During the final Voice episode before the show goes live, the remaining singers had just one chance left to impress their coaches. Unfortunately for several of the more unique contestants, the coaches all played it safe this time.
Team Adam’s two remaining country singers, James Dupré and Shelby Brown, faced off in the first Knockout of the night. Well, Shelby considers herself country, but this is actually the first time she’s gotten to perform squarely in that genre. She chooses “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood to show off her chops. (Shelby also first sang this song for her third-grade talent show — and lost. This is her chance to redeem herself from her elementary school defeat.) “Jesus Take the Wheel” is a smart pick that allows her to do just that. Shelby debuts a sweeter, more intimate side to her voice, even though she’s still bringing serious power with her performance.
James says that being on Team Adam forces him to stretch himself as an artist. But his Knockout song, “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” by one Mr. Blake Shelton, isn’t a stretch at all. James might be playing the long game and hoping for a steal from Blake if Adam doesn’t pick him to move forward. But if that’s his angle, James is out of luck: Blake already used his steal. Blake actually remarks that “Sure Be Cool if You Did” is a pretty laid-back choice for the Knockouts — code for kinda boring, especially considering James is up against Shelby. James has a solid sound, but he doesn’t connect with the audience, and he doesn’t, as Rihanna puts it, have a “spark.” Adam picks Shelby to move on.
That means the latest version of Team Adam is complete. He’s taking Keith Semple, Blaine Mitchell, Jordan Smith, Amy Vachal, and Shelby Brown to Lives.
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Next comes an unexpected pairing from Team Pharrell: lovable pipsqueak Siahna Im versus the exuberant Mark Hood. They both perform classic R&B, but these two could not look more different. Mark decides to go old school again for his Knockout and sings Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” He declares he’s trying for a more toned-down approach this time, and I wonder if that’s a wise move at this point. I also wonder if Mark’s stage antics are beginning to distract from his vocals. He updates “Stand By Me” (as much as a 55-year-old song can be freshened up) with riffs and a spin move at the end, but it’s not his most thrilling performance.
Siahna picks a great song to show off her soulful voice: “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. The low key and melancholy tone fit her well, though it’s impossible to imagine any adorable 15-year-old having the life experience to relate to Winehouse’s tortured lyrics. But despite the better song choice, Siahna still falters. She doesn’t hit all her notes, and she doesn’t seem as alive on stage as we’ve seen her in the past. Adam says Siahna is still one of a kind, but Pharrell make a tough call and keeps Mark in the competition.
Gwen then pairs off her two soulful rock singers (as she calls them) Jeffery Austin and Kota Wade. On no planet is Jeffery a rock singer, but he still delivers serious heart to his performance of Adele’s “Turning Tables.” If nothing else, Jeffery has proven he’s more than willing to challenge himself with tough songs: He sang Sam Smith for his audition. He brings his own interpretation to a very well-known record and shows off his knack for clever runs.
Kota, on the other hand, really is a rock singer. She decides to take on Heart’s “Barracuda,” calling it the “ultimate embodiment of female rock and strength.” Rihanna and Gwen both caution Kota that this vocal might be too much for her. But then Kota lets out her full belt, after which no one considers questioning her abilities again. That belt gets used for almost the entire performance. While it’s powerful, it also doesn’t give Kota any room to grow. You’ll never be bored by a Kota Wade performance, and The Voice needs at least one singer who’s bringing that in-your-face energy. But it’s not going to be Kota Wade this season: Gwen decides to keep Jeffery on her team.
NEXT: A Voice hopeful Blake is convinced he’ll hear on the radio