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New Playoff Pass in Full Use on THE VOICE Season 23 Battles Premiere Recap

Pictured: (l-r) Mary Kate Connor, Kylee Dayne -- Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

Two new faces on “The Voice” coaching panel – Niall Horan and Chance the Rapper got experience their first Battle Round, while veteran coach, Blake Shelton, was experiencing his very last Battle Round.  Niall said he’ll see his contestants step-up and take hold of their futures, much like he did when he competed on a singing competition show. 

Chance the Rapper said he likes to create arrangements for vocalists and give positive feedback to help them become the artist that they want to be.

For the first time ever “The Voice” competition introduced something called a “Playoff Pass” which gives the artist the opportunity to skip the Knockout round and go straight to the Playoffs. It overrides the Steal.  The coaches each have one Steal, and in addition, one Playoff Pass each as well.  Viewers saw two coaches use their Playoff Pass in the premiere episodes of the Battles.

Blake said the Battles is his “least favorite part of the show.”  Another first for “The Voice,” artists had their  Battle round rehearsals without an advisor, and only guidance from their coaches,   Blake’s Team was up first. 


Pictured: (l-r) Tasha Jessen, EJ Michels — Photo by: Tyler Golden/NB

Tasha Jessen, who was paired with EJ Michels, said to be on Blake’s last Team is “one of the biggest honor’s ever.”  Blake gave the duo “Tracks of My Tears.” He said the song lands perfectly between Tasha and EJ’s voices.  Tasha said she went through some of the darkest times in her life during a separation from her husband due to immigration issues. She listened to this song during the time of that separation.  Singing the song now during better times was a full circle moment for her.

Blake called EJ’s voice “electrifying.”  EJ is from Draper, Utah.  He said his family is really religious.  After coming-out, EJ said it’s been a healing experience for him being on “The Voice.”  Blake said EJ has the most shocking voice of anyone on his Team, and they can both blow the roof off.   Blake told the pair about how each coach has only one Playoff Pass that they can use.  That means one artist from every Team will get to skip the Knockouts and go straight to the Playoffs.  The other artist will go to the Knockouts.  

After their Battle performance, Kelly said when EJ came out, she was afraid for Tasha because he’s really good.  But, Tasha’s tone is “incredible” and she said it was evenly matched.  Chance called it an award show performance. He went with EJ because his stage presence “is something this competition can use.”  Niall said they brought the song to life. He was sad that he lost Tasha after turning for her Blinds. Niall said he regrets not turning for EJ originally.  Niall also went with EJ.

Blake reacted to the Battle saying that he loves hearing about how  special Tasha’s tones are because “there truly is something special about you.” He said with EJ, he’s never been more shocked by someone from the Blinds.  He bragged about his coaching skills with EJ, and said EJ “came in swinging.”  Blake ultimately chose Tasha.

BATTLE WINNER:  TASHA.  Blake chose Tasha because she’s special, one of a kind, and she’s not like anyone else in the competition.

STEAL – Chance and Niall pushed to STEAL EJ!!  Chance said “I turned for you. You went with Blake, which was a decision.”  He said with the right song choices, you can win this thing.  Niall said he regretted turning in the Blinds.  He did an unbelievable job and he doesn’t have a singer with the range that EJ has. “You’d fit perfectly,” Niall wooed him.  

NEW COACH: Niall Horan.  Niall said EJ can sing anything and it was like watching a “ready made star.” 
Blake said he’s waiting for that performance that makes his decision impossible.  Niall greeted his new artist EJ.  Chance said he turned for EJ in the Blinds, and Niall did not. He said “That’s Okay, I still have more chances to Steal him!”

MARIAH KALIA vs. JAMAR (Team Chance)

Chance paired 17-year-old Mariah with 37-year-old Jamar.  He gave them “Gravity” song by John Mayer because they’re both soulful people. Chance said the song has a lot of emotion in the lyrics and he wanted to see their interpretation.  Jamar said he thinks him and Chance have a connection creatively.  Chance said Mariah has the talent of people twice her age.  He advised her to “let go of the nerves” and to “have fun with it.”  

Jamar said the lyric in the song that says “keep me where the light is,”  It’s a reminder that “there’s always a light in every situation”  He told the story of how he was playing in church for six years when he decided to resign and do music full time.  Soon after that, he auditioned for “The Voice.”

