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"The Voice" Enters Battle Rounds: Hard-Fought Bouts, Hard-Won Steals

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tyler Golden/NBC
    Jake Barker, Stevie Jo sing on "The Voice."

    The singing hopefuls of "The Voice" squared off Monday on-stage against their own teammates Monday, and as some high-stakes vocal match-ups and the tough calls that came with them proved, past "Voice" winners Adam Levine and Blake Shelton could very well have winning teams yet again.

    That's because those two coaches nabbed two especially noteworthy steals, both of them from rival coach Usher's cast-offs.

    Shakira, meanwhile, picked up a former Team Blake member with a steal of her own.

    The night kicked off with a pairing of two very different R&B singers from Team Usher: Denver father of six Biff Gore versus a singer two decades his junior, Los Angeles-bred college music major TJ Willkins. The two were tasked with the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," a song that Usher and mentor Jill Scott insisted they'd master if they'd manage to convey the requisite desperation.

    They did that when they took to the stage, to the coaches' delight. Usher remarked that they had pushed each other to perform their best, and Adam declared that of the two, "nobody was better." But "The Voice" being "The Voice," Usher had to declare a winner, so he chose TJ. "TJ was relentless," he said. "I want a fighter on my team."

    That gave Blake an opportunity he could scarcely believe he'd had to jump in and steal Biff for his own team. "I'm alive!" Biff cheered, but Blake seemed arguably the more excited to be welcoming him to his team. "You're a great entertainer. I'm hoping you can coach me a little bit," he told Biff, praising the stocky middle-aged dad's impressive high kicks and admitting he was "shocked" he even had the opportunity to steal such a "first-class artist."

    Next, though, Blake had to let go one of his own teammates. He paired his two 17-year-old country singers, Jake Worthington and Lexi Luca, on one-time "Voice" winner Cassadee Pope's ballad "It Goes Like This," and with the help of mentors The Band Perry, Jake worked on projecting his vocals while Lexi managed to best some of her insecurities. On-stage, though, Lexi's nerves showed -- and even though Jake flubbed a few lyrics, Blake named him the winner anyway, saying the teen could be a star.

    Then it was time for Shakira to part with one of her team members. She paired PR maven Dani Moz with Louisiana church singer DeShawn Washington on Emeli Sande's "My Kind of Love." The demanding song posed a challenge for both of their vocal ranges in rehearsals, but on-stage they tackled it head-on, earning an apparent rave reaction from the audience. Adam praised the pair's "natural chemistry," and while Blake and Usher were both more impressed by DeShawn, Shakira admitted she felt she saw Dani as going further on the show, declaring her the winner.

    But Shakira got a chance to grab yet another team member with the next pairing, this time of two unusual Team Adam rock voices, rocker-turned-nanny Kat Perkins and gravelly-voiced crooner Patrick Thomson. They were excited to team for the Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks duet "Whenever I Call You Friend," but on-stage, Kat projected confidence and sang powerfully while Patrick struggled with his pitch at times. That, to Adam's mind, made Kat the winner. "Kat just has an overall strength that I just can't let go of," he explained -- just as Shakira pressed her button just in time to grab Patrick for her own team.

    Next up was a pairing of two pro divas from Team Blake, one-time pop hitmaker Paula DeAnda and former Celine Dion vocal director Sisaundra Lewis. Blake Shelton paired the women on "Do What U Want," citing the Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera collaboration from last season on "The Voice" as his inspiration. The two powerful singers' task, Blake and his mentors said, was to resist the urge to make "too many moments happen," lest their vocals overpower each other's and overwhelm the audience.

    Their ever-showier vocal performances may have done that somewhat, but no matter -- the coaches were duly impressed. "You completely drove each other to give a great performance in both directions," Usher observed, though he noted Paula had some "pitch issues" and deemed Sisaundra the winner. Shakira said the same, lauding Sisaundra's one big high note. And finally, Blake had to concur, agreeing that while Paul "sang the crap out of" the song, she fell off-pace and almost threw off her co-star. Blake declared Sisaundra the winner, which meant Paula was heading home.

    The final pairing of the night came courtesy of Team Usher, and like the night's first match-up, it offered a serious opportunity for a steal -- for the night's only battle for a steal, in fact. Usher paired two very different sorts of unlikely R&B singers on Steve Winwood's "Higher Love," metalhead-turned-R&B crooner Stevie Jo and stage fright-afflicted YouTube star Jake Barker. In rehearsals, Usher was none too pleased with how either of them was singing -- saying they sounded a mess, and urging Jake to emote and use his breath just as he urged Stevie Jo to tap into his passion.

    Both singers took that advice to heart as they took to the stage, where they delivered a falsetto-rich performance where they showed off the best of what their unique voices could do and let the song stretch out comfortably. "I've never seen a more evenly matched battle," Blake remarked afterward, while Shakira praised Jake's falsetto and Stevie's versatility. As for Adam? He refused to pick a would-be winner, vowing instead to steal the loser. "Whichever of you doesn't make it is coming to my team," he announced -- setting off some fierce protestations from Shakira, as she sought to make sure her team would pick up whomever Team Usher didn't keep.

    That, as it turned out, would be Jake. Usher picked Stevie Jo, who had bravely performed Usher's own song at blind auditions, as the winner of the round.

    That set the stage for a battle between all the other three coaches for Jake, as Blake jumped in to vie for him alongside Adam and Shakira. Adam's pitch to Jake involved touting their similar voices and their shared love of tattoos -- a pitch that Blake called "terrible" and the "worst pitch I've ever heard." (He may not much have preferred Shakira's odd pitch, which involved an offer to introduce Jake to Rihanna.) Still, Adam's pitch to his hipster lookalike worked, and Jake picked him as his coach.

    The battle rounds will continue Tuesday with more pairings of "Voice" team members, and inevitably more steals.

    "The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.