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Monday night’s episode of The Voice was full of debuts: Chris Martin as universal guest mentor, a rebooted round of battles and Usher’s hat. The Davy Crockett-inspired headwear that he wore throughout his press tour accompanied him alongside the ring, and already has his own Twitter account that’s giving newly announced coach Pharrell Williams‘ Vivienne Westwood hat a nod.
Similar to the now-defunct knockout round, the coaches still pick who performs in each sudden-death duet, and the contenders must agree on a song from their coach’s shortlist that not only showcases each of their strengths, but also gives them the opportunity to potentially outshine the other. Rehearsals for this round are held in the ring itself, and the singers are shown meeting with their families before they begin their battles. All of the coaches have one steal each, plus the mentorship of the Coldplay frontman.
And it’s all a winning combination, as each of the performances alone blew away the entire first round of battles.
Meet the first-ever winners of the second round of Voice battles:
Team Blake’s Audra McLaughlin vs. Megan Ruger
Song: “The Climb”
The country hopeful and the Nashville rocker opted for the Miley Cyrus anthem — Ruger wanted to sing something with the most rock potential, but struggled to infuse her aesthetic into the “pretty” ballad, while McLaughlin fell behind the rhythm during rehearsals. In the ring, McLaughin started out shaky but stayed so emotionally committed to a technically-sound Ruger that she won over all the coaches, and her second battle.
Team Usher’s Cierra Mickens vs. T.J. Wilkins
Song: “Get Here”
The two soul singers chose the Oleta Adams hit to showcase their ballad abilities, and Martin advised them to consciously channel something in their personal lives while performing the duet. And it worked — the battle was a perfectly powerful yet restrained match that left all the judges dumbfounded. Usher eventually chose Wilkins.
Team Blake’s Jake Worthington vs. Tess Boyer
Song: “Have a Little Faith in Me”
It’s a match of second chances, as the returning country auditioner and the stolen pop singer from Usher’s team settled with the John Hiatt ballad. At first, they both had articulation issues, but in the ring, they both were vocally impressive, staying true to each of their genres. In the end, Shelton had more faith in Worthington’s growl-filled phrases and believability, while the other three coaches pounced on the chance to steal Boyer. Even though Levine touted his two championships and Usher tried to serenade her with a line from Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited,” Boyer chose Shakira.
Team Adam’s Christina Grimmie vs. Sam Behymer
Song: “Counting Stars”
The YouTube sensation and the indie contestant went with the OneRepublic hit, but with Behymer’s “squirrelier” parts and Grimmie’s tendency to over-sing, rehearsals were initially messy. They experimented with the verses’ melody to kick the notes up higher, and while it gave Behymer a few dramatic long notes, Grimmie’s stage presence showcased her comfort onstage — a maturity Shakira noticed. Though Shelton preferred Behymer, Levine moved Grimmie forward.
Team Shakira’s Josh Murley vs. Patrick Thompson
Song: “Run to You”
The two Team Adam castoffs chose to tackle the Bryan Adams track, and Martin suggested that they both perform with mic stands to help them rock out with conviction, and it made all the difference. Onstage, they each added their own noteworthy runs to the song. Levine commended both of his former teammates for showing new sides, but couldn’t choose a winner, while Shelton endorsed Thompson — whom Shakira chose.
Team Adam’s Delvin Choice vs. Josh Kaufman
Song: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”
Both four-chair turns, the Starbucks barista and the family man picked the Stevie Wonder track, and Martin thought they were so good during rehearsals that they tossed their lyric sheets and just jammed through the song. After Kaufman was advised not to compete with Choice’s big voice, the two found a happy medium while each sailing on the signature screams. Shelton and Shakira picked Choice, and Levine agreed. Still, Kaufman was stolen by Usher.
The new battles round continue on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC.
What do you think of the new battle round? Were the right singers sent home tonight? Sound off in the comments below!
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