"The Voice" coaches always talk about how difficult it is for them to choose between singers on their teams as they trim up in the battles and knockouts before taking it live for the playoff rounds. But in fact, in Tuesday's hour-long show, they really did have to make some tough calls as three talented sets of team members took the stage to compete. Only Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera still had a steal in play.
"I just want the best team I can possibly have," Shelton said, speaking, one assumes, for all the coaches, before the evening's pairings proceeded.
Here's how it all went down:
Corey Kent White vs. Cody Wickline (Team Blake): Shelton pitted these two appealing young country singers against each other in order to decipher which of them had the best shot at a win. "This is definitely going to be one of my toughest decisions," he said before they took the stage. "Both of these guys are artists that I can hear being played on country radio." Wickline, a cowboy-hat-wearing, questionable-mustache-sporting kid from the mountains of West Virginia, sang a pure, authentic version of Justin Moore's "Til My Last Day." But the wholesome White's polished, emotional performance of Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying," a song he'd chosen because his grandfather was having some health issues, made Wickline look like an amateur. Shelton commended White on his ability "to take a real-life situation and turn it into art," which he said was "something you've got to be born with," and chose White as the winner, though he said the decision "tore" him "up pretty bad." Wickline, poor guy, went home unstolen.
Blaze Johnson vs. Deanna Johnson (Team Adam): In a match between Johnson and Johnson, as Shelton later pointed out, Blaze showed off his smooth lower register and pushed so hard on the Fray's "You Found Me" that, at one key moment, his voice broke. Deanna, meanwhile, struggled with nerves (and, Shelton contended, with pitch) and yet displayed a distinctive tone -- kind of Cher-like -- both of which made her performance of Roxette's "Listen to Your Heart" rather riveting. Adam Levine seemed torn. Should he pick the guy who would capably and enthusiastically tackle whatever challenges came his way in the lives, or the unpolished gem of a girl who he was sure would be glinty inside if she would just relax and let the audience in? He opted for Deanna's dazzling potential. "That one really hurt because Blaze deserved to be rewarded for what he had done, but Deanna, there's still some kernel of genius in that girl," Levine said. No one stole the losing Johnson.
Hannah Kirby vs. Caitlin Caporale (Team Pharrell): Pharrell Williams paired up these two "powerhouses," planning to proceed to the playoffs with the one "who can be themselves the most." You couldn't say Kirby lacked conviction, commitment and personality in her take on Steve Winwood's "Higher Love." She amused the coaches -- and the rest of us -- with her unconventional stage moves and turned in some piercing vocals to boot. But Caporale's performance of Demi Lovato's "Warrior" was much the more emotionally and vocally nuanced performance. Williams told the singers they were both his "favorites," but chose to move ahead with Caporale, citing her consistency. Still, Kirby will survive to sing and dance another day. Shelton, who had been her coach before losing her to Williams in the battles, moved in for the steal. "I never dreamed I'd get the opportunity to have you back where you belong," he told her.