On Night 3 of the Battle Rounds, "The Voice" coaches, especially the two newest of them, began playing things a little closer to the vest.
Asked which contestant he'd pick in a Team Shakira battle, Usher replied, "You'll see in a second."
Shakira, for her part, told Blake Shelton at one point, "I'm going to stay like Switzerland. I'm gonna be neutral." Even when Blake Shelton protested, she remained resolute. "I'm sorry, Blake. I can't help you."
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Here's how the battles played out:
Austin Ellis vs. Josh Kaufman
Levine, guest mentor
Winner: Josh Kaufman
Steal? No. Usher said, while he thought Ellis was a "great" talent, he was saving his saves for "something special."
Alaska & Madi vs. Audra McLaughlin
When Shelton and guest mentors the Band Perry gathered with Oklahoma teen duo Alaska & Madi, whom he'd beaten Levine for in the blinds, and four-chair turn Audra McLaughlin, he noted it was "the most people that have ever sat around the piano in the history of 'The Voice.'" Shelton gave the country-singing young women
Winner: Audra McLaughlin
Steal? Surprisingly, no.
Deja Hall vs. Music Box
Shakira and her guest mentor, Miranda Lambert, teamed pure-voiced 16-year-old Deja Hall, a three-chair turn, with a Berklee College of Music grad calling herself Music Box, for whom only Shakira had turned, giving the singers the Bangles song "Eternal Flame." Levine noted both women had "really special qualities," but said he'd pick Hall because her youth left so much room for growth. Shelton compared Hall's voice to a superpower, but gave the match to "Miss Box" because of her "unique sound." Usher thought both would go far and refused to render a verdict. Shakira outlined the "advantages and disadvantages" of youth, and ultimately went with it, picking Hall, whose voice she called "angelic." Then Usher startled everyone by hitting his button for Music Box. "Your voice was incredible. You have the potential to go really, really far in this competition," he told her. All she needed, he said, was the "right coaching." If Shakira was offended, she didn't show it. "I'm so happy that you stole her," she told Usher.
Winner: Deja Hall
Steal? Yes! Usher
Madilyn Paige vs. Tanner James
Usher, working with guest mentor Jill Scott, paired two young singers from Provo, Utah, who went to the same school, but had never before met each other, assigning them
Winner: Madilyn Paige
Steal? No, though Shakira looked tempted.
Dawn & Hawkes vs. Josh Murley
Levine matched the musical/romantic duo whose blind audition made him gush that it was his "favorite performance" he had "ever seen ever on 'The Voice'" with single dad Josh Murley, whose blind audition we'd barely glimpsed, on "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel. He was looking for the three of them to "shed the weirdness of two against one" and convey a loose "campfire vibe." Shelton called it a "really solid performance," "pitch perfect," with no clear winner – or at least none that he was willing to say, though he did allow that Dawn & Hawkes included the "prettiest" contender. Usher gave it to Murley. Shakira said she'd never heard the song before, but that, even though she didn't drink, it had made her "want to have a beer." Levine said he'd accomplished what he set out to, and then chose Dawn & Hawkes, as expected. Less expected was that Shakira swooped in to steal Murley at the very last second. "He's way too talented to walk away from this competition," she said.
Winner: Dawn & Hawkes
Steal? Yes. Shakira
Bria Kelly v. Tess Boyer
In yet another match that seemed to have a predetermined outcome, Usher selected former NFL cheerleader Tess Boyer, who'd turned only his chair in a quick-hit blind audition, to go up against bluesy 18-year-old Bria Kelly, whom he'd won in a four-chair turn, hoping each would show "vulnerability" on Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart." Boyer battled against what she called her "pageanty" presentation and managed to give her coach "goosebumps" during rehearsals. Shakira called it an even match and complimented Boyer on her dynamics and Kelly on her "amazing voice." Levine declared himself to be a newly minted fan of Boyer's and said Kelly made him fear Team Usher. And Shelton said that, while they'd all known Kelly would be great, Boyer had come "out of nowhere," showing "finesse" and "dimension" and taken the match. Usher gave it to Kelly, of course, but all was not lost for Boyer. Shelton scooped her up, saying she'd "stepped up her game and showed herself to be a "fighter."
Winner: Bria Kelly
Steal? Yes! Blake
What did you think of the night's battles?