‘The Voice’ recap: Season 12 battles begin with three coaches fighting for steal

Monday’s episode of “The Voice” kicked off the first of the four Battle rounds for the 48 artists still in the competition. Over the course of four episodes, the 12 artists on each team will be split into six pairs and have to sing the same song for their survival. The four coaches — Adam Levine, Alicia KeysBlake Shelton and Gwen Stefani — will then have to decide which contender in each battle to take to the Knockout rounds.

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Thus, their team 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. This will mean four Knockout match-ups per coach. The winners of those, plus one steal per coach, will yield 20 artists in all (five per coach) for the live shows.

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 six battles and then weigh in with your choice as to the best of these six 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: Brennley Brown vs. Lauren Duski – “Better Man”
Duski did an outstanding job conveying the emotional intricacies of this 2016 Little Big Town tune about a break-up while 15-year-old Brown, whose never had a boyfriend, struggled to connect to the lyrics written by Taylor Swift. After Shelton sided with Duski, Levine and Stefani tried to rescue Brown. Stefani won her over in the end by telling her, “There something about your innocence that I would want to work with.”

Team Gwen: JChosen vs. Kenny P – “I Was Made to Love Her”
Both artists struggled to connect with this 1967 Stevie Wonder track. Fifty years ago, this tune hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. On Monday, it didn’t sizzle when sang by either of these artists. But Stefani had to pick one of them to go on to to the knockout round and she went with JChosen. None of the other three coaches chose to use one of their two steals on Kenny P who leaves the competition.

Team Alicia: Anatalia Villaranda vs. Missy Robertson – “Tightrope”
As with Shelton’s first battle, this one pitted a woman against a teenager. However, while Brown struggled with her song, Villaranda soared when singing Janelle Monae‘s 2010 soul track, which was featured on the third season finale of “90210.” By comparison, Robertson was subdued and did not inspire any of the other three coaches to want her for their teams.

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Team Adam: Gaby Borromeo vs. Mark Isaiah – “Pillowtalk”
While Borromeo had once been signed to Legend’s label, that didn’t give her the edge when faced with singing this Zayn Malik ballad, which hit No. 1 last year. Rather, Isaiah, who has the look of a teen idol as Malik once did as part of boy band One Direction, was the clear winner. And with none of the other coaches wanting to use a steal, Borromeo exited.

Team Alicia: Felicia Temple vs. Quizz Swanigan – “Titanium”
Temple spoke of her personal connection to this 2011 Sia song, which she had used as inspiration when undergoing treatment for cancer. However, she could not overcome the desire by Keys to mentor Swanigan who, at just 13, is the youngest contestant in the history of “The Voice.” However, Shelton liked what he heard from Temple – “You can just hear the warmth and that rounder tone that she has” – and stole her away for his team.

Team Blake: Casi Joy vs. Ashley Levin – “How Blue”
This pairing might have been the last of the night, but it was the first in which all three of the other coaches fought to get the loser for their team. Joy and Levin were both outstanding as they crooned Reba McEntire‘s 1984 No. 1 country hit. Before revealing his choice, Shelton acknowledged he had made a mistake with this match-up: “I told you girls from the second I heard you singing together, I wish I hadn’t.” After he opted to take Joy to the knockouts, the others made their case for Levin, who went with Keys in the end.

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