Things got competitive on “The Voice” as the teams cannibalized themselves further while getting started on the Knockout Rounds. The remaining artists sang onstage solo for the first time since the Blind Auditions as they vied for a spot in the Live Playoffs.
If it sounds like the Knockout Rounds aren’t different from the Battle Rounds, that’s because they really aren't. However, they put a lot more power in the hands of the contestants than ever before. Although they had the guidance of their coaches and celebrity mentor, Nate Ruess (Fun), everything from song choice to performance counted either for or against each contestant. Luckily, the judges were each given a new batch of steals to rescue their favorite opposing team members from elimination.
To help get a handle on the first group of Knockout performances, below is a breakdown of each team’s pairing.
Ashley Morgan vs. Sonic (Team Xtina)
After being stolen onto Christina Aguilera’s team during the Battle Rounds, Morgan took to the stage once again to show that she deserves to be here. Unfortunately, she didn’t try quite hard enough. Her rendition of “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar was a good cover, but it just didn’t have a spark that said: “I’m the next ‘Voice.’” Meanwhile, Sonic overcame being deaf in one ear to knock her performance of “With a Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush directly out of the park. It was hard to look away from the TV while she was onstage as she not only had the stronger voice, but proved to be a better performer. Although she claimed it was a tough call, Aguilera chose to keep moving forward with the ironically named Sonic, sending Morgan home without a save this time.
Brian Jonson vs. Sarah Potenza (Team Blake)
In typical Shelton fashion, the coach didn’t pull any punches by putting two of his powerhouse performers against each other. Johnson took the stage first, singing “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” by James Morrison. So far in the competition, Johnson had ridden on the success of some amazing slow vocal performances. Hoping to impress the judges with something new, he took a more fast-paced song that he thought he could have some fun with. It worked, but also ended up being his undoing. The singer looked like he was struggling to keep his range and breath in check as he waded through the otherwise flawless performance.
Next up was Potenza, whose unique rocker voice has delivered time and again in Season 8. Monday was no exception as she belted a “The Voice” original by Season 7 runner-up Matt McAndrews. She took his song “Wasted Love” and turned it into a rock anthem that made the former contestant, who returned for a surprise appearance, proud. Shelton went with Potenza, beginning the night’s trend of the second performer winning. However, not ready to be done with Johnson just yet, Adam Levine used his steal to keep Johnson on his team. Just like that, Team Blake’s contestants made it out of the first Knockouts unscathed.
Clinton Washington vs. Nathan Hermida (Team Adam)
Adam Levine picked his stolen contestant, Washington, to go up against his high school senior talent, Hermida. The two ended up being a competitive pair that weren’t necessarily competing over technical proficiency as much as they were soul. Both singers had difficulty really connecting emotionally with their songs in the past. This week was all about overcoming that little hiccup. Washington went first, singing “Haunted” by Hunter Hayes. His performance was good and showed strides forward in terms of connecting with the music. Meanwhile, Hermida came out with Sam Smith’s “Leave Your Lover” really showing off how much he's grown as a performer in such a short amount of time. This ended up being one of the toughest calls of the night as both singers pulled off a great performance. In the end, Hermida made his coach feel the most feels and propelled himself to the Live Playoffs.
Mia Z vs. Paul Pfau vs. Sawyer Fredericks (Team Pharrell)
That’s right, due to Battle Rounds winner Anthony Riley being unable to continue with the competition for “personal reasons,” Team Pharrell was forced to make “The Voice” history by putting three contestants together in the Knockout Round for the first time ever. With only two able to move forward, Mia Z got things started with her rendition of “I’m Coming” by B.B. King and Eric Clapton. When it was over, Blake noted her incredible ability to navigate a melody. Her performance was, hands down, the best of the evening. Her push forward was all but a foregone conclusion. However, she still had Pfau and Fredericks in her way. Pfau took the stage next and shot himself in the foot a bit by performing a difficult lead guitar riff while trying to sing his song. He pulled it off but it left the audience with a less-than-stellar vocal performance and a pretty off-the-charts guitar performance -- something that gained him no credit toward furthering himself in the competition. Capping off the three-way Knockout performance was 15-year-old blues singer Fredericks, performing Howie Day’s “Collide.” And it was a cover like no other. This contestant has been impressing the judges, the audience and me left and right all season with his incredibly creative renditions of some pretty great songs. In the end, keeping him was a no-brainer for Pharrell, who sent him and Mia Z on to the Live Playoff rounds. With no one willing to use their save on Pfau, he went home for good.
Meghan Linsey vs. Travis Ewing (Team Blake)
In this round, two fearless performers took on to very difficult songs – to great affect. Linsey performed first singing “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. Although it was a difficult song, the professional performer not only sang it with ease but she rubbed some of her gravel-voiced rocker flare to it and truly turned the song into more than just a cheap Aretha cover. Following her was Ewing singing “I Don’t Want To Be” by Gavin DeGraw. It was a tough song with some really vocal runs that the singer tried hard to make his own. He even held the final note of the song for, what seemed like, days. In the end, Ewing’s voice had an insane range and his bravery to take on such a difficult song proved not enough to topple the fun-loving and crowd-beloved performance of Linsey. Blake sent her forward and the four coaches bid adieu to one more Season 8 contestant.
Koryn Hawthorne vs. Kimberly Nichole (Team Xtina)
The last performance of the night turned out to be a doozy. These two stellar voices poured everything they had onstage, starting with Nichole. She went first, singing a razor-sharp version of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” by Sting. Her singing was out of this world and her performance practically inspired Blake Shelton to get out of his chair and boogie right along with her. She took the song and rubbed some funk and rock and roll on it. If you thought that Nichole had done such a good job that you could turn your TV off and go to bed early, you were wrong. Hawthorne took the mic next to sing Pink’s “Try.” If her opponent had performance and enthusiasm under her belt, Hawthorne had heart and soul under hers. In the end, with time running out on the episode, Aguilera had to basically flip a mental coin to choose. She went with Nichole but literally begged Shelton and Pharrell to use their remaining steals to keep Hawthorne in the competition. Just before the credits rolled, Pharrell Williams pushed his button and adopted an incredible performer into his Season 8 team. Just like that, the first Knockout Rounds were over and two saves were gone.
“The Voice” will continue its momentum on Tuesday night when it continues its battle rounds with six more contestants leaving it all onstage to advance forward.