'The Voice' Recap: Nature Vs. Nurture

Two returning auditionees face off in a bittersweet battle, while one coach uses both of his steals in one night.

Who is the rightful winner of a reality singing competition: a naturally gifted singer who quickly rises through the many, many stages of The Voice -- or a musician who may not be as inherently talented but demonstrates how well he or she can adapt to constructive criticism from the coaches? As the season five teams continue to split in half during the battle rounds, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green seemed to pick sides on which ethos they believed in.

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With guest mentors Ryan Tedder, Ed Sheeran, Cher and Miguel by their sides throughout rehearsals, each coach championed nature or nurture in the battles on Monday night.

Aguilera’s Josh Logan vs. Michael Lynch: “Harder to Breathe”
In rehearsals, both the soulful single father and the Latin-minded landscaper had trouble with stage presence, since they were concentrating so much on the Maroon 5 hit’s complicated lyrical structure. Among tight harmonies, Lynch took a jumpier approach onstage, while Logan rested on his laid-back laurels -- a contrast that was weird to watch in a battle. “It’s really easy to screw it up, but I’m telling you, you guys did an amazing job,” said Levine of the band’s early hit. As the three male judges commended Logan’s power voice over Lynch’s, Aguilera moved forward with him. Surprisingly, no other coach nabbed Lynch, who despite displaying his ability to learn was sent home.

Green’s George Horga Jr. vs. Juhi: “Best I’ve Ever Had”
The Romanian pop singer was initially intimidated by the blue-haired high school scholar, whose natural tone allowed her to stand out on the Gavin DeGraw song but challenged her enunciation. Unfortunately, the chorus’ first high note got the best of Horga in the battle, which Levine immediately acknowledged, and applauded his resilience. Shelton and Aguilera praised Juhi’s range, but Green saved a hardworking Horga, despite his misstep. Levine then saved Juhi with his steal. “I think that we have work to do, but gosh, you’re 16 and you’re already so good,” he said. “I just kinda won the lottery by grabbing you for my team.”

Shelton’s Austin Jenckes vs. Brian Pounds: “To Love Somebody”
Shelton assigned the two country singers to battle with The Bee Gees song, given the cross-genre treatment by Hank Williams Jr. When Jenckes’ voice began to overpower Pounds’ in rehearsals, he opted not to play his guitar and focus more on his presence, since he also had trouble emotionally connecting with the track. Cher showed off her valuable mentoring abilities by sharing tips on microphone technique and harmonies, which the two applied in the battle. In the end, Jenckes’ natural grit and emotional commitment moved him forward.

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Levine’s James Irwin vs. Matt Cermanski: “Counting Stars”
The two returning Voice auditionees took on the impassioned OneRepublic song, which Tedder explained is about his struggle to pursue music full-time. Initially Cermanski asked to lower the key of the song, but Levine was against it, which allowed Cermanski to surprise himself with his own range -- and remove his ”security blanket” acoustic guitar for the performance. Aguilera picked Cermanski for his falsetto, but Green and Shelton preferred Irwin for his naturally deeper, clearer vocals -- as Levine ultimately did. Sadly, Cermanski was sent home a second time.

Aguilera’s Destinee Quinn vs. Lina Gaudenzi: “Not Ready to Make Nice”
The biker-bar performer and the former teen model both felt intimidated by the other’s vocal style and couldn’t connect with the once-controversial Dixie Chicks ballad. “It’s a very difficult song to sing -- not vocally, but emotionally, to connect with it,” said Sheeran in rehearsals. Sheeran tried to help Quinn sharpen her harmonies, while Aguilera demonstrated the required stage presence for this song (by singing, yet again -- it’s becoming too much of a habit, Christina). Both women brought their emotional vocals to the battle -- Quinn’s voice even breaking on a pivotal lyric -- but Levine and Shelton praised Gaudenzi’s overall performance skills. Still, Aguilera was moved by Quinn and her progress, and moved her forward, leaving Levine to steal Gaudenzi for himself.

Levine’s James Wolpert vs. Will Champlin: “Radioactive”
The Apple techie and the son of the Chicago band member sounded similar on the Imagine Dragons hit, through Wolpert tended to overstylize while Champlin struggled with his pitch. Onstage, Wolpert put on too much vibrato at times, but Champlin’s pitch problems were completely gone, overpowered by impressive runs. Shelton and Green once again agreed on Wolpert; Aguilera opted for Champlin. Levine picked Wolpert. At the very last second -- he almost walked off the stage -- Aguilera saved Champlin. In this case, she clearly appreciated the value of nurture and hard work.

The final Voice battles continue on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Twitter: @cashleelee