The Knockout Round is only two seasons old now. When The Voice expanded to sixteen artists per team in Season Three, and the Battle Rounds were given the gift of the steal, this round was added to cut the teams in half more quickly after that. Season Four has returned to the more manageable twelve singers per team, but the Knockout Round has stayed. This season, it cuts the total number of artists from 32 to 16, rather than from 40 to 20. What’s unique about the knockouts is that they move along more quickly. It gives the feeling of added urgency, because without steals, the results are more final and set in stone. Without further ado, here’s a recap of what went down last week and who is moving on to the live rounds.
Monday night (Teams Adam and Shakira):
Amber Carrington vs. Midas Whale (Team Adam). Midas Whale has been one of my top three favorites throughout the season, and I don’t know what Adam was thinking picking Amber to beat Sasha Allen in their battle, so I expected this to turn out a certain way. Amber sings Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You” with just a bit of her country twang, while Midas Whale chooses Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” with just a ton of their folky style. I can’t sit here and say (type) that Amber was bad. She wasn’t Cassadee Pope, who sang the song in the live shows last season. But she hit all the notes, rocked the high notes and maintained her country sound in the process. Midas Whale rocks “Higher Ground” in the way only they can. They have fun with the performance, and the crowd follows suit, as always. But Ryan and Jon Peter are also serious with their performance, as Blake notes. Usher repeats the pun Ryan Hayes made in the rehearsals video, the one we’ve all been waiting for: “You’ve given it the Midas Touch.” But my worst fears are confirmed: Adam picks Amber Carrington to advance yet another round, and Midas Whale is eliminated. I still think it’s a stretch for Adam to say Amber is now one of the favorites in the competition.
Garrett Gardner vs. Tawnya Reynolds (Team Shakira). I was initially surprised by Shakira’s first knockout pairing – I see Garrett and Tawnya as both being in the middle range of her team, talent-wise, and their pairing guarantees that a better singer won’t be making it to the live shows. Then I realized that Shakira still has that soft spot for Garrett, and she didn’t want to put him against a stronger singer. Garrett sings “Too Close” by Alex Clare, non-dubstep style, and rocked as usual. Tawnya gives it her all in “Hell on Heels,” which incited a loud debate about yodeling among all four coaches (Blake thought there were too many, while Shakira admitted to telling Tawnya to yodel as much as her country heart desired). It didn’t matter, though; Garrett, as expected, is moving on to the live shows.
Amy Whitcomb vs. Caroline Glaser (Team Adam). Adam pits Amy Whitcomb, who we haven’t seen much of up close at this point, against Caroline Glaser, the adorable and unique artist he stole from Team Blake in the battles. Amy prepares “House of the Rising Sun,” which does show off her wide range of notes as well as vocal tones. Caroline prepares the more upbeat “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men. (Cute alert of the night – Adam’s and Caroline’s matching hipster glasses during rehearsal.) It is times like these when I wish the knockouts had steals as well. Amy is so stylistically different than Caroline, who looks very nervous listening to Amy. But when Caroline’s performance comes (- after this commercial break? Are you serious, NBC?), she sounds stronger than the girl who sang “Tiny Dancer” in the blinds. “Little Talks” energizes the crowd… it wasn’t pitch perfect, possibly due to nerves, but for a “safer” song, as Blake pointed out, she could have done better. Adam says they both did better in rehearsals, and after some agonizing, saves Caroline once again. I love Caroline, but she’ll have to do ten times better in the Round of 16 if she wants to advance.
Kris Thomas vs. Mary Miranda (Team Shakira). Shakira admits these two artists have completely different styles. Kris chooses “What a Wonderful World.” Shakira tells Kris he’s a crooner, not a belter, and how natural he sounds will determine whether or not he advances. Mary says she learned English listening to The Police and Def Leppard, so she had better hit all the pronunciations in her performance of “Every Breath You Take,” the first English song she performs on the show. Kris predictably sounds like a beautiful woman, and he misses a note or two but sounds very good overall. Mary, meanwhile, belts some magnificent riffs in her performance and has the crowd up on their feet before the bridge. Blake points out these are two of Shakira’s favorites (besides Garrett, I quietly add in my head), and that it’s a tough choice for her. I would have chosen Mary, so I’m surprised when Shakira shuns the young Latina artist she just picked over Cathia in the battle rounds, and picks Kris instead. Great artists continue to fall.
