‘The Voice’ Knockouts, Pt. 1: Frontrunners & Favorites Fall Hard

Lyndsey Parker
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This week, "The Voice" introduced yet another new Season 3 twist, the Knockout Rounds. Duh-duh-duh-dummmmm. Surely no two words have ever struck so much cold fear straight into any "Voice" contender's heart--or "Voice" blogger's heart, for that matter. Why? Because at the start of Monday's episode, there were 40 singers standing...but by Tuesday, only 20 of them (five from each team) would be moving on to the live shows.

But would they be the right singers? Well, yes and no, based on a few of the controversial outcomes of the Knockouts between Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green's contestants, who sang on Monday. Some of the frontrunners of the season did make it through, but a few others shockingly did not--and while sometimes Adam and Cee Lo's decisions to go with unexpected underdog contestants were surprising in a good way, there were other times when the coaches made absolutely the wrong calls.

Ugh. Why can't the Knockout Rounds have Steals, too?

So here's how it all went down: At first, the Knockout Rounds didn't seem all that different from the Battle Rounds of the past three weeks, since this newest phase of the competition also pitted contestants from the same team against each other in high-stakes sing-offs. But this time, the contestants sang solo, performing songs of their own choice, and they didn't find out who they were singing against until the very last minute. This led to some TV drama usually only seen on rival show "The X Factor"--as contestants awkwardly watched from the wings, or even more awkwardly sat squirming on stools on the stage while their respective Knockout Round opponents sang only a few feet away.

And that's not where the drama ended, of course. There was almost as much at stake for the coaches as there was for the contestants, since--in another new twist--this season the coaches are not guaranteed representation in the finale. (Once the competition gets down to the top 12, just the top vote-getters will get through, regardless of team affiliation. Somewhere out there, Season 2's totally robbed Jamar Rogers is punching a wall right now. Or I'll just punch my own wall on his behalf.) So anyway, the coaches had to choose more wisely than ever before, to ensure that they would have strong teams going forward.

But, as I have already mentioned in the above paragraphs, not all of Adam and Cee Lo's choices were so wise. Here's what happened on Monday night:


Joeslyn Rivera vs. Kayla Navarez
Little 17-year-old Joeslyn picked a very challenging song, Beyonce's key-jumping "Love On Top," and while I thought she sounded a little strained, I think just the pure gumption and competitive spirit she showed with her ambitious song choice impressed Adam before she sang a single note, strained or not. I thought Kayla's song selection, "Shark In The Water" by British soul star VV Brown, was interesting as well, and I wondered if Adam would be more loyal to Kayla (he fought for her during the Blind Auditions, while Joeslyn was a new recruit, one of his Steals from the Battle Rounds). But "Shark In The Water" didn't allow Kayla to flaunt her vocal strengths the way "Love On Top" did for Joeslyn, and so Joeslyn was rewarded for her risk-taking, while Kayla was punished for "playing it safe." This was a shame--I thought Kayla had a lot of potential, and I knew from her "We better win this!" remark to Adam earlier this season that she too possessed plenty of ambition and fire. But I understood Adam's decision here. Song choice is everything sometimes.

Joe Kirkland vs. Bryan Keith
This outcome was the first of the night that really saddened me. Emo-rocker Joe had seemed like one to watch back in the Blind Auditions, but after his Battle Round wasn't shown in full, he started to look like fodder instead. And then this Monday, when Adam announced that Joe would be singing against Bryan--a guy who once inspired all four chairs to turn around during the Blind Auditions--I started to think Joe's fodder fate was truly sealed. But THEN Joe did a feisty, rawkin', and altogether awesome cover of Taylor Swift's "Mean," and in spite of--or maybe because of--the look of utter confusion on Blake Shelton's face, I thought he had a real shot. I especially thought Joe had a shot after Bryan bleated a boring and bland rendition of the Robin Hood sapfest "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" that even Adam admitted was a disappointment. Meanwhile, Adam said Joe's performance had "surpassed expectations." And then...Adam picked Bryan anyway. Booooooo. I honestly think Adam had his mind made up early on, and Joe was therefore doomed no matter what. Talk about being mean, Adam!

