Wednesday, October 30, 2013

“The Voice” – Recap – Final Knockouts


“Song choice is a very huge factor. They don’t sing the right song... they’re going home.”
~CeeLo Green

The final round of Knockouts, to fill the remaining spots in the Top 20, was full of talent, surprises, and nerves. Sixteen artists took to the stage, but only ten moved on to the Live rounds.

Last night, I watched the East Coast broadcast... then I watch again with the West Coast. I watched twice—partly because a couple performances were that amazing and partly because I didn’t agree with some choices and wanted to see if I missed something. Even after the second time around, however, I still stand by my opinions.

Adam started the night off with Lina Gaudenzi and Preston Pohl. Adam paired them to see who was the most unique, and both of them showed us who they are. Lina started the round with “I’d Rather Go Blind.” She wanted to show the soulful and bluesy side to her voice, and that she did. Her tone matched the song beautifully, and her emotions soared through on each note. She kind of surprised me with her performance... showing us just how much talent she really has.
Preston followed up and sang “No Woman, No Cry.” He was taking a chance but wanted to show a more “laid back” version of himself. His vocals were very deep and had a touch of roughness that resonated very well, reminding me a bit of Stevie Wonder. Although it was a laid-back song, he still was able to show his power.
Both of them performed their songs very well, but I gave my point to Lina for the round. Christina’s comments seemed to favor Lina as well, but ultimately, Adam chose Preston for the win. I still don’t agree with him. Lina showed more range and depth, and after Christina’s comments before Adam’s decision, I’m a little surprised Christina didn’t use her steal.

Blake was second up, pairing E.G. Daily and Ray Boudreaux. E.G. had first honors and performed “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” She started off soft and sensual, but the song never built up the way it should have. She had some obvious pitch issues and missed some key notes. I would say it was mostly nerves, but she was also trying to push herself too hard to hit the big notes... and her voice wouldn’t do it.
Ray chose to sing “Hard to Handle,” because he wanted to show he is a soul singer at his core. His vocals have an amazing raspy and soulful tone that seem completely natural. By the end of the first verse, Ray had the audience fully engaged with him and the song. His control was almost flawless, and his charismatic presence dominated the stage. Easily, my point went to him. CeeLo seemed impressed, and Blake decided Ray would be the one to move forward.

Christina’s first pairing of the night was Anthony Paul and Jacquie Lee. Both are young pop singers and Christina put them together to see who would be able to “deliver under the pressure.”
Anthony sang first, and did not get off to a good start. The beginning was a bit flat and weak, but he eventually found his groove. Unfortunately, his nerves were too much and much of his performance was shaky and pitchy. He is very talented and has a great future ahead of him in music... but this was just not one of his best performances.
Jacquie took her turn to show Christina and us what she could do. During practice, Christina wanted Jacquie to work on her stage presence. Christina was happy with her vocals and wanted her physical approach “to do what her vocals can do.” Well, when Jacquie hit the stage and began to perform, she took everything Christina told her to heart, and she brought it. Her personality shone bright, and her presence was made known loud and clear. Throw in her power and range, and the fact that she nailed the big notes, and you’ve got one of the best performances so far on the show. Jacquie just killed it out there, and with no doubts, my point went to Jacquie.
Adam called her the “cutest person” he’d ever seen. Christina told her that she reminds her a little bit of herself when she was younger... so it was no shocker when Christina said she had won the Knockout. Jacquie is becoming one to watch and contributes a huge amount of strength to Team Christina.

CeeLo’s turn came, and he put Stephanie Anne Johnson against Tamara Chauniece. Stephanie sat in the middle of the stage with her guitar and put on a solid performance of “Don’t Know Why.” I personally think she would have done much better without the instrument. She did hit the notes she needed to and was steady in her delivery, but there I found no real personality or connection. Coaches have said in the past, that at this stage of the competition, the guitar tends to take away some of the focus and power from the artist’s performance... I definitely saw this happen with Stephanie last night.
Tamara had much more presence with “No One.” She showed good range and control and just shined brighter on the stage. There was nothing extraordinary about either one tonight, but my point went to Tamara. CeeLo did pick her to move on, and Christina used her steal to take back Stephanie. She was originally on Christina’s team... then CeeLo stole her during Battle Rounds... now Christina steals her back. I’m not sure what to think about that.

The second half of last night’s Knockouts had Adam putting James Wolpert against Juhi. James started it off with his performance of “More Than a Feeling.” He started off soft and built up into a huge power note. He does have great breath control and most of his notes were right on, but there was more than a few issues with pitch. Overall, it was a good rendition of the song, but not one of his best performances.
Juhi came out filled with energy. Her vocals have just the right amount of ‘grit,’ and she seems to flow from the higher register to the lower with no effort at all. I find it amazing that she can hit a note in the upper range and instantly drop almost to the bottom of the lower range. This isn’t something that is done often, and probably very few artists could even do it if they wanted to.
Based on all that, my point went to Juhi. Christina, on the other hand, commented that Juhi’s performance was “so carefree that it was careless.” I think this might be the first time I completely disagreed with Christina. CeeLo sided with Juhi and said he thought she took the round. Adam went his own direction and picked James as the winner based on past performances, and that James “performed that song perfectly in rehearsal.” I don’t agree at all in using that reasoning to pick a winner. The whole point of the the Knockouts is to see who can perform and survive the pressure, and the decision should be based ONLY on the actual Knockout performance. Every other coach has chosen based solely on this. Adam even made a comment about how in his own past experiences he has faltered and was able to come back. That may be fine once you’re established in the industry, but in the Knockouts, its about what is there now. Juhi out sang and out performed James last night, and she should have been the one to win. Even CeeLo said after Adam’s decision that Juhi should have been the winner, and if he had a steal, he would have used it to take her back. Oh well... I’m sure we will be seeing more of Juhi soon, anyways.

Blake’s second Knockout round had Austin Jenckes versus Brandon Chase. Austin chose “I’ll Be,” but changed it from being a love song to that of the relationship he had with his late father. He took the stage and put so much emotion into the song that one had no choice but to feel his strong connection. He nailed his power notes and just put on a highly heartfelt performace.
Brandon has a strong country tone, and that showed clearly in his singing of “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” He built up slowly and put on a great show. His power note was a little off, but he had an overall stronger presence on the stage. Based on the emotional connection, however, I had to give my point to Austin... so did Blake.

CeeLo second pairing resulted in an amazing and captivating performance. Caroline Pennell, singing “The Way I am” went up against George Horga Jr., version of  “Because of You.” The moment Caroline sang the first couple of notes, the audience reacted. If you watched Caroline’s expression, as soon as she heard the cheers, her smile widened and she just lit up. Her voice is like none I’ve ever heard. I think Christina described it best when she said it was “effortlessly angelic.” Even though Caroline doesn’t really do those ‘power notes,’ her voice just grabs you and draws you in. It’s one of those voices that cause you to just stop whatever you’re doing and listen. When you add in her captivating smile and glowing personality... you’ve got nothing less than a star.
George had a much more outgoing performance and worked every corner of the stage. His performance wasn’t bad, but it left me feeling like there should’ve been more. I felt as though he was holding back the power he wanted to (and should have) put into some of the notes. Overall, it was alright but a little flat and empty. Easily my point went to Caroline, and CeeLo had no real hesitation in declaring Caroline the winner. This Knockout was (for me) one of the two best ones of the night.

The final Knockout of the night was between Matthew Schuler and Will Champlin for Team Christina. Both can give an energetic rock performance, and Christina wanted to see who could ignite the crowd. Matthew went up first with “Cosmic Love,” and lit the place up. He has amazing control over and power in his vocals. Throughout the song, he continually and flawlessly built up to his epic final note. His breath control, vocal strength, and power was astonishing... an absolutely amazing show.
Will came out and nailed a perfect falsetto. Honestly, I did not see that coming, nor did I even think he was capable of that. We saw a whole new Will last night, and he blew me away with the emotion and the feeling that was coming from him and the song. He hit his notes, and like Matthew, had a near perfect performance. It was tough... but I gave my point to Matthew.
Both of them got standing ovations from Christina, and it really didn’t matter who won, because it was the final performance and Adam still had a steal left. Christina, after a bit of an internal struggle, chose Matthew to take the final spot on her team. Adam didn’t even let Will finish speaking before hitting his button for the steal, making Will the final member of Team Adam.

So after Knockouts, only four of my original top ten were left. That’s okay, though... most times, first impressions are just that, and as the show goes on and some grow more than others, opinions change.
My remaining four are perfect, but after the Knockouts, I have to add one more artist. Oddly, however, I have no favorite on Team Blake. I hate to say it, but I don’t think Blake Shelton is going to make it four wins in a row... this year will be the end of his winning streak. 

My five picks on who will at least make the Top 10 are the following (and in no particular order):

1. Jacquie Lee (Team Christina)
2. Olivia Henken (Team Christina)
3. Caroline Pennell (Team CeeLo)
4. Grey (Team Adam)
5. Matthew Schuler (Team Christina)

Each one is different and amazing in their own way, and each one brings something special and amazing to the show. Their talent is indescribable, and it’s way too early to pick a winner, but these are my picks to make the Top 10... Can’t wait for the Live shows.

The Top 20 going to the Live shows comprise the following teams:

Team Adam:
1. James Wolpert
2. Tessanne Chin
3. Preston Pohl
4. Grey
5. Will Champlin

Team Blake:
1. Shelbie Z
2. Austin Jenckes
3. Ray Boudreaux
4. Cole Vosbury
5. Nic Hawk

Team Christina:
1. Josh Logan
2. Matthew Schuler
3. Jacquie Lee
4. Olivia Henken
5. Stephanie Anne Johnson

Team CeeLo:
1. Tamara Chauniece
2. Kat Robichaud
3. Caroline Pennell
4. Jonny Gray
5. Amber Nicole

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