When the newly single Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton hooked up after meeting-cute on the Voice set a few years ago, they seemed like greater opposites than Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat. What on earth could an alt-rock Orange County fashionista and a grizzled, fly-fishing, bro-country singer from Oklahoma have in common? But as we all know, the star-crossed showmancers are still going strong, many Voice seasons later — despite the fact that, now that Gwen is back as a coach this season, she and Blake are constantly sparring on the air.
During Monday’s Battle Rounds, Gwen tried to explain her surprisingly successful dynamic with Blake while reflecting on the unlikely chemistry between two of her battlers. “You're super-straight, clean, and polite,” she told baby-faced soul sweetheart Kiara Brown. “And he's dirty, nasty” — referring to sexy, earthy, all-grown-up reggae crooner Royce Lovett. “So, the contrast in the duet is working so amazingly. There's a chemistry. It's like me and Blake: We do not seem like we would be together, but yet we go together perfectly. It's like this weird contrast.”
The weird contrast worked very well between Kiara and Royce, during a duet of Bob Marley’s "Turn Your Lights Down Low.” It worked better than I had expected, frankly. Royce has been one of my favorite Season 17 contestants since the Blind Auditions, and his vocals, as Gwen’s fellow coach John Legend pointed out, were “made for this song.” I definitely preferred Royce’s raw, husky voice and confident delivery over the laid-back Kiara, who’d been repeatedly warned during rehearsals by Gwen and guest mentor will.i.am not to play it too safe. However, I must commend Kiara for heeding that advice: She totally stepped it up in the ring, and I witnessed a lot of growth from her during just one episode.
Gwen was impressed by Kiara’s accelerated progress as well. “If you can unleash that much, you have more to unleash, and I'm so curious to see what that is. … I'm falling in love with you, just because of how hard you worked,” Gwen told Kiara. Of course, Gwen still picked the more ready-for-prime-time Royce, “because his voice has so much character, personality, and dynamics” — but, since this is the first season in which coaches are allowed to save one contestant during the Battle Rounds, she tried to keep both contestants on her team, by using her one Save on Kiara.
Gwen may have gotten her wish, but then rival coach Kelly Clarkson also tried to steal Kiara… and Gwen made the foolish mistake of confessing to Kiara that she hadn’t planned to use her Save this soon, because there was someone else on her team that she was “torn” about. Whoops. “I do want you to be able to use that Save, so I'm gonna go with Kelly,” Kiara understandably decided after that revelation.
Oh well. At least the nice girl, Kiara, didn’t finish last. And Gwen still has Royce. And, of course, Gwen will always have Blake.