'The Voice' Recap: Knockout Rounds Kick Off

Blake Shelton and Usher lend their expertise to Adam Levine and Shakira, who send half their teammates home.

Blind auditions and battles are child’s play in comparison to the knockout rounds on The Voice. Similar to the battle rounds, contestants are paired up for a sudden-death sing-off, except they have no idea who their opponent will be, and they select their own individual songs instead of dueling on a duet. Coaches announce the matches just before musicians pick up their microphones and only have a few minutes to pick the winner and send the other home.

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Who excelled under all the pressure? Meet the singers coached by Adam Levine and Shakira who came out victorious in the knockouts (Blake Shelton and Usher challenge their teams Tuesday night):

Team Adam’s Amber Carrington vs. Midas Whale
Levine’s country contestant opted for “I’m With You” (which last season’s champion Cassadee Pope sang with Avril Lavigne herself) in honor of her mother. Though she didn’t exactly drive home the Nashville spin she'd hoped for, her powerhouse vocals carried the pop hit. Then the bluegrass duo (one half of which is American Idol’s season three finalist Jon Peter Lewis) experimented with Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” but their harmonies unfortunately didn’t hold up as well without their instruments. “I think I like Amber as much as I can’t stand Adam!” joked Shelton. Levine moved forward with Carrington, leaving the duo in the dust.

Team Shakira’s Garrett Gardner vs. Tawnya Reynolds
The raspy return contestant applied his gritty vocals on Alex Clare’s “Too Close” while the country singer picked up her guitar for Pistol Annies’ “Hell on Heels,” showing some sassy attitude in her inflections. Both were solid in their genres, but Reynolds put in one too many yodels for Shelton’s taste, which Shakira took the blame for and Usher actually loved. Shakira chose Gardner to take to next week’s playoffs.

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Team Adam’s Amy Whitcomb vs. Caroline Glaser
It’s such a shame when besties have to knock each other out! The Sing-Off alum showcased her range and variety with The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” while the coffeehouse singer who was saved from Shelton’s elimination pitched her indie folk genre with Of Monsters and Men's “Little Talks.” Both had their pitchy moments, “I think you both did better in rehearsals,” said Levine to his singers. “I need you to respond in the eleventh hour on the stage.” Levine selected Glaser to continue.

Team Shakira’s Kris Thomas vs. Mary Miranda
The feminine falsetto learned to croon with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” while the charismatic Latina tried her first solo in English on the show: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Shakira admitted that Miranda’s song choice wasn’t one she would have picked, but Levine noted how well she sang the bridge in particular. Usher favored Thomas’ unique timbre, and Shakira loved his ability to adapt to her criticism since rehearsals. She moved him to the playoffs.

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Team Adam’s Judith Hill vs. Orlando Dixon
Michael Jackson’s former duet partner took center stage with Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” for her grandmother, who recently passed away, while the classically trained singer aimed to handle K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” solo. Dixon’s ex-coach Usher noted that his song choice wasn’t aggressive enough for this round, and instead nodded to Hill: “I would only be adding to the stroking of your ego if I continue to gawk at you!” Levine advanced her forward.

Team Shakira’s Karina Iglesias vs. Monique Abbadie
The fauxhawk rocker reverted to her roots on “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz while the Latina child singer overcame her pitch problems from rehearsals during Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love.” Though the other three coaches called Iglesias’ performance one-dimensional, all four noted her potential, which was enough to keep her in the competition.

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Team Adam’s Warren Stone vs. Sarah Simmons
The fireman channeled his pains as a single father singing Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight,” and the music student blew the room away with her rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” The coaches were divided on the winner of this match, saying they both gave their best performance yet. “There were really wild horses galloping through your throat!” said Shakira of Simmons. Though Levine joked that such a thing would probably hurt, he chose Simmons.

Team Shakira’s Sasha Allen vs. Shawna P.
The last pairing of the night -- of two veteran vocalists -- was the best! The Broadway alum rescued from elimination championed Etta James’ “At Last” while the classic rocker excelled on Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” “This is best knockout round that I’ve seen so far,” said Shelton of the match. Unanimous praise came from the coaches for Allen, whom Shakira selected to compete in the playoffs, which made Allen’s ex-coach Levine proud. “There’s still a little Team Adam up there...even if it’s Team Shakira,” he said.

As the knockouts continue, Team Blake and Team Usher will be halved during a special two-hour episode on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on NBC.

What did you think of the first night of the knockout rounds? Were the right singers sent home? Sound off in the comments section below.