Tonight begins the first of three Knockout Rounds for season 7 of The Voice. We’ve been through Blind Auditions and Battle Rounds. There has been some blood-letting along the way. Copious tears have fallen as well; tears of joy at being chosen, tears of sorrow at being left at the altar of almost-stardom and tears of exhaustion at having watched every performer live through the experience.

Coaches Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams are assisted in tonight’s coaching by powerhouse and multi-Grammy-winning artist Miss Taylor Swift. I, for one, cannot wait ’til things get started tonight. Part of the allure of The Voice is getting to see the real personalities of the coaches as they chat among themselves and as they interact with the contestants. Taylor Swift is somewhat of an enigma to me. She’s one of my teenage daughter’s favorite artists and, therefore, a role model in my baby’s eyes. For that reason, I want to see what this young songstress is really like. Tonight, I’ll be watching to see if she’s as discerning as Adam; as crass, yet nurturing, as Blake; and as guilelessly sweet as ‘Pharen’ — or should we call them ‘Gwarrell’? Whatever way, it’s the dynamic competing due of Pharrell + Gwen.

The Voice Recap: Night 4 of the Battle Rounds >>>

Tonight, the performers get to sing solos and, even more importantly, they have to choose their own songs. I say “have to” because, as the coaches explain, song choice is crucial. If an artist allows ego or vanity to dictate a song selection that doesn’t showcase their voice as well as their competitor’s song showcases their talent, it will spell sudden death.

One Coach to Bind Them All

On top of getting to perform solo to their own song selection, the artists get a kick-ass bonus that you just can’t put a price on: one-on-one time with the one and only Taylor Swift. Yowsa. 

The downside to this whole round is that each artist will be compared to, and compete with, one other performer on their own team after which their shared coach must choose between them. During Knockouts, the coaches get only one steal so they will be stingy. At times, it will not be pretty, so hold onto your hats, people. 

Gwen Pits Bryana Salaz Against Sugar Joans 

Gwen says she paired 16-year-old Bryana Salaz and Sugar Joans because they both have great voices and are equal in their need to find out who they are as performers. Both, as well, need to learn to connect with their audiences. Swift says Bryana has the pipes to belt her song choice, but it’s a complex song. Her youth and lack of experience, I’m thinking, might be a disadvantage for her in this round. Sugar, however, has the professionalism and raw emotion that could take her over the edge for this Knockout Round. 

Bryana Performs “Heart Attack” and Sugar Performs “Love on Top”

The performances are rocking, but they both seem to sing a bit harsh, in my opinion. Both took Swift’s advice. In the end, Gwen’s choice doesn’t surprise me, but what happens next does. It’s the first steal of the Knockouts.

Result: Gwen Chooses Bryana Salaz

Pharrell Steals Sugar Joans

Blake Pits Griffin Against James David Carter 

Blake is surprised at James’ song choice of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” because it’s not that dynamic. Swift and Blake advise him on including some vocal variety. Griffin chose Justin Bieber because it’s a catchy pop song which he will put his own twist on. Blake thinks this is a great choice for Griffin. So, going into the competition, it looks like Griffin has the upper hand. 

James Performs “You’ve Got a Friend” and Griffin Performs “As Long As You Love Me”

James tugs at the heartstrings. I have to admit, “You’ve Got a Friend” is one of my favorite songs, and I’m not at all a Bieber fan, so my vote goes to James for this one, and Blake agrees. 

Result: Blake Chooses James David Carter

Pharrell Pits DaNica Shirey Against Katriz Trinidad

This is going to be a bloody battle. These two singers are freakishly powerful. I have no prediction WHATSOEVER how this one will end. I’ll tell you this, though, I hope whoever doesn’t get picked does get stolen by one of the other coaches. And this is only the first night of knock-down drag-outs, er, I mean, Knockouts.

DaNica Performs “Saving All My Love for You” and Katriz Performs “Superwoman”

DaNica meets with Swift and Pharrell and already I’m grabbing for the tissues. She brings up the fact that her last performance was the first time her baby daughter heard her sing, and she pays tremendous homage to Whitney Houston. Both coaches are blown away by DaNica’s emotion and power, but comment on her insecurity. In the end, DaNica’s performance is one that Whitney would have been proud of. For her part, Katriz takes the stage in a buttery yellow dress and her performance is amazing, but more technically proficient than exquisite. 

Adam says DaNica sang the crap out of her song. Blake says Katriz gave her 200% and was as cute as humanly possible in her buttercup dress. Pharrell has to choose and I have no idea how it’s gonna go. 

Result: Pharrell Chooses DaNica Shirey

Adam Pits Damien and Toia Jones Against Each Other

This competition will be fierce. Damien chooses LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” which, as we all know, has personal meaning for him as he’s recently lost some important people in his life. After Damien’s practice performance, Swift is on the verge of tears and advises him to make sure he channels exactly the same emotion when he performs for the competition. Adam advises Damien not to overdo it when he performs. 

I’m looking forward to Toia’s performance. She blew me away during the Battles and I was stunned that her competitor was chosen over her. Thank goodness Adam stole her. Tonight she’ll be performing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” which is night and day different from Damien’s Rimes song. 

Damien Performs “How Do I Live” and Toia Performs “Crazy in Love”

Damien brings the house down and I’m a puddle on the floor. How does Toia even have a chance against this big hunk of chocolate love? Well, then Toia takes the stage and Pharrell is standing up jamming out. Great voice and great entertainment from Toia.

Blake loves them both, but gives Toia her props because she went totally over the top. Pharrell says Toia tore the place down. Gwen says she was in shock over Toia’s performance. The actual choice surprises me. And the lack of a steal by the other coaches baffles me even further. Not that Damien wasn’t deserving, but baby girl got robbed. Can we get a recount? There has to be a way to bring that woman back after a performance like that. Damn. 

Result: Adam Chooses Damien

The Voice Interviews: Toia Jones on What Led to Her Emotional Battle Round Rehearsal >>>

Blake Pits Jessie Pitts Against Tanner Linford

Jessie is my all-time favorite artist in this year’s The Voice competition, so this Knockout is going to kill me if Blake doesn’t choose her to move on. Blake say Jessie has chosen the perfect song for her voice. Swift loves how open and sweet Jessie is in her performance of this revelatory song, but advises her to add some variety to her motions as she sings. 

Tanner has such a large voice in such a tiny body that it seems like an optical illusion. Taylor Swift advises Tanner to make use of his cute boy look, which is a quick flick of the eyes up to meet the audience and then flit away. It’s flirting, basically. The thing is, Tanner doesn’t look old enough to be flirting with anybody. And isn’t this the very first full performance of his we’re seeing in season 7?

Jessie Performs “Your Song” and Tanner Performs “Calling All Angels”

Melodic topography, that’s what Pharrell says Tanner gave his performance. Gwen says she was devastated to lose Jessie and she almost breaks down watching her perform Ellie Goulding’s arrangement of Elton John’s “Your Song.”

Results: Blake Chooses Jessie Pitts

Pharrell Pits Taylor Phelan Against Luke Wade

This is the final Knockout tonight. Both performers received four chairs during the Blind Auditions and Pharrell has no idea how this competition will shake out.

His tone is perfect, says Swift during their practice. She says Luke’s is the voice she wants to hear on the radio, his is the album she’d want to buy. Pharrell advises Taylor to be conservative with his runs or they will become ordinary. Pharrell says he has a unique spirit and voice — and there are never too many of those in the industry. 

Taylor Phelan calls his music choice indie rock with ’80s synth tones. Swift talks him into getting rid of his blankie, i.e. his guitar. 

Luke Performs “Rich Girl” and Taylor Performs “Rather Be”

Taylor dances around the stage and it appears to have winded him. Blake loves Luke but thought he took too many liberties with the song, but Pharrell recognizes that Luke was going with the feeling of the song. 

Result: Pharrell Chooses Luke Wade

All three remaining coaches hit their buzzers to steal Taylor Phelan. All three make their cases, and Taylor has the best possible tough decision to make. But for Phelan, the choice is clear. 

The Steal: Taylor Chooses to Join Adam’s Team

At the end of the night, Bryana Salaz, James David Carter, DaNica Shirey, Damien and Luke Wade won their Knockouts. 

Sugar Joans and Taylor Phelan get their bacon pulled out of the fire by Pharrell and Adam, respectively, and will be joining their five compadres in the live playoffs.

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC, and will be back tomorrow evening for the second round of Knockouts.

(Image courtesy of NBC)

Catherine Cabanela

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV