The weeding out process began Monday night on NBC's "The Voice," as coaches paired vocalists for on-stage battles and then cut the weaker halves.
Six singers were voted off—one following a roaring audience reception and more positive reviews over her competitor.
Blake Shelton paired powerhouse Adley Stump, the sorority girl-turned-country singer, with the soft-voiced, singer/song-writer RaeLynn in a contest that seemed stacked in Stump's favor from the very first note. RaeLynn was instantly intimidated.
"I have no idea what I can do to compete against that," the 17-year-old admitted.
But Shelton, who had a sweet spot for the girl he said reminded him of a young Miranda Lambert—Shelton's wife—took pains to emphasize RaeLynn's advantage as a "stylist" who excels in the story-telling singing country music is all about.
The pair sang Tom Petty's "Free Falling," with RaeLynn's voice sounding tiny next to Stump's gut-busting vocals. Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Ms. Powerhouse Christina Aguilera congratulated RaeLynn on being so "brave" to come on stage and perform. They encouraged her to keep working on it, that she had so much time to grow. But then, Shelton picked her over Stump, who would be fine "with her confidence and ability," he said.
He later paired rockers Jordis Unga with Brian Fuente. They performed Alanis Morissette's "Ironic," which tested the limits of their vocal ranges. Their performance was shaky (though not shaky enough to keep Cee Lo from rocking out in his swivel chair). Blake noted his disappointment with both of their performances.
"I wanted a rocker for my team," Shelton said. "I don't know what happened." He decided to go with Jordis who admitted that she had a lot to prove "after that train wreck."
Christina Aguilera paired Chris Mann, a classically trained vocalist with Monique Benabou, a soulful singer with no prior experience. The two faced off singing "Power of Love," and left the judges conflicted. Mann had the skill, but lacked the emotion. Benabou had passion (she started crying and nearly made Aguilera cry during a rehearsal) but had a long way to go technically. Mann won the final vote and Benabou went home, expressing gratitude at the opportunity to compete.
She next placed Jesse Campbell—a man who had to live in a car with his daughter after his wife left him—with Anthony Evans, the son of a super-achieving preacher and author. Both men had velvety gospel voices, though Campbell stood out as the superior vocalist. He easily demonstrated his versatility, perhaps arrogantly telling Aguilera that it didn't matter what key she wanted him to sing in.
"Jesse's trying to do some intimidation stuff," Evans said.
The two sang Alicia Keys' "if I Ain't Got You," which at some points had Aguilera looking like she was losing oxygen.
"There's not a person in the country who wants to make the decision you're going to have to make," host Carson Daley said after their duet.
"Just when you thought one blew you away, the other comes in with an 'ahhhh,'" Aguilera said, belting out a note. She placed her bet on Campbell.
Adam Levine's vote for Tony Lucca, an ex-Mickey Mouse Club star, over jock Chris Cauley, was in-line with the other judges' commentary. They noted that Lucca's experience and skill-level was undeniable.
Cee Lo's pairing was the most even of the night. Hawaiian-born Cheesa was matched with former Air Force member, Angie Johnson. Both women had powerful lungs and a similar style. They took turns straining to out-sing each other during their "Total Eclipse of the Heart" performance. In the end, Johnson went packing and Cheesa remained on the now-11-person team.
Next week the battle round continues on NBC at 8/7 Central.