The Voice recap: The battles begin

Welcome to The Voice‘s battle rounds!

Joining the coaches as team advisers for this season are Charlie Puth (for Team Adam Levine), Khalid (John Legend), Kelsea Ballerini (Team Kelly Clarkson), and Brooks & Dunn (Blake Shelton), as they whittle their brand new teams down by almost half. As with every season, there are some decisions that are going to be more difficult than others, so the coaches have to hope that their colleagues will be generous with a steal after a tough call, and tonight, there are plenty of those.

THE VOICE -- Battle Rounds -- Pictured: Beth Griffith-Manley -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

THE VOICE — Battle Rounds — Pictured: Beth Griffith-Manley — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Tyler Golden/NBC

Here’s how the first round of battles shake out.

Team John: Shawn Sounds vs. Matthew Johnson

Matthew might be the only one known as “Mr. Personality,” but both of these fellas have sunny dispositions that make them easy to root for. On top of that, they also each have similarly comforting and soulful sounds to match their good natures. They were also both four-chair turns in the blinds, so John Legend knows he’s set himself up for a difficult decision with this battle pairing.

Indeed, during their performance of Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” the two harmonize beautifully and trade off lyrical lines so seamlessly that they seem meant to sing together. Between their easy runs, rich throwback tones, and equally infectious energies, it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite. John gets very little help in his decision, as most of the others refuse to choose a favorite. “I wish there was a button you could push and they’d have to be a duo for the rest of the season,” Blake even says. Kelly is the lone exception, as she compliments Shawn’s runs but picks Matthew for his personal enthusiasm. John ultimately chooses Shawn to win because he thinks he’s “a little bit ahead,” but Matthew becomes the subject of a steal battle between Adam Levine and Kelly Clarkson, the latter of whom wins for her earlier vote of confidence.

Winner: Shawn Sounds
Steal: Matthew Johnson to Team Kelly.

Team Kelly: The Bundys vs. Mikaela Astel

It’s three against one as this sibling trio squares off with this tiny teen soloist, and despite her intoxicatingly brassy tone, the deck is stacked against the latter. The Bundys are getting the chance to make good on the promise Kelly made them to sing Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird,” and this is a song they know very well.

Mikaela’s trilly soprano sound allows her to stand out from the crowd onstage at times, but The Bundys still sound harmonious and wistful and pleasant. Unlike her blinds, too, Mikaela’s falsetto reaches aren’t nearly as effortless as they were in the blinds. John Legend notes her nerves but compliments her strong but vulnerable presence; at the same time, he’d pick The Bundys to win for their obvious experience. Kelly chooses The Bundys for similar reasons, despite having an affinity for Mikaela’s “piercing” voice. She wants a singer — or three singers, as the case may be — that will be ready for the lives, and these three have each got something to show for themselves individually, and that family band appeal when together.

Winner: The Bundys
Steal: N/A.

Team Blake: Gyth Rigdon vs. Rod Stokes

Blake Shelton calls these guys his two “country powerhouse” singers, even though Rod made a concerted effort to sing something else during his blind audition. Interestingly, these two do bookend Team Blake’s blinds picks, as Gyth Rigdon was the very first audition we saw this season, and Rod was the one who completed the team.

Gyth has rhythm, energy, and a mightier range on his side, but Rod’s got that scratchy tone Blake seems to be a sucker for during their rendition of “Drunk Me” by Mitchell Tenpenny. They both have a lot of power and poise, and the coaches are split as to who won — Kelly and Adam are leaning towards Rod based on their personal preferences, but John sees a lot of potential in Gyth. Blake ultimately chooses Gyth for his ability to step up to the challenge of matching Rod, but it takes no time at all for Adam to steal him. Adam made a bid for him during the blinds, too, so he’s happy to add this strong singer to his team.

Winner: Gyth Rigdon
Steal: Rod Stokes to Team Adam.

Team Adam: Domenic Haynes vs. Trey Rose

Both of these guys were recruited to Team Adam early on in the blinds, but Domenic comes into the battle with the upper hand. Adam called him a “favorite” on day one, and he’s clearly digging Domenic’s uniquely grassy notes. Their take on Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar” seems designed to give Domenic room to run with his rugged reggae vibes, but Trey Rose has a lot of energy to bring to the table, too. He seems to be carrying the action, even if Domenic’s growls and snare do stand out.

Blake calls it an “even battle,” and even though John wanted Domenic on his team (and was blocked), he has to appreciate Trey’s gusto. Adam is still taken by Domenic’s “indispensable” sound, though, so he decides to give him the W here.

Winner: Domenic Haynes
Steal: N/A.

Team John: Savannah Brister vs. Maelyn Jarmon

John Legend is giving these young women a true test with Adele’s “When We Were Young,” and both are doing their best to rise to the occasion. Maelyn was John’s first recruit, and she’s got the right kind of folksy presence to match this number, but Savannah is bringing her A-game and the same “raw energy” that first got his attention tonight, too.

Savannah has some subtle power and fluid note runs during the initial portions of the song, while Maelyn introduces a lot of color and nuance with her warmer tones. It’s overall a pleasant and surprising delivery from both women. Savannah’s work is a revelation to the coaches, but they’ve all been long sold on Maelyn, so he picks his four-chair turn to advance. However, Bebe Rexha chooses to bring her to the Comeback Stage.

Winner: Maelyn Jarmon
Steal: N/A.

Team Kelly: Beth Griffith-Marley vs. Jej Vincent

Kelly Clarkson credits these two as her most accomplished storyteller-type singers this season, and she entrusts them with Labrinth’s “Jealous.” During rehearsals, Beth’s tempted to bring the same type of energy we saw in her blind audition, but here she needs to commit to the emotion more. Jej, meanwhile, needs to dial down on those power runs that captivated everyone so early on. Despite the initial hiccups, though, Kelly knows she’s made a mistake to pair these two as soon as they get together on the real stage.

It takes each of them very little time to show off their individual strengths — his, the ability to coast through falsetto notes, and hers, this electric soul and air of authority. Their voices might be very different, but they’ve found a way to lift each other up on this stage. Adam is amazed by how their voices “melt together” during the performance, and John’s impressed with their unity as well. Kelly eventually decides to give Jej the go-ahead for his impressive range and presence, but John is happy to offer Beth a steal.  

Winner: Jej Vincent
Steal: Beth Griffith-Marley to Team John.

TEAM STANDINGS:

Adam Levine: Jimmy Mowery, Domenic Haynes, Karly Moreno, Patrick McAloon, L.B. Crew, Ciera Dumas, Mari Jones, Anthony Ortiz, Celia Babini, Kalvin Jarvis, Andrew Jannakos, Rod Stokes.

Kelly Clarkson: Karen Galera, Rizzi Myers, The Bundys, Alena D’Amico, Jej Vincent, Rebecca Howell, Abby Kasch, David Owens, Ashley Tennant, Jackson Marlow, Matthew Johnson.

John Legend: Maelyn Jarmon, Lisa Ramey, Julian King, Talon Cardon, Betsy Ade, Denton Arnell, Oliv Blu, Shawn Sounds, Kaslin Victoria, Beth Griffith-Marley.

Blake Shelton: Gyth Rigdon, Kim Cherry, Lili Joy, Hannah Kay, Carter Lloyd Horne, Dexter Roberts, Dalton Dover, Kendra Checketts, Selkii, Andrew Sevener, Cecily Hennigan.

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.

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