'Voice' adviser Camila Cabello reminisces about first collab with Shawn Mendes: 'I walked away with more than a song'

The Voice Season 21 Battle Rounds commenced Monday, with Kristin Chenoweth advising friend and longtime protégé Ariana Grande, Jason Aldean assisting his “Don’t You Wanna Stay” duet partner Kelly Clarkson, Dierks Bentley serving as team adviser to Blake Shelton, and Camila Cabello helping John Legend. And as Camila sat in with John during rehearsals for his first pairing of the season, between jazz-soul stylist KJ Jennings and roots-rocker Samuel Harness on Camila’s own 2015 hit “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Camila shared the story of how that “first song from when I was a baby fetus” sparked the romance with Shawn Mendes, who she started officially dating in July 2019.

“Shawn and I stared writing this song in a dressing room at Taylor Swift’s concert,” Camila recalled. “But what’s really interesting is for the session, we had me and Shawn in separate vocal booths, and we were just kind of improvising at each other. And that is the bridge that you hear now. He and I were just kind of bouncing off each other for that bridge part. Another fun fact is Shawn would never remember the words of this bridge, and I would always make fun of him, because he always got the words wrong.”

Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes performing
Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes performing "I Know What You Did Last Summer" in December 2015, three and a half years before they actually became a couple. (Photo: C Flanigan/Getty Images)

“And look what happened afterwards! The magic happened!” added John.

“Yeah, I walked away with more than a song, if you know what I mean,” Camila said with a knowing smile.

It almost seemed like John was hoping for some Camila-Shawn-style chemistry when he put KJ and Samuel together — and he actually got his wish. While Samuel was shy at first and easily overpowered by the overzealous, charging-out-of-the-gate KJ, he did have a natural, quiet smolder to him. And by the end of their performance, he was really selling the drama, seemingly lost in the moment — and possibly lost in KJ’s eyes. He surprised me! I think he surprised everyone, maybe even himself. (Also, he remembered all the words to the bridge.)

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As for this pair’s onstage bond, not only did Samuel’s raspiness and smokiness perfectly complement KJ’s pure, piercing tone, but they really did sizzle onstage. “The wild thing is this song was written by Shawn and Camila as their first collaboration, before they were dating. And the way you all connected, um, like, the chemistry was great. They really enjoyed performing together. That’s all I want to say — no pressure!” John noted, obviously shipping the two. But sadly, this showmance was probably not meant to be, as John tore KJ and Samuel asunder just moments later — by choosing to keep only to keep Samuel, whose voice he said had “a little more character and individuality and uniqueness.”

So, will KJ and Samuel reconnect once Season 21 is over — and continue to make beautiful music together, just like Camila and Shawn did? That remains to be seen, but right now Samuel has to focus on moving forward in this competition, along with the other Battle-winners detailed below:

TEAM ARIANA: Katie Ray vs. Bella Denapoli, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”

Ariana gave these “two amazing women” a song by two of the greatest divas of all time, Barbra Streisand and the late, great Donna Summer. And to add to the pressure, it was a song that Ariana once performed with Babs herself! “It’s a challenge, but I know they can do it,” Ariana asserted. Bella opened the performance in a near-a cappella style, which was a tall order, but 35-year-old mother Katie did a better job of tapping into the disco empowerment anthem’s anger and grit, as well as that certain Streisand theatricality, than her 22-year-old opponent did. Also, Katie had a rich tone that pleased John’s ear and a “sultry lower end” that appealed to Kelly, while Bella’s shrill attempt to nail the song’s climactic power note epically failed. It all seemed so simple and clear-cut here, but as a newbie coach, Ariana took it all too seriously and got way too emotional, literally sobbing over this supposed “painstakingly tough decision.” And while Ariana made the right call by picking the more nuanced and mature Katie, she was ridiculously trigger-fingered to also save Bella, on her very first Battle of the season. That’s not how this works, Ari! Clearly she was leading with her heart and not focusing on a long-term strategy, and I believe she will come to regret this impulsive move as the Battles continue apace.

