Sometimes during The Voice’s Battle Rounds, the sparring contestants sing over and upstage each other, and the result is an ear-achy-breaky mess. Other times the contestants seem shut off, in their own zones, barely aware that there’s even someone else onstage. But sometimes, just sometimes, certain Battles can feel like real duets — as in, awards-show-worthy, superstar duets.
This happened three times on Monday’s Voice episode. At one point Blake Shelton told a pair of singers, “This didn’t feel like a Battle. This felt like an incredible, Grammy-type performance.” At another moment in the evening, Adam Levine gushed, “Every once in a while, I’m made to feel this way because of a performance that I’m watching: ‘Man, I love this show.’ It’s got such a soul and a beating heart.”
Unfortunately, only two of Monday’s three amazing Battles culminated in Steals, meaning that one talented singer went home way too soon. Let’s recap that performance, along with the night’s other two fantastic performances, before we get to the more typical Battle Round fodder that filled out the rest of the episode.
TEAM KELLY: Justin Kilgore vs. Molly Stevens, “Burning House”
Justin and Molly have shared a special bond (they’re both openly gay — a rarity in country music), and that bond was evident as they warbled Cam’s new-school storytelling classic. Justin’s high tones (a “sweet falsetto that is very cool for a big male country singer,” Kelly Clarkson noted) and Molly’s whiskey-ravaged rasp (which Kelly compared with the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and Patty Griffin) complemented each other perfectly. I just might download the studio recording of this one. “There was a real tenderness between y’all. I think you can just see the friendship,” Alicia said. What a shame that friendship was broken up when Molly was eliminated.
TEAM ADAM: Miya Bass vs. Drew Cole, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
This one seemed like a mismatch at first, with the Dylan tune more in hipster troubadour Drew’s wheelhouse. But when Adam instructed the pair to do the more wailing GNR version, both Drew and Miya rocked it up surprisingly convincingly. This was like one of those great CMA Awards mashups, like Chris Stapleton with Justin Timberlake or Beyoncé with the Dixie Chicks. Miya in particular was a revelation, infusing her performance with a gospel vibe, which had Adam’s fellow coaches rooting for her. Adam played it safe and picked Drew anyway, but that was OK, because Alicia swooped right in and stole Miya, the “magnificent queen from Queens,” for herself.
WINNER: Drew/Miya moves to Team Alicia
TEAM ALICIA: Britton Buchanan vs. Jaclyn Lovey, “Thinking Out Loud”
Britton and Jaclyn are so young they can’t possibly imagine what it would be like to be the 70 (or even age 23!) mentioned in Ed Sheeran’s wedding ballad. But the 18- and 16-year-olds performed with such heart, maturity, and poise that their ages were easy to forget. The studio audience was roaring with delight the instant both singers opened their mouths, and understandably so. Jaclyn’s warm, creamy vocals (described by Kelly as “Kacey Musgraves meets Eva Cassidy”) were goosebump-raising, and Britton’s powerful baritone was swoon-inducing. I’m just thinking out loud here, but both of these crazy-talented kids could crack the top 10.
WINNER: Britton/Jaclyn moves to Team Blake
TEAM BLAKE: Kaleb Lee vs. Pryor Baird, “Don’t Do Me Like That”
“Tom Petty is hallowed ground,” warned mentor Trace Adkins, and it seemed as if only Pryor listened to Trace. Kaleb was bar-band material, solid and steady but unremarkable; four-chair-turner Pryor overpowered him even just singing backup on the first chorus. Pryor had this gravelly, growly, gospel-y thing going for him that reminded me of the unhinged Casey Abrams from American Idol Season 10, and Kaleb was quickly reduced to the role of sideman. This was definitely not a duet. I was shocked when Kelly opted to steal Kaleb.
WINNER: Pryor/Kaleb moves to Team Kelly
TEAM ADAM: Genesis Diaz vs. Mia Boostrom, “Because of You”
These two young ladies were tasked with singing a Kelly classic in front of Kelly herself. No pressure, then. I think both contestants rose to the occasion, but Genesis didn’t sound like anything we haven’t heard on this show. Mia, on the other hand, showcased a truly unique sound: deep and resonant and husky and just badass. She reminded me of Karise Eden from The Voice Australia. “I did think this song was probably best suited for Mia — you have these low ends that I would die for,” Kelly told her.
TEAM BLAKE: Jordan Kirkdorffer vs. Wilkes, “Nobody to Blame”
This Chris Stapleton tune fell squarely in Wilkes’s comfort zone. Jordan tried his best but came across as corny and corporate-band. Wilkes was effortless — as in he didn’t even have to try — and he easily won this TKO Battle. Wilkes didn’t have the technically superior vocal, but sometimes The Voice isn’t just about the voice.
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