The premiere of the Knockout Round on The Voice season 8 brings a huge upset, several stellar wins and a first-ever artist no-show that forces a coach to make an awkward adjustment. It’s hard enough to compete against one other artist, but when one of Pharrell’s flock is inexplicably unable to continue, the coach has to get creative. More on this in a moment.
In the Battles, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams were tasked with culling their teams from 12 down to six artists, but they were then able to steal two artists. At the end of the Battles, the ample stable of 48 competitors was cut down to 32.
The Voice Recap: Who Does Pharrell Steal in the Final Battle? >>>
Who Survived the Battles and Who was Saved by the Steal?
Christine and Blake combined stole four of Pharrell’s artists — Christina scooping up Kimberly Nichole and Ashley Morgan, while Blake picked up Travis Ewing and Meghan Linsey. In turn, Pharrell stole both Jacob Rummell and Hannah Kirby from Blake, while Adam stole Joshua Davis from Blake, and Clinton Washington from Christine. Not a single one of Adam’s artists was saved by a steal from the other coaches. Is that a first, and what does that say about Adam as a coach?
Two-time Grammy Winner Nate Ruess Turns Up the Heat
For three nights of the Knockout Round, the competition heats up as each artist competes once again with a fellow teammate, but this time it is in a solo performance of their own choosing. Competitors will receive their first round of individual coaching plus invaluable one-one-on guidance by masterful singer-songwriter Nate Ruess. This is when we learn who is teachable and who has shown us everything they’ve got. If you are not sure who Nate Ruess is, think “We Are Young,” “Some Nights” and Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” for which Nate is the vocal lead. Yeah, that guy. He’s hella talented, people.
Christina and Nate Duet with Their Farting Chairs
Christina starts out the evening introducing Nate to what she calls her farting chair. She bounces up and down giving him a demonstration and encourages him to do the same. That’s what I love about Christina — that girl can be fun.
Christina Pits Sonic Against Ashley Morgan
Christina tells us about the first two artists to duke it out in the Knockout Round. She’s chosen half-deaf Sonic, who has a sick range, loads of power and the perfect amount of control. Ashley Morgan’s powerful well-trained voice makes her a good challenger for this round, so we’ll have to see what Christina and Nate can do to guide each performer to bring out their individual strengths.
Sonic chooses a sultry Alicia Keys R&B piece to show off her ability to fly up and down the scale. Christina advises her to watch the sass face and stay on key. Ashley chooses a song by rocker Pat Benatar for which Christina advises that she allow her inner animal out. Let’s see how they do.
Ashley Performs “Heartbreaker” and Sonic performs “A Woman’s Worth”
Ashley doesn’t quite reach all of the notes in each of her verses. Her voice just doesn’t have the power necessary for a lead performer. Sonic hits all of her notes and adds gravel in just the right places. She’s also dripping with personality. Pharrell, Adam are Blake are nice and noncommittal in their comments. Christina has to go with her gut and makes the right choice.
Result: Christina chooses Sonic
Blake Pits Brian Johnson Against Sarah Potenza; Matt McAndrew Makes a Surprise Visit
Blake accuses Nate of wearing Adam’s shirt and we’re off to the races. Brian has chosen James Morrison’s “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” to showcase his range and his command of the performance arena. Sarah, who is surprised to be paired with Brian, chooses “Wasted Love” by season 7 runner-up Matt McAndrew, America’s Sexiest Nerd. Matt McAndrew surprises Sarah with a visit to her practice to give her some hints about performing the song he sang in the finale of season 7.
Brian Performs “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” and Sarah Performs “Wasted Love”
Brian’s voice rolls all over his verses in a wonderful bluesy manner. Sarah starts out mellow with her performance. She takes her time letting the beast out, then embraces the song almost like Bette Midler delivering “The Rose.” Pharrell calls Brian masterful and appreciates Sarah’s soft ending. The coaches are genuinely impressed with both performers and it’s hard to tell which way Blake will go.
Result: Blake chooses Sarah
Adam’s Steals Brian
Adam can’t stand the thought of Brian going home this early in the game because he feels this man has a lot more to show people.
Adam Pairs Clinton Washington and Nathan Hermida
Adam loves adviser Nate for their similarities.They are like two peas, I tell you. Seventeen-year-old Nathan Hermida would rather sing than go to college, and with a voice like his he could probably make a career of it. Adam advises Nathan to bust out of his shell. Nate advises on including the entire audience in his performance. Nate and Adam advise Clinton to rein in the sauciness of his performance. Nate confesses that he’d rather be moved than impressed.
Clinton Performs “Wanted” and Nathan Performs “Leave Your Lover”
Clinton performs first and he does nothing wrong. He truly has the makings of a heartthrob. He heeds the coaches’ advice and has perfect control while convincingly emoting that he does want us. Then Nathan takes the stage. His song is completely different from Clinton’s. His voice is clear and gentle, his falsetto impressive. This will be a difficult choice. Clinton was stronger, but Nathan was sweet, sweet, sweet. The results are surprising. Full disclosure: I’m a Nathan Hermida fan.