Kelly reacted that that was her favorite version she’s ever heard of that song. Maraih brings a youthfulness and sassiness to the song.  She would buy her record.  Kelly told Jamar that she loves the ease in which he sings.  “It’s an incredible gift.”  Blake said with Jamar, he thinks he’s ready for a record deal right now.  He said the development is happening with Mariah still, and he would invest in her.

Niall told Mariah that her performance was “super impressive.” He told Jamar that you can hear the years of gigging in his voice.  But, he leaned more towards Mariah.  Chance told Jamar that he’s “an artist’s artist.”  He wants to see more of Jamar’s guitar playing. Chance said Mariah  makes him think about his daughters because they love music.  It was “really tough” for Chance.  

BATTLE WINNER: JAMAR.  Chance said that was emotional and Jamar is an artist who’s ready right now. He’s a seasoned artist who’s ready to win and Miarah is a growing artist.  Niall said if he had another Steal, he would have chosen Mariah.  


Pictured: (l-r) Gina Miles, Kala Banham — Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

Niall paired Gina and Kala who are close in age – 19 and 24.  Niall said they are both good story tellers and he gave them the “Skinny Love” song.  He said they have soft and settle beautiful voices “together in one duet.” Niall said you can hear the breath in their voice and how it’s all based on “feel.”  

Niall said Kala knows exactly who she is and she likes to dig deep into her emotions like himself, which goes a long way in the competition. He likes that Gina likes to “belt.”  She said she connects to the song because it’s a singer-songwriter song. Gina said she sang this song in 7th and 8th grade. Niall was regretting that he paired them together.  At the stage rehearsal, Niall said he’s been there before, for ten weeks competing on a singing show.  He wants Gina to come out of her shell and feel like she belongs there.  He wants Kala to draw people in.  They are both self-admitted “nervous performers.”  He said it’s going to come down to “whoever can hold it together the most.”

Kelly’s reaction to their Battle was that she liked the roundness, depth and storyteller of Gina’s tone.  Niall Blocked her from Kala. She liked her sweet and angelic vibe.  She thinks they sound “magical” together.  She added that knowing how to navigate a singing competition “these are great songs.”  Niall said “I know.’

Chance said they made great choices in the song. He thought Gina was a little “shaky” but that gave her a great edge.  Blake said this is about as evenly matched as they can get.  He asked who Gina idolizes.  She answered Adele.  Blake went with Gina.
Niall said they both can tell a story and tell it well. He told Gina that her tone is phenomenal.  The fact she speaks as quiet as a mouse then sings so boldly is amazing.  Niall noted that Kala’s commitment to this is amazing.  He said because he’s been on a show like this and knowing that your future is in the hands of someone else.

BATTLE WINNER:  GINA.  Niall said it was because of her growth from her Blinds to the Battles why he chose Gina.  STEAL:  Kelly pushed to Steal Kala from Niall.  Kelly said “who cares about Niall.  Welcome to Team Kelly!”  Kelly was BLOCKED from Kala in the Blinds.


Kelly said they both have incredible ranges and she wanted to see who stands out in this pairing.  She picked a Roxette song “It Must Have Been Love” and she arranged it to be more current.   Cait said she planned to sing the song as authentic as she can.  She’s in love currently.  “Cameron gives me so much gasoline.”   Allie said the song reminds her a lot of what she hears when she’s at home.  She’s from a small town with one gas station. Singing the song makes her miss home.

Kelly said these two ladies are “power house females” and they’re going to show that.  She predicted that everyone’s hair is going to blow off during this Battle. Kelly said it will come down to “who nails their part.”   Before the Battle, Kelly said the goal was to get one of them Stolen.

After their Battle, Blake said  they both killed it. Kate has a more finesse in the way she sings, when you come in with the big notes she was hitting, “it’s like whoa!”  Allie has more of an attack.  He didn’t  know who to go with.  Niall said that was mind blowing and so much control for both of them and the harmonies were perfect.  He also didn’t know who to choose.  Chance loved Allie’s tone and voice a lot. He would send Cait to the next round. 

Kelly said “well done.”  She compared Allie to Anne Wilson and Melissa Ethridge.  She has an incredible rock vibe.  She admitted that Blake is right when he said Cait has “finesse” and they are both incredible power houses.  She loves Country and soulful and Pop.  She loves both of them.

BATTLE WINNER: CAIT.  Kelly said Cait has this range that is limitless and can win the show.  Kelly said she only has space for one powerhouse singer on her Team which was why she didn’t use her Playoff Pass.


