The blind auditions may be over on “The Voice,” but the competition is just heating up.
Coaches Kelly Clarkson, Niall Horan, Chance the Rapper and Blake Shelton continued vying for the best singers during the first battles round Monday night. During the battle rounds, each coach pairs up their vocalists for a series of head-to-head battles to determine who advances to the next round.
Team Blake singers Tasha Jessen and EJ Michels faced off with their soulful performance of “The Tracks of My Tears” by The Miracles. Declaring a winner of the battle proved to be difficult for veteran coach Shelton.
“I don’t really know how to make this decision,” Shelton said. “You’d think after all this time it would be easier, but it’s just not.”
Shelton chose Jessen as the battle’s winner, but Jessen’s win created an opening for Horan and Chance, who both hit their steal buttons for a chance to work with Michels. The 31-year-old joined Team Niall, but it didn’t discourage Chance.
“I turned for EJ at the blinds and Niall did not, and somehow he still ended up on Niall’s team,” Chance said. “But it’s OK. I still got more chances to steal him.”
Here’s what else went down.
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Which singer did Kelly Clarkson steal from Team Niall?
Gina Miles and Kala Banham of Team Niall delivered a tender cover of the Birdy version of “Skinny Love,” originally performed by Bon Iver.
Miles’ distinct tone made the 19-year-old an immediate standout.
“I’ve never heard a voice like that in my life,” Shelton said. “The thought of your voice on a record doing all those crackly, weird things that you do, it would be so different.”
Having to eliminate someone from the competition hit a nerve with Horan, who competed on “The X Factor” as a member of One Direction in 2010.
“I didn’t sleep a wink last night because of this,” Horan said. “I know exactly how it feels to stand there and know that your future is in the hands of someone else.”
Horan declared Miles the winner of the battle. But before Banham could pack up her bags, Clarkson hit her steal button.
“I stole Kala because I’ve been waiting for her,” Clarkson said. “I remember her from the blinds and I was blocked, so I’m really glad she’s Team Kelly."
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Which singer did Chance the Rapper use his playoff pass on?
Team Chance singers Sorelle and Manasseh Samone earned a standing ovation with their showstopping performance of the Adele power ballad “Someone Like You.”
“When the singing started separately, I just thought ‘How is this going to ever blend?’” said Shelton of the pairing of vocal trio Sorelle and Samone. “And now I never want you guys to not sing together.”
Sorelle and Samone’s vocal prowess complicated picking a winner for Chance, who was equally floored by his singers.
“I’m so proud of you guys. That was a masterful performance on both parts,” Chance said. “It’s a really, really tough decision.”
In the end, Chance chose Sorelle as the battle’s winner. However, Sorelle’s victory was not the end of the road for Samone. Shortly after announcing his decision, Chance hit his playoff pass button, which allows Samone to skip the knockouts round and advance directly to the playoffs (a penultimate round before the live semifinals).
“She’s heads and tails above the competition in my eyes. She has the strongest voice,” Chance said of Samone. “Manasseh totally deserved to skip the next round.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kelly Clarkson was 'waiting' to steal Team Niall singer on 'The Voice'