The Voice recap: The Knockouts Premiere
Miley Cyrus comes in like a wrecking ball
With Miley Cyrus coming in as a cross-team key advisor for season 10 (and expected to fill a chair in Season 11), she and Christina Aguilera are both ready for The Voice to become the hands-up-playin’-my-song-style party scene it’s meant to be, adding that element of a sismance to the show to balance out all the bro-downing going on between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton (and, on rare occasion, Pharrell Williams).
But boys will be boys, and Adam’s new pink ‘do is auto-fodder for a lot of jocular prodding from his pal, including some inspired comparisons to Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, and parfait. Too bad no one’s paying enough attention to Xtina’s hairstyle to tap into her clear Khaleesi nod because it’s right there, but anyway.
The season’s first of knockouts are, well, knockouts, and three of the four judges feel the steal, meaning only three of the night’s dozen singers fail to advance. Here’s how the round shakes out.
No. 1 (Team Blake): Angie Keilhauer vs. Paxton Ingram
Paxton might be coming in hot with the tough song selection (Adele’s “Hometown Glory”), but when you bring such personality and precision to the stage, there’s just no way to go wrong. His conviction is certainly more impressive to the coaches than what Angie’s working with on the disjointed talk-sing routine she’s chosen (a stop-and-go rendition of Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time”).
Sure, Ang’s got her own unique sense of style, and, to be fair, a lot of her roughest alterations may or may not have been Miley Cyrus’s idea. That might work for a different show, but here her voice (ahem) is completely lost in the translation of her other, more prevalent performance elements — not to mention the poor song choice. Compared to Paxton’s even pitch, her moment lingers as messy and completely disconnected. Blake, with the support of the whole coaching lineup, rightly picks Paxton to advance to the live rounds. His “rich, low, really juicy” tones are just far and above what she’s shown this round.
No. 2 (Team Adam): Owen Danoff vs. Ryan Quinn
As Blake astutely notes, Adam’s choice to put two four-chair-turn contestants against one another was basically his version of begging for the sads. And that’s exactly what he gets after stacking his soulful legacy folk artist Owen Danoff (performing Billy Joel’s “Always a Woman”) against the fan-fave teacher with a heart of gold and the face of an Abercrombie model, Ryan Quinn (singing Train’s “Drops of Jupiter”).
You can’t spell Owen without “own,” and his command of all the edges of his register and effusion of sweetness are purely undeniable. That said, Ryan’s got great control and technical soundness, even if that does come off as a touch karaoke-ish at times, fit with Star Search notes throughout. Going with his gut, though, Adam rolls forward with Owen, who’ll be unstoppable with just a shot of extra confidence. To the surprise of no one, though, Ryan gets a steal bid from Christina, who’s been a fan of his from the blinds and is happy to have a turn with him on her team. If he can find the right song choices — music he can actually connect to on that fundamental level — he’s got a serious chance of being the all-season favorite because voters are gonna eat this dude right up.
Winner: Owen Danoff
Steal: Ryan Quinn to Team Christina
NEXT: A “bonkers” performance earns unanimous praise …
No. 3 (Team Pharrell): Hannah Huston vs. Malik Heard
For Pharrell, choosing the right tune will be the key to victory tonight, and with his duo du jour both going for the big sounds (with Malik Heard hitting Stevie Wonder’s many notes in “Isn’t She Lovely” and Hannah Huston becoming one of the Animals for “The House of the Rising Sun”), he’s interested in finding out who’s the most soulful singer of his group, which…mission accomplished.
While Malik Heard justifies his resurrection from a tight battle scene with his energy and decibel demolishment, he also drops the pitch pretty frequently and sounds a little rougher than we’re used to in the chorus. Meanwhile, H2’s “bonkers” performance is a cut above, hitting every note in the books without a single slip and earning a standing ovation-style praise from all four coaches. Pharrell knows that he’s got the “full package” with this gal — including the fact that she’s “the coolest teacher ever,” per Miley — and he’s not letting her strength go from his squad anytime soon.
