Before we get to discussing, dissecting and debating the first of The Voice’s Season 15 Knockouts, some fearless predictions — eight to be exact. The following are the singers — chosen, cross my heart and hope to die, prior to seeing a moment of Monday’s show — that I didn’t expect to reach to reach the Top 24. Ready? Here we go…
From Team Adam: Tyke James, Steve Memmolo
From Team Blake: Colton Smith, Funsho
From Team Jennifer: Anthony Arya, MaKenzie Thomas
From Team Kelly: Claire DeJean, Zaxai
Ordinarily, I’d say that my fearless predictions should be taken with a whole shaker of salt. (And if I didn’t, I know you’d say it for me.) However, all but two of my picks for the best Blind Auditions survived the Battles. (WTH happened, Mikele Buck?) So I felt like I was kind of on a roll. Was I, though? Below, we’ll find out as we review the first batch of Knockouts as well as Dame Mariah Carey’s performance as the best-lit key adviser in the history of ever.
Team Adam: Tyke James singing “Ring of Fire” (Grade: C-) defeated Keith Paluso singing “You Are the Best Thing” (Grade: B) — Keith stolen by Kelly | In rehearsal, Mariah advised Keith to sing a little softer every now and again. And hey, if he could tame that beard, I reckoned he could tame his vocal, too. As for Tyke, Mariah wanted to hear more heart in his voice. Adam wanted more energy out of him. Me, I just wanted him to move on to a lucrative career as a Prell spokesmodel. Up first on stage, Keith was fine. Better than, technically. I don’t think he hit a bum note. There was just nothing about his performance that made me think, “Man, I can’t wait to hear him again.” Second at the mic, Tyke started off singing with all the passion of a bowl of cereal left too long to soak in milk. Eventually, he woke up a little, but Lord, he just does not have an appealing voice. Or he doesn’t know what to do with it. Either way, I couldn’t wait for his reign of terror to end… so you can imagine my horror at Adam’s decision to give the win to him. Ugh.
Team Kelly: Kymberli Joye singing “The Middle” (Grade: A-) and Zaxai singing “Cruisin’” (Grade: B) defeated Natasia GreyCloud singing “Tennessee Whiskey” (Grade: A) — Natasia stolen by Blake | In rehearsal, Kelly revealed that Cody Ray Raymond had left the contest, so Kymberli, Zaxai and Natasia would all be competing in one Knockout, with two of them advancing to the Top 24. Natasia was so good that Mariah hardly had any pointers for her — just jack up that last note a little. She liked Kymberli so much that she had no advice at all for her. Zaxai asked for tips on handling his Smokey Robinson cover’s falsetto… and I don’t think he got much in the way of solid guidance. (Does “Yes, do the falsetto” count as guidance?) In the moment of truth, Kymberli sounded confident and polished, and like she could actually give Season 14’s Kyla Jade a run for her money. Natasia’s song selection was so perfect for her that her performance went down like a smooth glass of bourbon that packs a punch before you’re done savoring it. Finally, Zaxai took the stage and only really came alive toward the end of the number — which struck me as the equivalent of “way too late.” Plus, there was just no amount of falsetto he could throw in that was going to convince anybody that he was in the same league as Kymberli and Natasia. Well, except for Kelly, who chose him over Natasia.
Team Jennifer: MaKenzie Thomas singing “How Deep Is Your Love” (Grade: C+) defeated Mike Parker singing “Breakeven” (Grade: C) | Practicing her BeeGees cover, MaKenzie made Mariah cry… but I couldn’t figure out why. Was it because she got a little screechy on the big notes? Rehearsing his version of the Script’s hit, Mike was sounding dicey, so Mariah advised him to pull his vocal back a bit. On stage, that helped but not enough. He sounded unsure at times and wasn’t able to quite nail the note that was supposed to put him over the top. As for MaKenzie… ordinarily, I love a good rearrangement of a familiar song, but she deconstructed the brothers Gibbs’ melody too much for my taste. The big notes didn’t make me wince like they had in rehearsal, but — and I know a lot of you will disagree with me — this was no “wow.” (Compare it to, say, Addison Agen’s cover of Britney’s “Lucky” or Hunter Plake’s take on Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is” — those were “wows.”)
Team Adam: Reagan Strange singing “Dancing On My Own” (Grade: B-) defeated RADHA singing “I’ll Be There” (Grade: B) — RADHA saved by Adam | In rehearsal, Mariah reminisced about her experience covering the Jackson Five’s hit and suggested that RADHA focus on “singing from her heart.” (Well, that’s helpful.) Adam actually suggested that RADHA not try to match Mariah’s high note but do her own thing in that spot. (But… but… we need that note!) Reagan sounded strong and way more interesting than RADHA in rehearsal. Mariah’s advice to the teen was to make sure not to let her notes trail off, since what she was doing on them was so mature, it deserved to be heard in full. On stage, RADHA did a good job of controlling her falsetto but was kind of a snooze. She probably would have fared better had she chosen a more explosive song. This was perfectly competent but didn’t really allow her to show off the rafters-rattling power of her voice… which left the door open for Reagan, whose rendition of Robyn, while not as ear-catching as it had been during practice, was more emotional and ultimately made a bigger impact (despite its vocal flaws). Had I been Adam, I would’ve stuck with RADHA, who kicks ass when she really lets loose. But of course, since he didn’t actually cut her, I guess technically he did go with her.
Team Blake: Funsho singing “Earned It” (Grade: C+) defeated Katrina Cain singing “Don’t Let Me Down” (Grade: D) | After hearing Funsho struggle with his version of the Weeknd hit, Mariah suggested that he pull back vocally so that he could work his way up to the tough parts. She wanted Katrina to play with the melody more. She might have encouraged her not to sing flat, either. On stage, Katrina was a crushing disappointment. She’d been one of my faves after the Blind Auditions. But here, she was just off, yelly… not good. Funsho didn’t exactly knock me out of my seat when he started singing, either. However, his performance picked up a good bit after he launched into his falsetto. He might never be the world’s most electric performer, but he definitely fared better than Katrina in this Knockout.
Team Jennifer: Patrique Fortson singing “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Grade: B-) defeated SandyRedd singing “Dangerous Woman” (Grade: B+) — SandyRedd saved by Jennifer | Mariah advised Patrique to work on his pacing so that we could appreciate how amazing his vocals are. She even gave him some very specific guidance about how to handle the bridge so that would have maximum impact. During SandyRedd’s practice session, Mariah encouraged her to get us high on her lower register. When at last Patrique took his turn at the mic, he seemed determined not just to make sure the audience could hear him in the back row but in the parking lot, too. A massive performance vocally. But, though he dedicated the song to his dad, I didn’t get a ton of feeling from it. Overwrought yet underwhelming. When SandyRedd stepped into the spotlight, I wasn’t 100 percent sold on her song selection. But she did, as advised, sell that badass lower register of hers and pulled off some impressively raucous runs. On top of that, she’s just such a crazy-compelling performer — even with the sound off, I’d have preferred her performance to Patrique’s.
So, whose Knockout performance left you seeing stars? And how would you rate La Carey as key adviser? Vote in the polls below, then hit the comments. Which singers do you think will survive to make the Playoffs?