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The Voice Recap: The First Night of the Battles Sends Three Acts Packing — Including a Fave We Hated to See Go

Monday kicked off Season 25’s Battles on The Voice, and they did not disappoint. On one hand, we got a few genuinely awesome performances. On the other, we got what might qualify as the first big shocks of the season via the eliminations of one contestant who could easily go by the stage name Mr. Personality and another who — and yes, I’m ready for the hate mail — is a more electrifying rock vocalist than early frontrunner Bryan Olesen. Read on, and we’ll discuss which singers advanced to the Knockouts and whether they really should have.

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the voice winners list

The Voice: Every Winner of Every Season — and What They’ve Done Since

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Team Legend: Nathan Chester (Grade: A) defeated Bryan Olesen (Grade: B+) on “Rolling in the Deep” — Playoff Pass given to Bryan | I know Bryan is probably the contestant with the most buzz surrounding him, at least at this stage of the competition, but for my money note, he was out-sung by Nathan. In part, that might have been because his strong, soulful vocal was just plain better suited than Bryan’s rock one to Adele’s hit. But Nathan also seemed less affected than his teammate, who didn’t really wow me until he slayed that last long note, brought it back from the dead and slayed it again.

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Team Dan + Shay: Karen Waldrup (Grade: A) defeated Ryan Argast (Grade: A+) on “Save Me the Trouble” | Holy crap! Now this was a Battle Royale! On their coaches’ song, not only did the teammates harmonize spectacularly, in the process serving up thrilling ’80s-soundtrack-ballad vibes, individually they were downright stunning. Ryan has just an unstoppable rock voice — massive, emotional, exciting. (Bryan who?) Based on her Blind, I wasn’t sure that Karen was gonna be able to keep up, but she gave as good as she got, delivering a powerful reminder that I should never judge a singer by their first cover on The Voice. Couldn’t believe the panel let Ryan go home! First gut punch of the season!

Team Reba: Tae Lewis (Grade: B) defeated L. Rodgers (Grade: A) on “We Don’t Fight Anymore” — Playoff Pass given to L. | Going into this Battle, I assumed that Tae had the edge, what with Reba assigning him and L. Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton’s duet and country being Tae’s lane. But L. 100-percent came to life on the number, singing with a clarity that eclipsed her teammate’s and a depth of feeling that elevated her performance to a whole other level. Love it when singers I was meh on in the Blinds (see also: Karen) surprise me; L. definitely did that — and earned herself the coveted Playoff Pass in the process.

Team Chance: Kamalei Kawa’a (Grade: B) defeated Gabriel Goes (Grade: C+) on “Over the Rainbow” | Though the Hawaiian contestants were delighted to be given Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s rendition of the Judy Garland classic, only Kamalei really should’ve been pleased. With seeming ease, he demonstrated that he was the superior vocalist. Gabriel sounded swell when he and his teammate were harmonizing, and his breathy singing style isn’t at all unpleasant. But it isn’t nearly as memorable or unique as his winning personality. Plus, as Chance noted, Gabriel hadn’t connected with the lyrics nearly as much as Kamalei had.

Team Legend: Zoe Levert (Grade: B-) defeated OK3 (Grade: B) on “The Bones” | Was it just me, or did you see it, too? After Zoe sounded pitchy out of the gate, OK3 marched forward like, “No prob. We got this.” But if they were confident, it was premature. While their harmonies are top-notch, they aren’t tremendously strong individual singers. What’s more, Zoe did manage to land some genuinely nice moments before their Maren Morris cover was done. She’s as stiff as they come (see also: Season 15 winner Chevel Shepherd), but if the show is trying to manufacture its own Tay Tay, Zoe may be its best bet.

Team Reba: Asher HaVon (Grade: A-) defeated Alyssa Crosby (Grade: A-) on “We Don’t Need Another Hero” — Alyssa stolen by Chance | Oo. At first, I thought Alyssa was totally walking away with this win. Asher has a ginormous voice (and bonus: He knows how to use it), but she was singing with such an ear-catching snarl that I was like, “Damn!” Toward the end of their Tina Turner cover, maybe Asher realized that he was being outshone, too, because he dug deeper into his bag of tricks and made sure that Reba remembered how dynamic his range is as well as how charismatic he can be. Tough call. In Reba’s cowgirl boots, as much as I liked Alyssa, I probably would’ve picked Asher, too; dude has presence.

Whose performance Monday did you think was especially Battle-ready? And I know I’ll be sorry for asking, but is Bryan overrated and Ryan, underrated? Hit the comments.

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