Judith Hill vs. Orlando Dixon (Team Adam). I saw this matchup coming before the episode began; their styles are similar, and Dixon probably wouldn’t knock out any of Adam’s artists anyway. Judith sings “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson for her recently deceased grandmother and continues to wow Adam and the rest of us. Orlando has more to work on with “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo, and another uphill battle in general (he lost to Team Usher’s soul powerhouse Ryan Innes in the battles and was saved by Adam). Hill kills her performance as expected, but Orlando shows he’s not going down without a fight, even if the song isn’t aggressive as Usher said. As Blake puts it, there is nothing wrong with Hill’s performance, and she advances to the live shows.
Karina Iglesias vs. Monique Abbadie (Team Shakira). Shakira pairs her two Latina powerhouses for her next knockout. This is Shakira’s first time working with Karina after stealing her from Team Adam. She picks “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz to stay with her rock style. Monique also chooses a powerful song, “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion. I wasn’t a Karina fan during the blinds, but I’ve gradually come to like her voice a lot, and she does Kravitz justice with her rendition of his song. Then Monique comes in and reminds me how close these artists truly are. I’m surprised Adam finds problems with both of their performances (Karina’s song choice wasn’t “big” enough, Monique has a few technical issues). In what could be considered an upset, since Monique turned four chairs while Karina needed a battle-round steal, Shakira chooses Karina for her “enormous potential.” Shakira now has zero of the three Latinas who sang their blind audition songs in Spanish (Monique, Mary Miranda, and Cathia), but she still has a Latina powerhouse who can go deep into the live shows.
Warren Stone vs. Sarah Simmons (Team Adam). Adam’s last Knockout Round pairing matches up two singers who do well connecting with the audience, and from the start we know how tough it will be to lose one of the artists. Stone surprises Adam and chooses a rock song, Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight,” but he adds a country flair I expected and admired. Sarah sings “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. Warren blew me away with his country-rock mix of “Died in Your Arms Tonight,” hitting a range of emotions in addition to his range of notes and putting a look in Adam’s eye that said he wanted to keep working with Warren. Sarah’s voice sounds a little nervous at the beginning, but she finds her form in the middle and end with a sweet, emotional tone. Still, I would have given Warren had the edge. Blake says it was the best he’d ever heard Warren sing, despite the song not being country. However, the coaches seem to agree that Sarah did better, and Adam picks Sarah, completing his all-girls team for the live shows.
Sasha Allen vs. Shawna P. (Team Shakira). Shakira’s two “experienced” (see: older) vocalists, Sasha and Shawna, are the final knockout pairing of Monday night. The knockout pits Etta James against Paul McCartney – Sasha’s “At Last” against Shawna’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Sasha sings some amazing notes and riffs and shows strength throughout the highs and lows of her vocal range. Shawna is still my least favorite artist left on the show, but don’t take it as pure bias when I say she was less impressive than Sasha in general. Whether or not you’re a fan of the tone of her voice, Sasha sang more notes in a wider range better and stronger. Sasha, who Blake calls “one of the frontrunners” in the competition, deserves the win and she gets it.
Tuesday night (Teams Blake and Usher):
Savannah Berry vs. Justin Rivers (Team Blake). Blake starts off Tuesday’s episode by pairing his two pop-country artists, Savannah and Justin. We’ve barely seen any of Justin Rivers at this point – he got a last-second one-chair turn from Blake in his blind audition, and upset the Morgan Twins in the Battle Rounds. Neither segment was focused on for more than twenty seconds, but we did see a clip of all four coaches huddled up after the battle, talking about how super-amazing Justin is. Meanwhile, Savannah chooses Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” to turn country for her knockout. Last season, Blake favored Liz Davis over the more talented (in my opinion) Gracia Harrison, just because Harrison sang the non-country “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” for her knockout performance, despite making it as country as possible. So I’m surprised when Blake says Savannah has the most artistry of any contestant he’s ever seen, and calls her his own Bieber. (Compliment, I guess…?) Justin Rivers chooses a country song – “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. At least it’s a country song, but Blake says it’s a big risk for him to sing a woman’s song. Yeah, how dare he! But it’s so artistic for Savannah to channel her inner Biebs. After their performances, in which Savannah did well but Justin killed, all the other coaches prefer Justin. I’m still unsure at this point which way Blake leans – he really seemed to favor Savannah in rehearsals. But it is Justin Rivers, not Justin Bieber, who will move on to the live shows.
