Cody Be-LEW it out of the park!
Between its stellar ratings and beyond-talented crop of contestants, The Voice is slowly but surely becoming the definitive singing show in America. Look, my first love will always remain the same, so don’t think I’m jumping ship from my beloved Idol just yet, but The Voice has improved so much this go-around that I can’t help but praise it to the hills. If it continues with this level of quality — made even better by the Knockout portion of the competition — it might be the first reality program to steal that Emmy® away from The Amazing Race since Top Chef (which, by the way, won for one of the greatest seasons EVER in reality television programming, so that’s a mighty bar to rise to). Focusing on this week, the Knockout Rounds commenced, with Team Adam & Team Cee Lo going first to decide the winners of each sudden TKO. This episode is probably one of the most shocking yet in terms of eliminations, but even though I lost several favorites, I was able to maintain an inner aura of peace. You know this is a strong season of The Voice if it can prevent me from tweeting my outrage after my favorites get the shaft. Without further ado, let’s get down to business…
Joselyn Rivera VS. Kayla Nevarez:
- Joselyn starts off great, on pitch but I cannot help but think Beyonce’s “Love On Top” comes off more old-fashioned than it should. Sometimes it seemed as though Joselyn was running out of breath, but her falsetto is astonishing and her vocal range hasn’t met a wall it couldn’t punch through. The girl is a prodigy, no argument. (***1/2)
- Kayla does sound her age on “Shark in the Water,” and has an interesting tone that’s a little down and dirty but also incredibly youthful. Her voice is a little shaky, but she nails the big high note. I cannot believe this, but she actually makes me care about a song called “Shark in the Water.” Kayla definitely has a lot of spirit and heart, but vocally she’s not at Joselyn’s level. (***)
Joselyn wins, and I am incredibly happy with this outcome. I predicted she would be a dark horse, and it looks like my theory is holding strong.
Team Adam TKO 1:
Joe Kirkland VS. Bryan Keith
- Joe tackles Taylor Swift’s “Mean” for his Knockout round – the dude has cajones I’d say, and he sounds pretty good as on the song as well. Joe reminds me a lot of Fall Out Boy mixed with a bit of Green Day, but I think what’s missing is the connection to the lyrics. He treats the song like marathon instead of a relaxing wave ride. I think the guy’s consistent and talented, but I wanted much more. (***)
- I like Bryan, especially his gritty voice that carries with it immeasurable depth, but I’m not sure if Bryan Adam’s “Everything I Do (I Do it For You)” was the right song for him. He looks as though he’s obsessing over hitting the notes just right instead of melting into the song’s emotional power. Vocally there was some inconsistency, but when Bryan hit those big notes, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s a contender for the main prize. (***)
Bryan wins, and I think he deserves it but he needs to lose those nerves otherwise the live rounds will eat him whole.
Team Adam TKO Round 2:
Amanda Brown VS. Michelle Brooks-Thompson
- Amanda sings “Paris (Ooo La La)” for this Knockout Round. Spunk, sass, vocally in control and edgier than I’ve ever seen her, Amanda is truly an astounding force of nature in this competition. She has shown several different sides of herself after just three performances. Sometimes Amanda goes a little overboard, and she needs to reel it back just a bit so as not to annoy the voters (Stacy Francis, anyone?). However, she’s a dynamic contestant who could easily win this show as long as she keeps making each performance better than the one before. (***1/2)
- Michelle sings Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight,” and unfortunately it’s hard not to compare the version to the original artist. Michelle’s voice isn’t as strong as J. Hud’s, and she over-shouts many portions of the song, making it difficult to understand what it is she’s saying. Michelle hits some killer notes, but it’s the type of overcooked performance I’ve seen time and time again. (**1/2)
Amanda wins, and I am so happy! She’s funkier than most and right up Adam’s alley. Isn’t it a testament to Adam’s objectivity that he chooses both of his “steals” to move on to the next phase of competition? Adam Levine proves once more that he’s a strategic mastermind and a great spotter of talent.