Winner: Hannah Huston
No. 4 (Team Blake): Katie Basden vs. Lacy Mandigo
Katie and Lacy both know what it’s like to be out-matched juuuuust enough on this stage, but they also both know the sweet relief that comes when a coach comes in with an “I believe in you” save. And now Lacy knows that last bit twice over, rather than getting to experience the bitter burn of being sent home. Both “rangy singer” sisters make wise song choices (Katie harks back to her spiritual home with Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” while Lacy taps into her deep rock-and-roll roots with The Cranberries’ “Zombie”), and they both slay in different ways.
Katie’s the most immediately impressive vocalist because she’s got such control and refinery that she can’t be relegated to second place with any semblance of honesty, but then again, Lacy’s also got that magnetic “it” factor that keeps people interested and ready to hear some more. Blake follows through on his personal mission to always give it to the best singer of the night — that’d be Katie, hands down — but Lacy’s strength of spirit is enough to get Pharrell (and Adam)’s attention for a steal. With his help, she can be a rock star, he promises. And it’s not just in his head, as her song might suggest.
Winner: Katie Basden
Steal: Lacy Mandigo to Team Pharrell
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
No. 5 (Team Christina): Alisan Porter vs. Daniel Passino
Alisan Porter, our beloved former child star who’s ready to pursue her original professional passion of vocal performance, is a tried and true champ with her cords (Pharrell even calls her “a unicorn”). So, it’s no surprise that when she gets matched up with the uber earnest sing-song artist who puts his physical performance on par with or even above singing, it’s a relatively unbalanced competition.
Alisan’s got achievement built in and was made to sail right through to the live rounds (and beyond, probably). But Dan’s got some serious charisma and enthusiasm for entertainment that makes him worthy of the audience vote, as well. Sure, he’s much more mechanical than her — Alisan’s rendition of “River” by Joni Mitchell straight yanked at all the heartstrings — but he also knows exactly who he is, and he’s made the pitch-perfect song choice with the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Not only do the title and lyrics of the song sync up perfectly with his personality and goals, but he’s also got that popular-choir-boy-with-a-flawless-hair-swoop-who-whips-out-some-funk-at-the-school-dance vibe going on. Pharrell is, like most of us, feelin’ that, and if he hadn’t just doled out his single steal, Dan would be in. (Sadface.)
That’s not to take anything away from Alisan, of course, because, as Blake phrases it, what she’s doing week after week here is “magic,” and tonight was no exception. But Dan might’ve deserved to make it through tonight, too…shrug.
Winner: Alisan Porter
NEXT: How “dare” you let this gal go, Pharrell …
No. 6 (Team Pharrell): Emily Keener and Shalyah Fearing
Emily and Shalyah (pronounced “shall yeah” because she shall make you say “yeah”) are both teenagers, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them belt because they’re both completely seasoned singers.
Emily, who’s just been itching to show Pharrell her guitar skills, finds her true groove in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Meanwhile, Shalyah proves that her perpetual underdog status on this show (she only got one coaching bid during the blinds and barely survived the battles after being scooped up from Team Christina) is a ridiculous joke when she takes us all straight to church by way of Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing.”
Pharrell, who’s got two excellent artists on his hands with this coupling, accepts Adam’s “dare” to make Shalyah available for his sole steal and goes with Emily. But not before he gives his tip of the hat (and we know how much Pharrell loves hats, right?) to her, propping Shalyah for “swinging for the parking lot…[since] the fence wasn’t enough.” Adam couldn’t agree more with that assessment of his shiny new team member.
Winner: Emily Keener
Steal: Shalyah Fearing to Team Adam
- Team Adam: Shalyah Fearing, Brian Nhira, Caroline Burns, Laith Al-Saadi, Katherine Ho, Nate Butler, Jessica Crosbie, and Owen Danoff
- Team Pharrell: Lacy Mandigo, Caity Peters, Nick Hagelin, Abby Celso, Joe Vivona, Emily Keener, Hannah Huston, and Moushumi
- Team Christina: Ryan Quinn, Trey O’Dell, Bryan Bautista, Alisan Porter, Kata Hay, Támar Davis, Joe Maye, and Maya Smith
- Team Blake: Paxton Ingram, Mary Sarah, Adam Wakefield, Brittany Kennell, Peyton Parker, and Katie Basden