What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…or knocks you out of The Voice. After a Battle Round that brought out the best in many of the contestants, Monday night proved to be a rough start to The Knockouts. Given the freedom to select their own songs, this round did not bode well for many of the contestants on Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo or Blake Shelton’s teams, but you can’t hold these emerging superstars’ hands forever, right?
Good lord, let’s hope the hand holding returns in the live rounds next week. In any case, the rapid fire round will narrow down the remaining 32 contestants down to 20 for the live rounds in just two action-packed nights. Head below to see how the first night went.
Team Christina: Amber Nicole vs. Josh Logan
Christina pairs Amber Nicole against Josh Logan in the first Knockout of the night. The 17-year-old Amber Nicole sings Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best” and adds a lot of strut and personality to an already strong performance. Josh opts for Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” and makes the high runs sound effortless. While his Stevie Wonder impression is spot-on, it’s coming to the point in the season where a contestant needs to evolve beyond imitation.
The judges go crazy for both contestants. “You were able to convey so much character,” Cee Lo tells Amber Nicole.
“Maybe Christina is affecting change a bit, because every time you get on stage it’s a different level,” Blake tells Josh.
Impressed with Josh’s evolution this season, Christina advances him to the Live Rounds.
Cee Lo jumps in to steal Amber Nicole immediately, followed by Blake. “There’s so much that your voice has to offer,” Cee Lo says.
“There’s nobody even near what you do on my team,” Blake tells her. (Burn, rest of Blake’s team.)
Amber Nicole chooses Cee Lo, because apparently Blake’s team is a bunch of losers.
Team Cee Lo: Kat Robichaud vs. Monika Leigh
Kat Robichaud performs next, both wowing the audience with her soaring vocals and terrifying them with her unflinching crazy eyes. The glam rocker goes with vintage Alanis Morissette, and sings “You Oughta Know” out of the side of her mouth like it’s 1995. If you eliminate her excessive facial intensity, it’s one helluva performance, and it’s only mildly overdramatic when Kat ends the air-kick-filled number with a collapse.
Oh, and Monika Leigh performs too. Her sleepy performance of Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” is nothing more than a formality after Kat’s energetic performance.
“Kat, you’re a rock star,” says Adam.
“That was not an easy task to go on after Kat,” Christina says, adding, “Kat is crazy…crazy talented.”
“You are a better singer than this performance allows you to be,” Cee Lo says to Monika, and advances Kat to the Live Rounds.
Team Blake: Holly Henry vs. Nic Hawk
Before you pass judgement on Nic Hawk for singing Xtina’s “Genie in a Bottle,” just know that it’s only the second-worst song choice of Team Blake’s next matchup. Nic’s jazzy rendition of everyone’s favorite belly shirt single is up against alt rocker Holly Henry’s straightforward performance of Radiohead’s “Creep.” “It’s a very challenging vocal,” says Blake of the latter, which foreshadows what’s about to go down on stage.
Holly’s performance highlights how talented Thom Yorke is, and how detrimental pitch issues can be in such a song. Her intensity does nothing to mask the problems she has throughout. Nic also has pitch issues, and his lower register is a mess. Xtina, too distracted by her own dancing to notice, gives him a thumbs-up on the throwback.
“You just brought me back down memory lane!” she says. “You took a risk. You revamped it.”
“Holly, I thought the emotion you were showing did tend to overcome the performance,” Adam says, favoring his former team member, Nic.
“Nic, you are confident in being who you are, and owning it for yourself, and then — the bigger step — is displaying it for the world,” says Blake, and chooses Nic.
Team Adam: Ashley DuBose vs. Tessanne Chin
Adam pairs his two strongest four-chair-spin earning contestants, Tessanne Chin and Ashley DuBose, against one another in this next battle. Because why settle for two amazing contestants when you can have one, right? (Just hand the trophy to Blake now and get it over with).
Song choice really takes Ashley out of contention here. She selects the upbeat Train number “Hey Soul Sister” (the one your mom jams out to after a couple glasses of Pinot Grigio). Although the intention is to show her “fun” side, it’s incredibly bland up against Tessanne’s powerhouse choice of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” (“But my mom loves that one too,” you may argue. Good point, but no amount of Pinot will enable your mom to hit those high notes). Both singers do a fine job, thought Tessanne wows with her unrelenting vocals on the challenging song.
