearly flawless. Tanner seems to be the crowd favorite, at least among the female segment of the crowd. Usher is thrilled, particularly about Madilyn and her potential. He picks her, sending Tanner the ladies' man home. Maybe there is only room for one handsome stud muffin on Team Usher.
The final performance of the night is also from Team Usher, with former NFL cheerleader Tess Boyer teaming up with teenage blues star Bria Kelly to sing Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart." The two singers recognize early that they can give a dynamite duet. Early on the advantage is Bria's - Tess, according to advisor Jill Scott, needs to let loose. She has a cheerleader facade she tends to hide behind, while Bria is "a rocket in flight." But Tess takes all the notes from Usher and Jill and impresses them in the final rehearsal, which has Bria nervous.
Then the two singers take The Voice stage and blow the doors off the building. It's a crazy performance, gritty and gutty and "awesome," according to Shakira. Everyone is surprised by Tess, praising her for coming out of nowhere, showing a dimension they didn't know she had. It's a tough moment when Usher is mulling his decision, with Bria actually closing her eyes as if praying. Though knowing her potential, it's not too much of a surprise when Usher picks Bria. As Tess stands onstage and thanks Usher, Adam and Shakira mime pushing their buttons until Blake caves into the pressure and steals her.
This season, the show will send the battle winners on to a second elimination round. And with only one steal remaining among all the coaches (Usher's), Tuesday could be the most difficult night for the contestants yet as they fight to stay on The Voice.
The coaches and their advisors prep their singers for another wild night of head to head battles.