Josiah Hawley vs. Jess Kellner (Team Usher). Usher’s first-ever knockout pairing matches up the soulful ex-model, Josiah, and the hairdresser and one of my personal fave underdogs, Jess. Josiah takes on Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Jess chooses “You Give Me Something” by James Morrison, in honor of her relationship with her mother. Both song choices match their respective artists’ voices, but Josiah’s is the more energetic song choice, which might help sway Usher towards saving him. Josiah’s soulful rendition of “Back to Black” is nothing like the powerhouse Bryan Keith version from last season’s live shows; instead, Josiah shows off his smooth tone and his dynamics. While it was her best performance of the competition, Jess’ performance was a little understated but still showed off the prettiness of her voice. Usher did not seem particularly ecstatic with either of their performances, but ultimately chooses Josiah.
Holly Tucker vs. Luke Edgemon (Team Blake). Blake points out the similarities between his next two artists – Holly and Luke both come from gospel backgrounds and both can project their voices with the best of them. Holly chooses “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw, possibly the perfect song for her voice; Luke goes “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, probably the most out-of-left-field song choice of the Knockout Round so far. Holly goes out and kills her song, as everyone expected. Holly has one of the broadest vocal ranges in the competition – even Luke jumped off his corner stool in applause when Holly hit the highest note of the song. It’s Luke’s electronic-funk-R&B version of “Teenage Dream” that gets the coaches arguing. Usher said he and the audience had trouble connecting to his performance, which was true – the song only persuaded a third of the crowd to sway halfheartedly to the beat. Adam and Shakira favored Luke’s unique style. Even well after Blake predictably chooses Holly to advance, Adam is shown telling Blake why “he’s an idiot” for passing over Luke.
Audrey Karrasch vs. Michelle Chamuel (Team Usher). Two more of my favorite artists have to duke it out head-to-head and compete for one spot on Team Usher. Indie girls Audrey and Michelle (“Price Tag” and “I Kissed a Girl” from the blinds, respectively) get some of those magic, different Usher coaching techniques. Usher has Audrey sing right into Usher’s face inches away when rehearsing Lil Wayne’s “How To Love.” She struggles with the higher notes and admits to not being fully confident in herself yet. Usher has Michelle jump rope and do push-ups (the push-ups were Michelle’s own suggestion, Usher reiterates) to simulate how out of breath she might be after bouncing around onstage for a while, as she likes to do. Michelle chooses “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk to celebrate her own, and everyone’s, uniqueness. Sorry to say, Audrey’s performance seems off-key half the time and riddled with nervousness. Michelle’s performance not only was much better (nearly flawless, in my opinion), but also showed she was the more unique personality. Usher kept a straight, somber face throughout Audrey’s performance but smiled at Michelle quite a lot. After some awkward squatting jokes between Shakira and Blake, Usher did what we all expected and picked Michelle Chamuel to advance.
Danielle Bradbery vs. Taylor Beckham (Team Blake). Blake calls his next pairing “so cute”: Danielle vs. Taylor in a battle of which teenager will show more confidence. Danielle picks her first ballad of the competition, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Taylor, working with Blake for the first time, goes with “Russian Roulette” by Rihanna. Blake tells Taylor she has to do better with selling her song, leading me to believe he is once again favoring the more country artist, Danielle. Danielle fits the ballad-singer role perfectly, for “Take the Wheel” at least. Taylor’s performance starts off shaky, and she misses some notes in the beginning and middle of the song. I’m biased, because I like neither Taylor nor Rihanna, and I’ll admit that Taylor’s projection and her runs were impressive. Usher pointed out she had trouble controlling her notes near the beginning, but that Danielle took control the whole way. Blake makes the right move and advances Danielle. (Notice how Danielle hasn’t had to rehash the I-was-teased-for-my-crooked-teeth backstory since the blinds in order to keep advancing.)
