The Voice‘s season 11 battles were pretty predictable, as the coaches seemed to cherry-pick songs to advance their favorites to the next round. The knockouts, however, are shaping up to be a different story altogether. Tonight, a trio of soul singers emerge as the immediate frontrunners when they easily diminish their competitors — with a little help from mentors Tim McGraw and Faith Hill — while another pair of would-be favorites gets sent home in a stunning decision.
Here’s how the knockouts went down in round one.
Team Blake: Josh Gallagher vs. Sundance Head
To kick off the knockouts on a strong note, Blake Shelton paired his team’s most qualified country singers to put on a guaranteed-to-be-good show. Love him or leave him, Josh Gallagher is a talented country artist, and he chooses to go the route of strict interpretation with a song he knows how to replicate better than his own right hand — that is, Brooks and Dunn’s “My Maria” — and turns in a performance that glides along on the octave-hopping melody just as soundly and assuredly as anyone else ever could. He’s the guy who already sounds radio-ready because he’s so similar to so many established artists of his ilk, but there’s still no denying there’s a place for him here.
On the other hand, though, Sundance Head is much more interesting to watch onstage tonight. His supple voice, authenticity, and original take on Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” has vulnerability and detailing that wins the day. Luckily for Josh, Adam’s impressed with his command of those high notes and tamps the steal button for him, counting himself lucky for the add.
Winner: Sundance Head
Steal: Josh Gallagher to Team Adam
Team Alicia: Kylie Rothfield vs. Whitney and Shannon
The surprise of the night happens quickly as harmony sisters Whitney and Shannon duke it out with lady-rocker Kylie Rothfield, who happens to be their closest friend on the show. Whitney and Shannon are at their best together and have proven themselves to be a little shakier and unsettled when apart. For their rendition of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” Alicia Keys wants them to separate several of the notes — and just like the battles, it proves a detriment to their delivery.
Meanwhile, Kylie Rothfield’s interpretation of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” is oozing with intrigue — she opts for the “swampy” slash “nasty” version Tim McGraw and Faith Hill advise her to do — and she arrives as a Melissa Etheridge-style stage chick who can win a crowd over every time. It’s a little breathy and boring at times, but there’s no question she’s the better standalone talent — and a lot of people look to Whitney and Shannon’s battle opponent, Gabriel Violett, as an unfair castoff for the same reason. That said, the sisterly duo had an intangible quality that made them seem like surefire fan favorites in the making, so it’s surprising to not only see them lose, but also fail to score some steals.
Winner: Kylie Rothfield
NEXT: A terrible song selection costs one singer his spot…