Now that their teams are fully assembled, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, and Blake Shelton have some narrowing down to do with each of their squads. Welcome to the battles, The Voice fans. It’s gonna get intense sooner rather than later here, and not just because Adam’s frost-tipped hairdo has given Blake a whole new buffet of teasing options to run with (referring to his onscreen frenemy as everyone from Frosty to Ellen). It’s also tough to see these contestants come this far only to see their rising hopes get squashed by an unfavorable song selection or being paired with someone who’s apples to their oranges.
The good news is that in this round, the coaches do have some steals to play with, so in the case that a coach’s decision might send a worthy opponent packing too soon, they can be saved for another shot at redemption just like (presses the red button) that.
Here’s how the first round of the season 12 battles shook out.
Team Blake: Brennley Brown vs. Lauren Duski
“Better Man” by Little Big Town
Blake Shelton must have put together this battle pair with an obvious plan in mind. He was going to “clear a lane” for one of these country gals to advance to the knockouts, and with each at such different points in their careers — Brennley the precocious 14-year-old bucket of sugar and spice with zero experience versus Lauren the seasoned Nashville stage veteran — he probably expected it to be a much easier decision.
But Brennley here doesn’t just up and roll over by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, as far as vocal strength and purity of sound, she is arguably the better singer. Lauren might have paid her dues, and she has “that Trisha Yearwood thing” Blake and mentor Luke Bryan like. But Brennley’s got something going on with her pipes, too. Her confidence and ability to overshadow her opponent is kinda like what we saw when LeAnn Rimes owned the Grammys at 14 years old by resurrecting “Blue” like no one else could. Okay, okay, that’s a stretch — Brennley’s not proven that much just yet, but there’s enough in her performance tonight to make it worth keeping her around, even after Blake chooses to go with Lauren. (Gwen may or may not have smoke-signaled him that she’d use a steal on his cast-off by saying that she’d have picked Brennley, but lovers’ language is secret, so who knows.)
Winner: Lauren Duski
Steal: Brennley Brown to Team Gwen
Team Gwen: JChosen vs. Kenny P
“I Was Made to Love You” by Stevie Wonder
Gwen Stefani is the kind of coach who seems to equate strength of personality with raw talent, and because of that fact, Kenny P actually stands a chance of upsetting a four-chair turn who flummoxed Gwen by choosing to be on her team. Sure, JChosen would be an easy steal for Adam, who openly admits he’d be just delighted to snag him right then and there, but after this battle round, it’d erase all of Gwen’s credibility because it’s not even close.
Look, Kenny P is fine. He’s good, even. But JChosen has soul and skills that Kenny P can’t even touch; even though he does his best, matching enthusiasm and, shall we say, volume levels with JChosen, the writing’s on the wall as soon as he struggles to hit one of Stevie’s highest notes in this number. Meanwhile, JChosen’s got it so covered that he slips in some extra texture just for kicks. Gwen says she came into tonight doubting JChosen because he acted nervous about meeting Celine Dion, but it’s hard to believe that after seeing these two do battle because he’s solid as a rock on that stage.