C. Perkins vs. Vedo (Team Usher). Usher makes the most predictable pairing of the night by putting together young R&B singers C. Perkins and Vedo. C. Perkins chooses Chris Brown’s “She Ain’t You” and struggles with the highest note. He acknowledges that he knows if he doesn’t hit the high note, everything else up to that point is for naught. Meanwhile, Vedo, in memory and honor of his deceased mother, chooses a less R&B song, Brian Adams’s “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” Perkins’ performance was overall less technically stellar than Vedo’s, and Vedo moved the crowd even more than Perkins did. It was the first ballad Vedo sang, and the fact that he chose Brian Adams instead of R&B probably was the clincher. Usher chooses to continue working with Vedo.
Grace Askew vs. The Swon Brothers (Team Blake). With only one spot left on #TeamBlake for the live shows, Grace Askew and The Swon Brothers get ready for their battle. Grace picks “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Tina Turner to show off her more bluesy, soul side. Blake confirms with her that this is the direction she’s choosing to go from now on, and also begs her to articulate her words better. The Swon Bros. pick “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray. Blake wants cleaner vocals from them as well, but I think he might be leaning towards choosing them over Askew at this point. He had already mentioned how the Swons are the first duo of his to ever win a Battle Round, showing him how different they are. Askew gives a great performance, though. Her voice remains as unique as when we first heard it, and though her guitar playing might have been a distraction, as Usher pointed out, she was stellar. Usher also mentioned he wanted to hear more of younger brother Colton during The Swon Brothers’ performance, but their “Drift Away” was full of energy. Blake completes his all-country team by picking his fellow Okies, The Swon Brothers, who are the first duo since Season One to compete in the live playoffs.
Cathia vs. Ryan Innes (Team Usher). The last pairing of Season Four’s Knockout Round pits Cathia, the Latina stolen from Team Shakira, and Ryan Innes, soul singer and former four-chair turner. Cathia chooses her first English song of the competition, “Mr. Know It All” by Kelly Clarkson. Ryan takes on Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.” Usher helps Cathia and Ryan both with their stage presence, with Ryan specifically about what to do with his hands when he’s not holding an instrument. (Ryan strangely mentions the piano, which we haven’t seen him play yet.) Despite my distaste for Cathia after her battle with Mary Miranda, I liked her performance of “Mr. Know It All.” I felt it was actually Cathia who had problems with where to put her hands, not Innes, but vocally she excelled. I would have no qualms putting her in the live shows if it weren’t for the gorgeous performance of “I Don’t Want to Be” given by Ryan Innes. His rock-soul style mimicked DeGraw but he still made it his own. The coaches seem split. I’m still not a fan, but I can’t say Cathia did not deserve it when Usher picked her over Innes. In past seasons, we’ve had a plethora of straight pop singers clogging up Team Christina Aguilera, and maybe Cathia is the closest thing to that we have this season. But she can also turn around and sing in Spanish any given round.
Ladies and gentlemen, your final sixteen singers on Season Four of The Voice:
#TeamAdam: Amber Carrington, Caroline Glaser, Judith Hill, Sarah Simmons.
#TeamShakira: Garrett Gardner, Kris Thomas, Karina Iglesias, Sasha Allen.
#TeamUsher: Josiah Hawley, Michelle Chamuel, Vedo, Cathia.
#TeamBlake: Justin Rivers, Holly Tucker, Danielle Bradbery, The Swon Brothers.
Which artist or team is your favorite? Are you impressed with Adam’s all-girls team, Blake’s all-country team, or the wide diversity of Usher’s and Shakira’s teams? Let us know in the comments!
Adam Zielonka is an avid writer from New Jersey, who is currently a freshman studying communication and sport management at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. He was named a Hot 500 Contributor for the months of July 2012 and February 2013.