Season 9 of The Voice is fully loaded with competing artists chosen during the Blind Auditions. Team Blake, Team Adam, Team Gwen and (after 12 hours of auditions) Team Pharrell have named the 48 artists who will go on to vie for the title of The Voice. In this round, teammates are pitted against each other to perform duets, which will determine whether or not they continue to the Knockouts. Remember, this is when the steal comes into play. Any artist not chosen as a winner of their own Battle can be scooped up by another coach. So, once again, we have coaches vying to work with the best artists.
Joining the coaches to advise the competitors are mega performing/producing artists who rule the music industry today. Gwen will work with Selena Gomez to advise her dueling duo in the first round of Battles, and Pharrell is working with Missy Elliott to advise his first duo. John Fogerty is working with Adam and his team’s two duos, while Brad Paisley is assisting Blake with two duos. By the end of the night, six artists will win their Battles and three more are stolen by other coaches. These nine will continue to the Knockout Rounds. Let’s see how it all shakes out.
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Jordan Smith and Regina Love Perform “Like I Can”
Pitted against each other are Team Adam’s surprising and powerfully falsetto vocalist Jordan Smith and already-successful cable radio host Regina Love. Regina and Jordan are so powerfully matched, it’s hard to predict who will still be standing at the end of this first battle. Both, of course, are out-of-their-skin excited to be training with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty, who recorded such classic songs as “Proud Mary” and “Centerfield.”
The two artists take the stage to give us Sam Smith’s “Like I Can.” If you look away from the screen, you may not be able to distinguish which performer is singing at any given moment. They are both powerful and emotional. How will Adam choose? Blake says Jordan’s sound is ethereal. Pharrell says they are like two beautiful trumpets dueling. Gwen calls it all beautiful and doesn’t know what to make of Jordan’s incredible ability. After Adam chooses, the coaches get their first chance to steal an artist and Gwen is the first to step to the plate.
Result: Adam chooses Jordan
Gwen is the First to Steal an Artist
How about that? The very first Battle Round inspires the very first steal. Gwen can’t stand to see Regina Love leave The Voice without performing at least once more. She smacks her buzzer so that Regina’s journey can continue.
Result: Gwen steals Regina Love
Tyler Dickerson and Zack Seabough Perform “I’m Gonna Be Somebody”
Joining Blake to advise his first battling duo is Brad Paisley. Southern rocker Tyler is looking for a second chance at a recording career. He’s a natural on the stage. Zack,16, whom Gwen has said looks like Superman, has a beautiful voice and is the most handsome male artist of the season. (Pardon me while I pour a glass of cold water over my head.). But he’s not as natural in front of a large audience as Tyler is. Gwen can’t believe the depth and quality of sound coming out of Zach. The coaches feel that Tyler may have leaned on his experience too much.
To my absolute surprise and delight, Blake chooses Superman.
Result: Blake chooses Zach
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Ellie Lawrence and Tim Atlas Perform “Sweater Weather”
Advising Gwen’s artists is the adorable and hugely successful actress and recording artist Selena Gomez. Ska lover Ellie Lawrence, with magical blue-green hair and a Bonnie Raitt raspiness to her voice, is pitted against indie songwriter Tim Atlas. Gwen and Selena comment on Ellie’s incredible control and Tim’s incredible rhythm. This is going to be a tough call for our second-time female coach. During practice, Gwen advises Tim to lose the guitar unless he wants to be seen as Ellie’s back-up. Tim feels awkward without his crutch but works on it with Gwen. Gwen reminds Ellie to keep her eyes open so the audience can relate to her.
Ellie is much more fun to watch. Tim’s performance feels tentative, like he’s just trying to make it through. Adam advises Gwen to choose Tim because of his intensity. Blake says he’d go for Tim as well. Pharrell calls Ellie a snake-charmer and Tim a shark. The positive comments about Tim are surprising, and Gwen has figured out why: both Adam and Blake want to steal Ellie. Gwen is not wrong and makes the best choice.
