There’s just one word to describe season 15 of NBC’s The Voice – Wow! The talent keeps getting better and the competition keeps getting tougher. The October 22 battle rounds proved that as coaches Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton were faced with some difficult and even heartbreaking decisions.
Team Blake, with the help of Keith Urban, kicked things off by pitting Keith Paluso of Memphis against Nashville’s Dave Fenley. Shelton went deep into the country music archives for their musical collaboration. He explained, “Every now and then, if you’re going to be a country artist, you gotta go worship at the temple of George Jones.” “Possum praising, I think they call it,” added Keith. And although the lyrics were all Jones, the competitors gave it their own unique spin, which is what Blake needed. “They both have this edgy, rugged sound to their singing,” he said. “Let’s face it, I only need one of those types of singers on my team.”
In one of the finest performances of the night, the coaches were completely split. Kelly commented, “It’s like picking between the Highwaymen. They’re all awesome,” while Adam added, “It’s like a battle of the beards,” referring to Keith and Dave’s similar facial hair.
When it came to picking the winner, though, Blake went with the bigger voice of Dave. But no worries. As soon as host Carson Daly announced that Keith was available to steal, Adam hit his button. It makes sense, though. Blake had blocked him from getting Keith in the blind auditions.
The battle between the teens of Team Adam came next with Reagan Strange of Memphis taking on Emily Hough of Petersburg, Illinois. “I think it was good to put them together just because of their age,” Adam said. “And they’re different kinds of singers, but I do think they are each other’s competition. It’s so interesting and cool to watch these two young girls. To see the elegance and grace that they have is so inspiring, especially for someone with two daughters.”
Performing Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph,” the young women’s voices were different but were also goosebumps-inducingly harmonious. Even they realized their performance was off the charts and they high-fived each other when they were finished.
Of course, Blake had plenty to say about their performance. “That wasn’t a battle, that was like a sweet little fairy tale,” he joked. “I’m going to say this and the crowd is going to freak out. Emily is 16 and Reagan is 13-years-old. So much talent between the two of you, no matter what your age is.” Jennifer also pointed out, “You guys sounded like angels and you should be so proud of yourselves. Adults come out here and can’t take the nerves.”
It was a painful and heartbreaking decision but Adam finally chose the youngest competitor, Reagan, to continue on to the knock-outs.
Next up was Team Jennifer’s Franc West of Atlanta and Matt Johnson of Staunton, Virginia. Jennifer chose Alex Clare’s “Too Close” for the soulful pair to perform and to say the competition was fierce seems an understatement. Following their song, Adam commented, “I thought it was a really evenly matched battle, but Matt, I saw your game face today and it was like, ‘take no prisoners.’ And you were having so much fun, dude, and I love that about you. I think you should be on the show.”
And although Matt had auditioned for every season of The Voice and was, in fact, the final contestant chosen from the battle rounds, Jennifer chose Franc to continue on to knock-outs.
For Team Kelly’s next battle, she pitted 17-year-old Abby Cates against 21-year-old Delaney Silvernell. Kelly told adviser Thomas Rhett, “Adam and Delaney, they’re both pop and soulful, and they kind of have a similar vibe, although they’re different.”
Singing Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” the young women were as tight as any duo could be, and when they finished, the coach’s opinions reflected that. Although Blake said he would probably pick Delaney, Jennifer and Adam were split.
The decisions are obviously tough for the coaches, but this one seemed even harder for Kelly. “I’m really hoping neither of you go home right now, but I can’t promise that, so have to make a decision,” she lamented before announcing that Abby would go on in the show. “There’s just something so different about it and Abby is so young, but I think she has such a cool style. I’m just looking forward to exploring that with her,” she explained. Meanwhile, Adam pounded his “steal” button repeatedly to add Delaney to his team. “I was under the impression that Kelly was going to take you with her, but she didn’t. And it’s so crazy when that happens,” he said.
When Team Adam’s Jake Wells of Kansas City and Natalie Brady of Nashville met with Adam and advisor CeeLo, they were a bit perplexed as to why they were paired. So incredibly different from each other, Adam explained, “You’re different singers, obviously. Jake’s voice is powerful, but also emotional, but not over the top. Her power is insane, but I think you may have more similar taste than you realize.” As they ran through their piece, Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” CeeLo told the mismatched pair, “Whatever happens here, you guys should really think about getting together after the fact,” and Adam added, “It’s one of my favorite performances I’ve ever seen on this show. You guys need to start a band right now.”
That kind of musical chemistry made it even more difficult for Adam when they finished and he was faced with a choice. His fellow coaches were no help and Jennifer joked with her friend, “I don’t know what you’re going to do. Don’t be trying to give me your problems.”
It was Jake, though, that Adam settled on saying, “Jake is just too interesting to pass up.”
The final battle to air during the show provided an opportunity for a bit of a reckoning for Kelly and Jennifer. Brooklyn’s Zaxai and Cincinnati’s Tyshawn Colquitt from Team Jennifer were paired up to sing Khalid and Normani’s “Love Lies.” While both singers are obviously gifted, they were so caught up in the technicality of the song that advisor Halsey told them, “Don’t forget about the words you’re singing. Diction, and also intention, emotion. This is a love song. Show me the secret parts of you that no one gets to see.”
And they did. Building slowly and gradually settling into their vocal pockets, the gentlemen dazzled the coaches, but while Adam was split on who he would pick, Blake leaned towards Zaxai. And Kelly did, too but she was also motivated by the fact that Jennifer had blocked her from getting Zaxai during the blind auditions.
Maybe it was strategy between Kelly and Jennifer or maybe it was just luck, but Jennifer picked Tyshawn in the battles and Kelly quickly stole Zaxai. “I got blocked from Zaxai in the finals if y’all remember,” she told the audience.
There were other battles that took place, but didn’t that didn’t air in their entirety.
Team Adam’s Fousheé and Radha performed “Growing Pains” by Alessia Cara with Radha getting the win. Team Kelly’s Chevel Shepherd went against Mikele Buck with George Strait’s “You Look So Good In Love” with Chevel continuing to knock-outs. And in Team Jennifer’s Audi Bartholomew versus MaKenzie Thomas battle, it was MaKenzie who took the performance of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.”
In addition to those performances, Kelsea Ballerini had her own battle rounds on The Comeback Stage featured on YouTube. This week’s competition was between Sam Robbins and medical school student Wyatt Rivers. Now Kelsea does things a little differently, giving each of the performers the chance to sing a song of their choosing. Sam picked The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” while Wyatt sang “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth.
After giving their final performances in an intimate studio, Kelsea selected Wyatt to go on in the competition.
The Voice returns on October 23 show with the final battle rounds, and then we’re off to the knock-outs.