Season 12's Knockout Round began on The Voice Monday night (April 3), with artists choosing their own songs as they went head-to-head with their fellow teammates. Coaches Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine all had to make careful choices as to who would advance to the Line Playoffs, when voting officially switches over to viewers' control. The coaches only had one steal each for this round. Whereas there's usually a celebrity key advisor for the Knockout Round, this season, artists just worked in depth with their coaches.
First up were Chris Blue and Quizz Swanigan from Team Alicia. Blue decided to sing "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder. The song fit his soul-pop sound. Keys worked with him on really focusing on the vocals and not overdoing it. In his performance, he put on a great show, working the stage with his dance moves and showing off his pipes. He showcased his strengths effortlessly.
Swanigan chose to sing "Chains" by Nick Jonas, which was a great song choice. At just 13 years old, Swanigan is the youngest artist this season. He has a similar pop-soul sound as Blue, and he brought smooth dance moves to his performance just like his teammate. Levine said that Swanigan had to work the hardest, but he praised the young artist. Shelton said that Blue could win the whole competition. Keys was impressed with both of her artists, but she chose Blue. Stefani swooped in at the last second to scoop up Swanigan for Team Gwen.
The next Knockout pairing was Autumn Turner and Hanna Eyre from Team Adam. Turner was on Team Alicia prior to being stolen by Levine. She decided to sing "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, saying that her genre is a little bit of soul and a little bit of R&B. Levine told her to take out some of the growling and just really focus on putting power behind the vocals. In her performance, Turner proved powerful and magnetic.
Eyre chose to sing "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis, noting that is was the most emotional song she had sung on the show so far. Levine worked on her with the song, which is vocally simple, so 15-year-old Eyre would have to find the dynamics and places to really have fun with it. The emotional component would also be important. She gave a solid performance and, most importantly, showed a lot of growth. Shelton praised her control and range, but he added that Turner did extremely well on an "untouchable" song. Stefani thought Eyre had the better song choice, saying that she wished Turner would have sung something more like what she would put on her eventual album. Levine said that he was basing his decision on what he felt like he couldn't be without, which apparently meant keeping Eyre on his team. Turner went home, which was one of the night's biggest upsets.
Stefani paired alternative-rock artists Hunter Plake and Johnny Gates for the next Knockout. Plake chose to sing "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner, citing his dad as his influence for this song choice. His coach didn't want him to rewrite the hit too much, but she also encouraged him to bring his personality to it. Plake played keyboard in his performance and brought a delicateness to the song, giving a layered, emotional performance. It was his personal best of the season.
Gates chose "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga as his Knockout song, putting down his guitar to really focus on his vocals. He said he identified with the message of the song. Stefani told him to "live this lyric" instead of getting too in his head. Gates sounded good in his performance, but he looked a little awkward without his guitar, unsure of what to do with his hands and how to move on stage. It wasn't a very memorable performance. Keys praised Plake's ability to create intimacy on the stage and found Gates' stage movement endearing. She even said she'd choose Gates as the winner. Stefani chose Plake, which was the right decision. Gates went home.
Shelton paired country artist Casi Joy and pop artist Felicia Temple for the next Knockout. Joy said she was excited to sing something more modern-pop, choosing "My Church" by Maren Morris. Shelton said that the song choice showcased the fact that she is an edgier country artist. Shelton worked with her on some of the technical aspects of the song. In her Knockout performance, Joy played guitar and delivered fun, powerful vocals. It was a smooth and energetic country performance, and she made it look easy.
Temple, who Shelton stole last round, chose to sing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, who served as a mentor during the Battle Round. It's a huge song, and Shelton warned her against running out of gas, pushing her to work on breath control. Temple felt like she needed to prove herself as a new member of Team Blake. Even though she was singing such a familiar hit, Temple pulled it off, dazzling with her confidence and range. Stefani and Levine were both impressed by how she tackled such a big song. But Stefani also noted that she got a strong sense of who Joy is as an artist from her performance. Shelton regretted pairing the two artists together. He chose Joy as the winner, and Temple unfortunately went home.
Johnny Hayes and Josh West from Team Adam were up next. Levine said he wanted to see who could outdo who with this pairing. Hayes chose to sing "Statesboro Blues," saying that with blues songs he sometimes gets lazy with his enunciation, but Levine worked with him on that. Levine also pushed him to throw caution to the wind. In his final performance, Hayes was charismatic and sounded great. It was an impressive blues performance, and he added grit to his powerhouse vocals.
West picked "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas, explaining that he wanted to show people who he really is as a vocalist. Levine cautioned him against being on level 11 the whole time. To make the song really work, he'd have to build the momentum and not over-sing it. In his rehearsal, it sounded like he was straining, but he struggled less in his performance. He showcased impressive range and performing abilities. Shelton praised the edginess in Hayes' voice as well as his stage presence. But he also said West's vocals jumped to a new level entirely. Keys loved Hayes' energy but also said she was taken by the fact that West didn't hold back at all. Levine chose West as the winner.
In the final Knockout of the night, Keys paired Ashley Levin with Lilli Passero, saying that both have a hybrid approach to the kind of music they sing. Levin chose to sing "Fancy" by Reba McEntire, saying the soul-country vibe is totally her. In her final performance, Levin looked confident and hit her vocals with ease. She tackled the complex song with confidence.
Passero chose to sing "Tears Dry On Their Own" by Amy Winehouse, tapping into some of her jazz inclinations. Keys asked Passero what the song meant to her, pushing her to connect with the lyrics by breaking down each line and figuring out how she relates to it. Passero brought the emotion Keys was looking for in her final performance. She demonstrated her unique style, giving a taste of the kind of artist she wants to be. Stefani described Levin's song as familiar and seasoned. Levine said he would go with Passero, who he said could still be the season's winner. Shelton agreed that he would choose Passero. Keys struggled with her decision, but she went with Levin, which was very surprising. Less surprising was the fact that Levine and Shelton both tried to steal Passero. She joined Team Adam.
The Knockouts continue tomorrow night on NBC. What did you think of tonight's decisions?
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.