The Voice recap: Mega-Mentor Taylor Swift arrives for the Knockouts
It feels like the Battles have flown by, no? Something about soaring harmonies and competitors coming together to work as a team really warms my heart, even when it’s done over several consecutive weeks. Alas, it is the end of the ride. Blake Shelton is the only coach with a “steal” left to use, and there are only five pairings we’ve yet to see. It’s time to put this round of the competition to bed and get started on the Knockouts. And you know the mega-mentor who is coming to hang out for the Knockouts don’t you, lover?
It’s Taylor Swift. That was a Taylor Swift joke. Anyway, the final Battles await!
Team Gwen: Caroline Reilly vs Jake HaldenVang
Song: “Just Like a Pill” by Pink
Things that make sense: Gwen pairing up her two rockers, 16-year-old Caroline, and guy who possibly time traveled from the 1970s, Jake HaldenVang. Things that don’t make sense: Out of all the rock songs in all of history, she gives these two gritty rockers a very clearly pop-rock song. Nothing against Pink, or this song, which demands to be belted out no matter where you are when it’s on, even in the frozen food section of Trader Joe’s while deciding how many cauliflower gnocchi packages is too many (probably five). The choice does, at least, level the playing field a bit. Otherwise, Jake would’ve run away with this one. As it is, Caroline’s battling some confidence issues, but at least she feels somewhat comfortable with the song. Both start out a little rocky at the top of the song but pull themselves together. Jake, with his traditional rock voice, steals the show — even without his guitar. Even Kelly admits there’s no one on this show like Jake, there’s no one on the radio like Jake. How can Coach Gwen Stefani not pick him?
Winner: Jake HaldenVang!
Steals & Saves: Blake is the only one in play here, and he doesn’t bite.
Team Legend: Mendeleyev vs. Preston C. Hall
Song: “Fire & Rain” by James Taylor
Both baritones and both four chair turns, John Legend is really giving himself a tough task by pairing Mendeleyev, handsome hippie, and Preston C. Hall, 15-year-old lover of old standards, together. He gives them a James Taylor song, much more in Mendeleyev’s wheelhouse, but both John and his advisor Usher aren’t swayed either way after rehearsals. In fact, Usher tells John that he paired up two keepers. What a dummy! Both sound great — but never better than when harmonizing. Although most of the other coaches pick Preston as their winner due to his versatility and range, there’s something about Mendeleyev’s voice that will keep me up at night. Like, in a good way. The tone! Give me those low notes, forever and always. In the end, John is most impressed with Preston’s poise and control. He’s so young and feels like untapped potential.
Winner: Preston C. Hall!
Steals & Saves: Blake remains unmoved.
Before we get to the final Battle of the competition, we speed through Blake Shelton’s last Battle, in which Ricky Braddy defeats Jordan Chase, and Gwen Stefani cuts Brennen Henson in order to keep someone she’s curious about: Calvin Lockett.
Team Kelly: Hello Sunday vs. Lauren Hall
Song: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus
Myla and Chelsea from Hello Sunday are both adorable and killers on the mic. Myla brings the full voice, Chelsea has the rasp, and they sound like they’ve been singing together their entire lives. Which, they basically have. They are only 13 and 14! Lauren might not have the bubbly energy of the duo, but she has both rasp and power in her vocals, plus, her experience brings a more technical performance as well as some real emotions to draw on. Remember, Lauren’s the one who has auditioned for The Voice seven times. Both vocal performances are great — this is an excellent song choice for this pairing — but Lauren definitely has the upper hand with the shading between power and vulnerability. Still, Hello Sunday’s youthful exuberance and potential for growth in this competition makes them tempting to keep around. Kelly seems truly torn (even though we all know this is the last Battle and Blake has a ‘steal’ to use, but still! The drama!)
Winner: Hello Sunday!
Steals & Saves: Lauren Hall is an excellent pickup for Team Blake.
And that’s all she wrote on the Battles. Actually, she wrote one more thing: A quick recap of where our teams stand before we head into the Knockouts, for anyone who might require a refresher. There’s a lot going on! Here are your teams post-Battles:
Team Blake: Cali Wilson, Joana Martinez, Kat Hammock, Marina Chello (by Save!), Ricky Braddy, Ricky Duran, Zach Bridges, Lauren Hall (by Steal!)
Team Gwen: Calvin Lockett, Destiny Rayne (by Steal!), Jake HaldenVang, Jessie Lawrence (by Save!), Kyndal Inskeep, Myracle Holloway, Rose Short, Royce Lovett
Team Kelly: Alex Guthrie, Damali, Gracee Shriver, Hello Sunday, Jake Hoot, Kiara Brown (by Steal!), Melinda Rodriguez (by Save!), Shane Q
Team Legend: James Violet (by Steal!), Katie Kadan, Khalea Lynee, Marybeth Byrd, Max Boyle, Preston C. Howell, Will Breman, Zoe Upkins (by Save!)
