Yeah, they really just needed to get the most out of that whole boxing ring of a stage NBC invested the big bucks in. To spice up the Knockout Round — which is only two nights of competition — contestants choose their own songs, with the main (slash only) difference being that it’s two solos competing instead of one duet. Oh, and of course, no steals, prompting lots of soundbites like “It’s do or die!” and “It’s a fight to the death!”
To clarify: it’s not actually a fight to the death. It is a fight to next week’s live show, and up first are Team Adam Levine and Team Shakira.
Team Adam: Amber Carrington vs. Midas Whale
Three rounds later, and Carson Daly still hasn’t bothered mentioning the names of Midas Whale’s band members. Incidentally, their names are Ryan Hayes (the one that looks like Ginger Dave Grohl) and Jon Peter Lewis (the one that looks like a Hipster Accountant…also an American Idol Season 3 finalist).
Adam puts the crowd favorite duo against country singer Amber Carrington. “It doesn’t get more different than that,” he notes.
Amber performs Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” and belts out a country rendition. She struggles with some of the higher notes in rehearsals, but pulls it off when it counts in the performance, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Midas Whale veer away from the folk genre, and select Stevie Wonder‘s “Higher Ground.” Ginger Grohl says, “We need to figure out how to put the Midas touch on it,” thus continuing with the signature puns. Their voices come through, but without the guitars and accordions, the Midas Touch is all but lost.
Blake Shelton favors the country gal, saying, “I think I like Amber as much as I can’t stand Adam. And that is a lot.”
Usher, however, loves the duo. “Every time you guys sing something, you’ve given it the Midas touch,” he says, further encouraging their use of puns.
Coach Adam is most impressed by Amber’s growth during the show. “Amber, everyday we continue to see you blow us away,” he says, and advances her to the playoffs.
Just as we learn Ginger Grohl and Hipster Accountant’s real names, they are gone from our lives. Such is showbiz.
Team Adam: Amy Whitcomb vs. Caroline Glaser
Finally: Amy Whitcomb earns a televised performance! After non-televised Blind Audition and Battle Round wins, she’s up against coffee house singer Caroline Glaser. Welcome to the big leagues, Amy.
Amy sings The Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun,” and she couldn’t have made a better song choice. It showcases her range, and the duplicity between her rock and roll edge and ability to make it soft and sweet. She also rocks the half-shaved head look, really furthering the theme. Despite her pitch issues, Amy brings down the house. Caroline mouths a nervous “WOW” during Amy’s rocking performance.
Caroline plays it safe with Of Monsters And Men’s “Little Talks.” She makes no significant modifications, and lacks stage presence on what should have been a high energy performance.
“I respect Amy for taking chances,” Blake says.
“Amy, I would definitely give that round to you,” says Usher.
“I think you both did better in rehearsals,” Adam laments. Surprisingly, though, he selects Caroline.
Team Adam: Judith Hill vs. Orlando Dixon
You can see it in Orlando Dixon’s eyes when Adam puts him up against former Michael Jackson duet partner Judith Hill: This is not the year that he is going to buy his mom a house.
Judith makes the brilliant selection of the classic tune “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson. She comes to rehearsals prepared, and proves to be beyond coaching already. Adam basically throws his hands up and tells her to have at it. She is just so beyond. From voice to stage presence to fashion, she’s the whole package.
Orlando makes the slightly less brilliant selection of the slightly less classic “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo. He is not yet beyond coaching, and Adam tells him to dial back the runs until he masters the melody. He doesn’t really nail the ever-so-important chorus because he forgets to dial it back on the verses. It’s kind of a blood bath.
“Orlando, coming from Team Usher, I have high expectations for you here and in life. I don’t think ‘All My Life’ was aggressive enough for the round,” says his former coach. “Judith, your voice rang out. It was an incredible performance,” Usher says.
“It’s no surprise here how good Judith is. Orlando, it wasn’t your best performance,” Shakira says.
Even before Adam tells Orlando that he’s a “great guy,” we know how this is going to net out.
“Anyone who sings against Judith is an underdog,” Adam says, advancing his super star to the live shows.
Team Adam: Warren Stone vs. Sarah Simmons
Adam puts firefighter Warren Stone against Sarah Simmons, who, Blake says “lights the place on fire.” That in mind, perhaps the match-up was a safety choice?
Warren performs Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died In Your Arms,” a departure from his typical country style. The genre works for him, and he belts out the ’80s rock ballad like he traded his cowboy boots for a pair of acid-washed jeans (he didn’t, thank gawd).
Sarah’s performance of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” belongs on a soundtrack for a show on The CW, and it’s not as awe-inspiring as the coaches make it out to be. The restrained female vocal rendition of the song isn’t anything new. (No
one can forget The Sundays crooning the tune as Reese Witherspoon took a glorious roller coaster ride with Mark Wahlberg in Fear…even after lots of therapy). Maybe the coaches are distracted by her Little Sister Wives On The Prairie wedding dress, because they have nothing but rave reviews.
“What you did with your voice was remarkable!” says (G)Usher.
“It’s like there were really wild horses galloping through your throat,” says the always poetic Shakira.
Blake tells Warren, “That’s the best I’ve ever heard you sing,” before sounding the alarm that Sarah “lights the place on fire.”
