‘The Voice’: Taylor Swift Takes Over The Knockout Round, Taylor Phelan Covers Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”
Could there be a future Coach Taylor Swift on The Voice? Miss Swift did seem right at home mentoring Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton’s teams during The Knockout Round on Monday (October 27) night. The perpetually-touring singer gave advice on stage presence to the hopeful contestants, while keeping any harsh criticism to herself. How very Voice of her.
The 1989 songstress kicked off her two-week television gig on Monday night, and helped the four coaches strengthen their teams. The four regulars then continued the painful process of cutting down those teams for the upcoming live rounds.
Here’s who made it through night one of the Taylor-infused Knockouts:
Team Gwen: Bryana Salaz vs. Sugar Joans
Gwen puts 16 year-old powerhouse Bryana Salaz against soul singer Sugar Joans for the first Knockout. The teenager picks Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack,” and initially struggles to connect with the lyrics. “Make sure it gets real,” Taylor advises her. “What is exciting for an audience is that you go slow, medium, fast, really slow, FAST!” she adds. Need a pen to write that down?
Sugar elects to sing her second Beyoncé jam of the season. The Battle Round saw her crushing Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” so she keeps a good thing going with “Love on Top.” Though Gwen is surprised by her choice to double up on Beyoncé, she likes what she sees during rehearsals.
Both women impress on the big night, and Sugar’s stage presence stands out.
“Sugar, I was upset that I did not turn around,” says Pharrell. “In the event that you go anywhere, I’m going to press my button so fast.”
“Bryana, it’s not normal for someone as young as you to do that,” says Blake.
“I swear to you right now I have no idea what to do,” says a conflicted Gwen. She ultimately chooses Bryana, explaining, “Having a 17-year-old girl who can do what she does, I’m excited to see what we can do together.”
As promised, Pharrell presses his button for a steal. “The thing that really blew me away is your affinity for soul music,” he says.
Team Blake: James David Carter vs. Griffin
So much of the Knockout Round comes down to contestant song choice, a factor that plays out in Blake’s first matchup. One on hand, he has James David Carter embellishing on James Taylor’s classic “You’ve Got A Friend,” and on the other, he has Griffin (no last name needed) taking Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” really seriously. Oddly, it’s James’ song choice that Blake is questioning in this situation. For her part, Taylor advises Griffin to incorporate the 8 Mile crowd-hype arm movement she (in)famously incorporated in her dance. It’s a perfect storm, really.
While James’ performance is a little mellow for the Knockout Round, it stands out against Griffin’s awkward arm-pumping Bieber mess.
“You definitely brought your own flavor to it,” Pharrell tells James. “Griffin, you got up there and turned it into your own thing.”
“I feel like your still trying to find who you are,” Gwen tells Griffin.
“You definitely made that song your own,” Blake tells Griffin, complimenting the Swift-inspired arm movements. “James, I’m man enough to tell you I was wrong about you doing that song.”
Blake advances James, and no one makes a move to steal Griffin.
Team Pharrell: DaNica Shirey vs. Katriz Trinidad
Pharrell matches DaNica Shirey and Katriz Trinidad a battle of the belters. DaNica sings Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love” (prompting a Pavlovian response in loyal viewers to think, “Sacred ground!”), and Katriz sings “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys. DaNica requires very little coaching, but a stiff Katriz benefits from Taylor’s advice to get “grittier” with her movement.
DaNica is flawless during the Knockout, and does the sacred ground song justice. Katriz rises to the challenge thrown, and comes into her own with more emotion that she has shown all season.
“DaNica, I’ve always though you were just off the chart,” says Gwen. “Katriz, you come in and have so much stage presence and control!”
“I don’t think we can celebrate enough how much you stepped up,” Blake tells Katriz. “DaNica, your control over what has to be so much power is unbelievable.”
“I’ve watched you grow in every performance,” Pharrell tells Katriz. “DaNica, you’re like a unicorn.”
