It was the steal that stole the show.
The Grammy-winning singer pressed his button at the last possible moment to save Alaskan powerhouse Cierra Mickens, who began to walk off the stage in defeat after losing to Idaho session singer Emily B.
The two women delivered a flawed but fierce version of Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” that left coach Shakira with a difficult decision. The Colombian superstar ultimately chose Emily, 33, a multiple brain-surgery survivor, citing the “amazing quality in her voice” and her embrace of the song and its message.
Mickens, 23, gracefully accepted defeat and began to leave the stage until Usher slyly pressed his button, which prompted Mickens to drop to her knees in relief and joy.
“I planned on hitting my button because God blessed you with an incredible talent,” he declared of his decision to save her. “I’m happy that you’re on my team, and I now have the opportunity to pick up where Shakira left off.”
“She has star quality,” he added to his fellow coaches while explaining his decision.
Other contestants who performed Tuesday sought to make a similar impression on the coaches.
The night kicked off with four-chair-turning country crooner Cary Laine, 28, singing against indie artist Sam Behymer, 25, as they performed Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love.”
Blake Shelton called the rendition a bit pitchy, but praised them for “capturing the mood of the song,” while their coach, Adam Levine noted the similarities between the two – despite their outward differences.
It was a tough choice, but Levine ultimately chose Behymer because, he said, “[there is] so much trouble and power and emotion in your voice.”
Coach Blake had a similarly difficult decision after Kansan Kaleigh Glanton, 20, and Massachusetts crooner Noah Lis, 22, delivered a sweet version of “Everything” by Michael Bublé that prompted host Carson Daly to deem it “the nicest battle I’ve ever seen.”
Levine declared the duo “pretty evenly matched,” and Shelton agreed, but ultimately gave the edge to Glanton for demonstrating “that thing you can’t teach people: the notes she thinks of to sing, not just that she can sing them, but that she thinks of those places to go in her vocal.”
In other battles not shown in their entirety, Team Blake’s garbage man-turned-Vegas singer Ryan Whyte Maloney edged out Tanya Tucker’s niece Kaleigh Tucker; YouTube sensation Christina Grimmie beat out Philly musician Joshua Howard to remain on Team Adam; and singer-songwriter Kristen Merlin triumphed over California country singer Lindsay Bruce to stay on Team Shakira.
The second round of battles – a new addition this season – debuts Monday (8 p.m. ET) featuring Coldplay’s newly single Chris Martin as a mentor to all remaining contestants.