The Voice Knockout Rounds, Week 1 Set Fire to the Stage

The Voice - Season 9

The Blind Auditions are over, the Battle Rounds are complete and we’re ready to thin the herd at The Voice one more time as the vocalists enter the Knockout Rounds. This marks the first time the artists get a chance to choose what they want to sing rather than have the coaches try to match them with a song, truly giving the competitors the chance to shine or give them enough rope to hang depending on how they approach the song selection. As we know, this can be a little tricky, so special guest mentor Rihanna will be assisting all the coaches and their competitors as they try to navigate through this round.

So let’s get into the first week of the Knockout Round competitions here.

Battle Round 1 – Team Adam: Andi and Alex vs. Blaine Mitchell

The Prediction: Blaine Mitchell has not had much luck with the draw, first having to light up the stage opposite Blind Joe and now squaring off against a duo. He has the voice and the rock chops, but there’s just something about the harmonies of the twin sisters that makes this feel like they would be the favorite here.

The Battle: Andi and Alex go with “Stupid Boy” by Keith Urban. Blaine Mitchell chooses James Ray’s “Hold Back the River.” Adam suggests the twins lose the guitar so it doesn’t seem one is backing up the other. Rihanna loves Blaine’s stage presence and his audition gains raves. During the performance, Blaine navigates through the tender opening, then unleashes the power as the song comes to its climax. Andi and Alex, meanwhile, delivered a perfectly solid rendition the Keith Urban song, but it was a less dynamic performance that didn’t always connect.

The Decision: Blake admits he screwed up by letting Blaine go, and while he loves Andi & Alex, he states that their one disadvantage was not choosing a song that was as dynamic as Blaine’s. Pharrell also questions the twins’ song choice, while he feels that Blaine had a breakout moment. Gwen also shares her love for both of the acts. As for Adam, he ends up advancing Blaine.

Battle Round 2 – Team Gwen: Braiden Sunshine vs. Ellie Lawrence

The Prediction: Ellie Lawrence seems like the more seasoned artist after two rounds of competition, but the babyfaced Braiden Sunshine seems to have Gwen’s heart. Braiden probably is the riskier choice at this point, but he’s shown that when he’s on, it’s hard to beat. The early guess is Braiden over Ellie.

The Battle: Braiden chooses “Feeling Good,” which has been covered by many artists but he mentions Michael Buble’s version as his reference. Ellie goes with “Cool for the Summer” from Demi Lovato. During the audition, Gwen tells Braiden he’s rushing it, while Rihanna lets him know it’s okay to embrace the imperfections in his voice. They also try to get a reluctant Braiden to change his hairstyle. Rihanna tells Ellie that she needs to stay in the pocket, while Gwen says that as a budding pop star, she needs more stage presence and sassiness. Braiden is the first to hit the stage, and we see that he took Gwen and Rihanna’s hair suggestion to heart. A looser Braiden seems to have more confidence than ever and really nails the song. Much like Andi and Alex before, Ellie has picked a song that while she does a solid job on, it doesn’t have the dynamic range of what Braiden sang.

The Decision: Adam credits Braiden’s transformation in both his look and voice, and credits Ellie for a solid performance after Braiden’s standout moment. Blake and Pharrell also speak about Braiden’s transformation, and Pharrell points out that Ellie’s song fit her personality and despite the uphill battle, she performed it like she was going for it and nailed it. Gwen says song choice really played a big role here and Braiden picked a song that fit who he was.

Battle Round 3 – Team Blake: Barrett Baber vs. Blind Joe

The Prediction: Barrett Baber and Blind Joe seems like an interesting match-up, both with swagger-filled country voices. Baber is the more dynamic performer and would appear to be the favorite going in.

The Battle: Barrett Baber chooses “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band, while Blind Joe goes with the Waylon Jennings / Willie Nelson classic “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Rihanna warns Barrett about throwing away notes and feels like he’s being a little timid in his performance. Blind Joe wins over Rihanna singing a lyric just for her. Blake cautions Blind Joe about getting caught up in the “concert” of it all and wants him to focus on delivering the best vocal he can. Barrett has one of the strongest vocal / stage presence balances in the competition and it comes through in his performance. Blind Joe lets his honkytonk flow right through him during his set, but does strain a bit at times.

The Decision: Pharrell feels that Blind Joe took his song to new heights, but Barrett takes people on a musical excursion. Gwen feels that Blind Joe’s voice is powerful, but Barrett is just able to connect in way that many performers can’t. Adam also says he feels as though Barrett has the feel of an already established artist. While Blake is a fan of Blind Joe, Barrett may very well be his top talent and Barrett advances.

