Judith Hill and Karina Iglesias compete in 'The Voice' Battle… (Trae Patton/NBC )
Things are moving quickly on "The Voice" this season, and on Monday, it was on to the Battle Rounds, when the coaches pair up singers from their teams for competitive duets on a stage that looks like a boxing ring. In this phase, the coaches are both mentor, helping shape the singers' performances, and judge, picking one vocalist to progress to the next phase in the competition and sending the other home – unless another coach rescues the eliminated contestant with a "steal."
Each coach gets two steals per season, and on Monday, Shakira used up all two of hers, snagging both discarded contestants from Team Adam.
Before the battles began, we met the guest mentors: Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum will be working with Team Adam. Sheryl Crow will be pitching in with Team Blake. Team Shakira will get input from Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, who is also a coach in the Australian edition of "The Voice." And Team Usher has enlisted help from Pharrell Williams.
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Amber Carrington vs. Sasha Allen
Differing both in style (Carrington's a little bit country; Allen's a little bit R&B) and experience (Allen is classically trained; Carrington's never had a lesson), these singers faced off on "Try" by Pink. Allen sang well, but Carrington was the one you couldn't take your eyes off of. Adam Levine chose her, but that didn't spell the end for Allen. Shakira and Usher both vied for the steal, with Shakira emerging victorious.
Winner: Amber Carrington
Steal: Yes, by Shakira
Garrett Gardner vs. J'Sun
J'Sun, 26, showed off his smooth R&B sound on Heavy's "How You Like Me Now," but Shakira chose youth over experience, opting to keep 17-year-old "Voice" returnee Gardner, for whom she admitted to having a soft spot.
Winner: Garrett Gardner
Holly Tucker vs. Michelle Raitzin
Tucker, the Baylor University Marching Band member who turned four chairs during Blind Auditions, had the advantage going into their duet on Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away," since we'd barely seen Raitzin sing during the blinds. And while Raitzin was feisty and fierce, Tucker delivered on her original promise with a warm tone and performance style. Blake Shelton called it "a dead-even tie" but then opted to keep Tucker, saying her style seemed a more natural fit for him.
Winner: Holly Tucker
Jess Kellner vs. Taylor Beckham
Usher let these singers know that vocal talent is only the beginning for him, insisting they try to attract his attention and lure him all the way across the room with Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good." Shakira and Levine both preferred pretty redhead Beckham's pure voice and angelic persona, but Shelton said he liked the way Kellner looked like she was enjoying herself. Kellner's open style was ultimately more Usher's speed as well, but then it turned out Shelton may have been faking him out. After Usher picked Kellner, Shelton swooped in to steal Beckham for Team Blake, saying he was excited to snag the former Olympic gymnastics hopeful and try to go for "Voice" gold.
Winner: Jess Kellner
Steal: Yes, Taylor Beckham advances with Team Blake
Christian Porter vs. The Swon Brothers
If every season, at this point in the competition we wonder why "The Voice" opens the competition to duos, imagine how Porter must have felt stepping into the ring with them. Shelton seemed to have stacked the deck in the Swon Brothers' favor, assigning the three singers Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down." As the Swons reminded us, they'd auditioned with a Petty song during the blinds. Though Porter initially struggled to hit notes, he arrived for the second rehearsal better prepared than the Swon Brothers. Still, in the battle themselves, the Swons prevailed "I just have a bond with them," Shelton said of his fellow Okies. "I'm not gonna lie."
Winner: The Swon Brothers, making them the first duo to advance past the battles
Judith Hill v. Karina Iglesias
If ever a winner was predetermined in a "Voice" battle, it was Hill, who'd already advanced far enough in her career pre-"Voice" to have been enlisted to duet with Michael Jackson just before he died. Still, no one seemed to have told music teacher Iglesias that. She and Hill both sang the heck out of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," giving an electric performance Levine called the best "Voice" battle ever. Levine chose Hill, as expected, but noted that he was the battle's only loser. He was right. Shakira promptly stole Iglesias. "Shakky!" a delighted Iglesias cried.
Winner: Judith Hill
Steal: Yes, Karina Iglesias will advance with Team Shakira
More battles on Tuesday. What did you think of this first batch?
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