'The Voice': The Season's First Battles Bring the Heat

The Voice Season 11 - Battles 1 - Still - H - 2016

The Battle Round began on season 11 of The Voice tonight, with coaches Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys all bringing along a celebrity adviser to shape their artists. Team Adam tapped Sammy Hagar, Team Blake tapped Bette Midler, Team Miley tapped Joan Jett and Team Alicia tapped Charlie Puth.

Season 11’s first battle went down between Team Alicia’s Christian Cuevas and Jason Warrior. Keys picked an unexpected song for the two, asking them to sing “Hello” by Adele. Puth and Keys stressed the importance of channeling emotion over doing too many runs. In their performance, Warrior and Cuevas both tapped into the emotions of the song, taking the battle to the next level. And they still delivered on the vocal front. It was a very strong start to the night, and all four coaches were impressed. Cyrus noted that Cuevas brought some vulnerability to his singing and that Warrior put on a great performance by working the crowd. In a surprising move, Keys crowned Cuevas the winner. But Levine swooped in to steal Warrior.

The first Team Adam pairing of the night was aspiring indie-pop artist Natasha Bure, the daughter of Full House’s Candace Cameron, and young crooner Riley Elmore. As a Van Halen fan, Elmore was immediately starstruck working with Hager. Levine picked Michael Buble’s “Cry Me a  River” for this battle — a choice that definitely favored Elmore’s comfort zone. “Natasha’s voice is like an unpolished diamond,” Levine said during their rehearsal, hoping to help Bure work through her nerves. “A lot of guys try to be crooners, but he really is one,” he added about Elmore. Elmore kicked off the performance with the first verse, and given how suited he is to sing a song like this, he set a high bar. But when Bure jumped in, she didn’t hold back. It felt truly more like a battle than a duet, which isn’t necessarily a great thing. It’s always more fun to see the artists connect even when they’re in competition with one another. Shelton said that Elmore was “right on the money” with the technical aspects, but he added that Bure really sold the performance. Keys said she would choose Elmore. Levine agreed, and he picked Elmore. Bure went home.

Team Miley’s first battle of the season paired Ali Caldwell and Courtnie Ramirez, who worked with Cyrus and Jett to find their inner rockers. Cyrus had them sing “Hit or Miss” by Odetta. Caldwell said the lyrics told the perfect story for her. Jett said they both had genuine performance abilities. In their final rehearsal, Caldwell and Ramirez impressed Cyrus with their energy. Jett told Ramirez to remember to breathe. “I don’t want to lose either of those artists,” Cyrus said before the final performance. Though Caldwell has more professional experience, both women gave a powerful performance in their battle. They blended well but also shined on their own, leaving Cyrus with the toughest decision so far. “This is my first battle, so I’m all teared up and everything,” Cyrus said. Levine said he was impressed by how much confidence Ramirez had going up against Caldwell. Cyrus picked Caldwell as the winner, which was definitely the right choice. She has what it takes to win the whole season. At the last second, Keys and Shelton tried to steal Ramirez. “There is a certain joy that exudes from you,” Keys said in her pitch. Ramirez joined Team Alicia.

Team Blake’s first battle went down between the oldest artist of the season, Dan Shafer, and soul-country singer Sundance Head. Shelton had them sing “Feel Like Making Love” by Bad Company, because he said it combines things they both do well. “Show some spunk,” Midler said to Shafer, who she felt was holding back. Shafer definitely upped his energy and presence for the final performance. It was a solid battle, though not quite as exciting as the three that preceded it. Head got to show off his guitar skills, but it felt like both artists were just staying in their comfort zones instead of really surprising or challenging themselves, so it made it hard to pick one who stood out. “You both did a wonderful job,” Keys said. Cyrus said Shafer worked the stage well. Shelton kept Head in the competition.

In the next battle of the night, Team Adam’s Andrew DeMuro and Billy Gilman, a country singer trying to reinvent himself as a pop artist, faced off. Levine had them sing “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, and encouraged them not to oversing. Hagar was impressed with the soul in DeMuro’s voice. In their final performance, their harmonies sounded lovely. DeMuro and Gilman both gave passionate performances, but neither quite made the hit his own. It was a good performance but not a particularly memorable one. Shelton said it was the most evenly matched battle, as both bring different strengths to the table. Levine picked Gilman as the winner.

The last battle of the evening came from Team Alicia. Keys paired Lauren Diaz and high schooler We McDonald, whom she had sing “Maybe” by Janis Joplin. “The song is all about the emotion, and they have to get ready to get so vulnerable,” Keys said of this battle. Puth was blown away by McDonald’s voice and how unexpected it is. Keys said she was looking to choose someone who really makes her feel something. It was a fun and electric battle to end on. Both women have huge voices and gave it their all, leaving Keys to make a hard decision. But the stakes were pretty low, since The Voice had already revealed that there would be a steal. “I am so proud of you both,” Keys said. “This is a really difficult song.” But she thought they did a great job and seemed like “bona fide artists.” Keys chose McDonald as the winner. Both Cyrus and Levine jumped at the opportunity to steal Diaz. Levine said he thinks he can bring a soulful monster out of Diaz. “I have nothing going on except this show,” Cyrus said, begging for Diaz to join her team. It worked, and Diaz joined Team Miley, which is looking stronger and stronger every week.

The Battle Round continues tomorrow night on NBC. Who were your favorites tonight?