With Battle Rounds for Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice now in full swing, the decisions are getting tougher as the teams whittle down to their strongest competitors.
Monday night’s episode featured a double shot of battles between talented young females, with the judges forced into choosing one but dropping the other, despite their better judgment. The sweet-singing pair of 13-year-old Reagan Strange and 16-year-old Emily Hough was a prime example, with the Team Adam Levine counterparts taking on Ed Sheeran’s sensitive “Photograph.”
The patient ballad left plenty of room for the two singers to stretch their wings, and at times they sounded like a straight-up duo, with Blake Shelton remarking, “That wasn’t a battle, that was like a sweet little fairy tale.” There was indeed an airy, breathy element of whimsy to the rendition, with Kelly Clarkson calling the performance “captivating,” but ultimately Strange was chosen as the winner, as Levine felt she brought listeners deeper into the song.
Likewise, Team Kelly’s Abby Cates and Delaney Silvernell battled on Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” trading vocal runs and power-belted hooks. Cates’s voice has an element of controlled purity to it, while Silvernell’s feels a bit more raw and wild, and both approaches were interesting in the context of the pop hit — but very different. Coach Kelly figured Silvernell could sing just about anything, while she felt Cates had a more defined lane to perform in. Still though, she came down on the side of Cates, with Levine stealing Silvernell for his team.
The two-hour show kicked off with a little “Possum Praising,” as guest coach Keith Urban called it, featuring a pair of country and blues shouters on George Jones’ “I’m a One Woman Man” for Team Blake. During rehearsals, it was clear that Nashville resident Dave Fenley had the confidence edge, while Memphis’ Keith Paluso struggled to find his way with the honky-tonk classic. Fenley’s out-of-this-world vocal presence likely contributed to that, as the burly singer showed off his electrifying deep register and sandpaper growl. The bluesy Paluso was no slouch, matching Fenley’s growl and raising the stakes with some smoky-sweet high notes, but it wasn’t enough for Shelton. Fenley stayed on while Paluso ended up on Team Levine — the coach who was blocked from choosing him during the auditions.
Meanwhile, another Nashville local — hard-rocker Natalie Brady — fell to crooner Jake Wells, the victim of a difficult song choice. Brady never really hit her loud-and-proud sweet spot on a piano-driven rendition of Semisonic’s Nineties anthem “Closing Time,” which coach Levine worked up with celebrity guest CeeLo Green after he felt the song’s electric guitars made it feel “too Nineties.”
And finally, Franc West and Matt Johnson burned through a hot-blooded version of Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” with coach Jennifer Hudson choosing West, and the show wrapped with a stunning duet of Khalid and Normani’s “Love Lies.” Tyshawn Colquitt and Zaxai showed off every aspect of their vocal game, from sustained low notes to soulful mid-range rage and soaring falsetto.
Speaking of the latter, Colquitt definitely held the edge, and his stage presence was a sliver more interesting. For his part, Zaxai refused to give an inch, matching every dance move and nearly every note. The performance was hypnotic, making the choice of Colquitt as winner a tough one on coach Hudson — luckily for her conscience, Clarkson was ready with the steal on Zaxai, keeping him in the competition for another round.
Season 15 of The Voice continues Tuesday night with more battles at 8:00 p.m./ET on NBC.