'The Voice' contestant gives strangely smiley performance of one of the saddest songs of all time

It was unclear if Lila Forde knew the backstory to James Taylor's "Fire and Rain," or had even bothered to pay attention to the lyrics.

Lila Forde performs
Lila Forde performs "Fire and Rain" during 'The Voice' Season 24 Knockout Rounds. (NBC)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Voice Season 24 Knockout Rounds continued apace Monday, and the episode was packed with twists and turns and Saves and Steals. In fact, a whopping five Steals were used by the night’s end, and during the most dramatic Knockout, which coach Niall Horan declared the best he’d ever seen on The Voice, all three contestants made it through.

It was an exciting episode, for sure. But things felt a little off during Monday’s first Knockout, between Team Legend’s soul singers Deejay Young and Stee and folk songstress Lila Forde (which, spoiler alert, ended with Gwen Stefani stealing Stee, whom she deemed “flawless”). Eventual winner Lila warbled one of guest Mega-Mentor Wynonna Judd and coach Reba McEntire’s all-time favorite songs, “Fire and Rain,” and she approached James Taylor’s five-hanky weeper with entirely the wrong vibe.

Lila did sound lovely, showcasing what Wynonna called a “classic voice.” (“I need your voice in my life!” Wynonna even raved at one point.) My gripe was not with Lila’s vocals, but with her presentation: She was smiling, mugging, preening and even giggling throughout her rendition of one of the saddest songs of all time, which James Taylor wrote during one of the lowest periods of his life.

The 1970 Sweet Baby James classic was in fact inspired by Taylor’s childhood friend Suzanne Schnerr’s death by suicide, as well as by his own struggles with addiction, depression and sudden fame. As I watched Lila goof off onstage, I actually wondered if she knew the song’s backstory (Songfacts.com is your friend, Lila), or if she’d even bothered to pay attention to the lyrics at all.

Lila Forde inexplicably breaks into laughter while singing James Taylor's
Lila Forde inexplicably breaks into laughter while singing James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" on 'The Voice' Season 24. (NBC)

But the coaches, despite mentioning the importance of “storytelling” so often that it should be the new Voice drinking game, oddly didn’t criticize or even mention Lila’s seeming disconnect with Taylor’s anguished lyrics; instead, they just focused on her impeccable vocal technique. The “thoroughly impressed” John praised Lila’s “creative” “unexpected riffs”; Niall described her tone as “perfection”; and Reba said Lila “sang the crap” out of the song.

As for Lila’s opponents, John had been concerned that both Deejay and Stee — the former warbling “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” by Mint Condition, the latter doing Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings” — were ad-libbing too much. He’d specifically warned that Stee’s performance needed more “structure.” Wynonna thought Deejay’s “too much of a good thing” approach was “great” and Reba surprisingly called him “dope,” and I enjoyed his knee-dropping showmanship — but his vocals were all over the place. Stee delivered the stronger vocal, but he wasn’t quite as exciting to watch.

So eventually, John chose Lila. Hopefully as she moves on to Playoffs, he will do a better job of coaching her when it comes to lyrical interpretation. In the meantime, these were other Knockout Rounds from Monday night:

TEAM GWEN: Jason Arcilla vs. Jenna Marquis vs. BIAS

Gwen called alt-country dynamo BIAS, who chose to sing Chris Stapleton’s “You Should Probably Leave” for this round, “probably the most original person on the show.” And she and/or The Voice’s producers were clearly biased towards BIAS, because his rehearsal and performance comprised the only footage from this three-way Knockout that actually made it to air. BIAS’s opponents’ names weren’t even mentioned — I eventually figured out with some internet sleuthing and squinting at the postage-stamp-sized cast photos on the NBC website that they were Jason and Jenna — but apparently Gwen most definitely thought they should leave. We’ll just never know why.

That being said, going by what I’ve seen from BIAS so far this season (only a snippet of his Stapleton cover ran this week), I think Gwen made the right decision.


TEAM NIALL: Noah Spencer vs. Huntley vs. Claudia B.

Noah sang the SteelDrivers’ “Where Rainbows Never Die,” and while he was perfectly pleasant, even a bit Everly Brotherly at times, and guest mentors Dan + Shay actually thought Noah could be a “sleeper” contestant, it all felt too coffeehouse for me. Claudia crooned Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why,” a staple at her regular Nashville gigs, and while her vocal was supple and sublime — Wynonna called her a “singer’s singer” — her jazzy presentation felt a bit too piano-bar. And it was perhaps too sophisticated to connect with mainstream TV viewers.