“Kelly Clarkson is a great singer, and you made it sound easy,” says Xtina. “Then you took it to a higher level!”
“It’s time to move forward with the people that are the strongest right now, not the people that will be the strongest next week,” says Adam, and chooses Tessanne.
Team Blake: Briana Couco vs. Shelbie Z
“I wanna see which one can bring the passion tonight,” Blake says of pop rocker Briana Cuoco and country singer Shelbie Z. Briana, a Battle Round steal from Xtina, sings No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” Although last week’s performance of “House Of The Rising Sun” showcased the best in her, this number does absolutely nothing for the hopeful singer. Her voice cracks, her ability to hit high notes is inconsistent and it’s vocally dull even when it’s technically fine.
Shelbie, on the other hand, chooses Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name,” which she has sung at many a singing competition before. The practice shows, and she knocks it out of the park. Her stage presence is charming, and you can see Briana dying a little in the background when Shelbie hits high note after high note flawlessly.
“There were pitch problems. I know you felt that, but you recovered and had a strong finish,” Christina tells Briana.
“What a great performance! So much presence and charm and personality,” Cee Lo tells Shelbie.
Blake chooses Shelbie, explaining it’s what has to happen when “somebody just flat out out-sings the other.”
Team Adam: Grey vs. James Irwin
Grey is Adam’s second artist to take on a Kelly Clarkson song in the Knockouts. She attempts “Already Gone” but struggles to keep rhythm and to consistently hit high notes without falling back to falsetto. James Irwin, on the other hand, stays strong and even through The Script’s “Falling To Pieces.”
“Grey, you left the door open a little bit there for James, and he did a great job,” Blake tells the former wedding singer.
“James you have this really rich tone that comes across in your voice,” Christina says.
“You were both fantastic,” Adam tells them, though he chastises Grey for letting her high notes trail, and James for backing off the mic.
Despite the coaches’ praise for James, Adam sees a future with Grey.
Team Christina: Destinee Quinn vs. Olivia Henken
Christina pairs country singers Destinee Quinn and Olivia Henken. Destinee sings the second Carrie Underwood song of the night, feeling a personal connection to “See You Again.” Olivia sings Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good,” and the only good thing about this song choice is that it prompts Christina’s quote of the year: “We need to take it away from Karaokeville.”
Alas, both ladies are residents of Karaokeville. Destinee’s low notes suffer, and no matter how many times she glances up toward the heavens, no divine intervention helps her through the voice cracks and pitch issues. Olivia’s nerves cause her to go sharp, and the song choice is a total snoozefest.
“I heard more issues with you, Olivia,” Adam says, but notes that Destinee was shaky at first.
“The problems were also equal,” says Blake.
“Olivia, we’ve all been guilty of letting nerves take over at one point or another,” Christina says, and advances her to the Live Rounds (where she better step it up).
Team Cee Lo: Cole Vosbury vs. Jonny Gray
There is no shortage of hair in the final Knockout of the night, between Team Cee Lo’s Cole Vosbury and Jonny Gray. The luxurious locked duo end a night of mediocre performances on a high note. Cole sings Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” and hopes his nationally televised performance will bring more attention to the lesser known song. He sings it beautifully, with just enough rasp and sweet high notes. If the song’s rise on iTunes Monday night is any indication, Passenger should really send him a thank you note.
Jonny sings the much more widely known “We Can Work It Out,” by The Beatles. Despite a bit of goat-note, and the endless pacing across the stage, it’s another strong performance for Team Cee Lo.
“I felt like Cole had more control over the song he was performing,” says Blake.
“I think you are both spectacular,” says Adam. “I don’t care who [Cee Lo] picks, I’m picking the other one.”
Comparing Jonny to Bob Dylan, he advances him to the Live Rounds, meaning that Cole has found himself a place on Team Adam…
…or not. Blake jumps in to compete with Adam for the steal. “I want to support whatever direction you’re already heading, and help you get there in the finale of The Voice,” he says. Sold. Cole joins Team Blake for the Live Rounds.
Tuesday night brings another two hours of Knockout performances. Any favorites as the Live Rounds near? Let us know below.