Result: Adam chooses Nathan
Pharrell Throws Mia Z, Sawyer Fredericks and Paul Pfau Together All At Once
Pharrell talks about Nate’s genre-bending mastery of everything and Nate, of course, wants to join Team Pharrell. Who wouldn’t? Shockingly, singer Anthony Riley is unable to compete for unnamed personal reasons, leaving Pharrell with a challenge. For the first time ever on The Voice, Pharrell is forced to pit three artists against each other for two spots. For this special event, Pharrell has chosen bluesy Mia Z, Sinatra aficionado Paul Pfau and the amazingly talented Sawyer Fredericks.
Nate advises Mia to allow herself to surrender to her song. Pharrell agrees that she needs to let her hair down. Paul chooses John Mayer’s version of Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor” as his Knockout song. Four chair-turning Sawyer loses the guitar for his performance of Howie Day’s “Collide” and listens as Pharrell and Nate encourage him to move about the stage as if he were at home singing to himself.
Mia Performs “Hold On, I’m Coming,” Paul Performs “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and Sawyer Performs “Collide”
Mia opens it up and kills it. You can’t help thinking how Christina-like this young artist is in her style and range. She tops it off with a powerful direct pitch in her most upper register and it’s fabulous. Paul and his electric guitar are on deck next. His performance is way more laidback than Mia’s, but it takes us back to a smoky bar in Chicago where the floor has been cleared of tables in favor of people willing to let themselves slink and slide along with the notes of a live jazz guitar.
Sawyer takes the stage and pours his heart into “Collide.” For the first time in the Knockouts, I get goosebumps. It’s emotional, clear and beautiful. I’m just about moved to tears, it’s so moving.
All of the coaches are genuinely impressed with both Mia and Sawyer, but feel Paul left something on the table by including his guitar in his performance.
First result: Pharrell chooses Sawyer
The tension rises and Pharrell has to make his second choice and send either Mia or Paul home and, of course, we go to commercial.
Second result: Pharrell chooses Mia
Blake Puts Meghan Linsey Against Travis Ewing
Nate quizzes Blake on the meaning of a sharp 5th. Anyone know what that is? Soulful pop artist Meghan Linsey has chosen “Natural Woman” for her Knockout performance. We revisit Meghan’s journey to this round. She had three-chair turns in the Blinds, then lost to Paul Pfau in the Battle Rounds. Once again, she got three coaches wanting her on their team and she finally chose her old friend, Blake Shelton, to coach her through the Knockouts. Blake and Nate advise her about making the second half of her performance kick-ass phenomenal as everyone will be comparing her to Aretha Franklin, the song’s originator.
Travis lost his Battle Round against Anthony Riley, the no-show, but was saved by Blake for the Knockouts. He’s performing Gavin DcGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” in this round. Blake says this song choice is a challenging one. Nate encourages him to make sure he’s strong on the big notes.
Meghan Performs “Natural Woman” and Travis Performs “I Don’t Want to Be”
Meghan goes first. She’s sultry and expressive. She gives Aretha Franklin a run for her money throughout (though the finale is a little weak) and Pharrell stands up halfway through the performance. Travis performs with the requisite angry rocker face, but he may have taken on too big of a song considering who he has to compete with.
Christina says Meghan got better and better as the song went on. Adam gives Travis kudos for going up against Meghan. Blake compliments Travis on his performance and verbally embraces Meghan. This was a performance that could easily have earned the pimp spot, but maybe there’s an unexpected steal to come.
Result: Blake chooses Meghan
Christina Pits Koryn Hawthorne Against Kimberly Nichole
Nate wants to steal 16-year-old Koryn for his own team. Christina advises her to be careful not to run out of breath while executing her unique vocal gymnastics. Both Christina and Nate notice that Kimberly is holding back during practice. Just like during the Battles practice, Kimberly admits she’s afraid of the higher notes. After watching both artists practice, it’s clear that Koryn’s song is much more powerful. However, because of Christina and Nate’s comments, we may be being led down a deceptive path.
Kimberly Performs “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and Koryn Performs “Try”
Kimberly does a fantastic job, but her range is limited. She’s a consummate performer who knows how to work the crowd. Koryn’s performance of Pink’s “Try” is silky and strong. Koryn delivers the angst with style and passion. Some of her vibratos are a little shaky, however. Christina acknowledges that both artists have talents that are not easily taught. Her choice is a shock.
Result: Christina chooses Kimberly
Pharrell Steals Koryn
Before the shock even settles in over Christina’s choice, Pharrell pounds his red button and takes Koryn up in a tight welcoming squeeze that lasts three minutes. If Koryn had to leave after this round, it would herald the demise of artistic taste on The Voice. Bear with me as I wax hyperbolic, but that kid is off the chain.
Eight Artists Advance; Five are Sent Packing
Blake leaves the Knockout Round premiere with victors Sarah Potenza and Meghan Linsey. Pharrell keeps Mia Z and Sawyer Fredericks, and steals Koryn Hawthorne from Christina. Christina goes forward with Sonic and Kimberly Nichole. Adam keeps Nathan Hermida and steals Brian Johnson from Blake.
Next time, another six artists will take the stage to see who stays and who goes when the Konckouts continue.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)