10/14/2014 AT 07:35 AM EDT
At first, Texas singer Luke Wade and his duet partner, known simply as Griffin, from Nashville, were having an awkward time rehearsing the Paul McCartney and Wings hit “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
But then their coach Pharrell Williams, with guidance from his team mentor Alicia Keys, lit an Aretha-inspired soul fire under the rock song, leading to an epic, competitive moment on The Voice as the Season 7 battle rounds kicked off Monday.
With each singer taking a verse, Wade went raw and bluesy, and then Griffin, a Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra fan, smoothed it on out. Their harmonies took on a spirit-filled revival tone that had Williams shaking his head at their power – and his tough choice.
“I think Luke is the best singer in the competition. You have everything,” Levine praised, calling out Wade’s rasp and range. Noted Shelton: “Definitely one of the greatest battles we’ve ever had on this show.”
In the end, Williams kept Wade on his team, but not before noting that the runner-up would definitely be stolen. Quickly, Gwen Stefani hit her red button, followed soon by Shelton, as Griffin got a new life on the show.
Blake’s bid to steal Griffin seemed the most authentic, as he recalled Griffin’s performance of a Michael Bublé song during the blind auditions. “You occupy a space that nobody occupies on this show,” Shelton said. “I occupy my own space on this show. I think we have a connection.”
In the end, Griffin headed off to Team Blake. But Stefani was not outdone, surprising the other coaches as she stole veteran Nashville country singer Craig Wayne Boyd. He earned praise for his natural stage style after losing a sing-off on Pat Green’s 2003 hit “Wave on Wave” to more traditionalist country singer James David Carter.
“Craig, you’re so comfortable on stage. It’s not like you’re in a contest. You’re performing,” Stefani told Boyd, who came alive in his music.
The show opened strong with Elyjuh René offering up a magnificent version of Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You” alongside veteran soul singer and Yale grad Maiya Sykes.
Both from Los Angeles, they each mined energetic, nuanced and stratospheric vocal runs that had the audience and judges rapt and a pleased Williams declaring that “my team is magical.”
“That was unbelievable,” noted Stefani, who described the pair’s vocal connection as “like LEGO.”
In the end, Williams chose René, the braces-wearing teen, who cried at his big win. “You just have this ethereal quality that I want to know more about,” Levine told him.
Shelton offered high praise to both singers: “I felt like I had a front-row seat at some awesome Grammy moment watching you perform that. It was great.”
Also moving on in the battle rounds were Chris Jamison for Team Adam and Taylor John Williams and Sugar Joans for Team Gwen.
Team Pharrell beat out Levine to pick up Joans’s battle-round competitor, Jean Kelley of Atlanta, whose sing-off was among the tightest contests of the night. He called her singing on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” “really special.”
The battle rounds continue Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC.