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The Voice’s knockout rounds were revived on Monday night, with universal guest mentor Taylor Swift in the ring for rehearsals. Equally advising the contestants of Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams, the “Shake It Off” singer doled out her top tips for conquering pop: Besides effectively finding emotional connections to songs and powerfully pumping up stage presence, she also helped contestants on things such as channeling karaoke jams, letting go of guitars if they’re teddy bears and, of course, “working the cute-boy factor.” And, newsflash: “I have two of them now — I have cats, plural!”
See who survived the sudden-death solo performances — in which they chose their own songs — and who escaped elimination by getting stolen away:
Team Gwen’s Bryana Salaz vs. Sugar Joans
Salaz had to develop an emotional connection to Demi Lovato‘s “Heart Attack” — an equally shout-y song choice as Beyonce‘s “Love on Top” by Joans. Though the two tried their best to limit the screams in the ring, the very young Salaz showed her skyscraping abilities to Levine’s liking, and Williams said she was ready to go — Stefani agreed and opted to bring her to the live shows. Williams then made good on his promise to use his only steal of the round to snag the raspy Joans.
Team Blake’s James David Carter vs. Griffin
Carter channeled his singer-songwriter instinct on James Taylor‘s “You’ve Got a Friend” (with the addition of a major vocal moment), while new recruit Griffin went full-on pop with Justin Bieber‘s “As Long as You Love Me.” Carter’s country touch gave Stefani goosebumps, which helped him outshine Griffin’s impressive vocals on what Levine called “a man version” of the track. In the end, Shelton elevated the sentimental Carter.
Team Pharrell’s Danica Shirey vs. Katriz Trinidad
Of the two big voices, an emotionally authentic Shirey touched on true love with Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You,” while a very young but very trained Trinidad went for self-empowerment with Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman.” While Levine challenged frontrunner Shirey to keep raising the bar, Shelton applauded Trinidad’s progress thus far. Williams went with his “unicorn,” Shirey.
Team Adam’s Damien vs. Toia Jones
Damien tried out country with LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” and was full of emotion, while stolen singer Jones broke out of her gospel roots with Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” but followed Swift’s advice to pump up the song’s “crazy” and struggled to stay on the melody. Still, Shelton preferred Jones’ entertainment value, and Williams praised Damien’s perfect, but safe, performance. Though all of the other coaches said Jones was the winner, Levine rewarded Damien’s risky song choice with a spot in the live shows.
Team Blake’s Jessie Pitts vs. Tanner Linford
Of the two second-chance singers, Pitts picked Ellie Goulding‘s arrangement of Elton John‘s “Your Song” and Linford was locked on Train’s “Calling All Angels” — during which he learned from Swift that he’s “working the cute-boy factor.” Williams praised Pitt’s “melodic topography,” and Stefani called her stage moment “off the charts.” Levine said Linford has a “cherub-like quality” to his voice. Shelton stuck with Pitts.
Team Pharrell’s Luke Wade vs. Taylor Phelan
Wade added a casual onstage vibe to Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl,” and Phelan sang Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” without his comfort object/”teddy bear,” his guitar. Declared a perfect match of apples and oranges by Levine, Williams picked Wade, leaving Levine, Shelton and Stefani to fight over Phelan. In the end, he asked his girlfriend in the audience to help with the choice, which brought him to join Team Adam.
The Voice knockouts continue Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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