Tuesday, October 29, 2013

“The Voice” - Recap – Knockouts (Part 1)


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“It’s really important to see who can command the stage under pressure”
~Christina Aguilera

Going into the Knockouts, I can’t even imagine the amount of pressure the artists must have been feeling. Everyone left is so talented, and any one of them could (and probably will) make it in the music industry. I feel for the judges, as cutting their teams by half must be a very difficult task. Unfortunately, that is the competition. The Knockouts are designed not to say who is the better singer per say, but rather who is far enough along to work through the pressure and their nerves in order to “command the stage.” Though there may be ‘winners,’ I don’t see those leaving the show as ‘losers.’ This is simply another step in their journey...

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Team Christina took the stage first last night with Amber Nicole singing against Josh Logan. Amber chose “Mama Knows Best.” She brought her personality and used it to tell the story. Not only did she do great vocally, but she also had just enough in her expressions and movements on the stage to make for an entertaining performance.
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Josh took the stage and performed “Living for the City.” He wanted to showcase more of his soul singing ability, and he did just that. He has a clean voice and a tone that matched the song choice really well. However, he was a little stiff in his physical performance. He’s got the personality, and he just needs to let it out a bit more on the stage.
Both performed well, but my point for the round had to go to Amber. I was surprised when Christina went with Josh as the winner, but not at all surprised when both CeeLo and Blake pushed the button to steal Amber. After some back-and-forth between CeeLo and Blake, Amber choose CeeLo as her new coach.

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Kat Robichaud and Monika Leigh took to the stage next representing Team CeeLo. The deciding factor CeeLo was looking for in his Knockout pairing was who could give an amazing show. Kat had the stage first and brought out her true rocker self with “You Oughta Know.” She definitely has rock in her blood, and the look and vibe she emitted on stage showed that in spades. Kat does have a very strong voice and proved that with some impressive runs. For me, however, it seemed she tried too hard to take command of the stage. Her performance was good, but maybe... just a tad too intense.
Monika chose “Hit the Road Jack” and gave a more subdued show. Even though she was much more subtle on stage, she had more presence. It was the way her body seemed to blend with the lyrics that grabbed my attention. Like Kat, Monika’s vocals are powerful, and she was able to hit it hard when she needed to but brought it softly just as well.
Both of them took the stage and made it theirs. Both of them were there to win, and both of them are very different in style and presentation. With that, my point went to Monika. CeeLo, however, was more taken with Kat’s performance and declared her the winner of the Knockout. Surprisingly, no other coach stole Monika.

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Team Blake was next with Holly Henry and Nic Hawk each hoping to be the one to advance to the Live shows. Blake was looking for someone to make the song their own and be unique. This pairing would be tough, as both Holly and Nic are both very unique.
Holly took to the stage first with her rendition of “Creep.” She chose this song for its “haunting melody” and that she would be able to “start quietly and build up.” Holly did start softly, and her unique voice resonated right through me. She built up nicely, but then nerves seemed to slightly overpower her performance. She had the range she needed, and most notes she hit perfectly. Unfortunately, she was a little shaky and her vocals did falter on some of her runs. It’s wasn’t because of a lack of talent, because she has shown how talented she is. I would say it was more nerves getting the better of her... something a little more experience will easily help with.
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Nic took a chance and chose to perform one of Christina’s songs, “Genie In a Bottle.” It’s sometimes a bit risky to do a coach’s song, but Nic took the song and made it completely his own. Honestly, had it not been told what he was performing, I don’t think I would have easily identified it as being Christina’s. Nic sings in a much higher range than one would think by just looking at him and has a very distinctive voice. Vocally, he was stronger than Holly (in this round), and I had to give my point to him. Blake Shelton agreed, and we said a sad goodbye to Holly.

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Next up was Ashley Dubose and Tessanne Chin for Team Adam. Ashley chose to sing “Hey, Soul Sister,” and Tessanne  picked “Stronger.” Ashley began with a bright smile and a sense of fun, but seemed to struggle with some pitch issues. As the song progressed, she seemed to gain a little strength, but still missed the occasional note. The pressure seemed to be building among the artists, and I think Ashley’s nerves prevented her from showing her power and vocal range.
Tessanne, on the other hand, started extremely strong and beamed with confidence. “Stronger” is a powerful song and has some demanding notes to hit, but Tessanne had no problems and exhibited her powerful range. She hit the long, holding note near the end as though it was a walk in the park... completely effortlessly. Tessanne surprised me. She showed just how much she has grown and just how talented she is. My point, and Adam’s, easily went to Tessanne for this round.

