Autumn Turner and Vanessa Ferguson from Team Alicia were up next. Keys said Turner has more of an R&B-pop sound while Ferguson has a more R&B-soul sound. She had them sing “Killing Me Softly,” which was a great song choice for both of them. DJ Khaled encouraged them to bring their own personality to it, and Keys worked on the arrangement with them. For the most part, they stuck with the original melody, but they brought some of their own fun stuff to the arrangement, too. Of all the coaches, Keys is the best producer. The arrangements she comes up with are impressive.
Their battle was a highlight of the night, with both Ferguson and Turner delivering a stellar performance and mastering the vocals. Both artists are two of the best on Team Alicia, so it’s a shame she pit them against one another. Levine said that he wanted Ferguson on his team. Stefani flaunted her remaining steal, too. It started to look like neither artist would be going home no matter who Keys picked. She picked Ferguson, impressed with how much she had come out of her shell. Sure enough, Levine and Stefani both pressed their buttons for Ferguson. Stefani said that she can help her with bringing out style and personality in her singing. But Ferguson ended up choosing Levine instead.
Team Adam’s Johnny Hayes and Julien Martinez worked with Levine ad John Legend to get ready for battle next. Levine had them sing “Hard To Handle” by Otis Redding. It’s a tricky song to sing, but Hayes and Martinez were up for the challenge. Levine advised them to pull it back a little bit, and in their band rehearsal, they showed a lot of improvement.
Hayes said winning the battle would be huge for not only him but also his wife. Martinez noted that winning could change his life. With those stakes in place, the artists went into the ring ready to sing. It was another strong duet, with both guys working the stage and making the complex vocals of the song seem effortless. Shelton said Martinez shied away from some of the bigger vocal moments, adding that Hayes was the clear winner. But Keys said she was split between the two. Ultimately, it was Levine’s decision to make. He went with Hayes. Martinez was eliminated.
Caroline Sky and Stephanie Rice from Team Gwen were both overwhelmed to meet Celine Dion in their first battle rehearsal. Stefani gave them “The First Cut Is The Deepest” to sing, looking for an emotional performance from both artists, who are strong storytellers. Sky has a really soft and angelic voice, while Rice has much more grit to her, so they were pretty different. But Stefani had them borrow certain things from each other so that they blended better.
They still sounded a bit disjointed in their final performance, even though both artists have undeniably good voices. Rice stood out with her unique tone. Levine said Sky has a lot of untapped potential. Shelton said Sky’s voice was delicate and beautiful but that she could shred, too. He pointed out that Rice has a stronger sense of what kind of artist she wants to be. “My heart is cracked in half,” Stefani said. She chose Rice as the winner. “I want to grow. I want to get better,” Rice said after the decision was made. Meanwhile, Shelton swooped in to steal Sky.
Team Adam’s Kawan DeBose and Malik Davage were up next, meeting with Levine and Legend to work on an arrangement of Legend’s own “Love Me Now.” Davage’s gorgeous tone sounded particularly good on the song, but the song fit DeBose’s voice, too. Both artists bring similar strengths to the table. Legend cautioned Davage about straying from the melody too much. DeBose was holding back in the first rehearsal and struggled with some of the lyrics. The harmonies needed to be tightened, too. It was one of the rougher rehearsals of the Battle Round, and they were still having some problems in the rehearsal with the band. Legend said it almost seemed like they had regressed. Levine was upset that they didn’t seem prepared. It’s rare to see this level of tension at this point in the competition. DeBose and Davage had a lot of work to do.
Levine’s tough love worked, and the artists improved a lot for their final performance, but it still was one of the weaker battles of the night. DeBose and Davage are both great singers, but the performance wasn’t memorable, and they still weren’t working together perfectly. Levine was pleased with how much they had turned things around though. He said his decision boiled down to who he believes he can work with the best moving forward. He chose Davage.
Hunter Plake and Jack Cassidy closed out the night with Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” DJ Khaled told Cassidy to stop playing it safe. Keys again crafted a beautiful arrangement of the pop song. Cassidy and Plake both seemed more comfortable in their rehearsal with the band, but Plake was having some breath control issues. Keys pushed both artists.
It was an electric ending to the night. Plake and Cassidy both effectively built momentum over the course of the performance. Their voices sounded incredible, and they connected with one another, making for a captivating display. The stripped-down arrangement suited them well, and both artists showcased the power and range to their voices. “I think that your voice is one of those things that isn’t around enough,” Levine said. Shelton was blown away by both artists, unable to choose a favorite.
Keys faced the hardest decision of the night, even though it again looked like whoever she didn’t pick would probably get scooped up by another coach. She chose Cassidy as the winner, leaving Plake on the chopping block. But Levine and Stefani both pressed their buttons again. “The first note, I knew,” Levine said. But Stefani brought up the fact that she actually turned for him in the Blind Auditions. “I pressed twice for this guy,” she said. Plake joined Team Gwen.
The Battles continue tomorrow night. What did you think of tonight’s performance?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.