Team Adam TKO 3:
Loren Allred VS. Nicole Nelson
- Loren Allred sings Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” (one of my favorite songs of all-time!), and it’s very slinky and sexy, but I don’t hear the pain that Amy Winehouse exuded whenever she sang it. Loren doesn’t nail the “Roger Moore” part either, which is simply a must. Somehow, however, she kicks it into high gear in the second half and blows the roof off the ceiling, sending it right up into the stratosphere and beyond. That last note in the song’s final moments sent shivers down my spine. Nicole, I pray you can do better. (***1/2)
- Nicole Nelson sings “If I Ain’t Got You” and at first I worry that the beginning is a little too relaxed, but she jumps levels once she hits the chorus. The conviction and control Nicole wields is beyond comparison. I love how she ends her notes by drawing them out like a beautiful lullaby (she should so sing out Goodnight Moon for audio book format). Technically more capable than Allred’s performance, I’m still unsure whether the judges will go for such a well-known song that wasn’t given the caterwauling treatment. (***1/2)
The moment of truth arrives and…Nicole goes home and Loren wins?! WHAT!? My favorite contestant is now gone, and I am heartbroken for Nicole. The only thing that comforts me is that she’s always been consistent and never once shown any sign of weakness. Unfortunately, these reality shows go for the “television moments,” and Loren’s amazing, one-of-a-kind high note at the end of her performance was the straw that, well…you know. Nicole, if you’re reading this, I wish you a lot of luck and I know even greater things are ahead of you! America already loves you, so go and conquer the globe! You had me at “Hallelujah.”
Team Adam TKO 4:
Melanie Martinez VS. Sam James
- Melanie’s voice is breathy and beautiful, but I always debate whether she’s overrated or not. I love the acoustic vibe of her “Bulletproof” version, where we can just focus on Melanie’s airy instrument — it’s a great artistic choice made by Adam. I still think there’s more from Melanie that she hasn’t shown us, and I do think she’s going to need to learn to control those nerves since they cause her voice to shake whenever she begins a performance. (***)
- Sam James delivers an average performance with “Walking in Memphis,” and I genuinely don’t feel as though he’s got a handle on the meaning behind the song. He’s concentrating more on his pronunciation and technique instead of just living on that stage like it’s his musical utopia. Also, closing his eyes the entire time makes it difficult for the audience to connect with him. (**1/2)
The right winner, Melanie, moves on! I believe this girl could be the MVP on Team Adam if only she could consistently deliver excellence.
Team Adam TKO 5:
Team Cee Lo
Avery Wilson VS. Cody Belew
Wow, first off, this is a cruel battle for me. I’ve said Avery would win since his Blind Audition, but Cody is one of my favorites in the competition. My head goes for Avery, my heart with Cody. Let’s see how the two do, and I’ll make my decision.
- Avery sings the Chris Brown song “Yeah 3x,” and I don’t know what’s going on but his voice is off considerably. I’m not sure if he’s distracted by the choreography or what, but this isn’t Avery “the winner” that I’ve been accustomed to. It’s a very karaoke performance, and we don’t hear the infamous R&B runs and stretched-out high notes that previously defined his artistry. I believe the dance theatrics and choice of song is a reflection of his age, but no matter — this was a giant step back for Avery Wilson. I’m unsure if he’ll be able to survive such a stumble. (*1/2)
- Cody Belew sings “Jolene,” and wow — that first note was spectacular! Cody is bold and puts himself out there like no other contestant I’ve ever seen on a singing competition show, and you have to admire that. I noticed this from the “Telephone” battle, but his dynamic range reminds me of Adam Lambert’s. Cody’s voice can literally go anywhere, find every emotion and lay it down with such genuine command of the stage. Cody was phenomenal on “Jolene” and instantly certified himself as one of the season’s top echelon competitors. This was a defining performance that was equally courageous and haunting. (****)
Cody deserved to win, and it’s crazy to think that the person I thought had it in the bag is now gone. Cee Lo made the right choice, and Cody is now the official dark horse of The Voice’s third season.
Team Cee Lo TKO 1:
MacKenzie Bourg VS. Daniel Rosa
- MacKenzie is singing “Call Me Maybe.” Pretentious? Maybe. He’s got the singer-songwriter vibe going on, but I thought he sounded better in rehearsal. He reminds me of a mix between Justin Bieber and Jason Mraz, and he’s got a ton of confidence for someone so young. I do believe MacKenzie is better prepared to face the pressure of the live rounds than Daniel Rosa is, but stylistically he’s rather boring. (***)
- Daniel Rosa sings Taylor Swift’s “Back to December” and I hate to admit this but I’m totally with Cee Lo: Daniel’s voice does truly affect me. I’ve never seen Daniel so confident before, and I can tell he is feeling the message of the song through and through. It’s emotional and almost profound. (***1/2)
The winner is Mackenzie, and I cannot fault Cee Lo for going the safe route even though Daniel is the more interesting singer. I just hope the tween girls won’t push MacKenzie past talents like Amanda Brown and Cody Belew. Teenage boy with a guitar = serious trouble.
