Reality TV

The Voice 8 – Live Blog and Recap – The Knockouts Premiere (VIDEO)

Welcome to the live blog and recap for The Voice 8, “The Knockouts Premiere”! Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera whittle down their teams for the live shows. But each coach gets one steal for this round, so the choices are more important than ever!

Fun frontman Nate Ruess helps the coaches as Key Advisor for the Knockouts, as the respective artists prepare for battle in the round with the highest stakes so far. We’re just one round away from the live playoffs!

Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be posting results, videos, commentary, and more as the night rolls on.

The Voice 8 - Live Blog and Recap - The Knockouts Premiere (VIDEO)

Credit: NBC

Let’s get this show on the road!

RECAP

-We open with Christina and Nate messing around on Christina’s “farting chair,” which makes a whoopie cushion sound every time she moves on it. It’s a weirdly cute bit, actually.

TEAM CHRISTINA AGUILERA: ASHLEY MORGAN VS. SONIC

-Sonic is up first, and she’s excited to meet Nate Ruess since he’s won Grammys and worked with superstars. She’ll be singing “A Woman’s Worth” by Alicia Keys, since it’s a sultry song that will allow her to show a different side. She sounds good on the run-through, but Nate needs to feel more from her. Christina notes that Sonic is a natural mover, so it can be hard to sort of rein in her instincts. Ashley then comes in for her rehearsal. She’ll be singing “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, and in her run-through, Nate is impressed by Ashley, saying she comes across as someone who’s been performing and touring forever. However, he notes she has some “cover band moves” and some other habits she needs to break. Christina feels that, vocally, Ashley is nailing it, but she needs to create a distinctive personality of her own. I actually agree. Ashley is kind of a cipher right now, being whatever kind of artist the performance requires her to be. She should be the one molding the song to fit her. She shouldn’t have to mold to fit the song.

-Ashley goes first in the Knockout duel, and while I initially doubted her song choice here, I actually thought this was pretty great. I didn’t think of her as a rock vocalist, but she certainly has the chops for it, if that’s a direction she wants to pursue. I just feel like she needs to pick a direction and really pursue it, because she’s sort of bland right now, and the only way voters are ever going to remember her is if she develops a more distinctive artistry of her own. Of course, she still has to win this battle first, if she wants to continue.

-Sonic is up next, and she basically blows Ashley out of the water here. Some of the vocal choices she makes are exactly the sort of thing Christina was telling Ashley about. She didn’t do it exactly like Alicia Keys, but didn’t make the song unrecognizable either. I’d be shocked if Sonic didn’t win this duel, since there’s a certain effortlessness about what she does here.

-Pharrell praises Ashley for running through the song like a race track, while giving it up for Sonic for some of the choices she made with the vocal. Adam loves the subtle, rare vibrato Ashley uses, while praising Sonic for going in the opposite direction, noting that it will be up to what kind of artist Christina wants on her team (Pharrell sings “What a girl wants” in response). Blake feels Sonic is more in line with Christina’s sensibilities as a singer. Christina asks what that means, and Blake specifies that he means Sonic has the same awesomeness as Christina. For her part, Christina praises Sonic for being on-point, and Ashley for stepping outside her comfort zone. She makes her decision…

SONIC WINS THE KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Sonic is overcome with emotion, saying she struggled to hear herself the entire time, so it meant a lot when Christina said she was on-point. As for Ashley, she thanks the coaches for the opportunity and says she plans to continue working on her music. No one steals her, but I didn’t really expect anyone would. She’s a damn good singer, but she needs to develop…something. She just feels sort of incomplete at the moment. I liked her, but I get why she wasn’t stolen.

TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BRIAN JOHNSON VS. SARAH POTENZA

-Sarah is shocked to see that she’s paired against Brian, since he’s such a huge threat. Brian is in first and will sing “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” by James Morrison. When Nate asks why Brian picked the song, he says it’s because when people ask what kind of album he’d make, his answer is “James Morrison”. Nate loves the huskiness of Brian’s voice, but feels his pitch was off in places. But he notes how impressive Brian is, saying he can’t do what Brian does. Blake, however, stresses that Brian needs to inject some dynamics into his performance if he wants to stick around, since now isn’t the time to play it safe. Sarah is in next, and she chose “Wasted Love” by Matt McAndrew (!!!!). She picked the song because she and her husband were high school sweethearts who broke up for six years before reuniting in a magical moment. She feels those years were her “wasted love”. To help out with the song, Blake brings in Matt McAndrew, whom Sarah reveals is her favorite Voice contestant of all-time. It’s a cool little moment. Part of me still can’t believe Matt didn’t win last season.

