Seven more contestants nailed down spots in The Voice live playoffs as the knockout round came to a close Monday night.
Entering Monday’s show, only one steal remained, and Alicia Keys owned it.
She used it wisely, snagging Stephanie Rice, a singer who turned in one of the night’s best vocals, yet wound up on the losing end of her knockout.
The evening’s other standout performances came from Vanessa Ferguson and Jesse Larson, who advanced for Team Alicia and Team Adam, respectively.
THANK GOODNESS FOR THE SAVE
Stephanie Rice versus Troy Ramey: In perhaps the most stupid coaching move of Season 12, Gwen pairs up these two ready-for-prime-time music vets, ensuring she loses one. Earlier you’ll recall, she matched up her two novices, Brennley Brown and Aaliyah Rose, ensuring she’d keep one. Wow. Now that’s stellar strategy (lol). Anyway, Stephanie is the singer estranged from her parents because she came out as gay. She scored an iTunes hit in the blind audition with Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece.” Troy is a band veterans who has forged out on his own, releasing an EP and four singles since 2015. He turned four chairs in the blind auditions.
The knockout: Stephanie is singing “Safe and Sound.” Great song choice for her voice and her style of music. She has a natural ache in her voice that helps convey the emotion of whatever she’s singing. No vocal histrionics in this performance, and they weren’t needed. A very fine job. Troy is going to change it up by singing Sia’s “Chandelier.” Now that’s what’s called an interesting song choice. Not sure this is as good a fit as Stephanie’s song. Sounded like Troy was really straining on the chorus. But you have to love that growl in his voice. I’ve said it before, I think he’s a singer who could catch fire with voters. All that said, I’d give the win to Stephanie and hope Troy gets stolen.
The verdict: Gwen got it wrong, awarding the win to Troy. And, hey, Adam, is you’re going to ignore the more “impactful” performance, why even have a knockout? Fortunately, Alicia swooped in and stole Stephanie. Which might be to her advantage in the long run anyway. I certainly wouldn’t count on Gwen making the correct decision with her live playoff save if there’s a very young singer on the chopping block.
AT LAST, WE HEAR HER
Lauren Duski versus Andrea Thomas: You just knew Blake would pair his two blonde female country singers against one aother. Lauren is the young woman who comes from a family of dentists, and she’s compiling an impressive track record on the Voice. Her blind audition (“You Were Meant for Me”) was one of the best performing on iTunes. She cracked the iTunes Top 200 again in the battle round match she won over Brennley Brown. Andrea is The Voice’s mystery singer. Her blind audition and her battle round were montaged, making her the only artist we haven’t gotten to watch for an entire performance. She previously sang background for Carrie Underwood.
The knockout: Major victory for Andrea; she doesn’t get montaged this time. And after a bit of a shaky opening, you have to be impressed by the power in her vocals on Faith Hill’s “Cry.” There was, however, a very ill-advised shriek near the end. It would have fit nicely in an Aerosmith tune. In that song … Lauren performed “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss. A more understated performance, but a song well-suited to her voice and a bit more heartfelt. She’s done so well on iTunes compared to everyone else on the show, if I’m Blake, I have trouble letting her go unless she stumbled badly in the knockout. And that was another solid performance.
The verdict: Blake awards the win to Lauren. Andrea is eliminated no sooner than we met her. She deserved more exposure from her Voice experience. She made it to the third round, for crying out loud.
THE COACH GOT IT RIGHT
Aliyah Moulden versus Caroline Sky: Blake matches up two of his youngest artists, and you have to figure Aliyah is the favorite because she’s been oh, so impressive to this point. Just 14 when she auditioned, she turned three chairs, then defeated fellow teen Dawson Coyle in the battle round. Blake stole Caroline after she lost a battle round match with Stephanie Rice. He was also one of the two coaches to turn for her blind audition, at which point Caroline was 16.
