Meet the new battles (a.k.a. The Battles, Round 2). They were pretty much the same as the old battles but for two relatively small differences:
1) The dueling singers had to work together to choose a song from three options provided by their coach.
Otherwise, pretty much all the same rules applied. Each coach paired singers on his or her team, worked with them, then opted to keep one and send one home, unless another coach scooped up the eliminated singer by using his or her single steal.
Here's who battled:
Audra McLaughlin versus Megan Ruger
Blake Shelton teamed country girl McLaughlin with rocker Ruger in hopes of finding the better young power vocalist. McLaughlin gave the more interesting performance when they tackled Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," which wasn't lost on Shelton's fellow coaches. Usher gave the round to McLaughlin, saying that, while Ruger had made herself "comfortable" on the song's bigger notes, McLaughlin had done something "unique" with her voice and carried the day. Shakira said Ruger was "confident" and "looked like a star," but she "connected more to Audra's delivery." Adam Levine called McLaughlin "one of the best singers" in the competition but noted that Ruger was "right there with her." Shelton said that, while Ruger had sung "the crap out of" the song, Audra had a way of navigating through a vocal that he had never before heard in country music.
Winner: Audra McLaughlin. "I think I can win this thing with Audra," Shelton said.
Cierra Mickens versus T.J. Wilkins
In a battle of soul singers, Usher teamed Mickens, whom he'd stolen from Shakira during the last battle rounds, with Wilkins, the young man from South L.A. who had been with him from the start. They chose Oleta Adams' "Get Here," hoping that it would "showcase" their voices. It did. Shakira called Mickens "unbelievable," Wilkins "phenomenal" and the battle "perfect." "I wouldn't change a thing," she said, bowing down to them. Levine said he'd predicted that Wilkins would "run away" with the battle, but that Mickens had kept up. Shelton also gushed about "greatness" and "connection" and said he had no idea what Usher would do. Usher went with his old pal Wilkins.
Winner: T.J. Wilkins. Usher said he'd "won the round fair and square" and that he was "very excited to continue with him."
Steal? Unfortunately, no.
Jake Worthington versus Tess Boyer
In what he called a "battle of second chances," Shelton paired country singer Worthington, who'd returned from a previous-season setback to impress the coaches this time around, with pop vocalist Boyer, whom he'd stolen from Team Usher. They chose John Hiatt's wonderful "Have a Little Faith in Me" and, remarkably, earned a standing ovation from all four of the coaches. Usher said he saw "growth" in both singers. Shakira declared herself to be a fan of Worthington's but gushed that Boyer was "a revelation" and had blown her away, calling her voice "beautiful," "powerful" and "sweet." Levine dubbed the performance "A-level" and said he felt as if he was watching a performance at the CMT or Grammy awards. "If this is any indication of what we're in for with these second rounds of battles," Shelton said, "my liver's not gonna make it." Ultimately, Shelton cast his vote for "loyalty" and picked Worthington.
Winner: Jake Worthington. Shelton said he thought he "could be a star" with his "authentic country sound" and that he was excited "to be able to introduce him to Nashville."
Steal? Yes! All three of the other coaches tried to steal Tess, but Shakira snagged her by telling her she was "hands down the best female voice right now on 'The Voice'" and that she would "kill" for her.
Christina Grimmie versus Sam Behymer
Levine matched YouTuber Grimmie, whose first-round battle barely saw airtime, with quirky-voiced former nanny Behymer. They elected to sing OneRepublic's "Counting Stars," and the coaches didn't agree on a winner. Shelton noted that the energetic Grimmie was "like a little ball of fire up there … like a stick of dynamite," with a voice that "really cuts through," but that Behymer's dramatic vocal style had "a lot of finesse" and had therefore impressed him more. Usher called both "amazing." Shakira admired Behymer's "interesting, unique" sound but said she felt like she hadn't yet "completely found herself," while Grimmie displayed "a little more maturity and a little more confidence." Levine said he was "equally proud of both" singers but made a "gut decision" in favor of Grimmie.
Winner: Christina Grimmie. "She just seemed more primed and ready," Levine explained.
Josh Murley versus Patrick Thomson
Shakira teamed the two gritty-voiced singers she'd stolen from Team Adam, Murley and Thomson, and they chose to sing Bryan Adams' "Run to You." Levine praised Murley for showing a range he didn't know he'd had and said that, although Thomson had had some technique issues he thought needed tweaking, he too had "really impressed" him. Shelton also offered kind words for both but thought Thomson was the winner. Usher said at first he'd thought Murley had taken it, but then felt he'd been overtaken by Thomson. Shakira said they'd both given her the "big rock star moment" she'd hoped for and had been "evenly matched," but chose Thomson, explaining that she needed a voice like his on her team and believed she could coach him better.
Winner: Patrick Thomson
Delvin Choice versus Josh Kaufman
Levine paired two terrific soul singers, Choice and Kaufman, who tackled Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," and immediately regretted it because it meant he'd have to give one of them up. "I'm stupid," he said. Levine was right. Choice and Kaufman both gave amazing performances. Shelton complimented Choice on getting his vibrato under control and called his singing "tasteful" and "studly," saying the improvement made Choice his choice as winner. Usher called it "vocally … the performance of the day," declining to name a victor. Shakira said she'd assumed Kaufman would win and had felt "bad for Delvin," but had been surprised and impressed by Choice's performance. "Because of this shock factor," she said, "I would go with Delvin." Levine called the performances "flawless." "Either way," he said, "I lose a potential winner of this thing." But he managed to make a choice, and it was Choice.
Winner: Delvin Choice. Levine called him "a serious contender" with more vocal "power than anyone in this competition."
Steal? Yes. Usher picked up Kaufman, saying he hoped to learn "more about him," to "tell his story" and make people "fall in love with" him.
In other "Voice" news: Usher wore a Davy Crockett hat, Levine wore a shirt that made him look like a referee, and Pharrell Williams has signed on to join the show as a coach for Season 7. Does that make you happy?
And what did you think of these battles?