Battle rounds on "The Voice" entered their final frenzied week Monday — replete with agonizing decisions for the coaches, disappointing trips home for a few pop star hopefuls and stunning second chances for a few more, thanks to other coaches' steals.
The night started out with a match-up between bubbly erstwhile P.R. professional Jessica Childress and grieving R&B singer Vedo, still grappling with his mother's death from cancer.
But Jessica lacked confidence. "Her strength is that she has this incredible range. Her weakness is she doesn't know it," Usher said.
When the pair performed their high-octane take on the Bruno Mars hit "Locked Out of Heaven," the coaches talked up the pair's chemistry, and Shakira praised Jessica's performance for oozing personality. Ultimately, though, Usher went with Vedo, and Jessica bid a gracious and bubbly adieu to "The Voice."
The moment was bittersweet for Vedo.
"I just really, really, really wish my mom was here. But she's here in spirit, you know?" he said backstage. "I know she's smiling."
Next up were two of Shakira's team members, a pair of singers who couldn't have seemed more different. Luke Edgemon, a professional background singer with a knack for a ballad, was paired with Monique Abbadie, a Cuban-American former child star with a big stage presence.
Pairing them for a cover of of Lady Gaga's "You and I," Shakira cautioned Monique not to get too Broadway in her delivery, while Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden urge Luke to explore letting his voice break a little bit, saying it sounded more honest.
Despite their differences, the pair wound up with an unexpectedly sensational stage presence together, and the normally low-key Luke blew all the coaches away. Adam called him a "revelation," while Usher assured him, "You've got a career ahead of you, baby. I've not heard a voice like that."
"Where the hell did Luke come from?" a wowed Blake asked. "I thought Luke won," he added.
But Luke didn't, thanks to a strategic move by Shakira.
Praising Monique for learning, as she said, "the importance of using just enough Tabasco" to flavor her performance, Shakira opted to keep her Latin pop protege on her team, knowing full well that another coach would choose to steal Luke.
And that they did, with Blake and Usher both fighting over him, and Blake calling his performance "awesome" and "one of the most energetic, pitch-perfect performances that I've seen in the battle rounds in a long time."
Luke, looking flabbergasted by the attention, made a strategic pick of his own and picked Blake. "I'm sad to leave Team Shakira," he said, "but Blake is a winner."
Next up was a pairing of two of Blake's team members, ballerina-turned-rock'n'roll frontwoman Jacqui Sandell and 17-year-old country hopeful Savannah Berry. Blake assigned them to country group Little Big Town's song "Little White Church" because he wanted them both to break out of their more serious material.
Each singer had her own challenges. Savannah struggled with keeping up with the song's pace, as mentor Sheryl Crow noted, while Jacqui struggled — successfully, to her and Blake's delight — with hitting the song's high notes instead of growling her way through them.
After their performance, Blake praised the ways both singers took his advice to heart. "You both took the notes I gave you, and you put them into motion," he said. But ultimately, he chose Savannah as the winner, and Jacqui headed home.
Another Shakira duo came next, this time two R&B singers — grocery stocker C. Perkins and Kris Thomas, whose effortlessly high vocal range the other coaches had mistaken for a woman's at blind auditions — whom she assigned a different Bruno Mars song, "It Will Rain."
When they performed, Kris managed to take to heart Shakira's advice to feel the song and not to try to impress his audience with vocal runs. Still, she and the other coaches said both singers could have done more.
"We still haven't seen everything that either one of you could do," Blake told them. Shakira agreed. "I think that you were holding back a bit. I've seen you guys do better in rehearsals," she said.
She picked Kris as the winner, and just as a disappointed C. thought he was heading home, Usher swooped in at the last second to steal him.
Gravelly-voiced, dread-headed Memphis blues singer Patrick Dodd of Team Adam got no such reprieve, unfortunately, despite the praise he won from the coaches after his battle with quirky folk-pop duo Midas Whale.
The two acts were matched up on the Elvis Presley classic "Burning Love," and their guest mentor Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum warned that Patrick faced an uphill battle with it. "I think Patrick's really gonna need to have a presence on stage, because he's one person and they're two," she said.
The other coaches praised Patrick's singing. "It's like he gargles with broken glass," Blake marveled, while Usher said, "That's the kind of voice the world is missing right now."
The decision was a hard one, Adam said, maybe his hardest yet. "I wanna throw up right now," he said. But he had to pick Midas Whale as the winner, he said. That meant Patrick was heading home, sans steal, though with no hard feelings.
Finally on Monday came a pairing of two soulful singers from very different backgrounds: young classically trained singer Orlando Dixon and Utah-bred soul singer Ryan Innes, still scarred by a recent break-up.
Each brought to the Bill Withers classic "Ain't No Sunshine" what the other lacked, as Usher and guest mentor Pharrell Williams noted. "Your voice is incredible, but it is your shield," Pharrell told Orlando, urging him to let his emotion show, in what the aspiring singer called "a life-changing moment."
Onstage, Orlando took that advice to heart — while Ryan tapped into the fact of his own broken heart for their battle performance. "You moved the room," Usher remarked to Orlando.
Usher agonized a while over his decision, knowing either singer would prove a boon to his team, but ultimately he picked Ryan. "I think that he's gonna be able to move people with that conviction and that depth," he said.
But Adam didn't pass up the opportunity to snag a performer whose show he had called "a revelation" — and he stole Orlando, to Usher's relief. "I'm really happy that Adam picked him," Usher said.
That left three "Voice" hopefuls on different teams than they'd begun at the end of Tuesday night and another three heading home without a reprieve from a steal.
Battle rounds on "The Voice" wrap up Tuesday night on "The Voice."
"The Voice" airs at 8/7c on Mondays and Tuesdays.