WINNER: Katie Ray / SAVED: Bella Denapoli

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TEAM KELLY: Girl Named Tom vs. Kinsey Rose, “Seven Bridges Road”

You’d think Kinsey would be at a disadvantage going up against a family folk trio, but she blended with them so well on this Eagles song that she seemed like their long-lost sister. (“You four need to be singing together all the time,” marveled Blake.) Girl Named Tom’s harmonies never overpowered Kinsey, and while both women — Kinsey and Girl Named Tom vocalist Bekah — strained during a couple of the high-pitched solos, together there was girl power in numbers. Kelly, unlike Ariana, explained she was strategizing by picking the more unique-to-the-competition contestant, Girl Named Tom, but then she tried to save Kinsey too. And then, all three rival coaches attempted to steal — the first time in the series’ history that there had been four button-pushes in the Battles. (Ariana hit her button at the very last minute, literally just as Kinsey was about to choose between John and Blake — proving once again that she is an impulsive coach.) “Now, this is good television!” exclaimed John. I was surprised that with all of her options, Kinsey ultimately decided to stick with Kelly, the coach that had just rejected her; I was certain that she’d go with Blake. But if Blake gets a chance to steal Kinsey in the Knockouts, I am sure he will hit his button again.

WINNER: Girl Named Tom / SAVED: Kinsey Rose

TEAM BLAKE: The Joy Reunion vs. Peedy Chavis, “Joy to the World”

This cheesy Three Dog Night song choice did neither contestant any favors, and it made this montage-worthy performance seem like something from Branson or the county fair circuit. (Dierks Bentley likened this to an Eminem/Elton-style awards show pairing; he must’ve gotten really drunk on that plane to actually think that.) While teenage Elvis impersonator Peedy attempted to showcase some more individuality and versatility (it turns out he also plays in a roots-rock band and descends from country-musician parents, so this wasn’t too much of a stretch), he was so try-hard and hammy that I found myself cringing whenever he was onscreen. At least the Joy Reunion had their pleasant, supple harmonies to fall back on, but they weren’t quite at the level of the trio that had just performed before them, Girl Named Tom. That being said, I was shocked when Blake picked Peedy. I can only assume that he hopes this “special” kid will be Season 21’s heartthrob and get the girls’ votes.

WINNER: Peedy Chavis

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TEAM ARIANA: David Vogel vs. Chavon Rodgers, “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down”

This was an overall smart song choice for both contestants, but with his natural charisma and sharper, clearer voice (not to mention that fabulous shampoo-commercial hair), David was the star of this show. This seemed like a pop/punk band for which David was the frontman and Chavon, with his diction-challenged delivery and unsure stage presence, was the mere rhythm-guitar-slinging sidekick. So, Ariana understandably picked David (with no tears or drawn-out agonizing this time). But as Chavon exited the stage, she attempted to give him a goodbye embrace… and he just kept on walking! He presumably just didn’t see her extended arms and didn’t mean to snub her. (In this defense, you are incredibly tiny,” Blake noted.) In a cute display of solidarity, Kelly went in for a hug, so as not to leave Ariana hanging. Hopefully there were no actual hard feelings on Chavon’s part. Ariana did make the right decision.

WINNER: David Vogel

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TEAM KELLY: Jeremy Rosado vs. Jershika Maple, “Hold On”

With this being this episode’s final Battle, between two such equally matched powerhouses, it was clear that neither of these contestants would be going anywhere any time soon, and that this epic showdown would end in a Steal. (Not to diss the worthy Kinsey Rose, but I do wonder if Kelly regretted that she too had used her only Save of the season in her very first Battle of the season, thus ensuring that she would be losing one of her best team members early on.) OK, so this was the sort of awards-show-level duet that Dierks was talking about! The Justin Bieber song was an unexpected choice for both belters, but self-declared “Belieber” Jeremy seemed to settle into the performance a little more readily and steadily, with a “silkiness and range” that John described as “ridiculous.” That being said, Jermika was a force, and Blake said she “blew the roof off” the soundstage. So, it was still a bit of a plot twist when Kelly chose... Jeremy. (He’s a top 13 American Idol alumnus, so maybe she felt a secret kinship with him. He’s “navigated” a singing competition before too!) However, as I predicted, both John and Ariana immediately swooped in to steal Jermika, so she’ll be holding on until at least the Knockout Rounds.

WINNER: Jeremy Rosado / STOLEN: … It’s a cliffhanger! We will have to wait until Tuesday to find out if Jermika joined Team Ariana or Team Legend. Either coach will be lucky to have her.

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