Kason and Walker were Blake’s last Battle pairing ever!  They were both one chair turns.  Blake said he guess he’s the only one who loves Rock.  Walker Wilson is a huge Blake Shelton fan he said his 8-year-old self would have been screaming when Blake turned for him in the Blinds.

After their Battle performance, Niall reacted that it was a proper solid Rock performance.  He liked the grit in Kason’s voice.   Walker’s voice pierces through and also a nice grit that matches up well.  Chance said they’re the same person. He said tonally, they’re evenly matched.  He agreed with Niall that Walker had the edge.  Kelly said they’re different in that Kason has a raspiness that’s smoother and Walker has a grit “that’s really cool.”

Blake said it’s the easiest no brainer that he’s ever put together.  Walker has a buzz that happens with his voice that cuts through, and Kason kind of plays with it.  Blake said he was going to lean on his fellow coaches and chose Walker.  

Pictured: (l-r) Kason Lester, Walker Wilson — Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

BATTLE WINNER: WALKER.  Blake said Walker and Kason gave everything they had on that stage.  Walker had the edge.  He has a lot of  character in his voice and he stands out. “He’s going to thrive in the Knockouts,” said Blake.
Chance said he looks at a Steal as not giving them a second chance, but as giving them the opportunity to win the whole show. 


Sorelle said Chance proved that he can help them with their harmonies.  They said as soon as Chance sang with them at their Blind Audition and got the crowd involved, that that was the way to go. Manssseh said Chance “is God given talent.”  She said it feels great now that she’s in that moment with Chance in rehearsal because the last time she was there she didn’t get a chair turn.

Manasseh said when Chance turned it felt like she was running a marathon and she reached the end.  The song he gave them was “Someone Like You” by Adele because it’s a good opportunity to show how well they can mesh. Sorelle said Chance is a record producer, a writer, and a musician.  He said he was also a roadie.  

Switching back and forth with harmonies gave it more strength.  He paired Manasseh to Sorelle because their melodies lead to a gospel background and Manasseh has an Operatic background and those two things singing big reminds Chance of gospel.  

Chance said the challenge is to find that distinct identity and have it shine through.  Manasseh is performing against this wall of sound (Sorelle).  And, Sorelle has the issue of being constrained by rehearsed vocal parts and being at the mercy of their sisters because if anyone is out of pitch it deflates the whole thing. But, they’re also two of the strongest acts in the competition.  

After their Battle performance, Kelly was shocked.  She’s never heard that song like that.  She complimented Sorelle on their intricate harmonies. She said Mannesha is the reason why the show exists and she has tone for days.  Manasseh is who Kelly chose. 

Blake said at the beginning of the Battle, he was thinking, how is this ever going to blend. Now he always wants them to sing together. He told Chance it was an incredible arrangement.  He told Sorelle that he’s never heard a group sing that is so tight together.  He couldn’t believe that the performance was live.  He went with Sorelle. 

Niall said it was phenomenal and he couldn’t believe what he just heard.  He said where Manasseh started the song and where she ended it was like two different planets.  It was goosebumps.  He told Sorelle the block harmony sounds like a record. It was like a wall of harmonies when they came in. 

Pictured: (l-r) Manasseh Samone, Sorelle — Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

Manasseh is one of one and her ability to take notes, it all came together.  Chance told Sorelle it’s incredibly difficult working with harmonics and the fact that they’re so poised and young, it’s something that the competition needs.  It was a difficult decision. 

BATTLE WINNER: SORELLE.  Chance said they had to move on to the next round.  It’s just something that the show needs.

PLAYOFF PASS: Chance gave Manasseh his Playoff Pass. It was the first time the new Playoff Pass was used!  She’s going directly to the Playoffs.  Chance said Manessah is meant to be here at this time. “She’s heads and tails above the competition in my eyes.” Manasseh said Chance is amazing!




Niall said Ross is a soulful rock singer who doesn’t have to scream.  Ross said getting that one- on-one time with Niall was spectacular.  “He’s in the trenches.” Niall said Laura had a yodel in her voice that’s so strong. Niall gave them “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” song by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. The two hugged when their Battle ended. 