Result: Gwen chooses Ellie
Pharrell Steals Tim Atlas
Pharrell says he watched Tim the entire time, loved his passion and wants him on his own team. Tim is beside himself about the opportunity to work with Pharrell. Who wouldn’t be?
Mark Hood and Celeste Betton Perform “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Missy Elliott is on deck to advise Pharrell’s artists. Pharrell’s first two artists to battle are military daughter and wife Celeste Betton and agriculture student from Chicago Mark Hood. Pharrell put these two together because of their shared soulfulness. Celeste hopes she can match Mark’s intensity. Mark is a little intimidated by Celeste’s ability. The practice performance moves Missy to tears. Pharrell says the two need little coaching, a first for him personally. Missy says both of these artist are anointed.
Mark cracks the performance open … Celeste meets him in the middle … the two rock it out … and it’s a phenomenal performance from first note to last. Their performance of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is sick, sick, sick. Viewers all over America will be buying this recording as soon as the episode is over, if not before. Missy cried during practice; I get the chills during the final performance. Pharrell says watching them is like seeing the Cirque du Soleil of music; one of the most masterful performances on the show to date. When Pharrell makes his announcement, Celeste sings him her praise and gratitude for the experience. Classy.
Result: Pharrell agonizingly chooses Mark
Dustin Monk and James Dupre Perform “Fortunate Son”
Rock and Roll Dustin is a professional barber whose audition I can’t recall. Perhaps it was one of those relegated to a vignette instead of a full viewing. James’ Americana performance was a showstopper after which he surprised one and all by choosing Adam as his coach. Adam assigns them “Fortunate Son,” a song written by their adviser, John Fogerty, who shares with the two artists the inspiration for these lyrics. There’s a lot of anger in the lyrics, explains Fogerty.
The performance is fairly equal. Blake says Dustin took a lot more risk. Pharrell says he’d probably lean toward James. Gwen was more captivated by James. Adam basically says neither of the singers sucked.
Result: Adam chooses James
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Barrett Baber and Dustin Christensen Perform “Walking in Memphis”
The final battle of the episode is between two artists whose auditions both received four-chair turns. Tragic accident survivor and drama teacher Barrett Barber reminded Blake of multi-megastar Garth Brooks when he took the stage in the Blinds. Dustin Christensen put his business degree aside to pursue his dream. Blake said Dustin sounds just like Neil Diamond. Blake put these two together because of the raw power each possesses. Of the two, Blake says Dustin enunciates better, but Barrett has amazing energy.
During the final practice, Dustin brings the energy, while Barrett enunciates the poo out of his vocals. Blake predicts that whichever artist he doesn’t pick will have the other three coaches fighting over them. He’s almost correct about that.
Get out your credit cards, people. The performance is stellar and unparalleled. I could watch these two artists perform together all night long.
Pharrell says he would probably choose Barrett. Gwen says Dustin’s voice is crazy and a delight to listen to. Adam says the fact that one of these artists is about to be available excites him. It’s down to Blake, who agrees that it was stupid as hell to pit these two against each other. The question remains, who is the winner and who will join one of the other teams?
Result: Blake chooses Barrett
Adam and Gwen Fight Over Dustin
Before Dustin can even begin his thank you speech, Adam is standing on his buzzer. Before long, Gwen hits her buzzer as well. Adam laments not having been chosen by Dustin the first time and begs him not to break his heart twice. Gwen is in awe of Dustin but doesn’t impress the novice as much as Lex Luthor — er, I mean, newly bald Adam Levine — does.
Result: Dustin joins Team Adam
Here’s How It All Shakes Out
Since keeping tabs on 48 artists is a daunting task, here’s your Cliffs Notes on the results of the first Battle Rounds: Team Adam kept Jordan Smith and James Dupre, adding Dustin Christensen. Team Blake kept Zach Seabough and Barrett Baber. Team Gwen Kept Ellie Lawrence and added Regina Love. Team Pharrell kept Mark Hood and added Tim Atlas.
There were some stellar performances during the first round of Battles. I can already think of two that I plan to purchase for my permanent collection. Was there any one performance that stood out from the rest for you, America? Place your votes in our poll below.
The Voice airs Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)