In what felt like two distinct episodes glommed together, "The Voice" capped off the Season 10 blind auditions and moved immediately on to the battles on Monday night. Host Carson Daly called it the "biggest night yet" of the season, and it certainly was the most jumbled and sprawling.
The coaches kicked off the mishmash with a "surprise performance" of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," interacting fondly with one another and ending with a group hug. The affection was nice to see, given how much they would needle each other during the course of the next two hours.
First, the coaches would complete their teams. Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera each had one open slot to fill; Pharrell Williams had two. Then they would bring in their guest mentors -- Sean "Diddy" Combs (Team Pharrell), Gwen Stefani (Team Blake, natch), Tori Kelly (Team Adam) and Patti LaBelle (Team Christina in a double-diva match) – pair up the singers, and choose one with which to move forward, leaving the other open to be stolen by the other coaches or sent home.
During the blind audition section:
Jared Harder, a 22-year-old singer from Joplin, Mo., who survived the terrible tornado that rolled through the area in 2011, claiming 161 lives, sang Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go Round" and was picked up by Shelton in a one-chair turn, completing Team Blake. Levine explained that none of the other coaches had spun their chairs because they'd all been "beaten down" by the fact that all country singers went with Shelton, no matter what the other coaches did. Shelton told Harder he loved his voice and song choice and that the big note he hit at the end of the song was "icing on the cake."
Moushumi, also 22, from Edison, N.J., is the child of a physician and a physical therapist who emigrated from India. She took some time off from medical school to pursue music, and proved that wasn't a terrible idea when she stepped out and turned the only three chairs capable of turning with her rendition of Chris Isaac's "Wicked Game." (Shelton said he, too, would have hit his button "in a heartbeat" for her, had he been able to.) Aguilera called her Moushumi's voice "beautiful" and "truly special." Levine dubbed it "unique" and "glassy." But Williams won Moushumi by calling her "new," "different" and "super fresh," and saying he had never "met an Indian girl that sings the way" she had. That left Williams with only one seat left on his team.
Durham, N.C.'s, 23-year-old Katie Basden, who had spent time pursuing music in Nashville before moving home to be closer to her ill father, prompted all three coaches in play to push their buttons with her take on the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider." Williams promised that, as her coach, he'd work to make her the best version of herself she could be. Levine claimed to be the only one who knew that she'd sung an Allman Brothers song. Aguilera noted that soul music, her métier, and country music had a lot in common. But after a lot of bickering, in which Shelton did his best to steer Basden away from Levine, the aspiring country singer picked Levine anyway, completing his team. Shelton expressed concern that the Basden-Levine combination might prove to be "deadly."
Adorable 16-year-old Jonathan Hutcherson, of Wilmore, Ky., who has had a hearing loss since birth, claimed the final spot on Team Pharrell. Williams admired Hutcherson's "interesting" tones, and Levine, who had encouraged Williams to push, commended the way he'd connected vocally.
That left only Aguilera with a spot left on her team, and after a flurry of contestants who didn't appeal to her, she finally pushed her button for Ayanna Jahnee, 20, from Nashville, who sang a full-throated rendition of Adele's "Skyfall." "I was holding out until something crazy spectacular happened and you were my dream come true," Aguilera told Jahnee before grabbing a mic and enlisting her in a call-and-response duet about her team being full.
Cute. But no time to dwell, because it was immediately on to the battles:
Katie Basden vs. Ryan Quinn (Team Adam): It wasn't long after Levine picked up Basden that he pitted her against Quinn, the four-chair turn who was clearly one of his total faves, assigning them Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." "Ryan is definitely the front-runner on my team, but Katie is really talented, and if anyone can challenge Ryan, it's Katie," the Maroon 5 singer explained. Basden probably didn't have a chance. But no matter, after Levine picked Quinn as expected, both Aguilera and Shelton pushed their buttons for Basden. Shelton told her she had "clearly" won the battle and admired her vocal fullness and range, along with the fact that she had "spent time in Nashville." It probably wouldn't have mattered what Shelton said. "I'm a country singer and also a rock 'n' roll singer and when Blake hit his button, I knew for sure that's what I wanted," Basden later explained.
Brittney Lawrence vs. Paxton Ingram (Team Blake): Shelton brought in girlfriend Stefani to help him coach these two talented Florida twentysomethings, and while Lawrence made strides under their tutelage (and also got help from her competitor), it was clear straightaway as the two tackled Shawn Mendes' "I Know What You Did Last Summer," that Ingram, an experienced dancer, was far the more comfortable performer. The coaches praised Lawrence's voice, but universally deemed Ingram the battle's winner, although Levine tried to soften the blow by saying it was a "matter of taste." Shelton called Ingram a "vocal ninja," and officially handed him the victory. No one moved to steal Lawrence.
Bryan Bautista vs. Malik Heard (Team Christina): In this matchup – between a "former arena usher and returning R&B artist" from Brooklyn, N.Y., and a "soulful college freshmen" from Dallas – the winner seemed far less clear. Both vocalists showed off their pop and R&B finesse with James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," especially after integrating the advice of Brown's old pal LaBelle. Aguilera bemoaned the fact that she would "lose someone great" no matter what she decided because, she asserted, "both of these guys have what it takes" to make it. The battle brought all the coaches to their feet – and each of the rival coaches began to preen to attract whomever Aguilera declined to choose for his team. Ultimately, Aguilera chose Bautista, calling him the "full package," the choice "maybe the toughest decision" she'd ever had to make, and herself the battle's true "loser." With all three coaches to choose from, Heard selected Williams, who had turned for him in the blinds, as well, as his new coach.