Mariah Carey has said goodbye to her American Idol roots and hello to The Voice as she steps into the key adviser role for all four teams in season 15. And as soon as everyone can pick their jaws up off of the floor after seeing her, the contestants are all able to collect some words of wisdom from the living legend, who knows a thing or two about knocking off all the socks with her insane note choices and is not afraid to (kindly) inform someone of their weaker spots.
Unlike the battles, the knockouts allow each of these artists to have a little more say-so on their song choices, since they are going it alone instead of trying to share space with a competitor, and the results are mixed. For some, a little leeway is instrumental in letting them showcase their style, and for others … not so much.
Let’s take a look at who advances through in tonight’s first knockouts round.
Team Adam: Keith Paluso vs. Tyke James
How’s this for a good start? Keith Paluso and Tyke James both have voices with a bit of gravel in them, and they share a love and connected~ to nature and their own spirits. Best of all, they each put it all on the stage to open tonight’s first knockouts round.
Keith’s version of Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” makes it clear that he does still belong in this thing. His soulful snare is sprinkled with some lighter runs and a smoothed out chest voice, and all put together, it makes for one very nice song delivery tonight. Adam Levine and Mariah Carey have asked him to tamp down on reaching the max right away, and indeed, he has followed instructions very nicely; Adam compliments those “delicate” moments he wanted to hear.
Then comes Tyke James with all his natural star power, proving that he, too, is a good student of Coach Levine. After receiving many, many notes from Adam and Mariah during rehearsals, he takes the stage with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and just owns it. He was told to bring some emotion and personality to the piece, and what results is basically a flower-child lullaby, and it’s great. His sweet, gravel voice is nothing short of intoxicating, so Adam can’t let him go, no matter how good Keith is. As he puts it, “Tyke is just a force. He’s got it. Whatever it is, he’s got it.”
Adam tries to steal his own cast-off back, though, and Keith is surprisingly not having it. When given the option to head off to yet another new team with Kelly Clarkson, he takes it. Hey, team-hopping has worked well enough for him so far, hasn’t it?
Winner: Tyke James
Steal: Keith Paluso to Team Kelly.
Team Kelly: Kymberli Joye vs. Zaxai vs. Natasia Greycloud
Well, this is different. For Team Kelly’s first knockout round, she’s got three competitors going head to head (to head), and only two of them will advance to the next round without someone slamming the steal button. The three chosen are Kymberli James, Natasia Greycloud, and Zaxai, all of whom have different takes on the pop-R&B scene.
Kymberli Joye goes first and does what Kymberli Joye does. Her performance of Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey’s “The Middle” is something of a tongue-twister in the first verse, but once she gets to the chorus, it’s easy street for her. From there, she sails along with her roof-pounding upper register and massive mid-voice. Somehow, she sounds even more like Whitney Houston tonight than she did when she did one of the late, great diva’s anthems in an earlier round. Her spot in the next round of this thing is secured from the first note of the chorus.
Natasia Greycloud goes next with her version of the groanfully overdone Chris Stapleton song “Tennessee Whiskey,” and while Kelly is sure she’s going to make Jennifer Hudson jealous with her recruitment of this contestant, that’s … not the case once she hits the stage. While Natasia does have a lot of range and power, her arrangement has just a few too many runs to feel as natural as what Kymberli pulled off. Even so, her gift with the growls and high notes might’ve been enough for the W if Zaxai didn’t come along and blow everyone away right behind her.
Zaxai’s rehearsals might’ve been slow-going, but he brings some undeniable smoothness and groove to the big stage where it counts with his version of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin.'” Adam even has to compliment his “ill” falsetto after he cruises into a few high notes that sound way more authentic and unforced than Natasia’s efforts. Kelly seems to have come into this competition with the intention of advancing both ladies, but she has to change her mind after hearing what Zaxai does with his number. That said, Blake Shelton‘s ready to add some girl power to his team, so he’s happy to steal Natasia, even after teasing that he was saving it for someone else.
Winner #1: Kymberli Joye
Winner #2: Zaxai
Steal: Natasia Greycloud to Team Blake.
Team Jennifer: MacKenzie Thomas vs. Mike Parker
It’s never a great sign when one song performance is abbreviated while the other plays in full in this leg of the competition. So, when Mike Parker’s rendition of “Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)” by The Script is given the trim treatment, you gotta wonder what we’ve missed. What we do hear, though, is him letting nerves get the best of him in rehearsals and then a bit of breathiness in the showcase. He’s still a good singer, but this song has obviously just gotten away from him.
Meanwhile, MacKenzie Thomas has the kind of tones that bring tears to Mariah’s eyes in rehearsals, and while she sounds a bit pitchy in spots there, she’s got it all smoothed out before she hits the big stage with her take on The BeeGees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” She smartly lingers with her softer voice with more richly developed note scales for the first half of the number and produces a gorgeous, gentle melody that leaves plenty of room for her little power punches near the end. The performance is so sugary that it even gives Kelly Clarkson a leg cramp. It’s an easy decision for JHud to make, really.
Winner: MacKenzie Thomas