Chance reacted that he’s never heard that song at all!  He said he wasn’t even around when that song was out.  He said he doesn’t know anyone who knows that song. Then said he thought they did it justice.  Kelly couldn’t stop laughing at Chance’s comments about not knowing the song.   He said he saw Laura’s personality more.  Kelly said Ross’ voice really cuts through and this song was great for him.  Laura has this intricate bravado.  They both have incredible ranges. She said Ross’ voice really stands out.

Blake said Laura is such a free spirit and he loves watching her perform.  Ross is so stoic and delivered this absolute rock solid vocal. Blake went with Ross.

Niall said they’re unbelievably singers singing a great song.  He said “I have to make a gut choice.”  

BATTLE WINNER:  ROSS CLAYTON.  Niall said they’re two super solid performers. Ross has a stand-out tone.  


Alyssa is Rock based and Magnus comes from a soul background.  They have amazing style and tones, said Chance.  He gave them his favorite love song which is “Your Song” by Elton John.  He said to see a duet, it gives them the opportunity to attack the same song in different styles.  Alyssa started playing the piano in second grade.  After high school, she moved to Nashville. Chance said he first heard the song when he was eight years old on Moulin Rouge. Chance told them the emphasis in which they sing is why he chose them two. 

Chance said he’s really hyped on Magnus’ control and voice.  He has a distinct sound that isn’t widely accessible right now.  Chance’s advice to them was to let themselves shine through and to stay true to their artistry.  He said Alyssa has a great stage presence and her ability to be a star.  He’s hoping that Magnus shows some of his soulfulness. 

Kelly said it sounds cozy and like home. She told the pair to not sound bravados at the same time. Blake made fun of Kelly that Magnus’ voice sounds cozy like a pillow. He said Aylssa sounds like the more dominant bravado. Niall said the song automatically leaned towards Magnus.  He added, Alyssa’s voice and style was meant for this time and she got better each time. He said with Magnus he switched it out, and it was bravado all the time.  

BATTLE WINNER: MAGNUS.  Chance said Magnus had his own great take on the song and he’ll do great in the competition.  Magnus said he was really happy that Chance is his coach.


Kelly gave the pair “I Could Fall in Love” song.  Kelly told them they are all very powerful singers.  What separates Marcos in the competition is he can sing in Spanish.  There was passion instead of just power, Kelly stated.  And, she’s looking for Marco to stretch to see what he can do vocally in this competition.  BATTLE WINNER: MARCOS


Team Blake’s Mary Kate and Kylee became friends on the show and were rooting for each other the whole way.  They said they want their Battle to shine and their goal was for one of them to get a Steal of Playoff Pass.   Mary Kate said working with Blake is the highlight of her life.  Kylee said it’s such a privilege to be on Blake’s last Team.  Blake gave them the Taylor Swift song “Anti-Hero.”

Blake said the song fits this singer songwriter thing that they want to do.  It’s Taylor Swift’s number one song right now.  The song talks about insecurities. Mary Kate said she can relate to the song and she said it’s an important thing to sing because so many young girls can relate.  Blake noted that for the tow artist’s styles, Kylee has more of an attack, and Mary Kate has a softer sound.  Blake said it was one of the easiest Battle rehearsals he’s ever had because they came in prepared.  

After their Battle performance, Niall reacted that they’ve made the song completely their own and it’s not easy to come out and sing a current, popular song. He called Mary Kate’s voice “piercing.”  He leaned towards Mary Kate because she pierced through the harmony.   Chance said it was like they grew up together because of their harmonies. He went with Kylee because she had a  sense of control and sense of self that one needs to be in this competition.  Kelly reacted that Kylee’s voice has a thing that singers get jealous of.  No matter what she sings it sounds special.  Kelly said Mary Kate has this passion and that’s special.  

Blake said it’s extra tough because he can see how close they’ve grown together. “You’re going to do this.  Both of you.”  You both have ‘singer songwriter’ written on your bio.  But, you’re both vocally capable of all kinds of things that make the singer-songwriter arena like no one else.  They gave 150% of what they did.  

Pictured: (l-r) Mary Kate Connor, Kylee Dayne — Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

WINNER: KYLEE.  He said he can see Kylee going really far on this far.  She has a powerful voice that can go toe to toe with any singer in this competition.  

PLAYOFF PASS: Blake told Mary Kate that there’s going to be a “no” every day until she hears a “yes.”  He said, but on this show we have something called a Playoff Pass.  She got to bypass the Knockouts.  Blake said he gave her the Pass because Mary Kate is only 18.  But, she is vocally mature and ready for this as an artist.



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