It sure looked that way Tuesday night, when the “Happy” singer/songwriter showed off his tender side and tactical strategy while playing a key role in all three battles featured on the second night of the battle rounds.
The show kicked off with Team Pharrell, and pitted Alabama college student Jordy Searcy, 20, against musician-turned-Texas-family-man Taylor Phelan, 25, singing the moving hit “Breakeven (Falling to Pieces).” Williams, along with advisor Alicia Keys, focused on coaxing more emotional performances out of the pair.
“Don’t overthink. Overfeel,” Williams sincerely told the duo, and it’s advice they appeared to take to heart. They delivered a performance that enchanted both the audience and their coaches.
“That was class,” gushed coach Gwen Stefani. “I got so lost in what you were doing I wasn’t judging.”
As always, coach Blake Shelton shared his thoughts in blunter terms.
“You’re screwed, buddy. That’s rough,” he said to Williams as the song ended, as Williams nodded in agreement at the tough choice he faced.
Despite looking agonized about his decision, Williams ultimately chose Phelan, noting “the ambition he sings with, [which was] communicated very well to the audience and the world.”
Later in the show, Williams showed off his paternal side at the end of another tough battle between Team Adam Levine‘s Alessandra Castronovo and Joe Kirk.
Levine asked the two young singers to perform “Stay” by Rihanna – and both Castronovo, a 21-year-old Jersey girl who works in her father’s Italian restaurant, and Kirk, a 17-year-old high school student who followed his big brothers to Nashville as they all pursue their musical dreams – delivered when it counted.
“Alessandra, I don’t know what you could have done better, but what Joe Kirk did, it might be one of the most perfect vocals I have ever heard,” Shelton said.
Williams agreed, admitting, “Joe, I think you have a career, for sure,” and he also praised Castronovo for the way she was “purring” around the stage.
Faced with a difficult decision, Levine ultimately chose Castronovo, which left the defeated Kirk, who admitted to a massive case of nerves during rehearsal, in tears.
In fatherly fashion, Williams graciously walked the emotional teen offstage and the two had an exchange that seemed right out of an after-school special.
“Keep going,” Williams told him. “If you stop now, then ‘no’ was right.”
“I’m not going to stop,” Kirk insisted through his tears.
The night ended with another big win for Williams, who scored a coveted steal from Team Gwen. The No Doubt singer looked no further than husband Gavin Rossdale to serve as her advisor, and the pair worked with young singers Menlik Zergabachew, 19, of Maryland, and Troy Ritchie, 20, of Orange County, California, to deliver a showstopping reggae version of “Maneater.”
Shelton declared the performance “the best battle of the day as far as I’m concerned,” while Stefani said her choice was so difficult, “I wish I could put you guys in a blender and make one person.”
She ultimately chose Ritchie, which prompted both Levine and Williams to quickly hit their buttons to try and steal Zergabachew.
Williams went for a charm offensive when he told Zergabachew, a son of Ethiopian immigrants, he enjoys working with people who look different than they sound.
“If you go with Adam, I’ll be hurt, but still going to be happy for you. So either way, you win,” Williams said – and his tactic ultimately won over the reggae singer.
“He said all the right things,” Zergabachew explained of his choice. “The vibe was right, man.”
The Voice battle rounds continue on Monday (8 p.m. E.T.) on NBC.