The title of this particular recap would have a reader thinking that one of the remaining artists who actually performed on last night’s show was axed in a surprise twist. However, the missing artist being referred to actually did not perform. Anthony Riley, the street performer from Philadelphia who had emerged as one of the strongest contestants, “left the show for personal reasons,” as it was explained by his coach, Pharrell Williams when he made his three artist knockout pairing. That there hasn’t been much in the way of news as to what the personal reasons were (rumors on Twitter included a sick mother, or a complaint at who he would be paired with in the knockout round), viewers were basically left in the dark as to what might have happened. Despite that twist in the game, six knockout battles commenced, squeezed between many, many commercial breaks.
The knockouts kicked off with Ashley Morgan paired with Sonic, battling for Team Christina. In the knockout rounds, the artists choose their own songs, and get a little extra mentoring help from Nate Ruess. Ashley’s choice was “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, while Sonic went with Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth.” I thought both singers were very good, making it a good start to the night. In the end, Christina chose Sonic to go through to the live playoffs.
Next up were Sarah Potenza and Brian Johnson for Team Blake. Brian chose “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” by James Morrison, while Sarah chose “Wasted Love” as sung by Matt McAndrew (last year’s runner up). While Brian gives a smooth and controlled performance of his song, it never really seems to build, whereas Sarah does what she does-starts out controlled, then belts it out for all she’s worth. Sarah gets the win from Blake, but Brian was stolen by Adam-which may work out better for him had he remained on Team Blake.
Team Adam’s first knockout pairing pits Clinton Washington against Nate Hermida. Nate chooses “Leave Your Lover” by Sam Smith, while Clinton goes for “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes. Clinton performs first, and to these ears sounds nervous in the beginning, though by the end he sounds just fine. Nate gives a very controlled performance-he sounds very good, but I didn’t think it met Adam’s “get him out of his shell” request. His falsettos though, were thoroughly on point. In a surprise (at least to me), Adam picked Nate to go through to the playoffs.
Because of Riley’s exit, Team Pharrell had a three artist battle: Sawyer Fredericks, Mia Z. and Paul Pfau were all in a knockout pairing where two artists would go through and the third would be left out. Mia Z., who is becoming my Sugar Joans from last season, chose to sing “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave. Paul chose “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” done by Ray Charles but as arranged and performed by John Mayer. Sawyer went with Howie Day’s “Collide.” Mia’s performance seemed to include a lot of mumbling of lyrics, and two really, really high notes. I didn’t feel a thing with her performance. Paul’s was a bit better, and while his degree of difficulty was increased for having to play lead guitar on the song, I didn’t really hear his voice stand out. Sawyer was once again assured, and solid on the Howie Day song, but even he wasn’t as fluid as he usually is. I chose the guys to win, but Pharrell being Pharrell, chose Sawyer and Mia Z. to go through.
Team Blake’s next knockout pairing pits Meghan Linsey against Travis Ewing. Meghan chooses “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin while Travis goes with “I Don’t Want To Be” by Gavin McGraw. Meghan gives the best performance of the night, giving a stellar performance of the Franklin classic. Travis gives his all, but it wasn’t going to be enough on this night. Blake easily chooses Megan to go through. Each week she lasts, the cry against her even being on the show gets a little bit louder in my circles. In a sense, she has a built-in advantage over many of the other contestants, given her experience-it is going to take a very strong singer to beat her; preferably one popular with the voting public.
The final knockout of the night features Kimberly Nichole and Koryn Hawthorne from Team Christina. Koryn chooses “Try” by P!nk, while Kimberly Nichole goes with “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free” by Sting. To this point in the competition, I have been less than impressed with Kimberly Nichole, but tonight to me feels like a more complete performance than her earlier efforts. She seemed to be more performer than vocalist to these ears; tonight she got a little bit closer to being a vocalist to be reckoned with. Koryn powered her way through the P!nk song, though she did give it a little bit of buildup before bringing out the vibrato-laden belting. I called this one for Koryn in a close battle; but Christina went with Kimberly. Pharrell, liking what he heard with Koryn, stole her for his team.
Hopefully, more news about Riley’s exit appears soon; but there are more knockouts coming tonight. Will there be a knockout montage? With one allotted hour, I’m thinking we will get three pairings; and that may be all that are needed. Each coach will have five singers to take into the live shows. Blake and Christina still have their knockout round steals to use. Stay tuned for more from The Voice.