Battle Round 4 – Team Pharrell: Amy Vachal vs. Madi Davis

The Prediction: Amy Vachal‘s lilting sweet vocals have the feel of a breakout star, while Madi Davis, a victim of the dreaded montage, has offered solid performances up to this point. But Amy would likely be the frontrunner going into this competition.

The Battle: Sixteen-year-old Madi Davis picks “A Case of You” from Joni Mitchell, while Amy goes with Etta James’ “Sunday Kind of Love,” making for what will be a major battle between two airy vocalists. Upon hearing Madi do some gospel runs during her cover, Pharrell and Rihanna show their surprise at what Madi can do, showing that this will be difficult choice. Amy’s audition finds Pharrell asking for a little more dynamics and Rihanna wanting more attitude. For the performance, Amy quite simply is a knockout, bringing the audience to their feet. However, she’s still not quite there in terms of attitude and stage presence. It doesn’t matter, as Blake gushes at the end of the performance. Despite the wowing performance that just happened, Madi doesn’t lilt under the pressure. The teen simply matches Amy by putting her own stamp on the Joni Mitchell classic. It’s going to be a tough call.

The Decision: Gwen wants to hear both all day long and feels that Joni would be proud of Madi’s version. Adam says that he’s turned into a huge fan of Madi, but he wholly regrets not being able to have a place left on his team when Amy hit the stage. Blake guffaws over Amy, claiming to be one of her biggest fans, but says that Madi snuck up on him and makes him want to take a bubble bath after hearing her performance. As for Pharrell, he says that Madi had a magical performance, while Amy brought a classic vibe to her rendition. He somewhat surprisingly chooses Madi, but there’s no fear for Amy as Adam immediately tries to steal and Blake waits for Adam to speak before he presses in for a steal as well. Blake does his hard sell, but for the second time she spurns him and instead chooses to go with Adam.

Battle Round 5 – Team Blake: Chance Pena vs. Ivonne Acero

The Prediction: Chance Pena and Ivonne Acero both came to Blake’s team via steals, but Pena appears to be the more confident performer after the first two rounds. He would be the choice going in.

The Battle: Chance chooses to change things up by taking on Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” while Ivonne covers Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.” During his audition, Rihanna says she hears some Elvis in Chance’s voice, but also says he had a tendency to go a little flat. During her audition, the once timid Ivonne really connects with Perry’s song and Blake says she got 200 percent better, while Rihanna says her vibrato is sick. When they hit the stage, Pena goes first and his rendition of “Demons” feels a little flat, with his range feeling a bit limited on the song. Ivonne, meanwhile, showed the confidence that was missing at earlier portions of the competition and really has her breakthrough moment.

The Decision: Pharrell loves how confident Ivonne has gotten and praises Chance’s performance as well. Gwen loves Chance’s yodel, but admits she didn’t get all the parts of the song, while Ivonne was singing straight to her heart. Adam says he felt the song was too low for Chance, but praised him for the respect he showed Ivonne for her performance. It’s a pretty clear choice, and Blake picks Ivonne.

Battle Round 6 – Team Adam: Jordan Smith vs. Victor Kiraly

The Prediction: Jordan Smith‘s voice has wowed everyone so far and he’s considered a frontrunner, but there may be no more seasoned vocalist in the competition than Viktor Kiraly, who has deftly packaged his stage presence with smart vocal choices. Jordan would be the frontrunner, but both should advance.

The Battle: Jordan picked Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” which both Adam and Rihanna feel is a daunting task. Jordan’s audition finds Adam suggesting a more rhythmic approach, while Rihanna tries to get him more demonstrative in his stage presence. He eventually nails it to the delight of Rihanna. Viktor goes with Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” and during his audition, Adam feels he’s behind the pace and needs to stay in the pocket. After he gets out of his head, he’s good to go. During his performance, Jordan is equal parts smooth and powerful, hitting some unreal notes, earning hilarious reactions from Blake, Adam and Pharrell. But Viktor is no pushover. And he has the vocals and gravitas to deliver a silky smooth rendition of the Alicia Keys favorite. By the end of the track, he also unleashes some pretty stellar notes of his own, making it a difficult decision.

The Decision: Blake admits he was surprised by how great Viktor’s performance was and the only thing wrong was that he was facing Jordan. Pharrell thought Viktor took it to the next level, while Jordan had an effortless quality. Gwen says she’s a fan of Viktor while Jordan is a freak of nature. Adam says Viktor’s showed the bigger leap from audition to performance, but in the end he chooses Jordan. However, as expected, there’s a steal in store and Gwen steps in to make sure he’s sticking around.

Battle Round 7 – Team Gwen: Korin Bukowski vs. Summer Schappell

The Prediction: Korin Bukowski has a unique sound from her first two performances, while Summer Schappell has improved with each of her first two songs and has the voice that could put her over the top. Korin is likely the favorite here, but Summer is not that far behind.