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Blake’s second match for the night was between Shelbie Z and Briana Cuoco. Both are powerful vocalists but from two very different genres. Blake wanted to see passion and would choose based on that.
Briana picked “Don’t Speak” and gave a great performance. She was a little soft at times, but she had solid vocals and an amazing sound. Unfortunately, I think her song choice really hampered her last night. It’s not a bad song, and she sang it very well, but it didn’t allow her to completely showcase her strengths. Song choice is important, and this one didn’t allow Briana to deliver what she needed to win.
Shelbie chose to perform “Last Name,” and blew us all away. She had the confidence and the personality that added so much to the song. Her ‘purely country’ sound was powerful and almost flawless. She took the stage and owned it. Based on this perfomance alone, my point had to go to Shelbie. Blake declared her the winner, and I was absolutely shocked that none of the judges used a steal on Briana.

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The second pairing for Adam put Grey against James Irwin. Adam wanted to see who could deliver the most emotion. Grey decided to sing “Already Gone,” and James picked “Break Even.” The second Grey opened her mouth and began the song, I was floored. Her growth from the Blinds to now is extraordinary. She was always talented, but last night, she took it to a whole new level. Her tone, pitch, and range was consistent (with the exception of a couple notes). She put so much true emotion into her performance that you had no choice but to connect with her and with the song.
James delivered a solid rendition of his song choice. He has really good range and easily got the audience involved. He was solid. He has good vocals, but he didn’t have the same level of connection to the song that Grey did. I connected more with her, and with that, Grey gets my point. Adam also chose Grey as winner. No one stole James, but I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

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Team Christina’s second pairing caused me some grief. She paired two of my favorites against each other—Destinee Quinn and Olivia Henken. Both amazing country singers but Christina seemed to think that she only has room for one country powerhouse on her team.
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Destinee began the round with “See You Again.” I don’t know if it was nerves or just a wrong choice, but it seemed that it wasn’t the right key for her to be singing in. She was a little flat, and after the first verse, I think she realized it and then her nerves got the best of her. There were some problems with pitch, but as the song moved into the higher register, Destinee got stronger and let her emotion show through the song a bit more. It was not one of her better performances, and in this kind of competition, each one counts just as much as the last.
Conversely, Olivia took to the stage and instantly owned it. She is a natural performer and has amazing range to her vocals. From appearance and movement to control and strength, she took the stage and did what she needed to do. Admittedly, and as the coaches pointed out, she was a little sharp, but like Blake commented... you take sharp over flat anyday. My point went to Olivia. Christina picked Olivia, and I was completely stunned that no one (especially Blake) used a steal on Destinee. I need to point out, though, one of the things I've come to really admire about Destinee (aside from her talent) is her composure. She went out with a smile and had genuine respect and was truly happy for Olivia... who, incidentally, is fast becoming one of my front-runners to win this thing.

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The final pairing came from Team CeeLo. Cole Vosbury and Jonny Gray were paired against each other to see who could make the strongest connection with the audience. Cole came out and slowed things down with “Let Her Go.” Sitting on a stool with his guitar, Cole showed what it took to make that connection. His great tone and strong voice was packed with feeling and personality. Although not really country, I could picture him performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. 
Jonny’s high energy performance of “We Can Work It Out” went the other direction of Cole. Jonny worked the stage and used his personality and energy to connect with and engage the audience. His vocals matched the song, and he put on a great show. Both were amazing... both were different, yet both accomplished the same thing. My point, however, went to Jonny. Even before CeeLo announced his decision, Adam made the comment that he didn’t care who CeeLo picked, because he was going to take the other one. CeeLo chose Jonny, and Adam lived up to his word and pressed his button to steal Cole... but so did Blake. In the end, Cole chose Blake as his new coach.

It was an intense show, but Olivia Henken and Tessanne Chin were my top two for the night. There is so much talent yet to come, and with only 2 steals left, I can’t wait until tonight’s performances... who will fill out the top twenty is really anyone’s guess. I think it is going to come down to song choice and to whom overcomes the pressure and their nerves.


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