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The Voice coach Gwen Stefani has worked with Sia before — in 2014, when she lent her guest vocals to “My Heart Is Open,” which the Australian hitmaker co-wrote for former Voice coach Adam Levine’s band Maroon 5, and in 2015 on “Start a War,” a rarity that ended up not making Gwen’s third solo album. But during Tuesday’s Knockout Rounds episode, Gwen revealed to her contestant Kyndall Inskeep and guest mentor Taylor Swift that before all that, in 2013, one of Sia’s signature solo songs was actually intended to be a Stefani single.
“This song's crazy, because Sia sent me this song for me to do,” Gwen told Kyndall, referring to “Elastic Heart.” Gwen ultimately decided not to record the triumph-of-the-spirit power-ballad because she understandably thought the “weird, unique song” was “very specific” to Sia’s voice. But interestingly, Gwen decided it was the perfect fit for Kyndall this week.
This wasn’t the first time in Voice history that Gwen had trusted one of her quirkier Team Gwen singers with this particular song. In Season 12, one of her all-time greatest and certainly most weird-and-unique contestants, Hunter Plake, put his own dynamic spin on it. So Kyndall had her work cut out for her, taking on a challenging, octave-straddling empowerment anthem that a) one special contestant had already so exquisitely interpreted and b) an A-list pop star like Gwen Stefani had actually shied away from. But Kyndall, with her textured and elastic voice, was definitely up for the task.
“You know when people passive-aggressively say, ‘That was interesting’? I mean, it legitimately was interesting,” an impressed Taylor marveled during Kyndall’s rehearsal. “I love that you stripped it down. I love the song choice. Your tone is so beautiful, it's crazy. You've got so much going on with your voice.”
Onstage, Kyndall’s magical songbird vocals almost sounded foreign – like Björk, or Robyn, or some kind of fairy princess/wood/nymph/space alien. Or, frankly, like Sia — Kelly Clarkson did warn Kyndall not to choose on-the-nose songs, which would make such comparisons unavoidable. But Kyndall did enough to make the song her own, with the perfect precarious balance of strength and fragility, technical precision and raw emotion. She was very present, very connected, and I think Gwen made the right decision to let her be the one to sing it – even though I’d personally be curious to hear a version by Gwen someday. With all Gwen has been through since 2013, she certainly could connect to the “Elastic Heart” lyric too.
Kyndall of course won her Knockout over Jessie Lawrence, whose cover of Sam Smith’s “Dancing With a Stranger” had a smooth groove but was nothing remarkable. And with the coaches only having one Steal each, Jessie didn’t do enough to stay in the game. And so, another bit the dust, as Sia might say. But — spoiler alert! — one Steal did get used, by Gwen herself. Read on for the rest of Tuesday’s Knockout Rounds results.
Team Legend: Khalea Lynee vs. James Violet
Khalea wasn’t playing when she took on Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” an advanced diva ballad that her coach John Legend called a “barn burner.” The ambitious song choice could’ve proven disastrous for a lesser singer, but the stately and elegant Khalea performed it like a legend, like a Grammy-winner (or certainly like a Voice-winner), with poise and perfect pitch. The audience was going absolutely mad for her, and Kelly told her, “You just made a Celine Dion song sound easy to sing!” John added, “Khalea, you remind me in a lot of ways of Whitney Houston, because she would do this kind of big, broad kind of pop ballad, but she would put just a little gospel on it.” This dynamite lady was the clearly one to beat.
James’s rendition of Post Malone’s “Stay,” however, proved that he deserved to stay. (See what I did there?) It was incredibly Steal-worthy. James had a hushed, earnest delivery that really drew me into the lyrics; he’s clearly a natural-born storyteller. And while Khalea was the superior singer here, James’s performance and overall vibe was much more modern. There seemed be room on the show for both very different contestants.
When James lost, I was hoping he’d be stolen, but unfortunately, his time was up. But he made possibly the classiest Voice exit ever, saying, “There's not really a better person to lose to. Khalea was an honor to work with, and she really pushed me. So, thank you.” Aw. What a guy. He will be missed.
Team Blake: Joana Martinez vs. Ricky Duran
Fifteen-year-old Joana is the same age that Taylor Swift was when she started out, and it was adorable to see how much Joana geeked out in her idol’s presence. Onstage, though, she exuded unflappable confidence. Her powerhouse version of “California Dreamin’” was giving me total Masked Singer vibes, in the best possible way — remember, that Rumer “The Lion” Willis’s mystery performance in the Season 1 Masked Singer previews of this song generated so much buzz, viewers actually thought it might be Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande underneath that gilt headdress. Joana definitely let out a mighty roar this Tuesday.
Ricky was a four-chair standout in the Blinds, and he has a tragic backstory, so I was expecting a lot more guts and heart from his rendition of the Black Crowes’ gospel-rocker story song “She Talks to Angels.” But he lacked the rock ‘n’ roll Southern grit of the Crowes’ Chris Robinson; this performance was too polished, too staid.
Blake Shelton picked Ricky anyway, but thankfully, his gal pal swooped in and stole Joana. Now Gwen finally has the little pop queen she’s always wanted on her team. But honestly, Kyndall is the contestant that could finally get Gwen all the way to the winner’s circle.
WINNER: Ricky / STOLEN: Joana moves to Team Gwen
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