Christina Aguilera had her soulful team members Josh Logan and Michael Lynch perform a rendition of “Harder to Breathe,” a 2002 Maroon 5 hit written by frontman Adam Levine for his group’s first record. Levine seemed entertained by their confident performance as Cee Lo Green pointed out the similarities to the original.
“You almost sounded identical,” Green told Logan, a 33-year-old father from Manchester, N.H., who began singing as a teen alongside his mother, who was a karaoke DJ.
Aguilera thought both singers were great, calling them “very talented.”
“You both really stepped up to the plate and made it your own,” she noted before deciding on Logan. Lynch, 27, was not saved by a steal.
The night’s youngest competitors from Team Cee Lo also proved formidable, claiming the stage like pros. George Horga Jr., 19, harmonized with Tennessee teen Juhi, 16, on Gavin DeGraw‘s “Best I Ever Had,” which showcased their endearing charisma.
“I think you both brought that song alive,” a delighted Aguilera told them.
Green, meanwhile, said that Juhi was “like a young Einstein of some sort.”
But in the end, he went with Horga, who, as a teen, hightailed it to Hollywood from Portland, Ore., leaving behind his large Romanian family to pursue his love of music. His fierce drive won Green over. “He’s completely committed,” Green said of his choice.
But all was not lost for Juhi. Levine quickly swooped in to steal her. “I think that we have work to do, but gosh, you are 16, and you are already so good,” he said of giving her a second chance. “I just kind of won the lottery by grabbing you for my team.”
The lone battle round of the night for Blake Shelton‘s team featured the raspy soul of coffeehouse singer Austin Jenckes of Duvall, Wash., and the wholesome country appeal of Austin, Texas, native Brian Pounds, a former college baseball player who gave up sports for singing.
Shelton said he picked the Bee Gees‘ hit “To Love Somebody” because of its cross-genre appeal, noting that it suited both singers’ edge and ability to be vulnerable.
In the end, both had “great moments,” Aguilera noted, but Shelton decided to go with Jenckes and his obvious passion for the tune.
“The way Austin connected with it, he left his heart lying out there on the stage,” Shelton said.
Team Adam paired former construction worker James Irwin, 31, of St. Louis, Mo., with Matt Cermanski, of Phoenixville, Pa., two contestants who had appeared on season four of the show but failed to turn any chairs. This time they were back and ready.
With mentor Ryan Tedder assisting, Levine chose the Tedder-written OneRepublic song “Counting Stars,” which matched both artists’ falsetto and vocal power.
Levine was not totally satisfied by their performances, even as Green called it “a fly rendition of the song.”
“I believe for both of you it was a flawed performance,” he said before settling on Irwin, noting his future expectations for the artist will be much higher. “I think James is capable of doing more than he has so far.”
One of the night’s most beautiful and toughest battles came from Team Christina artists Destinee Quinn, an Arizona biker bar singer, and classically trained former teen model Lina Gaudenzi of Miami.
Aguilera chose the impassioned Dixie Chicks song “Not Ready to Make Nice” and urged both women to “let go” lyrically with the emotion of the song.
They did not disappoint, and Green was moved, calling Quinn’s performance “split between something passionate and performance art.”
“I did watch you really live that song out loud, and it was really wonderful,” said Green, who was joined in his praise of her emotion by Shelton.
Aguilera loved them both, noting, “I’m so living for these girls right now.”
But she was also torn between Quinn’s powerful connection with the song and Gaudenzi’s obvious vocal range.
In the end, Aguilera chose Quinn, but the statuesque Gaudenzi was quickly snatched up by Levine with his second steal of the evening.
The final battle of the night pitted a tech-loving James Wolpert against the son of a rock star: Will Champlin, a Californian whose dad was a singer in the band Chicago.
But former Apple store worker Wolpert, who dropped out of Carnegie Mellon University to focus on his music, did not let his tie and nerdish glasses belie his obvious star power. Both rocked it out competitively on Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”
“James, you are the surprise of the battle because you don’t look the part to me,” Shelton said. “Will looks the part and is a badass to go with it musically, too.”
“It was a lot more even than I thought it would be,” said Levine, who finally picked Wolpert.
In the night’s final surprise, Aguilera hit her button to steal Champlin at the very last moment. “He brought it,” she said, sure of her selection. “You were consistent and you were ready and you followed through.”
The battle rounds continue Tuesday, and the show first knockout rounds are set for next week.