For anyone whose enthusiasm has dipped during The Voice's lengthy battle rounds, the pairing of Josh Hoyer and TSoul on last night's episode gave viewers exactly the jolt they needed with a version of Wilson Pickett's 1966 R&B hit "In The Midnight Hour." But initially the pairing did not come off as effortless as it looked in performance. "Feel free to say who's better looking," said guest mentor Luke Bryan, kicking off rehearsal on a playful note, before the pair struggled with harmonizing issues, flat notes, and weak vocal delivery.
The two not only pulled it together by the time they took the stage for an impassioned take on the classic single, but elevated it to new heights. "This is going to be so hard. These guys are equal in their talent, I don't know what I'm gonna do," frets Shelton before the performance. And the standout performance certainly highlighted each of the singer's strengths. Forty-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska native, Hoyer, sang with fire and exuded a natural joy. Meanwhile, 29-year-old TSoul (born Terry Pinkard) from Richmond, Virginia, dazzled with wild runs and unrestrained energy. Ultimately, Shelton claimed TSoul as victor in the ring, praising their collaborative efforts and saying, "Please, you guys gotta continue to try and make some music together. I do think this is meant to be," says Shelton, before choosing TSoul as the battle winner.
Later in the two-hour program, Gwen Stefani team members Stephanie Rice and Caroline Sky took on Cat Stevens' 1967 "The First Cut Is the Deepest," which was also a hit for Sheryl Crow in 2003. "It's an emotional, deep song. They both seem to have a little bit of that folk-storytelling in what they do," says Stefani of her song selection. During rehearsal, Stefani and guest mentor Céline Dion urged 16-year-old Sky, who hails from California's Bay Area, to be a little less technically perfect and impart the song with more feeling. And for 27-year-old Houston resident, raspy-voiced Stephanie Rice, Stefani urged her to "[investigate] all sides of her voice" instead of relying on her stylized growl.
During the battle, both women brought their best, though compared to rehearsal, Sky really upped the ante. It did not go unnoticed, with Stefani saying, "Caroline you are one of my favorite people I've ever worked with because you're 16, but I've never seen someone take direction the way you have." Though Stefani claims Rice to advance with her to the next round, Shelton swoops in to steal Sky for his team. With her adaptable voice, it's hard not to wonder if Shelton will swap the folky covers for more pop country hits. Watch it below.
The Voice battle rounds continue tonight, Tuesday, March 28th, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.