Adam ultimately selects Sarah telling her, “You wear your heart out there every single time you perform.”
Team Shakira: Garrett Gardner vs. Tawnya Reynolds
Shakira puts soul-singing Garrett Gardner against country artist Tawnya Reynolds. The coach has made no secret of the fact that she has a soft spot for Garrett — a returning contestant from last year — so Tawyna has her work cut out for her.
Garret chooses Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” and Shakira limits him to just one growl throughout the song. His growl-free performance is a slow burn, but it’s nice to see that he can hit a range of notes without relying on a gravely cover.
Tawyna selects Pistol Annies’ “Hell on Heels,” explaining “I haven’t had the opportunity to really show attitude.”
Shakira encourages her, “Be as theatrical as you can,” and definitely gives high marks for her yodels. “That’s your signature sound!” Shakira declares.
Well, Tawnya certainly yodels and gets into the theatrics. The yodeling gets to be a bit much (depending on your yodel tolerance level), but she’s a fun country act to watch.
The coaches have mixed reviews on the yodels. Usher applauds it, Blake feels it’s a bit much and Shakira celebrates it as a fellow yodeler. Adam notes that the progress Garrett has made in such a short period of time is “staggering.”
“Coach Shakira wants to disappear right now,” says Shakira when she’s faced with the decision. She chooses Garrett, who’s lip ring must have a hypnotic power over her.
Team Shakira: Kris Thomas vs. Mary Miranda
It’s the man with a voice of an angel lady, Kris Thomas, against the aspiring Latin superstar, Mary Miranda! Excitement should certainly ensue.
Kris selects Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” and immediately does the song a disservice by adding too many runs and falsettos. Shakira tries to curb his instincts, telling Kris, “To me, your not a belter. You’re more of a crooner.”
Kris’s performance is unfortunately backed up by muzak, but that aside, it’s just okay. It’s still a little bit too heavy on the runs for the classic piece, but the pitch stays steady throughout.
Mary selects The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” which is the first song she will perform in English on The Voice. Shakira is very clear that it is not a song she would have selected, and for good reason: the song takes away the energy that Mary usually brings to the stage. She gets a little out of breath, and lacks a wow factor.
“Kris, the fact that you’re a dude and you have that much range is just crazy,” says Adam, still obsessing about the gender of it all.
Usher notes that the energy Mary had last round was missing, and calls Kris’s voice “incredible.”
Despite the fact that Shakira notes that Mary looks like a doll, she advances Kris to the next round. Somewhere backstage, Mary’s cat fighting competition Cathia cheers.
What should be the biggest concern for Shakira is that neither contestant would have made it through against even the weakest of Adam’s performers. Life might get rough for the first time coach come playoff time.
Team Shakira: Karina Iglesias vs. Monique Abbadie
Shakira puts her “powerhouse Latinas” face to face in the battle of rocker Karina Iglesias and former child star Monique Abbadie. Before joining Team Shakira, Karina lost to Judith Hill in the Battle Round, which means that she could still be the second best performer on the show.
Karina chooses Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” She has the energy and the stage presence, but it’s not her best vocal performance. It’s great fun, but there are no moments that showcase the powerhouse voice she’s shown in the past.
Monique sings Celine Dion’s “The Power Of Love,” and respect to the high priestess of Canadian music and all, but it just comes across as lame and dated. Monique works through the strain she had on the high notes in rehearsals, but she’s singing a ’90s power ballad in a mullet dress: it reeks of wedding band.
It’s really anyone’s game going into Shakira’s decision.
“This wasn’t the best song for you” Adam tells Karina, and Blake agrees.
“Even though it rocked, it was very one-dimensional,” the country coach says.
“Monique you picked a really hard song but you put your best effort into it,” Shakira tells her, but selects Karina, citing the latter’s potential.
Team Shakira: Sasha Allen vs. Shawna P
Shakira puts soul singer Sasha Allen against country singer Shawna P. to finalize her playoffs squad. It really is an apples to oranges battle of Sasha’s smooth voice against Shawna’s gritty country rock style.
Sasha sings Etta James’ “At Last,” and man does she sing it. Her performance is sultry and strong. She hits every note perfectly. It moves the crowd, and coach Shakira, to their feet.
Shawna performs Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” “I don’t want you to scream. I want to hear another facet of your voice,” Shakira tells Shawna before the big performance. Shawna takes this advice to heart — perhaps a bit too much — and doesn’t stay true to how big the song should become. It’s not her best performance, and a little bit of a scream in there could have taken it to the next level.
“Sasha, that was truly, truly incredible,” Adam tells his former teammate. We sense some regret in his decision to lose her in the Battle Round.
“Shawna there were a couple of moments that I wanted you to unleash some more,” Adam says.
“Sasha you have just positioned yourself as a frontrunner in this whole competition,” says Blake. Watch out, Judith!
“Sasha, you gave me goosebumps here tonight,” says Shakira, and advances her to the next round. No hard feelings from Shawna, who kindly reassures Shakira that she’s done a good job as a coach. Classy move, Shawna, classy move.
The coaches power through a second (and final) night of The Knockout Round on Tuesday night, with Team Usher and Team Blake up to bat in a special two-hour episode. Whatever gets them to the live playoffs fastest!