Amanda Brown vs. Michelle Brooks-Thompson
This one was no contest, as far as I was concerned: Amanda was the clear winner here, even if a couple of Adam's fellow coaches called this one for Michelle. Amanda's performance of Grace Potter's "Paris (Ooh La La)" was pure rock 'n' roll sizzle (even rivaling Jennel Garcia's memorable version on "The X Factor"), and she totally crushed it. Yes, Michelle was solid on Jennifer Hudson's "Spotlight," but her performance was staid and old-fashioned, and she didn't really bring anything new to the song. Adam saw more "original artist" potential in Amanda, and he made his decision accordingly. This time, Adam was right on.

Loren Allred vs. Nicole Nelson
This outcome was definitely a surprise, though not a bad one. And perhaps the most surprised person of all was Nicole, who had spent much of this season bragging about her years of professional experience and had clearly assumed she was a shoo-in. At first, I could see why Nicole may have jumped to such a conclusion: Wedding singer Loren had received almost no screentime this season (neither her audition nor her battle were shown in full), so she really did seem about as fodder-y as it gets. But Loren's Knockout performance of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" was unexpectedly strong, and it was just a little less fuddy-duddy than Nicole's "If I Ain't Got You" cabaret act. (Ironically, it was Nicole who seemed like a wedding singer tonight.) So Adam went with Loren, while Nicole's eye popped out of her skull like an old Warner Bros. cartoon and she practically silent-screamed the word "wow." I was shocked too--but mostly shocked that "The Voice's" editors had kept Loren hidden from viewers for all these weeks. Why didn't Loren get more screentime before this?

Melanie Martinez vs. Sam James
There was perhaps no more mismatched sing-off of the episode than this: the Cruella DeVille-haired, Whoville-hairbowed indie girl doing a coffeehouse version of electropopper La Roux's "Bulletproof," up against the blue-eyed soulman/everyman doing Marc Cohn's soft-rock standard "Walking In Memphis." Some would probably argue that Sam possessed the technically stronger voice of the two, but there was nothing unique about his performance, while Melanie was the very definition of unique--like, look up "unique" in the dictionary and you'll probably see an illustration of Melanie with a tambourine between her feet and a charming gap between her teeth. I was a little worried for her--Adam has been known to make some odd and annoying decisions before--but thankfully, Adam went with Melanie. Melanie, with her feathery and breathy voice, will certainly have a challenge ahead of her on the live shows, as she competes alongside so many traditional powerhouse singers...but I am certainly looking forward to seeing what she brings to the competition. And I hope she brings her tambourine.


Avery Wilson vs. Cody Belew
This was probably THE shocker verdict of the night. Dancing R&B sensation Avery came into this competition as one of the top frontrunners, so when I found out he was singing Chris Brown's "Yeah 3x" against quirky Southern showman Cody--who had opted to sing a Jack White-inspired version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene"--I sadly assumed my boy Cody was a goner. I just couldn't imagine the amazing Avery not making it to the live rounds. But then...Avery was not so amazing after all. He unfortunately overdid it with all his dancing, which compromised his vocals and reminded us all why so many dancing pop stars choose to lip-synch. By the end of the song, Avery was practically huffing and puffing like a pack-a-day smoker, and he'd definitely lost some of his mojo. Conversely, Cody only upped his mojo during "Jolene," his most fantastic performance to date. He toned down his comedy act just enough, while still bringing the swag and "a little bit of bam-bam," and his voice was so on point. I still assumed Cee Lo had his mind made up already and would go with Avery anyway, but thankfully, Cee Lo seemed to base his decision on this specific sing-off...and he chose Cody! I was dismayed to see someone with as much potential as Avery leave so soon--I really did think, not too long ago, that he could win this whole thing--but Cody definitely earned this victory, and I was delighted for him. And I am so excited to see him bring his bam-bam to the live shows.

