Taylor Swift was about the same age as Kelly Clarkson’s Voice duo Hello Sunday (14-year-olds Chelsea and Myla) when she launched her music career, so when she served as the guest mentor during Monday’s The Voice Knockout Rounds, she couldn’t help but get emotional. The girls’ rehearsal of Ariana Grande’s mighty and challenging "Almost Is Never Enough" impressed Taylor so much, in fact, that she was moved to actual tears.
“I promise I'm OK in my personal life. This is not from some outside place!” Taylor joked as she dabbed at her eyes and Kelly was compelled to give her a sympathetic hug. “When I started out, I was 10 or 11 years old singing for people, but seeing young performers who so firmly have their musical identity figured out, I was so completely shattered by it. I fully fell apart. It was that good. … Literally, at any age, that would've moved me.”
Hello Sunday, who were practically in tears themselves over meeting their idol, couldn’t believe Taylor’s reaction. But that tender moment seemed to give the young, green singers a certain confidence that had been lacking from their frankly messy previous performances. “It assured us that we could actually move people when we singing,” Myla explained.
Onstage in the ring, Hello Sunday were vastly improved and incredibly focused. Their harmonies gelled in a way they never had before. And so, they wrested an unexpected upset victory from 25-year-old indie-rock singer Alex Guthrie, whose cover of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” was mature, lovely, and genuinely soulful. Thankfully, John Legend stole Alex for his team, and then it was Alex’s time to shed a few happy tears. Hello, Monday!
Below are the other Knockouts results of the night. Tuesday will wrap up the Knockout Rounds, and then it’ll be on to the Playoffs, where it’ll be every man, woman, and child for themselves.
Team Gwen: Destiny Rayne vs. Rose Short
Gwen Stefani explained that she needed only one powerhouse diva for her team lineup, but it was pretty obvious even during rehearsals that that spot belonged to Rose. Taylor was so wowed by Rose’s presence and delivery that she didn’t even know what to do with her face when reacting to Rose’s performance of Jessie J’s perfectly chosen “Big White Room.” In the ring, Rose gave a Grammy-style performance, elegant and majestic. Kelly was so wowed, she jumped out of her red chair and stayed on her feet for the rest of the song.
I thought Destiny’s cover of Demi Lovato’s “Tell Me You Love Me,” sounded actress-y and forced, and Gwen agreed. “You're trying to do such a great job singing that maybe you're just losing who you are a little bit,” Gwen told Destiny. Apparently Destiny wasn’t destined to move on to the Knockouts.
Team Kelly: Kiara Brown vs. Shane Q
Shane has never been in love, which made his song choice, “In Case You didn't Know" by Brett Young, an interesting mental leap for him. But Taylor, the queen of unrequited love songs, gave the shy singer some solid advice about letting his walls down and taping into the confessional, desperate aspect of this weepy country ballad. As a result, Shane gave a convincing performance: vulnerable, multi-layered, and conversational.
Kiara’s cover of Maren Morris’s “The Bones” was modern and fresh, and she was immensely likable, exhibiting what John Legend described as a “peaceful spirit.” During rehearsal, she had some breath-control issues due to nerves (being so close to Taylor spooked her, understandably), but onstage she was confident and passionate. This was a close one, but I would have gone with Kiara, who seemed like more of an artist. I wasn’t necessarily surprised that Kelly went with Shane, but it was a shock that Kiara wasn’t stolen.
Team Blake: Kat Hammock vs. Lauren Hall
Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” turned out to be the perfect choice for Kat’s sweet, dulcet tone. It could have too sweet, too lightweight, too girlish, but by slowing down the song and starting off at the piano (where I wish she’d stayed, actually), Kat turned it into something melancholy and heavier, yet still angelic. John called her performance a “revelation.”
Lauren had been trying out for The Voice for seven years, and so there was an understandable desperation to her performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.” Kelly was generous with her praise, even claiming that Lauren sang it better (um, no), but I felt Lauren let the song get away from her. The break in her voice that Taylor affectionately called a “dolphin squeak” and Blake called her “sweet spot” made her performance, in my opinion, seem try-hard, shouty, and uncontrolled. And her performance certainly wasn’t as interesting or nuanced at Kat’s, which Blake called a “once-in-a-lifetime style.”
Team Legend: Will Breman vs. Zoe Upkins
Zoe’s cover of "Like I'm Gonna Lose You,” by Meghan Trainor and John himself, showcased her strong, clear voice and natural ease onstage, especially for a 16-year-old. It was enough to make Taylor cry all over again! It was easy to see why John had used his one Battle Rounds Save on Zoe. However, this wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen on The Voice before.
Will, however, was a true original. At first I thought his song choice, "I Don't Care" by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, was too on-the-nose (Ed is Will’s biggest influence), but his performance was just so damn quirky and so charismatic. It was my favorite of the night. Even Zoe was enjoying it, smiling and swaying in her corner of the ring. Will is on the autism spectrum, so he related to the awkward lyrics, and Taylor even though his jittery, anxious vibe worked for the tune and was “adorable.” Will truly was the star of this show.
Team Gwen: Royce Lovett vs. Jake Haldenvang
I commend Jake, the only rocker of Season 17, for taking an EDM club banger, “Powerful” by Major Lazer, and transforming it into a stripped-down blues-rock barnstormer. This was unexpectedly sexy and smoldering. I seriously didn’t know Jake had this sort of artistry in him.
Unfortunately, reggae singer Royce had been one of my favorites all season, but Aloe Blacc’s done-to-death “Wake Me Up” was such a pedestrian song choice, and not quite the dramatic and daring stylistic leap that Gwen claimed it was. If Royce was going to do something outside of his reggae wheelhouse, he needed to do something more wow-worthy. Sadly, he sabotaged himself with the wrong song.
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