Team Cee Lo TKO 2:
Terisa Griffin VS. Trevin Hunte
- Terisa Griffin sing’s Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You.” I love her phrasing so much, maybe of anyone in the entire competition. She makes every verse feel like its own narrative. There’s not a whole lot of variety between her and Whitney’s version, but it almost doesn’t matter because she sings in such a respectful manner whilst making the love ballad her own. There isn’t a trace of bombast, and she absolutely nails Whitney’s pop inflections. Terisa delivers a very solid, exceptionally well-sung performance that Houston would have been more than proud of. (***1/2)
- Trevin Hunte sings a song I detest thanks to its constant abuse on American Idol, “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. Trevin starts off a little shaky and I’m not getting the chills I normally receive from his piercing voice, but he does have incredible control. It’s weird because Trevin jumps to his upper register at the speed of a flickering light switch, going right for that wailing high note at the end. I think that same style of singing — starting low, then rising, and BOOM — is going to become tiresomely predictable after awhile. Trevin was good, but Terisa was hands down the stronger of the two in this Knockout Round. (***)
Trevin emerges victorious, but Terisa is a class act that wins at life. She deserves as much as success as Trevin, and I would love to hear the pair team up and duet one day. It was rather touching seeing the maternal/student relationship the two have.
Team Cee Lo TKO 3:
Mycle Wastman VS. Nicholas David
- Mycle has been an invisible player lately, and singing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” should allow him to jump to the forefront. He’s a great singer, but I don’t hear anything innovative or different from what I’ve heard time and time again from similar singers with even madder range. (***)
- Nicholas David sings “Put Your Records On,” and his jazzy inflections are so on point in this song. I love the way he adds nuance to each verse, really allowing the song’s lyrics to be the focal point instead of his voice. Nicholas is just the more interesting singer of the two, who I’ve seen improve each round. He’s a creative genius that will unfortunately be overshadowed by the younger and more pop-friendly contestants. (***1/2)
Nicholas rightfully won, and even though he looks like cannon fodder at this point, who knows what’s in store!
Team Cee Lo TKO 4:
Caitlin Michele VS. Diego Val
- Someone’s been reading my articles! Caitlin does sound like Amy Lee from Evanescence, and thus chooses to sing her smash-hit “Bring Me to Life.” By golly, Caitlin’s so interesting and unique. She reminds me of a gust of darkness that I want to continually embrace. My only note is that her choruses aren’t as confident as the haunting intro, and I felt like there were some moments of noticeable hesitation. (***)
- Diego Val sings a Lenny Kravitz song, “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” for his Knockout Round. I still believe this guy is cannon fodder but at least he sounds far better than his previous Battle Round performance. It’s clear Diego chose the right song for himself, but he never comes off like a truly authentic rocker. He’s not edgy enough nor vocally talented enough, making him somewhat of a middle-of-the-road contestant in the grand scheme of things. Still, he was consistent all the way through, so I can’t completely eviscerate his efforts. (**1/2)
Giving Diego Val the win was the most irresponsible choice of the evening. Cee Lo doesn’t think long term, and while Diego may have delivered a more entertaining performance, he’s vocally subpar compared to the rest of the competition, much less those on his own team. Cee Lo is going to have to put all his faith in Cody, Trevin and *shudders* MacKenzie if he wants a shot at winning this season.
Team Cee Lo TKO 5:
Now that Teams Adam and Cee Lo are finalized for the live rounds, let’s do some in-team rankings (from most to least likely to win).
1. Amanda Brown
2. Melanie Martinez
3. Bryan Keith
4. Loren Allred
5. Joselyn Rivera
Predicted 4/5 correctly
Team Cee Lo:
1. Trevin Hunte
2. MacKenzie Bourg
3. Cody Belew
4. Nicholas David
5. Diego Val
Predicted 3/5 correctly
That’s a wrap for Monday’s show! Stay tuned for the next recap, where Teams Christina and Blake partake in the high-stakes Knockout Rounds! Until then, discuss away in the comments section below! Favorites? Am I totally crazy with who I thought was best, worst, and deserving of the Knockout win? Speak your mind!