The Knockouts, Part 2
Hey no pressure Xtina, Adam and CeeLo, but your choices tonight could mean the difference between going home with a coach's championship trophy in a few weeks - or another off-season watching Blake Shelton gloat on Twitter. Yep, in what might be the most stressful night of the season, the coaches must cut their teams to a mere five artists tonight as the knockouts come to a close. With only two steals left (Adam and Xtina), the artists know that tonight every note could make or break them.
The first matchup is all Adam, and he's paired two likeable, solid singers in Lina Gaudenzi and Preston Pohl. Former model Lina chooses her line: a sultry take on Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." It's a stretch choice, but in the heat of the moment, her smoky vocals carry the crowd. Preston's song pick is potentially even more risky: Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry." The audience reception is warm, but the coaches' reactions are decidedly mixed. But the reggae ballad is clearly a favorite of Coach Adam's, and ultimately, Preston gets the pick, based on versatility. Lina's finished.
Blake's first duo couldn't be more different: wispy E.G. Daily will face smooth-singing Ray Boudreaux. In rehearsal, E.G.'s confident sound seems to lend itself well to her song choice of "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. But onstage, the song proves to be a tough master; E.G. misses a few key notes. Ray's performance of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" is rock solid, so for Blake, there's not a lot of deliberation needed. With no one to save her, E.G.'s Voice dream is over for now.
Two teen sensations from Team Xtina hop into the limelight next: 18-year-old Anthony Paul and 16-year-old Jacquie Lee. It's a classic coach strategy to pair two singers of similar sound or appeal in an elimination matchup - and the two kids know there's only room for one on the Xtina bandwagon. Anthony, perhaps sensing that Jacquie's voice is simply more powerful, makes a calculated song choice: Jason Derulo's "The Other Side." It's a dance-friendly tune, perfect for Anthony to showcase his superior stage moves. But this is The Voice, and even though Anthony offers the whole package, he simply can't compete with Jacquie on pure vocal ability. Her cover of Serena Ryder's "Stompa" is relentlessly good: mature, powerful and charismatic. Xtina tells Jacquie she sees a lot of herself when she watches Jacquie. Strong praise indeed, and Anthony gracefully takes his final bow.
CeeLo's got the next decision to make, pairing Stephanie Anne Johnson and Tamara Chauniece in an R&B heavyweight showdown. Stephanie Anne Johnson uses her polished vocal chops to work up a breathy yet powerful read of Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." She pushes herself beyond the song's basic melody, showcasing an impressive range and spirit. But Tamara Chauniece counters with an even bolder move by turning Alicia Key's hit "No One" into a reggae track. It's a brilliant gamble: she pushes the song through the roof, pulling everyone onto their feet. With her delivery, her stage presence and her technical accuracy, CeeLo knows Tamara has to be his choice. But Stephanie's dream is far from over. In a Voice first, Xtina dramatically punches her button, stealing her former singer back to her team. Reunited and it feels so good!
Adam is up again. He knows James Wolpert and Juhi couldn't be more stylistically different, and he hopes pitting them against one another will push them both to new heights. James responds to the challenge, picking "More Than a Feeling" by Boston. The original vocal from Brad Delp literally soars, and Wolpert will need every trick he's got to come close to the original; Adam calls it the "most challenging song to sing in rock 'n' roll." James works hard in his rehearsals and seems to have a grip on the song, but when the moment counts onstage, it's clear he's swimming in the deep water. Still the song doesn't defeat him, and it's clear how impressed Adam is. Juhi counters with a playful "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" with such a carefree attitude that Xtina thinks it comes off more as "careless." But CeeLo couldn't disagree more, and he thinks she won by a long shot. Ultimately, Adam puts more stock in James' courage and potential, sending Juhi home, despite her valiant vocal effort.
Austin Jenckes and Brandon Chase step up next. Coach Blake Shelton needs one of them to break away from the other. Brandon swings for the fences, choosing the Eli Young Band song "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and working with bandleader Paul Mirkovich to take the song's third verse up an entire octave in a calculated showstopper. On the stage, Brandon struggles with his pitch just a bit, opening the door for Austin. Jenckes' angle is to rework "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain, changing the lyrics slightly to be about a father-son relationship instead of a boy-girl one. Austin sings the song to his father, who took his life when Austin was just 16. The performance is immensely powerful, and though not all of the coaches agree, Blake thinks it was just perfect and chooses him to advance.
CeeLo pairs up Caroline Pennell and George Horga Jr., two young singers with real charisma. George is the more polished of the two in rehearsal, but when it's money time, his "Because of You" comes across lightweight - and worse yet, he has trouble maintaining pitch. Caroline comes up solid, singing "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson, to universal praise from the coaches. Of all the singer-songwriters on the show, Adam thinks she's the best. CeeLo tells Caroline she became "a star today" and chooses her as the last singer on his team!
Will Champlin and Matthew Schuler step into the night's final matchup. True to form, Matthew looks to impress Coach Xtina with his versatility, choosing "Cosmic Love" by Florence + the Machine. It's an inspired choice, allowing Matthew to eclipse the song's signature female vocals in a performance CeeLo calls "the greatest performance he's seen on the Voice... ever." CeeLo goes on to call Matthew the "Mike Tyson" of this competition. But Will Champlin isn't rolling over. He turns Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" into his own song, pushing his limits and delivering a strong counterpunch. It's close, but Xtina picks Matthew by a nose. Adam immediately steals Will back, the second homecoming of the evening! Drained but exhilarated, the coaches sit back, satisfied that they have the winning team. There are 20 artists heading to the first live shows, knowing that their number will quickly dwindle to just 12 by the end of the first voting week. They may have felt pressure before, but the stress now will test them like nothing has.