-Brian is up first, and this is a really smooth, cool performance. I could actually hear this on the radio. It also has a surprising amount of feeling for such an upbeat song. I admit I was pretty easily won over by what he did here, as he offered something current but with a soulful vibe. After his performance, Brian then roots for Sarah from the side of the stage, reiterating why this dude is so damn likable.

-Sarah is up next, and while it doesn’t even come close to touching Matt’s original, it’s a damn fine vocal in its own right. Sarah is a really good, classic rock vocalist. I feel like this season needs a singer like her among all these pop and soul singers. Granted, I don’t particularly expect her to last that long, even if she makes it into the Top 12, but I don’t have a single problem whatsoever with her getting there. She’s a great vocalist, and this may have been her finest hour.

-Christina thought both singers did a phenomenal job, but notes that Sarah is “living” when she sings. Pharrell says Brian really surprised him, while Sarah impressed him with the contrast between her belting rock vocal and her softness at the end. Adam loved that Sarah sang Matt’s song, and did it justice. He praises Brian and says this is an incredibly even battle, adding that he refuses to give Blake any help on this one, since that’s who he is. Blake feels both singers were able to deliver something moving, and that’s what matters here more than the vocal itself.

SARAH POTENZA WINS THE KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Blake says he chose Sarah because there’s nobody else like Sarah in this competition. Backstage, Sarah is in joy and tears. On stage, Brian prepares to say his farewells when…

ADAM LEVINE STEALS BRIAN JOHNSON!

-Brian can hardly believe it, but backstage, Adam notes that he’s looking forward to getting to work with Brian. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with Brian, since he always seemed more like a Team Adam contestant than a Team Blake crooner.

WATCH: Sarah Potenza Tackles Matt McAndrew’s ‘Wasted Love’ on The Voice 2015 Knockouts (VIDEO)

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: CLINT WASHINGTON VS. NATHAN HERMIDA

-Nathan is thankful to be working with Nate and Adam, and adds that he feels really blessed to be here. He’ll be singing “Leave Your Lover” by Sam Smith, noting that he’s been in love, although he doesn’t know how real it was since he’s only 17. However, he does feel he’ll be able to connect with the song. But Adam feels Nathan is still too afraid, while Nate notes that Nathan needs to give more onstage, lest the crowd turn on him. Clint, meanwhile, is singing “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes, noting that Team Adam is very R&B heavy, so being an Arkansas boy singing a country-pop hit will allow him to stand out. This makes me wonder, just how much do they know about the other singers on their respective teams. Do they see video clips of each of their opponents? Presumably, they film these rehearsals before the episodes showing the completed teams have aired, so does, say, Sarah Potenza know so much about Brian Johnson? Just curious, I guess. As for this battle, Adam feels Clint needs to rein it in, while Nathan needs to let it out.

-Clint is up first, and DAMN, I’m getting serious Ricky Manning vibes from him here in both the smoothness of his tone and the confidence of his stage presence. I thought this was a pretty great vocal, from front to back. It helped that the song showcased many of the nuances in Clint’s voice, the country side, the pop side, the R&B undertones. It was a very complete vocal, showing his potential.

-Nathan does a really good job with the performance, serving up his most confident vocal yet. His voice doesn’t waver, and he hits every note without appearing to struggle. He also offers a sentimentality to the performance that I found really compelling to watch. I can’t act like I wasn’t impressed with this. I’d still favor Clint, but Nathan did a hell of a job here. In fact, I actually like Nathan’s song choice better, so it wouldn’t surprise me if having the better song gives Nathan the edge.

