"The Voice" entered a new, more focused sort of battle round Monday, as pairs of teammates picked the songs they'd face off singing, and vied for even fewer steals should they fall short.
The pairings laid bare not just the quality of the talent, not just of the "Voice" title hopefuls, but of their guest mentor, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, as well. They also underscored the contestants' ability to rise to an occasion -- choosing a song, rehearsing it diligently and then turning in committed, electric performances.
But each coach got just one steal this go-round, and that meant they were being exceptionally choosy -- and that some of their favorite talent wound up unceremoniously sent packing.
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The first of those was Team Blake's country-turned-rock diva Megan Ruger, who lost her battle on Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" to moody country belter Audra McLaughlin. As Shakira noted, Megan's performance may have been technically superior, but Audra's connected more with the coaches. Audra moved on in the competition, while the coaches passed on stealing Megan.
Next came Usher's pairing of his team's two modern soul singers, TJ Wilkins and Cierra Mickens, whom he'd recently stolen after she lost a battle to remain on Team Shakira. The two chose to duet on Oleta Adams' "Get Here," and onstage, they took to heart Chris Martin's advice to focus on establishing an intense connection with each other.
Their battle sounded perhaps more like two desperate people battling to express their desperation than it did like chemistry -- but it was electric nonetheless. When Cierra growled a big line mid-song, her former coach Shakira shot Adam a look that suggested she wished she hadn't let her go from her team.
But Shakira may not have regretted the move enough to take Cierra back. Though the coaches were wowed by both performances, Usher picked TJ as the winner of the battle, leaving Cierra set to head home -- making her perhaps the night's most accomplished singer to leave empty-handed.
The first steal of the night came with the next pairing, when Team Blake's teen country singer Jake Worthington faced NFL cheerleader (and former Team Usher member) Tess Boyer. The duo was tasked with John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me," and their performance of it elicited effusive praise from the coaches. Adam remarked that he felt like he had just watched a performance by country stars at the Grammys or the CMAs, while Shakira reserved her praise for Tess's performance.
"You blew me away!" Shakira said, calling Tess' performance "unbelievable" and her voice "powerful" and "sweet at the same time."
Blake wound up citing team loyalty and choosing Jake as the winner, prompting all three rival coaches to slam their buttons for Tess -- her former coach Usher included. Adam touted his past "Voice" wins and dismissed Usher as having "abandoned" Tess, while Shakira chimed in of Usher, "He's done it once; he'll do it again."
Shakira's excitement over Tess' performance won her over, and she chose Shakira as her coach, giving Shakira her first and final steal of the second round of battles.
The next two battles' losers weren't so lucky, though. Team Adam's Sam Behymer lost her battle with Christina Grimmie on OneRepublic's "Counting Stars," as Christina's energy and precision beat out Sam's less predictable vocal "finesse," as Blake put it.
When Team Shakira's two rock singers Josh Murley and Patrick Thomas, good friends and fellow former Team Adam members, went head-to-head on Bryan Adams' "Run to You," their coach called it an evenly matched battle of powerful rock singers. But she picked Patrick as the winner, saying she needed a voice like his on her team and was confident she could be a better coach for him.
For the final battle of the night, Team Adam's other remaining Josh, Josh Kaufman, faced off with his fellow soul singer Delvin Choice on Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" in a high-spirited performance that pitted Josh's smooth vocals against Delvin's rich tone and powerful theatrics.
Blake picked Delvin as the winner, as did Shakira, who remarked, "You surprised us all, really." Adam agreed, adding that the performance was "flawless" from both men but picking Delvin as the winner.
That left Josh free for the taking, and Usher did just that, stealing the low-key crooner for his team. "That was one of the most incredible performances of the competition, and I feel like we could go all the way to the end, man," he told his new team member.
The second round of battles will continue Tuesday, as Blake and Adam look to exercise their remaining steals.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.