The four coaches finalize their teams before heading into the knockout rounds

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated October 23, 2013 09:25 AM
Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

The Voice‘s battle rounds wrapped up Tuesday night with a trio of commanding performances that show the competition is still any singer’s game.

The evening kicked off on a patriotic note when coach Cee Lo Green paired military veterans Jonny Gray of Austin, Texas, and Shawn Smith of Utica, N.Y., on “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Green chose the song in part as a nod to their service – rocker Gray, 29, completed a tour of duty for the Air Force, while country singer Smith, 32, served in the Army and lost 80 percent of his hearing in his right ear when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. The pair delivered an impassioned version of the song that caught the attention of all four coaches.

Blake Shelton said he agreed with a female audience member who yelled, “That was hot!” while Adam Levine said, “I believe every single word of what you guys did.”

Green ultimately chose to keep Gray, praising his “frenetic” energy onstage. “You become something undeniable,” he explained.

In a sweet moment after his victory, Gray thanked his opponent and was heartfelt when he said they are “going to be lifelong friends after this.”

It’s not clear whether Team Adam’s Barry Black and Preston Pohl will be lifelong friends after their dynamic battle, but the two soulful artists also seemed to bond while rehearsing and performing “I Wish It Would Rain” by the Temptations.

Levine said he chose the song to showcase their soulful artistry – and their performance left the coaches impressed. They praised Black, 27, of American Samoa, for incorporating his signature mouth trumpet into the song – something he demonstrated during his blind audition. “Everything about you is cool,” Shelton told Black.

Yet in the end, Pohl, 26, a former guitarist in a Christian rock band, owned the song, and even coach Levine admitted his decision was “relatively clear.”

“Preston, the second you started singing I got goose bumps,” he said of the Texan. “It makes me think about guys like Otis Redding and what it is to be affected and moved by a great vocal.”

Later, Levine made a bold declaration: “Preston is a legitimate modern soul singer. I think he could win The Voice.”

However, the final head-to-head battle of the night showed that he’ll have plenty of competition.

Team Christina Aguilera closed out the show with two performers who she paired for their sass. Olivia Henken, a 25-year-old Louisville, Ky., tax preparer who Levine said looked like Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert, duked it out against Stephanie Anne Johnson, 29, a cruise ship singer from Tacoma, Wash. The duo sang “Done” by The Band Perry, and delivered a high-energy performance that captivated the audience and the coaches.

Although Green and Levine favored Johnson, Aguilera chose to keep Henken.

But that wasn’t the end of the road for Johnson. In the final moments of the show, Green pushed his button to steal the singer, which moved Johnson and her adorable grandma – who got shout-outs from all four coaches for her enthusiastic cheering – to tears.

“She is remarkably talented,” Green explained of his decision. “I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do in the future.”

In other battles not shown in their entirety Tuesday, Team Blake’s four-chair-turner Holly Henry, 19, defeated Stanford grad Cilla Chan; Team Cee Lo’s Tamara Chauniece, a 23-year-old gospel singer, defeated 30-year-old fitness instructor Keaira LaShae; and Team Blake’s Brandon Chase, a 20-year-old Texas country singer, defeated teen country crooner Emily Randolph.

The knockout rounds kick off Monday.