-Blake praises Adam’s team for not sucking, noting that Clint did a great job and Nathan basically just did a duet with himself. Christina would go with Clint if he were on her team, since there were pitch problems from Nathan, but she praises his courage and his talent. Pharrell is indecisive about which artist he’d pick, but notes they both deserve to be here. Adam liked that Clint delivered on an unexpected song choice, while Nathan opened up to deliver his personal best. It’s a close battle, but…

NATHAN HERMIDA WINS THE KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Third battle in a row where the second person to go wins. Recency bias reigns supreme! No one steals Clint, but he does still thank Adam and Christina for taking a chance on him. In a weird moment, Christina seems to imply that she would have stolen Clint but the moment passed her by. Seriously? You can hit the button right up until the moment they’re virtually backstage. If you didn’t steal him, it’s because you didn’t want to. Which is fine, but you weren’t screwed over by the system.

WATCH: Nathan Hermida stuns with “Leave Your Lover” on The Voice 2015 Knockouts (VIDEO)

TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: SAWYER FREDERICKS VS. MIA Z VS. PAUL PFAU

– Pharrell explains that former team member Anthony Riley (the street singer from Philadelphia) will not be back on the show due to “personal reasons,” so this will be a three-way battle now, the first in the history of The Voice. Mia is shocked to see Paul, as she and Sawyer initially thought it was simply going to be one-on-one. (For his part, Sawyer had assumed he and Mia were paired together because they’re both minors) Mia will be singing “Hold On, I’m Coming,” and both Pharrell and Nate encourage her to perform in rehearsals as if the crowd is there. Meanwhile, Paul will be singing the John Mayer version of Ray Charles’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” explaining that he’s a blues singer-songwriter. Pharrell loves the song, but there’s something missing that Paul needs to work on. Less so for Sawyer though, who’s foregoing the guitar and simply singing “Collide” by Howie Day. Nate and Pharrell like it, but warn him to pull the mic away a bit and perform the way he would at home.

– Mia is up first, and this is a really cool, smoky performance. Seriously, she’s like a completely different artist. From the way she’s working the stage to how she gets into the story of the song. I can’t remember the last time a singer surprised me this much in the knockouts, since I really wasn’t expecting much more than your typical pop-style performance from Mia. We still got some of that with those Mariah Carey/Ariana Grande-style high notes, but for the most part, this was like watching a seasoned blues rock veteran.

– Paul is up next, and man, I have absolutely NO idea how Pharrell is supposed to pick between these three. I mean, Sawyer isn’t going anywhere no matter what he does. But I think both Paul and Mia really deserve to advance. Paul goes tit-for-tat with Mia’s bluesy, soulful vocal by offering up something slightly gritty, with more of a rock-infused vibe. I thought this was a tremendous performance.

-This was easily Sawyer’s weakest performance. It wasn’t bad, but damn, after the two previous performances, Pharrell’s choice should be fairly easy. This was just all over the place with vibrato, and while it sounds pleasant with the right song, this wasn’t that song. I mean, there really is no way Sawyer gets cut, since he’s already so popular, but if we’re going just based on vocals, Mia and Paul are the clear choice here.

-Adam feels the three singers would make a pretty badass band. Meanwhile, Blake is upset that he won’t get to use his steal on Mia Z, since she’s clearly not going anywhere. Christina loved all three vocalists, saying Mia painted a rainbow, Sawyer was a genetic genius, and Paul was as good as he’s ever been. Pharrell chooses his first winner…

SAWYER FREDERICKS IS THE FIRST WINNER OF THIS KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Immediately, Paul hangs his head, aware he’s eliminated since there’s no way Mia doesn’t get chosen. Pharrell says he’s going to go with his gut…

MIA Z IS THE SECOND WINNER OF THIS KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Backstage, Mia and Sawyer congratulate one another, while Paul thanks Pharrell for teaching him as much as he did in such a short time here. No one steals Paul, because this is a world utterly devoid of justice.

WATCH: Sarah Potenza Tackles Matt McAndrew’s ‘Wasted Love’ on The Voice 2015 Knockouts (VIDEO)

TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: MEGHAN LINSEY VS. TRAVIS EWING

-Blake and Nate are getting along famously, talking about cheese, because that’s what bros do, I guess. He explains that he paired Meghan and because they were his two steals. Meghan was disappointed to be cut in the Battles, but thankful to have been stolen. She’ll be singing Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and Blake loves that Meghan has such a soulful side to her. Blake asks if she has a “road map” in mind with the song. Meghan says she’s thought about it, but Blake feels Meghan needs to have something big up her sleeve. Nate reiterates that she needs to be prepared, since it could end in disaster if she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her vocal. Meanwhile, Travis is singing “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw, since it’s a song that’s very applicable to his situation right now. If nothing else, he sounds pretty terrific on the track in rehearsals. It’s a song that’s been overdone to death, but I thought he added a cool rock vibe to it.