The knockout: Aliyah decides to show Blake her versatility by singing “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, but it wasn’t looking like a great idea in rehearsals. But she pulled it together well for the live performance, tossing in a bit of country grit and a nice little lilting ending. Aliyah has a little more star power on stage than most of the younger singers on Season 12. Caroline performed Etta James’ “At Last,” and displayed a big voice and a nice little growl at one point. But it didn’t go nearly as well as Aliyah’s cover.
JChosen versus Brandon Royal: This is a natural pairing, I suppose, but Gwen is going to lose a very talented singer either way. Brandon, from the Virgin Islands, teamed with Davina Leone for one of the best performances during the battle round. He turned two chairs in the blinds. JChosen is the former basketball star who turned four chairs in the blind audition. He wasn’t quite as impressive in the battle round, but advanced over Kenny P.
The knockout: Brandon decides to treat us to some reggae by performing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” You can tell his heart is in the performance and he does a fine job vocally. But I’m not sure that song choice provided the firepower he’s going to need to oust a singer who turned four chairs in the blinds. JChosen performs David Guetta’s “Without You,” dedicating the performance to his mom because she suffered a stroke between his blind audition and the taping of the knockout round. Yep, Brandon’s in trouble. JChosen’s vocal isn’t perfect; he strayed off key a couple of times. But he made a better connection with a better song choice and sounded more than good enough to win that round.
The verdict: Gwen advances JChosen. Brandon is eliminated.
Jack Cassidy versus Vanessa Ferguson: Vanessa was so impressive during the battle round that she toppled four-chair turn recipient Autumn Turner when they performed “Killing Me Softly.” Vanessa turned two chairs in the blinds. Jack is the grandson of Shirley Jones. He and Hunter Plake scored the biggest iTunes hit so far in Season 12 during the battle round, hittin 25 on the chart when they performed “Dancing on My Own.”
The knockout: Jack performs “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors. You have to admire the emotion in his performance. But he had the same problem he’s had in every Voice performance. When he goes big, he tends to lose control of the vocal. Like Jack, Vanessa takes a seat behind the keys. Smart move when singing for Alicia Keys. She’s singing “If I Were Your Woman” by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Now there’s an experienced performer in control of her vocal from start to finish, no matter how much power she was delivering. Heck of an ending two. I’d say Vanessa scored a knockout.
The verdict: Alicia wisely awards the win to Vanessa; Jack is eliminated
Jesse Larson versus Davina Leone: Jesse is the soul singer somewhat unaccustomed to the spotlight because he played in a band called MPLS that featured four singers and a rapper. He also worked with Prince and Judith Hill following her run on The Voice. Davina is a pop singer who developed a big fan base on YouTube, then released a debut album back in 2013. She was stolen by Adam after losing an impressive Team Gwen battle round match to Brandon Royal.
The knockout: Davina sings Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” You have to admire her desire to change up the song. But other than the ramped-up ending, I just was not a big fan of that performance. Perhaps because I remember when Melanie Martinez changed up the same song, quite brilliantly, back in Season 3. Then Jesse takes the stage to perform The Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Damn. Is he joking about not being used to the spotlight? That was one of the best, most blistering knockout performances yet. Both from a vocal and guitar standpoint. After that performance, he’d better advance.
The verdict: Adam moves Jesse on to the knockout round. Davina is eliminated.
Mark Isaiah versus Malik Davage: Mark is the singer from Pennsylvania who’s gotten praise for his current pop sound. He turned two chairs in the blinds, then defeated Gaby Borromeo in the battle round. Malik has one of the biggest social media followings on the show. Hailing from a rough section of D.C., he turned one chair in the blinds, but defeated three-chair turn recipient Kawan Debose in the battle round.
The knockout: The match was montaged, but The Voice — learning from 11 years of mistakes, posted the performances online. Malik sings “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson. Yikes. The entire first verse sounded off key. Okay, The Voice probably did Malik a huge favor by montaging that vocal. Ouch. Mark sings Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” Mark’s performance is mostly on key, which means he should win. But he didn’t look particularly comfortable in that performance either.
The verdict: Adam advances Mark. Malik is eliminated.