Earlier this week, as the Battle Rounds began on Blake Shelton’s final season of The Voice, the OG coach confessed that the Battles have been his least favorite part of the show. But on Tuesday, he said the brilliant pairing of Team Blake teens Mary Kate Connor and Kylee Dayne, on Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” was one of his all-time easiest Battle rehearsals and most pleasant Voice experiences. To loosely quote Taylor’s lyrics, neither singer was the problem here! The only problem would be letting one of these talented young women slip away — a prospect that Blake called downright “horrifying.”
Enter… the Playoff Pass. We all saw it coming, but when it did, it still made for a feel-good, if not exactly shocking, Voice moment.
The “Playoff Pass” — for those of you who were watching the actual Taylor Swift win two honors on Fox’s iHeartRadio Awards Monday instead of watching NBC’s Battles Rounds premiere — is this season’s new “game-changing” twist, and it’s kind of like the Save on steroids. It allows each coach, once per season, to not only keep a Battle’s losing contestant in the competition, but also allow that contestant to bypass the Knockout Rounds and head straight to the Live Playoffs. The camaraderie and teamwork between besties and mutual admirers Mary Kate and Kylee, during their drama-free rehearsal, was enough to deem them Playoff Pass-worthy. But when this “match made in heaven” began their actual performance holding hands and standing-back-to-back, ABBA-style… well, to loosely quote some famous ABBA lyrics, it was clear that there’d be no one winner who’d take it all.
Coach Niall Horan declared this Battle, which wasn’t much of a battle at all, “honestly one of the favorite ones I’ve seen,” while Chance the Rapper told Kylee and Mary Kate, “It seemed like y’all grew up together, because you were so in sync!” Kelly Clarkson thought the two were “so evenly matched,” praising Mary Kate’s “breathtakingly beautiful passion” and seemingly loosely quoting “Anti-Hero” as she told Kylee, “Your voice, it has this thing that singers get jealous of; no matter you sing, it’s going to sound special.”
“My heart is cracking, literally, right now,” said Blake — once again using the word “literally” incorrectly, although I totally understood his need to use some sort of emphasis adverb. “I did not want to go out doing something like this, but here I am.”
Blake reluctantly picked Kylee — perhaps feeling obligated to go with the contestant on whom he’d used his best sight gag ever, his “huge middle finger,” during the Blind Auditions. But then he interrupted host Carson Daly with “Can I just stay something?” — before Kelly, Niall, and Chance even had an opportunity to steal Mary Kate. The Playoff Pass, and a blast of confetti, were swiftly (no pun intended) employed, and all was right with The Voice once more.
No other Playoff Passes were utilized Tuesday, and only Kelly and Niall still have theirs available going into next week. But here’s how the rest of this perfectly pleasant episode panned out:
TEAM NIALL: Laura Littleton vs. Ross Clayton, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
This Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty duet was an inspired choice for two of the season’s coolest and quirkiest country-adjacent characters (despite Chance not being familiar with the song all!). Niall has really been stellar with the song selection this season. Laura’s fluttery vibrato complemented her partner nicely, but Ross’s gritty tone was the one that really popped; the energy instantly, noticeably elevated in the room the moment the outlaw roots-rocker let out what Blake called a “rock-solid vocal.”
WINNER: Ross Clayton
TEAM CHANCE: Alyssa Lazar vs. Magnus, “Your Song”
Alyssa did a fine job — Chance said this song was made for her, that it was her song, so to speak — and I had a feeling he’d been leaning towards Alyssa when he first picked the Elton John classic. But it really did seem to me like this was Magnus’s song; I practically expected music superfan Sir Elton himself to tweeti about Magnus after this magical performance aired. Both Kelly and Blake said Magnus’s warm, rich, rounded tone felt like “home,” “a cozy blanket,” “a glass of wine,”and “one of those life-sized body pillows” — so of course Chance had to bring it on home and pick the more seasoned soul singer.
TEAM KELLY: Marcos Covos vs. Sheer Element, “I Could Fall in Love”
This Battle was montaged, with the latter collegiate trio (featuring returning contestant Jej Vinson) basically relegated to backup singers for flamboyant solo star Marcos. My suspicion is that — unlike Monday’s amazing three-on-one performance by Sorelle and Manasseh Samone, on which Chance used his own Playoff Pass — this combination simply did not work. And so, Jej received even less screentime this year than he did in Season 16.