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“The Voice” Battles kick off with the first Playoff Pass of season 25

A Team Legend power vocalist gets the honor.

The season 25 Voice Battle Rounds have begun, and with them come the return of The Voice’s version of a golden ticket — the Playoff Pass. In the Battles, each coach will pair up their 10 artists for a duet. The winner of that duet will move forward to the Knockouts. If one of the Battles is so good, however, that both contestants deserve to move forward, a coach can use their one and only Playoff Pass, which gives the recipient a bye week of sorts for the Knockouts, skipping them entirely and moving forward to the Playoff round. (Personally, I think the more screen time a contestant gets, the better, when it comes to the Lives, but no one asked me!) The coaches all also have one Steal for this round, meaning they can grab a contestant for their team if a coach has just eliminated them. As The Voice reminds us several times, however, the Playoff Pass trumps a Steal — so if a coach or two pushes their Steal for an “eliminated” contestant and then their original coach pushes their Playoff Pass button, the contestant remains on their original team and, most likely, celebrates that they don’t have to sing for a little bit. This whole Playoff Pass v. Steal situation is exactly what plays out in the very first Battle of season 25.

<p>nbc</p> Bryan Olesen and Nathan Chester

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Bryan Olesen and Nathan Chester

First up in the Battles is Team Legend’s Nathan Chester and Bryan Olesen. Chicago native Nathan is more of a pop/soul artist (he won over the coaches in the Blind Auditions with the Al Green classic “Take Me to the River”) and Bryan, who at 49 is the oldest contestant this season, and is more pop/rock (he cover One Republic’s “Love Runs Out” in the Blinds). Both of them have the ability to belt like no one’s business, which is exactly why John Legend gives these guys an Adele song for their duet. John describes “Rolling in the Deep” as a song full of “passion and energy and urgency,” which is perfect for their voices and for this round of competition. Even in rehearsals, John is already hinting that there’s no way either of these two vocalists will be going home. We all know where this is headed.

Nathan and Bryan sing the roof off of The Voice’s cute lil’ Battles boxing ring, so much so that the five coaches basically leap out of their seats once the performance is over, and not one of them can help John decide who to declare the winner. “Can you imagine a quartet of people more unhelpful than these four people?” he asks in regards to Dan + Shay, Chance the Rapper, and Reba McEntire.

John was impressed with the way both Nathan and Bryan “committed to giving this song a refresh” and how they made it sound so different from any other cover. Still, he couldn’t get enough of Nathan’s passion and “the melodic choices that he was making.” John declares Nathan Chester the winner of this Battle.

Bryan sure looks disappointed as he thanks his coach for the time spent with him and walks off the stage — but he isn’t disappointed for too long. Both Reba and Dan + Shay press their Steal buttons for the Nebraska singer. It’s exciting! And just as Dan + Shay begin their pitch about how they could not let a voice like Bryan’s leave this competition, John ups the excitement factor by choosing that moment to hit his Playoff Pass button. Bryan isn’t going anywhere, except right to the Playoffs, as a member of Team Legend. Chance is living for the twist ending to this story, calling the whole chaotic thing “must-see TV!” “He has to embarrass the new guys,” a dismayed Dan Smyers says of John’s delayed button push. It’s all in good fun for sure, but he isn’t wrong — there was some real drama to that delay.

Later, an ecstatic, emotional Bryan tells his coach that he “won’t let [him] down,” and John confidently responds, “I know you won’t, that’s why you got the Playoff Pass.”

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC.

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