7:10pm PT by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
'The Voice': With Teams Set, Season 12 Battles Begin
With the season 12 teams set, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton and Alicia Keys got their artists ready for the battle round, which kicked off tonight. John Legend assisted with Team Adam, Luke Bryan advised Team Blake, Celine Dion joined Team Gwen and DJ Khaled lent his wisdom to Team Alicia.
The first battle of the season came from Team Blake. Young pop-country artists Brennley Brown and Lauren Duski faced off, singing “Better Man” by Little Big Town. Shelton encouraged Duski to bring more emotion to her singing. Bryan commended Brown’s distinct voice, but at only 14 years old, Brown was having trouble connecting to the emotions of the song.
In their final performance, Brown sounded really strong, showing off her range and strong stage presence. But Duski outshone her with a more mature and connected performance, getting to the heart of the song. There are simply more layers to her artistry. Shelton saved Duski, but Levine and Stefani both swooped in to save Brown, who certainly shows a lot of potential. Brown ultimately decided to join Team Gwen, which should be a great fit for her.
Next up was a battle from Team Gwen. JChosen faced off against Kenny P, singing “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder. “Let completely loose,” Stefani encouraged JChosen, whose nerves were getting to him a little bit despite the fact that he secured a coveted four-chair turn in the Blind Auditions. Dion gave him a big pep talk, too. Kenny P’s head voice sounded particularly great on the song. These two artists have different strengths and styles, so it was hard to see how they might come together for the final performance.
But they really did come together in the end, giving a dynamic and engaging performance that kept the evening’s high energy going. Both men built the momentum of the song and had a lot of fun onstage while delivering solid vocals. Levine immediately said that he wanted JChosen on his own team. Stefani struggled with the decision. She said Kenny P seemed like a natural but added that JChosen’s nerves were completely gone tonight. She chose JChosen as the winner, and Kenny P went home.
Keys paired Anatalia Villaranda and Missy Robertson together, saying that they both have powerful voices. Keys had them sing “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae. Despite Villaranda’s youth, she brought a lot of experience to rehearsal. Both artists were up to the challenge of the fast tempo of the song and managed to stay on pitch. "When you hit that stage, explode," said DJ Khaled.
Both women definitely exploded in their final performance, delivering the best battle of the night. They had tight runs and worked the stage capably. It's such a tough song to sing, but both commanded it. Shelton said the battle easily could have been a performance at the Grammys: It was that good. "You're both really incredible," said Keys. She surprised by choosing to keep the younger artist on her team, but Villaranda is definitely one to watch this season, so it was the right choice. Robertson was not stolen by the other coaches.
Levine's first battle pairing of the season was Gaby Borromeo and Mark Isaiah, singing "Pillowtalk" by Zayn. Borromeo struggled a bit with the range of the song, but Legend helped her figure out how to handle it. He also encouraged her to take some of the sweetness out of her voice. Both artists had to work on their breath control. Both sounded stronger in their second rehearsal, but Legend and Levine reworked the arrangement to make the middle a little more dynamic.
In their final performance, both artists had more confidence than they showed in their rehearsal, but Isaiah closed his eyes a little too much. And they didn't have great chemistry with each other. But they did sound good, and Legend and Levine put together a great arrangement. "It felt like you were really feeling what you were singing," said Shelton of Isaiah. "You both performed really well," said Keys. She pointed out that Borromeo is the powerhouse vocalist, while Isaiah is a little smoother. The two artists certainly bring different things to the table. Levine went with Isaiah as the winner, and The Voice lost the talented Borromeo.
Team Alicia's Felicia Temple and 13-year-old Quizz Swanigan were up next, singing "Titanium." It's a challenging song, and Keys said she chose it to take them out of their genre boxes. Keys encouraged Swanigan to reach for the notes in rehearsal and worked with Temple on the emotional side of her performance. Temple and Swanigan worked on the harmonies together. Swanigan still struggled with some of the notes in the second rehearsal, but DJ Khaled and Keys both tried to boost his confidence and get him out of his head.
Both Temple and Swanigan showed a lot of improvement between rehearsals and their performance. Swanigan hit the notes, and both artists delivered on the vocal and emotional fronts. They were an unexpected match, but they sang well together and had a lot of fun with it. Stefani praised Swanigan's unique tone and said she would go with him. Keys sided with Stefani and chose Swanigan, and Shelton chose Temple, saying that there's no one else like her on his team.
The final battle of the night went down between Ashley Levin and Casi Joy of Team Blake. They sang "How Blue." The two artists have a very similar style of singing, which made it a tricky pairing. Shelton and Bryan pushed them both to sing with complex vocals without changing too much about the traditional country sound. Shelton encouraged Joy to drop her growl.
They ended the night on a high note with their pitch-perfect performance. Levin and Joy are both really strong country artists with a lot to give. "It was bonafide battle status," said Keys. "That was a boxing match posing as a singing contest," added Levine. "Both of your voices are so beautiful," said Stefani, adding that Joy came off as the more seasoned artist. Shelton faced a tough decision. He went with Joy, leaving Levin on the chopping block. But she'll be sticking around a while longer: Stefani, Keys and Levine all went in for the steal, all looking to beat Shelton with a strong country artist. All three gave passionate speeches, and Levin joined Team Alicia.
The battles continue tomorrow night on NBC. What did you think of tonight's results?