Night 1 of the Knockout Round on The Voice
We already know who the pairings will be.
I have an opinion about who should be favored in those knockout rounds on The Voice this week.
But we have no idea whom the coaches will be keeping alive with their first-ever knockout round steals.
Each coach has one, adding an extra touch of drama to what will transpire over the next couple of nights.
Josh has a big edge in experience. The 33-year-old full-time musician from Manchester, N.H., defeated Michael Lynch in the battle round when they performed Maroon 5′s “Harder to Breathe.” Josh had earned a three-chair turn in the blinds with “Too Close.” He’ll take on high school student Amber Nicole, 17, from Houston, Texas. We didn’t see Amber’s blind audition; in the battles, she defeated Timyra-Joi when they performed Beyonce’s “Listen.” Amber is singing “Momma Knows Best” by Jessie J. and she’s looking to deliver it with “sass, attitude and character.” Josh is going to perform Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” saying soulful music is where he sees himself heading as a performer.
Amber Nicole: Bold and brassy opening by Amber. No one told her she’s a big underdog. And she’s delivering the song with loads of attitude. Hey, she’s going to give Josh a run for his money. And the last 30 seconds of that performance sure wasn’t shy on glory notes. Nice job. Not thrilled with Josh’s song choice. But his vocal seems more controlled than Amber, who practically blew us away with bombast. This is going to be a tough one for Christina to judge. My grades would be a B for Josh and a B- for Amber, giving the win to Josh. And Josh indeed wins.
And right off the bat, we have a steal, with Cee Lo and Blake vying for the services of Amber. And Amber decides to join Team Cee Lo.
Kat, 29, of Raleigh, N.C., got rave reviews for her vocals and performance after defeating R. Anthony in the battle round; they sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Kat turned three chairs in the blind auditions. Cee Lo stole Monika from Team Blake after she lost to Ray Boudreaux in the battle rounds (they sang “Some Kind of Wonderful). The 28-year-old from Boulder, Colo., also spun three chairs with her audition song (“The Thrill is Gone”).
Cee Lo says he wants to see who can give the most show-stopping performance. I think I know.
Kat is going to sing “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette; Monika hopes to show the blues and rock-and-roll side of her talent by singing “Hit the Road Jack.” Kat starts, looking lovely in black leather and stepping on stage with tons of attitude. I think this young lady is one of the absolute best of Season 5, both in terms of performance and vocals. There’s certainly no doubt that she’s invested in whatever she’s singing. And I loved that drop to the stage at the end. Monika’s turn, bringing the sexy and opening with a more smoky approach. Dang. The Voice found lots of talent again for Season 5, didn’t it? Very nice performance by Monika. But she just ran into a buzzsaw called Kat. My grades: Kat, A-; Monika, B. Kat triumphs.
Holly, 19, of Minneapolis, is one of the least experienced performers still in the competition, but impressed the judges (four chairs) and viewers alike with her haunting version of “The Scientist” in the blinds. We saw only a tiny bit of her battle round win over Cilla Chan (they sang “Torn”). Nic lost the very first battle match to Grey when they sang “Domino” and is still best remembered for flirting with Adam Levine after his blind audition. Blake liked his stage presence enough to steal the 26-year-old from Dallas.
Holly is going to sing “Creep,” and Blake calls it a great song choice for her, but a very challenging vocal. Nic will sing “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, but changing it up. The is an interesting match; Nic is all about stage presence; Holly will tell you that’s a skill she’s still trying to master. Holly goes first, starts softly, then builds with the song. And she’ll score points with that soft ending. Interesting. Not sure it was vocally perfect, but let’s remember that Holly was an absolute fan favorite after her blind audition. If Blake’s smart, he’ll keep that in mind. Nic’s next. Ouch. Not thrilled with that opening. Interesting version of the song. The question: Is it working? Not really, at least not for me. Though the ending was wild. Grades: Holly, C+; Nic, C-. Huh, and Blake picks Nic? Didn’t get that. Holly wasn’t vocally perfect, but Nic’s performance was my least favorite so far.
This will apparently be the only knockout round match between singers who turned four chairs during the auditions. Tessanne, 28 and a native of Jamaica, did it singing “Try,” then defeated Donna Allen in the battle round when they performed “Next to Me.” Ashley, 23, of St. Paul, Minn., auditioned with Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” We saw just a tiny snippet of the single mom’s battle round win over Justin Blake (they sang the Christina-Blake duet, “Just a Fool”). Adam calls this a battle of power. Ashley is going to sing “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train, hoping to show a fun, upbeat side. Tessanne will tackle Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” saying she loves the song’s message.
Ashley will kick it off. Love this young woman’s tone. And she’s dressed to match the mood of the song. There were a couple of vocal stumbles early in that performance, but Ashley recovered nicely. Her biggest worry might be Tessanne’s song choice. Adam was looking for power, and “Stronger” is perfect for showing off a powerful voice. Yep, Tessanne hits the chorus and her voice soars. Perhaps not the way Kelly Clarkson soars, because she went a little sharp at one point. But all in all, that was by far the more dynamic performance, likely leaving Adam with a pretty easy decision. Grades: Tessanne, B+; Ashley, B-. Tessanne wins. And Ashley becomes the second four-chair turn recipient to head home tonight.
