'The Voice' Recap: Steals and Slip-Ups Flood the Knockout Rounds
Crucial competition questions: Is it better to mess up by singing sharp or flat? And what’s more important, evoking the right emotion or hitting the right note?
Just when you thought The Voice coaches Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton were done chopping their teams in half for the season, the knockout rounds began on Monday night. As opposed to the sudden-death duets of an assigned song during the battle rounds, the knockouts let performers choose which song to sing for a spot in the live shows, but they won’t know who their competitor is until just before the round begins. (This season edits out the nail-biting seconds of revealing who each singer’s opponent will be, including pre-performance packages of rehearsal time instead.)
And in a new twist of season five -- because it wouldn’t be The Voice without one -- each coach has one final steal to save another coach’s eliminated contestant for themselves. See which singers are the first to move forward into the live rounds:
Aguilera’s Amber Nicole vs. Josh Logan
The 17-year-old female powerhouse kicked off Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best” with big notes and even bigger character onstage, and Logan worked his upper register on “Living for the City,” showing how strongly his natural rocker chops can channel Stevie Wonder (seriously, the resemblance is shocking). “You did that song justice -- it’s almost like you showed us a whole other side of your range that we didn’t know about until today,” said Levine, and Shelton celebrated Logan's versatility. As Aguilera moved forward with Logan, both Green and Shelton pressed their button to use their knockout steal. Previous seasons have seen Green get verbally vicious when he really wants a particular singer (he joked that Shelton’s team has “no talent”), pushing Nicole to join Team Cee Lo.
Green’s Kat Robichaud vs. Monika Leigh
The gritty rocker showed her signature sound and theatrical stage presence with “You Oughta Know” (which is pretty much how Alanis Morissette sounds), while Green’s steal from Team Blake sang Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” to highlight her blues abilities, but she was occasionally too calculated with her sultry body movements. Shelton supported his former team member Leigh, but Levine commended Robichaud’s authenticity. Green chose Robichaud.
Shelton’s Holly Henry vs. Nic Hawk
The indie singer attempted the climactic emotional arc of Radiohead’s “Creep,” but the chorus’ signature long notes proved too ambitious for her -- she couldn’t shake the pitch issues that haunted her in rehearsals. Shelton’s steal from Levine’s team successfully sold a neo-soul version of Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” full of runs that made his version unique. “You took a risk with this song -- you revamped it,” said Aguilera, echoing Levine’s praise and foreshadowing Shelton’s choice.
Levine’s Ashley Dubose vs. Tessanne Chin
Dubose went for Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” to show her lighthearted side, happily acting out the lyrics while highlighting her textured timbre -- a “coffee and cigarette” sound, as Green put it. The Jamaican singer found impressive ways to make Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” her own and appear easy at the same time. Though the winner was purely left to taste, Levine opted for Chin.
Shelton’s Briana Cuoco vs. Shelbie Z.
Kaley Cuoco’s sister, stolen from Aguilera’s team, chose No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” -- a song built on tender moments and strategic dynamics -- but she came on too strong too early, leaving her with nowhere to go. Then the pageant coach relied on her lucky singing competition song, Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name,” which let her effortlessly flirt with the audience without letting her voice flinch once. Green and Aguilera applauded Shelbie’s charisma, and Shelton said she “flat-out out-sings the other” before moving her forward.
Levine’s Grey vs. James Irwin
The wedding singer tried to show her storytelling abilities with Kelly Clarkson’s breakup ballad “Already Gone,” and though her choice to end the song on a specific note puzzled Levine and Aguilera, Green sat impressed. Returning contender Irwin picked The Script’s “Break Even” to push his upper range and successfully added emotional depth to his performance. “For the first time, I really heard the warmth of your voice,” said Shelton of Irwin. But Levine still believed in Grey’s abilities, sending Irwin home -- again.
Aguilera’s Destinee Quinn vs. Olivia Henken
The biker-bar performer dedicated Carrie’s Underwood’s “See You Again” to her family (who lost two women near this song’s release), and though she took a while to shake out the nerves from her voice, she stayed flat until the end. Henken then tried to pile show-stopping moments on top of one another during Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” (Aguilera even warned her that she tends to do too much, if anything) and sang sharp throughout her performance. Aguilera, like Shelton, opted for a singer who went sharp rather than flat -- Henken.
Green’s Cole Vosbury vs. Jonny Gray
Both singer have grassroots appeal. Vosbury went acoustic with Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” the type of emotionally connected performance he’d pursue beyond The Voice. Gray upped his stage presence on The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” the perfect way to showcase his vocals on a song not crowded by electric guitars. While Shelton would pick Vosbury, Aguilera would pick Gray, leaving Green to pick Gray, whose voice resembles “activism.” Levine, who said he would steal whoever Green didn’t pick, immediately pressed his button, with Shelton following suit. Vosbury chose Shelton, who said he would help shape him as an artist.
The Voice knockout rounds continue with a special two-hour episode on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.