Coaches can now save an artist on their team without having to wait for the Knockouts.
Season 17's Blind Auditions came to an end Monday night on NBC's The Voice, and the battles began. Trainers Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton contacted their own battle counselors: Normani, Usher, Will.i.am and Darius Rucker, respectively. This season, trainers were able to use a defense to keep one of their performers during the Battles.
In the first hour, the coaches filled their teams with Blind Audition's final picks. The first to sing was one of the highlights of the last series of auditions. Zoe Upkins sang "Angel of Mine" and took turns at Clarkson, Legend and Shelton. The legend withdrew its own voice during its speech again, and she became its final member of the team.
Matthew McQueen's performance on "Someone You Loved" caught Clarkson and Shelton's attention, and he landed on Team Blake, which was a surprising choice. The Blake team was full.
Young country artist Gracee Shriver took turns with Stefani and Clarkson, who were probably glad Shelton was finally out of contention for a promising country singer. She chose Clarkson, who definitely has more field experience than Stefani.
That left Stefani to make his final choice. She didn't turn to Ty Mauro, but ended up catching 16-year-old Caroline Reilly after her stunning version of "Somebody and Love." Reilly was attracted to rock, making her a good choice for Team Gwen.
With the teams full, it was time for battles. This is the first season coaches will save during this round, which adds an extra layer of strategy. Coaches would be smart to pair their top two performers in the round so they can keep them using the save.
The two artists who made Legend sing during the Blinds this season – Upkins from Monday's episode and Khalea Lynee from last week – delivered the first battle. Given his impressive auditions, it was not surprising that it was also one of the best battles of the night. They sang "The Boy Is Mine," and Usher and Legend pushed them to do more with their rehearsal vocals. It was worth it, and they both had huge runs and range in their battle. But they also sang as a duet rather than dominating themselves.
The other coaches were divided over who was the winner, but Legend chose Lynee as the winner and then seized the opportunity to use his defenses immediately, so he probably brought the two together on purpose. The legend had some competition, however, because Clarkson and Stefani also pressed their theft buttons. It was a dramatic start to the battles, but Upkins stayed with team John.
Shelton paired Josie Jones and Kat Hammock. Jones is a classic country singer, while Hammock doesn't really consider himself a country singer, but Shelton explicitly chose a country song for them: John Denver's "Country Road." The choice of music definitely favored Jones in terms of genre, but Hammock proved to be versatile and had a unique tone.
Monday's battles ended with a duet of Kelly's Shane Q, who played four chairs, and Melinda Rodriguez. She made them sing Sam Smith's "Too Good at Goodbyes," and they were the same. Sure enough, Clarkson wanted to be with them both. She chose Shane as the winner, but chose to save Rodriguez, and Legend also threw his hat in the ring by pressing the steal button. Rodriguez has decided to stay with team Kelly so that no one has successfully stolen an artist yet this season.
The battles continue on Tuesday night.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.