The Voice sure does love its twists — the Steal, the Block, the Coach Comeback, the iTunes Multiplier — and this week, for the Season 14 Knockout Rounds, it introduced yet another game-changing gimmick: the Save (not to be confused with the Live Playoffs’ Instant Save, of course).
This particular Save gives the coaches one chance to keep an artist on their team, thus adding a new layer of drama — and confusion! — to the Knockouts. And things certainly got confusing Monday, when Team Adam’s Jackie Foster and Mia Boostrom competed and every single coach used a Save or a Steal.
Jackie nailed the notes in Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life,” but her wannabe-rocker shtick has annoyed me since her audition, and I still wasn’t convinced. Jackie is no Chloe Kohanaski; she’s just a soccer mom doing competent alt-rock karaoke. Mia, however, oozed effortless authenticity on Eva Cassidy’s “Wade in the Water”; she was sultry, soulful, and smooth. Adam Levine picked Mia, but he did use his Save on Jackie.
Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, and — at the very last minute — Alicia Keys then went in for the Steal, hitting their red buttons all at once as if they were playing some wild game of whack-a-mole. This made for good television, but I admit I had to rewind my DVR to keep track of everything going on.
Jackie ultimately went with Alicia, so Adam’s attempt to keep two of his star members backfired in a major way. However, during other Monday Knockouts, two coaches, including Adam, managed to maintain their contestants via the Save. These were the other Knockouts of the night:
TEAM BLAKE: Jaclyn Lovey vs. Kyla Jade
“In the history of The Voice, no stranger pairing ever,” declared Adam, who’d clearly forgotten all about the Shields Brothers versus Erin Martin in Season 2. But Adam had a point. Up first was 17-year-old sweetheart Jaclyn, cooing and murmuring her way through Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” so softly that I thought her microphone wasn’t turned on. Then we had 33-year-old professional background singer Kyla, powering through “You Don’t Own Me” at full volume. This wasn’t apples and oranges; this was more like apples and cinderblocks.
Jaclyn was adorably awkward and had a pleasant tone, but “Records” was way too laid-back a song choice for this stage of the game. Conversely, Kyla meant business. (“Hand on the hip!” Kelly screamed appreciatively.) Jaclyn may have been the more modern singer of the two, but Kyle had the voice.
If Blake had chosen Jaclyn, I think Kelly would’ve used her Steal, since she was up out of her red seat for much of Kyla’s performance. But it turns out that Kyla will be representing Team Blake at the Playoffs after all.
TEAM KELLY: Justin Kilgore vs. Kaleb Lee
This pairing made more sense, as Kelly confessed that she had a strategy: “I don’t want my country voters to split amongst the two.”
I don’t think Kaleb’s song, the Zac Brown Band’s “Free,” was the best choice. It was slow and draggy, never really going anywhere and not properly showcasing his range. But there was no doubt that he was authentically country. On the other hand, Justin — who dabbled in pop before returning to country recently — exhibited personality doing Billy Joel’s “Shameless” but “in the style of Garth Brooks.” He was experiencing a personality crisis, though. “I feel like you were lost somewhere in the middle of the Billy version and the Garth version,” Blake told him.
I thought Kelly would have more loyalty to Justin since Kaleb was new to her team, and I really wanted a from-Kelly-to-Justin situation here. So I was sad to see Justin go. But Kelly’s “strategy” was to pick the singer more likely to connect with country fans.
TEAM BLAKE: Austin Giorgio vs. Spensha Baker
This was another odd pairing: the throwback jazz crooner and Americana songbird. Austin gave it a great try with Nat King Cole’s “Almost Like Being in Love,” sounding like a Rat Pack pro and transforming the NBC studio into the Sands Hotel circa 1953.
But even Austin knew he was no match for Spensha, whose tender rendition of Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos” (dedicated to her late friend) featured an Addison Agen-level of storytelling sweetness and purity. “I love you. That was unbelievable,” Austin told Spensha.
“Stylistically, I love what both of you bring to the table,” griped Blake. “What a sucky decision to have to make right now.” It turned out, Blake didn’t have to! He used his Save on Austin, and all was right and un-sucky with The Voice once again.
WINNER: Spensha/Austin stays on Team Blake
TEAM ALICIA: Johnny Bliss vs. Miya Bass
Johnny sang Sia’s “Alive” because it reminded him of his rough childhood, and he was clearly feeling this. His vocal may have been screechy and strained in parts, but he sang from his soul. This was a well-chosen, go-for-broke statement song, and it was impossible not to root for him.
Meanwhile, Miya did Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill,” which seemed lightweight in comparison. She tried to go for an “if Lauryn Hill and Rihanna had a baby and the baby went to church” vibe, but when the chorus kicked in, she held back. The result was underwhelming. Miya never made it to the top of the hill.
I was surprised, as Miya had been one of my favorites of the season — but Alicia made the right decision when she kept Johnny.
WINNER: Johnny Bliss
TEAM ADAM: Drew Cole vs. Jackie Verna
Drew chose wisely with “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan, the perfect showcase for his sexy swagger and sugar-sweet falsetto. He didn’t deviate much from the original but still made the song his own. (And he looked like Snoopy’s cool cousin Spike while doing it, which earned him bonus points.)
Jackie, doing Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey,” had her own sort of swagger, sashaying across the stage with ease and flaunting a classic country voice that was, well, like honey. I knew this was going to end in a Save, a Steal, or both.
And it did! Adam picked Jackie, but used his Save on Drew. Blake went in for a Steal. But ultimately, Drew was a “loyal man” and stuck with his original coach. Aw.
WINNER: Jackie/Drew stays on Team Adam
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