And now, welcome to New York. Er, I mean, The Knockouts, with your Mega-Mentor Taylor Swift. Regardless of whether you’re a Swifty or not, you have to admit she’s great in this role. She’s encouraging, but not afraid to give constructive criticism. Also, she’s wearing a sparkly suit, and you know how I’m swayed by wardrobe. Anyway, it’s time to further trim the fat around here. We lost the Knockouts last season, so in case you forget: Each coach will pair up two of their artists, but this time around each artist will select their own song, each performing one after the other. Each coach has one steal, so expect some movement amongst the teams! Exciting right?
Team Blake: Marina Chello, “I (Who Have Nothing)” by Tom Jones vs. Cali Wilson, “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
Well, these two artists and their song choices couldn’t be any more different. Marina is all power and this Tom Jones song is so diva, you can leave nothing out there on the floor. Or, fake boxing ring, as it were. Meanwhile, Cali is working on showing a more sensual side and “Wicked Game,” if performed right, can surely do that. After rehearsals, Taylor’s major note for Cali is to just keep pushing the emotion, they need to feel every single thing from those lyrics. For Marina, they tell her that her vocal performance is perfect, she just needs to work on some stage presence. Marina goes first and blows the roof off the place. Honestly, is there a line in this song that you don’t belt? She hits every note, but it’s all power and no heart. Whereas Cali gets up there and gives her best performance yet on this show. It’s intimate and vulnerable and sort of makes you forget that 3,000 other people have covered this song. It’s crazy to think that someone like Marina could go home, but Blake seemed truly surprised to learn just how good Cali is, and she can only get better.
Winner: Cali Wilson!
Steals: We have many Knockouts to go, and lots of powerhouse singers, sorry girl!
Team Kelly: Jake Hoot, “Cover Me Up by Jason Isbell vs. Melinda Rodriguez, “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey
Jokes about “Hooters” aside, I just want to buy three separate Jake Hoot albums and put them on shuffle while I face mask in my bed in the dark. His old school country voice soothes me. There are no bells and whistles — although he shows off a bigger range than previously thought — and he is all the better for it. He knows what he’s doing. Tonight, he takes on a more emotional song and even Tay Tay is moved. He’s authentic, she says. And that is a big deal, especially in the storytelling world of country. He’s up against Melinda, our vocal coach who has been surprising thus far, but I cringed at the song choice. I know, I know, “Always Be My Baby” is a favorite of her brother’s, but unless you’re going to do something to really stand out from the original Mariah song, it seems useless to do it. Of course, there is a crazy story to go along with this: Melinda’s brother has been waiting for a heart transplant, and he is getting one on the day of their rehearsal. The only reason she didn’t miss it is that her brother — who has every one of Taylor Swift’s album titles tattooed on his body (Melinda has “Fearless”) — told her she had to go in case the mentor was Taylor. And here we are. I just wish that during the performance Melinda had made the song her own a little more. Meanwhile, Jake did what Jake does and crushed a country tune with his clear, powerful country voice.
Winner: Jake Hoot!
Steals: It’s a pass on Melinda.
Team Legend: Katie Kadan, “Piece of My Heart” by Erma Franklin vs. Max Boyle, “When the Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish
Good on Max for saying what everyone is thinking: It sucks to be paired up with Katie. Katie is a force of nature. Not only are her vocals insane, but she also has such an infectious personality that no matter how she does on this show, she’ll be remembered. Taylor Swift is immediately obsessed with her. But then comes Max Boyle. He’s not giving up! He’s a much softer pop vibe than Katie, and we’ve only seen him do upbeat songs before. This time, he’s bringing some vulnerability with this Billie Eilish song. Like, all the vulnerability. It’s an extremely smart song choice at the exact right moment. You know Katie is going to sing to the rafters, so if you can do something more intimate that draws people in a different way, you have to go for it. He’s the best he’s ever sounded and every single coach takes notice. They all knew that Katie would come out and murder that song — she does, with great new frames, by the way — but no one was expecting Max. Also, can’t you see the teenage girls going crazy for this guy? So Katie’s a star and Max is a surprise, and it’s pretty clear that neither of these two is going home tonight.
Winner: Katie Kadan!
Steals: Both Kelly and Gwen are quick to push their buttons, but it’s an easy choice for Max: In the Blinds, John had blocked Kelly from Max, so it seems right to head over to Team Kelly.
Everyone’s feeling good about these choices, right? We’ll see how we feel after another round of Knockouts tomorrow night.