The second night of battles on "The Voice" was a good night of battles, bringing solid singing, stealthy steals and a slimming of the herd.
Here’s how it all broke down:
Anthony Riley vs. Travis Ewing (Team Pharrell): Pharrell Williams paired Riley, a Philadelphia street performer who earned what the show maintains is the “fastest four-chair turn” ever on "The Voice," with Ewing, a three-chair turn who can do cool things with a loop pedal, assigning them the Temptations’ “Get Ready.” Riley initially was overconfident and got a lesson in humility from guest mentor Lionel Richie, who imperiously (but not unhelpfully) told him, “If you’re really good, they’ll tell you. Don’t you ever tell them.” Although Ewing proved to be a scrappy fighter, Riley’s win was probably sealed at the outset. Blake Shelton alone among the coaches seemed to feel Ewing should be rewarded for his persistence with a spot on the show. After Williams named Riley as the winner, Shelton swooped in to steal Ewing. “That was a sink-or-swim moment,” Shelton said. “Man, he was swimming.”
Ameera Delandro vs. Sonic (Team Christina): Christina Aguilera matched up these two “fierce vocalists” on Jessie J’s “Masterpiece” in a battle of rock chicks with epic hair and the will to overcome challenges. Delandro struggles with nerves; Sonic has lost her hearing in one ear. But neither difficulty was apparent in their performance. Although Delandro, who had turned only one chair in the blinds, seemed to occasionally veer off pitch, Williams, who noted as much, commended her on “going for the jugular.” Shelton admired her “whispery” tone, but felt Sonic, who had a good commend of her “pocket,” had won. Aguilera did too, officially naming Sonic the winner. No one moved to steal Delandro, who sobbed her thanks for her time on the show, saying she’d “never seen celebrities before.” Aw.
Hannah Kirby vs. Sarah Potenza (Team Blake): In the most rip-roaring battle of the night, 21-year-old Kirby and 34-year-old Potenza squared off on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” each showing her own brand of ground-in grit. Kirby had vowed to go “for the win.” Potenza promised to “breathe fire like I’m a dragon; they can sort this out when the smoke clears.” Both smoldering singers brought the coaches to their feet. Aguilera said their vocal fireworks “blew [her] socks off.” Williams labeled it not a duet, but a “straight-up duel” and said Kirby had come out “swinging her purse like a southern church lady.” Shelton called it “probably the best battle I’ve ever been a part of,” but ultimately chose Potenza “because there’s just something so different about her,” he explained, leaving Kirby available to steal. Adam Levine and Williams made an attempt, but despite Levine’s entreaties, Kirby picked Williams as her new coach, saying she felt a “spiritual connection” to him.
Blaze Johnson vs. Michael Leier (Team Adam): Before stepping into the ring to sing Magic!'s “Rude” with Johnson, a large, Ohio-raised son of immigrants from the Bahamas, Leier, a smallish young man from Fargo, N.D., expressed some concern that it would look like “David and Goliath -- so I’m going to have to be pretty crafty to take him down.” As the other coaches pointed out, the song didn’t let either singer really stake a claim to the audience’s hearts, but as Williams maintained, Johnson seemed able to open up a bit more. Levine must have thought so too. He picked Johnson as the winner. And Leier was sent home unstolen. In this case, Goliath prevailed.
Cody Wickline vs. Matt Snook (Team Blake): Shelton paired 20-year-old Wickline against 41-year-old Snook, who has opened for George Strait and sung for the troops, on Randy Houser’s “How Country Feels” in hopes of discovering the best “solid hard-core country singer” to take through to the lives. Wickline was tasked with ramping up his performance energy, Snook with dialing it back. Aguilera and Williams were somewhat equivocal as to a winner. Aguilera admired Snook’s heart and Wickline’s smile. “Cody’s a cutie,” she declared. Levine said he felt Snook had delivered the better vocal and therefore won the battle. Nevertheless, when Shelton picked Wickline, saying his “authentic and rare sound” gave him the edge, no one stole Snook.
Meghan Linsey vs. Paul Pfau (Team Pharrell): Although Linsey and Pfau were vying to remain on Williams’ team, each had a connection to another coach: Linsey, when she was a member of the duo Steel Magnolia, had opened for Shelton; Pfau had once “chickened out” of giving Levine a demo. Pharrell gave them the Beatles' “Don’t Let Me Down,” explaining that it was the “50-yard line between both of their ambitions.” Williams’ fellow coaches were careful about saying which singer had won -- which proved to be clever. After Williams picked Pfau -- surprisingly, I thought -- all three of his fellow judges pushed their buttons to try to steal Linsey. Levine made the hardest sell, reminding Linsey that her old pal, Shelton, had been the one coach not to have turned for her in the blinds. “I think that from the beginning of this thing I’ve just wanted you more than he has, and I think you should think about that when you’re making this decision,” the Maroon 5 singer said, sounding like a boyfriend locked in a battle with his desired’s old flame. But though new love was tempting, the old flame -- Shelton -- won. Don’t let her down, Blake.
The evening also saw Aguilera choose Joe Tolo over Gabriel Wolfchild and Levine select Deanna Johnson over singer-songwriter Nicolette Mare and Nathan Hermida over Josh Batstone. Ah, the cruel twists of montaged fate.