Briana, 24, of Los Angeles lost to Jacquie Lee in a Team Christina battle round in which they performed “House of the Rising Sun.” A personal assistant to TV star sister Kaley, she turned two chairs with her blind audition (Lady Gaga’s “You and I”). Shelbie Z., 21, of Jasper, Ala., is a hairstylist, part-time pageant coach and aspiring country singer. She also turned two chairs in the blinds (“Here for the Party”), then defeated Justin Chain in the battle round (Jason Alden and Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Want to Stay”).
Briana is going to sing “Don’t Speak,” hoping to show off her rock side. Shelbie Z. is going to sing “Last Name,” saying it’s a singing competition good luck charm for her. Briana opens well, but seems to stray off pitch in the middle of the song. The angst was certainly there during that performance, but I’m not sure the vocal was good enough to earn her a shot at the live shows. Shelbie Z. brings the attitude every time she steps on stage. She’s quite the performer. And she’s delivering a perfectly solid vocal. Make that a pretty darn good vocal, given some the big notes she nailed during the last run-through of that chorus. Very nice. Grades: Shelbie Z., B+; Briana, C. And Shelbie Z. wins.
Grey, 26, of Jacksonville, Fla., defeated Nic Hawk in the very first battle round match we saw; they performed Jessie J.’s “Domino.” The former singer for a wedding band got three coaches to turn for her blind audition. You might recall that James, 31, of St. Louis became the first singer to turn four chairs in a blind audition after failing in a previous bid to make the show. The former lead singer of the Upright Animals rock group defeated Matt Cermanski in the battle round; they sang One Republic’s “Counting Stars.”
I’ve pinpointed this as a potential upset. Grey is singing “Already Gone,” saying it’s a breakup song and the type of story-teller type song she wants to concentrate on as an artist. James is going to sing “Break Even,” saying he wants to show Adam he can handle the high part of the song. Adam says he’s looking for emotion in this knockout round. Grey kicks it off. If Adam’s looking for the potential to hit big notes, Grey certainly demonstrated it with that performance. And the emotion certainly came through at the end. Not my favorite Kelly song, but a nice performance of it. James immediately looks more invested in this song than he did in the battle round. There’s just a really smooth, rich tone to his voice. Impressive performance. Forget the upset. He’s a four-chair turn recipient who should advance. Grades: Grey, B-; James, B. Adam declares Grey the winner. Hmm, interesting.
Christina pairs up her two female country singers. Olivia, 25, of Louisville, was particularly impressive in a battle round win last week over Stephanie Anne Johnson; they performed The Band Perry’s “Done.” Olivia, a former first runner-up in the Miss Kentucky competition, turned two chairs in the blind auditions. Destinee, 20, of Surprise, Ariz., defeated Lina Gaudenzi in the battle round singing the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” She had auditioned with another Dixie Chicks tune (“Cowboy Take Me Away”) and also turned two chairs.
Destinee is going to sing “See You Again,” saying two women in her family died in the past year, making it a really personal song choice. Olivia is going to sing “You’re No Good,” saying it combines country, pop and rock — just the type of performer she considers herself. Christina says there is only room for one female country singer on her team. Destinee kicks it off. She stumbles in a couple of spots on that first verse, I think one note got dropped completely. And she’s belting out the chorus, perhaps oversinging a tad too much. Olivia is bringing the attitude. Not sure the song is quite as vocally challenging as “See You Again,” but she’s doing a better job of delivering the vocal. And I really liked the a cappella ending. Grade: Destinee, C+; Olivia, B- And Christina picks Olivia.
Jonny, 29, of Austin, Texas, prevailed over Shawn Smith in a battle round match that aired last week. They performed Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” In the blind auditions, he turned a pair of chairs singing “All These Things That I’ve Done.” You’ll remember Cole, 22, of Shreveport, La., as the guy who auditioned with the theme song from “The Jeffersons” (“Movin’ On Up”). He defeated Lupe Carroll in a battle round match The Voice didn’t air; they sang “Africa” by Toto.
Cole is going to sing “Let Her Go” by Passenger, saying it’s much like every song he writes — all melody and lyrics and acoustic. Jonny is singing “We Can Work it Out,” saying he thinks it’s the type of song everyone can relate to. Cole starts it off. I expect to love this song choice. And Cole starts off really strong. Hmm, we might have underestimated him because his audition song was a bit gimmicky. There’s nothing gimmicky about that performance. Another great ending to a song. Now Jonny, who has one of the best voices of the male singers on this show. He’s turning in a perfectly fine version of the song. Nice glory note at the end. But until that point, there wasn’t much of a surprise factor to that performance. Not like Cole’s. Grades: Cole, A-; Jonny, B. Sounds like whoever doesn’t win the round is going to get stolen. Cee Lo picks Jonny. Adam and Blake push their steal buttons for Cole. And Cole joins Team Blake.