MacKenzie Bourg vs. Daniel Rosa
This wasn't really a sing-off. It was more like a cute-off, featuring two of Team Cee Lo's cuddliest, most lovable boys. But in the end, this wasn't much of a contest, either. MacKenzie may have taken a few too many artistic liberties during his cover of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (at times, he really rendered the song unrecognizable), but at least he tried to do something different, and he exuded a natural boyish charisma. Meanwhile, Daniel was his usual bundle-of-nerves-wrapped-in-a-sweater during his cover of Taylor Swift's "Back To December." (Adam praised Daniel's "new confidence," but I didn't see any evidence of that.) Daniel's ongoing insecurity issues clearly proved he was not ready to perform on live television for millions of viewers and millions of votes, and so MacKenzie prevailed. This was the right decision. Daniel should have never advanced in the Battle Rounds over Alexis Marceaux in the first place, anyway.

Trevin Hunte vs. Terisa Griffin
This was an emotional sing-off, between 18-year-old Trevin and the woman he looked up to "like a mother," 42-year-old Terisa. Trevin was in tears the moment he found out he had to compete against Terisa, but really it should have been Terisa doing the crying, since it seemed highly unlikely that she would emerge from this sing-off victorious. Terisa delivered a solid performance of Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You," but even though Trevin seemed to hold back during his "Against All Odds" performance (Cee Lo even accused him of "bowing out"), there was still no denying his superior vocal power. The sobbing Trevin seemed more upset than Terisa did when he found out she'd been cut, but Terisa actually made one of the classiest exits in "Voice" history, stating: "This is not bittersweet. It is absolutely sweet, because I had the opportunity to mentor and lose to my baby Trevin." Aw. I wish Terisa well, and commend her fabulous attitude (Nicole Nelson could learn a thing or two about sportswomanship from Terisa), but this was the right outcome here. Terisa knew that. I think maybe the only person who didn't know it was Trevin himself.

Mycle Wastman vs. Nicholas David
This was perhaps the most evenly matched sing-off of the night, genre-wise, between Team Cee Lo's two throwback '70s soulmen. However, Mycle's performance of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me," while well-sung, wasn't any different from the jillions of other performances of this singing-show staple that we've all seen over the years. It was nothing special, really, and Cee Lo called it "by the numbers." (Ouch.) Nicholas was infinitely more interesting when he put his Mellow Gold touch on Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On." Cee Lo therefore called Nicholas a "natural mystic" and sent him through. Now I am just hoping that, despite Nicholas's own well-known teetotalism, this groovy yacht-rocker croons "The Piña Colada Song" on the live shows.

Caitlin Michele vs. Diego Val
Aside from Avery vs. Cody, this was the Knockout that shocked me the most, and definitely the one that left me the most upset. Actually, the moment Cee Lo announced that this pairing was even taking place, I was upset, since Caitlin and Diego had always been two of my personal favorite Team Cee Lo members, and I dreaded the prospect of either of them leaving the show so soon. "This one's gonna hurt," I thought to myself. But I didn't know just how much. While Diego gave it his all during his performance of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," I thought he pushed it too hard and half-screamed the song, losing the melody along the way. Meanwhile, though Caitlin's vocals on Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" were a bit Amy Lee-soundalike, I thought she nailed the VERY difficult song and definitely gave a stronger performance than Diego. This seemed like a no-brainer decision to me...but then, Cee Lo picked Diego, sending home one of my most beloved contestants of the entire season, Caitlin. "I don't know what the hell you were thinking," muttered Adam. Neither did I. As much I dig Diego, I still think Cee Lo made the wrong decision here.

So there you have it. Team Adam now consists of Joeslyn Rivera, Bryan Keith, Amanda Brown, Loren Allred, and Melanie Martinez, while interestingly (considering that Cee Lo is such a self-declared "Ladykiller"), Team Cee Lo features the all-male lineup of Cody Belew, MacKenzie Bourg, Trevin Hunte, Nicholas David, and Diego Val. I am sad that Kayla Navarez, Joe Kirkland, Avery Wilson, and especially Caitlin Michele aren't somewhere in that mix, but I better prepare myself for even more drama and disappointment on Tuesday, when the Knockouts begin all over again for Team Blake and Team Xtina. See you then.

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