Who wouldn’t pick a unicorn? Pharrell chooses DaNica, and it’s borderline shocking that no one steals Katriz.
Team Adam: Damien vs. Toia Jones
Fun fact about Taylor Swift: her go-to pre-teen karaoke jam was LeAnn Rimes‘ “How Do I Live?” She’s thrilled, then, with Team Adam’s soul singer Damien (no last name needed), who chooses the ’90s country song. “You are so amazing that I want to cry,” she says. Adam’s Battle Round steal Toia Jones chooses Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love.”
“I want you to play off of the crazy part of the song. Make it look like you’re absolutely out of your mind,” Taylor tells Toia, giving a very vivid demonstration of what this should look like.
Toia certainly works the crowd on the big night, and her energetic performance and Damien’s emotional performance are evenly matched.
“When she did that run, every coach was like, ‘What the hell just happened?’” Blake raves about Toia.
“That honestly was a flawless performance,” Pharrell tells Damien. “Toia, you just tore this place down,” he says to his former contestant.
“You guys are just both so fantastic,” says their coach, commending Damien’s song choice.
Adam picks Damien, and none of the raving coaches step in to steal Toia.
Team Blake: Jessie Pitts vs. Tanner Linford
Blake presents a battle of the second chances with Battle Round steal Jessie Pitts against Voice returner Tanner Linford. Former Team Gwen member Jessie sings Ellie Goulding’s version of “Your Song.” More importantly, she tries to relate to Taylor Swift by talking about two of her favorite things. “I follow you on Instagram, and I’m obsessed with your cats,” she says.
Tanner sings Train’s “Calling All Angels,” and is advised by Taylor to work “the cute boy factor.” The baby-faced 17-year-old is adorable, but the song choice isn’t the best for his vibrato-heavy voice.
“I thought you were one note, and today you showed us all the keys,” Pharrell tells Jessie.
“Tanner, your voice is so powerful,” says Gwen. She raves about her former contestant, telling Jessie, “That performance was off the chart.” (Thereby solidifying “off the chart” as her new go-to compliment.)
“Her voice, as it comes out into the microphone it sounds like it’s already been EQed, and it’s already gone through everything we do in the studio,” Blake says of Jessie.
To Tanner, he says, “You’ve always been a good singer, but you’re now starting to become a presence on the stage.”
With a heavy heart, Blake sends Tanner home, advancing Jessie to the live round.
Team Pharrell: Luke Wade vs. Taylor Phelan
Closing out the night are Team Pharrell’s four-chair turners Luke Wade and Taylor Phelan. Luke sings “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates, giving it soul and a whole lot of ad lib. Taylor goes a very different route, choosing Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be.” Mentor Taylor tells contestant Taylor to lose his guitar prop for the performance. “You play guitar for about 7 seconds of the song. I think it’s a teddy bear,” Swift says.
Luke’s performance is soulful, if a bit too embellished, and impresses all of the coaches. Taylor loses the guitar for the performance, which enables him to jump around the stage and pump his fist a lot. It’s better than a non-played guitar, but not by much.
“That was a perfect song for your voice and then on top of it you have such an incredible command of the stage,” Gwen tells Luke. “Taylor, I could picture that performance in a festival setting.”
“You’re just Luke and it’s enough,” says Adam. “I did get to see another side of Taylor that I really enjoyed.”
“You really let the world in, and you got to let them see what makes you tick,” Pharrell tells Taylor. “Luke, you went with a feeling.”
Pharrell loves feelings, so he advances Luke. The three remaining coaches all go for the steal.
“I’m shocked that you’re available to be stolen,” says Adam. “I think that you’re one of the best.”
“I’ve never made a mistake on the show, so you should just go with me,” says Gwen. “You’re a real artist.”
“Taylor won that Knockout Round,” Blake declares.
While this last statement is technically false, Taylor does advance to the live round as the newest member of Team Adam.
Taylor Swift’s Takeover The Knockout Round continues tonight!