The Battle: Korin picks Kodaline’s “All I Want,” while Summer goes with Little Big Town’s sassy song “Little White Church.” Rihanna says that Korin should not be afraid to be weird in her stage performance as it is what makes her uniquely her. Gwen asks Summer to be a little clearer with her storytelling, while Rihanna suggests upping the sass level. During the performances, Korin delivers a moving, tender performance of “All I Want” and she seems more confident in her delivery. Meanwhile, Summer takes the notes on sass to heart, but hits a few off notes early on. Her performance is the more energized of the two and could prove to be a tough decision.

The Decision: Adam loves Summer’s spunk with the performance, while Korin really connected on the inside, and he says he’d lean toward Korin. Blake feels like Summer is the bigger entertainer, but Korin is also equally expressive and adds that the decision will likely come down to whoever Gwen make the biggest difference with. As for Pharrell, he loves Korin’s falsetto and Summer is “a firecracker.” Gwen admits it’s a difficult decision, but she chooses Korin.

Battle Round 8 – Team Adam: Dustin Christensen vs. Keith Semple

The Prediction: Dustin Christensen has advanced with two solid, though not spectacular showings, while Keith Semple had a middle of the pack Blind Audition before soaring to new heights in the Battle Rounds on The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” Semple has a more dynamic range, so he gets the nod here.

The Battle: Dustin Christensen makes what sounds like a perfect choice, taking on Zac Brown Band’s “Free.” Rihanna suggests that Dustin watch his vibrato delivery and doesn’t want him to fall away from the notes. Keith Semple stays in the classic rock wheelhouse, taking on Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Rihanna asks Keith to let his vocals go rather than holding back as it will strain him going forward. Dustin performs first and delivers arguably his best performance to date, nailing one big note toward the end, but you can hear the nerves almost catching him on the final line. As for Keith, it’s the softer parts that feel a bit trickier as the booming moments of the song are where he thrives.

The Decision: Blake loves Dustin’s “warm” sound, but he feels that Keith really challenged himself with some bigger notes. Pharrell says Dustin is a great communicator and adds that Keith felt like a fighter going into battle. Gwen loves Dustin’s soothing voice and feels that Keith’s energy and personality really come across in his performance. Adam says both artists showed growth, but he eventually chooses Keith to advance.

Battle Round 9 – Team Pharrell: Darius Scott vs. Morgan Frazier

The Prediction: The soulful, powerful Darius Scott has been a favorite early on in the competition, while Morgan Frazier has been one of the country-leaning female voices striving to break through from the pack. Scott is the pick here.

The Battle: Darius Scott chooses the George Benson classic “On Broadway,” which should showcase the jazzy delivery that Scott has been leaning toward so far in the competition. Pharrell’s major note is for Darius to lose the mic stand and be free to express himself. Morgan, who just joined Pharrell’s team after a steal from Blake, decides to go with the Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which also has enough dynamics to make an impression. While her rehearsal performance is stellar, they try to get Morgan out of her head, making sure that she owns the stage presence as well. Once they hit the stage, Darius does a fairly flawless performance of “On Broadway” with some killer runs. But it’s Morgan who is the real surprise, who totally owns “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.”

The Decision: Gwen says she’s going to be a Darius stalker and loves Morgan’s tone and believability in delivering the song. Adam calls Darius the “most ridiculous vocal mechanic I’ve heard in my life,” but adds that Morgan blew his mind. He says he can’t believe he might choose Morgan and cautions Pharrell that he might want to be careful because Blake has a steal left. Blake feels that everyone has stepped it up a level and he was blown away by Morgan. Pharrell is a more natural fit for Darius, so he sticks, but Morgan’s performance led to Blake stealing her back.

The Voice - Season 9
THE VOICE — “Knockout Rounds” — Pictured: Amy Vachal — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

The Voice Knockouts Week 1 Rankings:
12. Madi Davis (Team Pharrell)
11. Blaine Mitchell (Team Adam)
10. Braiden Sunshine (Team Gwen)
9. Ivonne Acero (Team Blake)
8. Morgan Frazier (Team Blake)
7. Korin Bukowski (Team Gwen)
6. Keith Semple (Team Adam)
5. Barrett Baber (Team Blake)
4. Viktor Kiraly (Team Gwen)
3. Darius Scott (Team Pharrell)
2. Amy Vachal (Team Adam)
1. Jordan Smith (Team Adam)

Which artists gave the best performances during this week’s Knockouts?? Do you agree with our list or is it completely off? Feel free to comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

Check back in next Monday at 8PM ET/PT on NBC for next group of Knockout Rounds on The Voice.

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