Very conversely, scenery-chewing rock belter Huntley hungrily bit into Bon Jovi’s very mainstream “Wanted Dead or Alive,” seemingly on a mission to rock the million or so faces watching at home. His face-melting growl and “in-your-face” personality could become polarizing (despite Niall once predicting that Huntley could win the entire season), but he was fearless, he stood out, and he performed an anthem that most Americans (except for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy) know and adore.

Niall claimed he had “zero idea” regarding who he would or should pick. But as it turned out, all three singers stayed — which had been Niall’s wish all along. Strategy-wise, Niall made the wise decision to bring “consistent” Southern rocker Huntley to the viewer-voted Live Playoffs, but he also saved Claudia (despite jazzbo John, Claudia’s original coach, trying to steal her back). And then both John and Reba tried to steal Noah, with Reba prevailing. This was a win-win-win situation — except for John, that is.

WINNER: Huntley / SAVED: Claudia B. stays on Team Niall / STOLEN: Noah Spencer moves to Team Reba

TEAM REBA: Ms. Monét vs Rachele Nguyen vs. Ruby Leigh

When Wynonna found out that 16-year-old Ruby had auditioned with “I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart,” she gasped, “I like Ruby already!” And Ruby did seem to have the advantage here, being the only country singer among these three contenders. Once Wynonna heard Ruby do LeAnn Rimes’s Billy Mack-penned “Blue,” which showcased the old-souled teen's yodeling skills, she even compared Ruby to the almighty Patsy Cline and said Ruby was “unique in a way that country music needs.” Both Niall and John later said Ruby seemed to hail from “a different planet.”

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Rachele, a pop singer by trade, was smart to go country — albeit in a more new-school way, doing an unexpectedly charming and winsome version of Maddie & Tae’s “Die From a Broken Heart” that showed she had the potential to be Reba’s most versatile team player. Reba was astounded by Rachele’s growth and called her “a little sponge.”

That left 50-year-old diva Ms. Monét as this Knockout’s outlier, belting the Emotions’ 1977 disco/R&B classic “Best of My Love.” She delivered the technically strongest powerhouse vocal (Niall used the word “perfection” again) and most vivacious performance (John called it a “tour de force”), but it was way too safe and old-fashioned a song choice. Ms. Monét did nothing to modernize the tune, so her performance just felt too cruise ship/wedding band/hotel lounge.

“No matter what happens, you are all three winners,” assured Reba — before unsurprisingly choosing Ruby. Ruby is the most original singer of this season (yes, sorry Gwen, even more than BIAS), so she’ll probably have a clear lane leading from the playoffs straight to the finals.

WINNER: Ruby Leigh

TEAM GWEN: Kristen Brown vs. CORii vs. Kara Tenae

During rehearsals, Gwen thought CORii was turning Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” into too much of a pop bop (John later said the alt-rock song didn’t quite “match” CORii’s style), and Wynonna thought CORii seemed tense. Onstage, CORii still appeared to be wound tight and trying too hard, but she exhibited a new swagger and edge that I did appreciate.

Kara displayed even more attitude doing JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out),” but unlike CORii, she made it all look so easy. Heeding Wynonna’s advice to dig deep and get down ‘n’ dirty, Kara took inspiration from a past four-year toxic relationship and brought all the woman-scorned energy that this feisty breakup ballad required.

Kristen’s cover of Martina McBride’s “This One’s for the Girls” fell a bit flat following two such high-energy performances — “It’s hard to sing soft after [others] singing loud,” Reba said of this “gutsy choice” — but there were some nice highlights during her own women’s anthem. Kristen even used an unplanned crack in her voice to nice effect; John claimed she’d “lost her way” due to being admittedly overcome with emotion, but I thought her rawness and vulnerability worked in the moment.

In the end, though, the most “believable” singer, Kara, won; this outcome had been obvious as soon as Gwen, a woman who’s famously drawn from her own rocky romances for musical inspo, whooped in sisterly approval during “Leave (Get Out)” and gave Kara a standing ovation. All was not lost for Kristen, however, when — in his third steal attempt of the night — John finally got his way.

WINNER: Kara Tenae / STOLEN: Kristen Brown moves to Team Legend

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

Follow Lyndsey on Facebook, X, Instagram, Amazon

This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission.