Jessica Childress and Vedo of Team Usher. (Trae Patton / NBC )
"The Voice" battle rounds entered their second and final week Monday in a night of impressive talent and unpredictable outcomes. With few clear winners and lots of contenders who could be considered worthy of a steal, coaches often seemed to be making their minds up on the fly. Sometimes those choices seemed random (or perhaps opaquely "strategic," as Shakira said at one point), and it was unfortunate to see some solid singers slink away unclaimed.
Not to say the talent that made it through was undeserving. Like her hips, Shakira's shoulders don't lie; she genuinely seemed to enjoy the battles. And who could blame her?
We got …
Jessica Childress vs. Vedo
Childress, who'd left a PR job to try to make it in music, and Vedo, whose mom was ill during blind auditions and, sadly, has since died, battled it out on Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven." Childress found a range she didn't know she had, but the urgency with which Vedo sang apparently set him apart for Usher.
Steal: Surprisingly, no, though Childress' feel-good take on Mars' "Marry You" during the blinds will remain a season highlight for me.
Luke Edgemon vs. Monique Abadie
Shakira assigned these two singers, a pastor's son and a former Latin child star who she calls her "most eclectic couple," Lady Gaga's "You and I," which they tackled so viciously she implored them to tone it down. Everyone loved Abadie, but Edgemon was seen as a revelation. Shakira decided to make a strategic choice in favor of Abadie, expressing hope that Edgemon would be stolen by another coach.
Winner: Monique Abadie
Steal: Yes! Blake Shelton and Usher hit their buttons for Edgemon. Shelton went in strong, calling Edgemon's performance "energetic" and "pitch-perfect," but Usher played it cool. Edgemon seemed unsure for a moment, and then said he too wanted to be strategic, so he went for repeat past winner Shelton.
Jacqui Sandell vs. Savannah Berry
Shelton's song choice, Little Big Town's "Little White Church," seemed more suited to Berry's country voice than Jersey girl and ex-ballerina rocker Sandell's style, but Sandell overcame a growl and managed to find her own country side. Despite Sandell's efforts, Shelton stuck with the aspiring country singer, as he's been doing this season, and picked Berry, saying he was pleased to see how she performed on an up-tempo number.
Winner: Savannah Berry
Steal: No. But Sandell did seem genuinely grateful to Shelton for his help during her time on the show.
C. Perkins vs. Kris Thomas
More Bruno Mars as these two – a grocery-store worker and a guy who everyone keeps saying sings like a girl -- took on "It Will Rain." Still, the song allowed each to show off his particular talent: C. Perkins has a silky tone; Thomas has killer range and control and a pleasant vibrato. Shakira complimented both, though she said they'd both done better in rehearsal, and then picked Thomas.
Winner: Kris Thomas
Steal: Yes, at the very last possible moment – like, seconds before C. Perkins was about to walk offstage – Usher hit his button to steal. He said he wanted C. Perkins to sit in his defeat a little, so he'd never take his time there for granted. Clearly, Usher is a guy who likes to head-trip his singers.
Midas Whale vs. Patrick Dodd
In a way, Adam Levine made a great choice by pairing this Beale Street blues rocker and funny folk duo on a bluegrass version of Elvis Presley's "Burning Love." They blended and played off each other well, and made for a highly entertaining battle. But alas, that also meant one of these acts would have to go home. Oddly enough, it was gritty-voiced pro Dodd who was dismissed. Perhaps, as Shakira noted, he didn't need all that much help to hone his talents.
Winner: Shockingly, Midas Whale – the second duo to make it past the battle rounds this season.
Steal: Sadly, no, but Levine vowed to help Dodd in his career, so there's that, at least.
Orlando Dixon vs. Ryan Innes
Innes, this year's answer to last season's Nicholas David, was paired with Berklee College of Music grad Dixon on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" in a battle pitting soulful instinct against studied technique. Usher and his guest mentor Pharrell Williams broke through Dixon's emotional barrier, eliciting tears and even snot, but then Usher picked Innes anyway. Ouch.
Winner: Ryan Innes
Steal: Yes! Levine hit his button for Dixon. "You are an exceptional talent," he told his new team member. "I couldn't allow you to walk off the stage and go home right now."