‘The Voice’ recap: Season 12 battles continue with nine duets and three steals

While last week’s two battle round episodes of “The Voice” had six matches apiece, this Monday’s installment was crammed with nine pairings, although three weren’t aired in full. These battles are between two of the 12 artists on each team who sing the same song for their survival. The four coaches — Adam Levine, Alicia KeysBlake Shelton and Gwen Stefani — then have to decide which contender in each battle to take to the Knockout rounds.

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At the end of the four shows, their teams will be winnowed from a dozen artists to six. However, each coach can throw two losers of other battles lifelines and take them on-board their team. These “steals” will bring their rosters up to eight each. Before Monday’s show, Keys had used both her steals while Shelton and Stefani each had one left and Levine still had two.

At rehearsals, the coaches had friends on hand to offer advise: Keys was with DJ Khaled, Levine had John Legend by his side, Shelton brought in his buddy Luke Bryan, and Stefani was counseled by Celine Dion.

Below, take a read of our recap of each of the nine battles and then weigh in with your choice as to the best of these match-ups by voting in our poll and sounding off in the comments section.

Photo Gallery: ‘The Voice’ past winners for seasons 1-11

Team Blake: Josh Hoyer vs. TSoul – “In the Midnight Hour”
Shelton pitted two of his strongest artists against each other on this 1965 hit for Wilson Pickett. Not surprisingly, TSoul — who had sailed through the blind auditions with his rendition of the Al Green soul classic “Take Me to the River” — connected with this similarly styled song and was Shelton’s pick. Although Stefani praised Hoyer neither she nor Levine used one of their steals on him.

Team Alicia: Vanessa Ferguson vs. Autumn Turner – “Killing Me Softly with His Song”
Roberta Flack had a huge hit in 1973 with this chart-topping soul song, which won both Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys. In 1997,  the Fugees did a cover that won them a Grammy for Best R&B Duo/Group Performance. Ferguson masterfully blended the two versions and got the backing of Keys while Turner struggled to connect with the lyrics. However, Levine and Stefani saw potential in her and she chose to work with the former, becoming the first of his steals.

Team Adam: Johnny Hayes vs. Julien Martinez – “Hard to Handle”
Otis Redding wrote and recorded this soul tune shortly before his death in 1967 and The Black Crowes had a hit with a blues rock version in 1990. Hayes was inspired by the latter’s take on the track and easily eclipsed Martinez in their duet. As Shelton observed, “Johnny, rock is your thing. Julien, I felt like you would tend to shy away from some of the bigger vocal moments of the song, and it was frustrating.” Not surprisingly, after Levine opted for Hayes, Martinez did not rate a steal from Stefani or Shelton.

Team Gwen: Stephanie Rice vs. Caroline Sky – “The First Cut Is the Deepest”
Cat Stevens wrote this song in 1967 and, after P. P. Arnold had a hit with it, he included it on his own album that year. Keith Hampshire (1973), Rod Stewart (1977) and Sheryl Crow (2003) all enjoyed success with their versions of this melancholy tune. Rice was a revelation as she brought her own compelling backstory to the stage. While Stefani chose her, Shelton was impressed with Sky who, despite only being 16, also connected to the track. “Your voice is delicate and beautiful, and it kind of shreds at the same time,” he observed before using his second and final steal.

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Team Adam: Malik Davage vs. Kawan DeBose – “Love Me Now”
Faced with rehearsing this 2016 hit for singer/songwriter John Legend in front of him, these two artists struggled with the song and each other. On the night Davage did better and was Levine’s choice to take through to the knockouts. After he knocked DeBose, Stefani did not want him for her team.

Team Blake: Enid Ortiz vs. Valerie Ponzio – “Love Triangle”
We didn’t see the full battle between these two on the show (it was posted in full online). Rather, there was just a short snippet of them singing this 2016 country hit for singer/songwriter RaeLynn. Ortiz, who had found success in her blind audition with Adele‘s plaintive “All I Ask,” was deemed the winner of this match-up by Shelton. Poor Ponzio did not merit a steal by Stefani.

Team Adam: Sheena Brook vs. Hanna Eyre – “Try”
This was another battle that was not seen in its entirety on the show but was posted online. Both artists tried hard to master this 2012 pop hit for Pink. In the end, Levine liked the sound of Eyre more while Stefani took a pass on Brook.

Team Gwen: Jozy Bernadette vs. Troy Ramey – “Angel Eyes”
The Jeff Healey Band had a big hit in 1989 with this track off their first album, “See the Light.”  We didn’t get to see much of this match-up on the show. Watching it online, Ramey has the edge over Bernadette in the duet as he conveys the emotion underlying the lyrics.

Team Alicia: Jack Cassidy vs. Hunter Plake – “Dancing on My Own”
This pairing might have been the last of the night, but it was the first in which two of the three other coaches fought to get the loser for their team. Inexplicably, Keys chose to showcase her two remaining male artists with this 2010 hit tune by Swedish dance diva Robyn. After being denied three full performances in a row, we saw Cassidy and Plake give it their all. Keys opted to keep Cassidy, who sounded stronger in the choruses, while Stefani opted to use her second and final steal on Plake.

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