It wouldn't be a new season of The Voice without some kind of formatting twist. For Season 17, the first major change-up is simple enough: The coaches now have the option to save one of their own contestants from elimination during the battle rounds.
Previously, coaches would have to be careful with the construction of their battle lineups so that they didn't pair too many of their favorites together -- not that they'd admit as much, of course -- or hold out hope that a co-coach was feeling generous with their steals to save a promising contestant from being booted after a tough battle.
This new save option came into play right away on Monday night's first battle round. Although he said he was mad at himself for pairing his first battlers together, John Legend definitely seemed to enjoy having two solid singers sparring on Brandy and Monica's 1998 duet "The Boy Is Mine." Ultimately, Legend was able to keep both the round's winner, Khalea Lynee, and the runner-up, Zoe Upkins, on his team -- after fighting off a few steal bids from Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson, of course. Having one save bid in his pocket meant Legend got to be a little bolder with at least one of his battle pairings.
The new save option came into play again shortly thereafter when Clarkson paired Shane Q with Melinda Rodriguez for Sam Smith's "Too Good at Goodbyes." Clarkson had much too much trouble picking a winner after both delivered delicate and soulful renditions of the song, despite having such different tones. Shane Q's smoothness in his upper register made him a standout, especially with this song choice, but Clarkson was still willing to fend off a steal bid by Legend to keep Rodriguez on her team. So the consequences of a tough pairing were pretty minimal for her first battle outing as well.
And with that, the first battles round ended almost exactly as it began. Save for one member of Blake Shelton's team, the rest were left intact.
So, is this season's rule swap a good thing? On the one hand, it does allow for some of the battles to be a bit less lopsided than they might ordinarily be; on the other, it can be a bit anticlimactic to see an intense stage fight end in what is essentially a draw, no?
Let us know by weighing in on the poll below!
No matter how you feel about it, we can all pretty much agree that this beats the socks off the cross-battles business from last season, right?
The Voice airs Monday and Tuesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.