-Meghan is up first, and this is her best performance in the competition so far, in my opinion. She had some really great moments in this vocal. I mean, the performance wasn’t surprising since I find her voice has this rich tone to it that suggests she’s capable of just about anything, whether R&B/soul, rock, or country. But this was still a terrific vocal even if there wasn’t anything all that surprising about what she did with it.

-Travis sounds a lot different here than he did in the rehearsal. He hits an absolutely killer extended note at the end, but for most of the song, he appears to be struggling. Not only vocally, but in the stage presence department. I just didn’t get anything out of this performance, which is a shame because I love Travis’s voice, and thought this would be a killer performance.

-Christina loved the extended note at the end, and feels Meghan just keeps getting better and better. Pharrell feels like he’s just met Travis with that closing note, saying he held it for 100 bars. Pharrell praises Meghan for showing him what her heart really wanted with that vocal. Adam notes that Travis really went for it, but he has one problem, which is Meghan. She executed her vocal with elegance and grace, so this is going to be a hard choice. Blake thought Meghan did an outstanding job, but says Travis saw that, came out, and gave an equally powerful performance. I wouldn’t say all THAT, but Travis did what he could. Blake makes his choice, but it’s pretty clear his mind is made up…

MEGHAN LINSEY WINS THE KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Afterwards, Travis thanks the coaches for their kind words, and expresses that this is what he plans on doing for a long time to come. Nobody steals him though. No surprise there, unfortunately.

TEAM CHRISTINA AGUILERA: KIMBERLY NICHOLE VS. KORYN HAWTHORNE

-Kimberly is a bit intimidated by Koryn, noting that she couldn’t sing like that when she was 16. Both girls are stoked to be paired with one another though, and that’s one thing I’ll always love about The Voice, the relentless vibe of positivity. Koryn picked “Try” by Pink, and I’m always shocked at how many big-voiced Diva types pick this song every year. Seriously, I hate it 7 out of every 10 times, because it almost always lacks that trademark grit that Pink has in her voice. Koryn’s version isn’t much difference here, sounding like she’s straining her voice trying to hit the notes and keep up with the temp of the track. She can still sing like crazy, but I wasn’t feeling this at all. But Nate and Christina are both impressed, with Nate saying he wants to steal Koryn for his team. Kimberly, meanwhile, will be singing Sting’s “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free,” since she leans more towards blues and rock music. She sounds great in rehearsal, but Christina feels Kimberly is a little restricted. She wants Kimberly to use her chest voice and avoid falsetto, and Nate agrees, saying to “Never deny your full voice.” Solid advice. Sometimes, contestants believe that hitting high notes will get them the win by default, but that’s not always the case. In fact, I’d argue it’s rarely the case. Coaches want consistency.

-Kimberly is up first, and this was just plain terrific. I swear, Kimberly is a freaking QUEEN in how she works the stage and moves with perfect rhythm, all while never losing her place in the song. I don’t care for the song choice at all, but I really liked what Kimberly did with it. She’s a mature, confident performer and vocalist, and it shines through here.

-Koryn is up next, and this surprised me a lot. She sounded way better here than she did in rehearsal, serving up her best performance of the entire competition so far. Her voice was husky but powerful, and brimming with passion. This is going to be a really close battle, either way you slice it.

-Pharrell says Kimberly sings with razor blades, while Koryn really delivered as well. Adam feels like they’ve fast-forwarded to the end of the season with the final two, saying Kimberly is great and Koryn delivered her best performance. Blake loves seeing that other coaches are having hard choices. He notes that Kimberly is a lot of fun, and Koryn does a tremendous job conveying a message. Christina believes Kimberly is a “firecracker” with an innate ability to own the stage, which you can’t teach people. Koryn, meanwhile, is a natural at such a young age, and that can’t be taught either. She agonizes over her decision, but goes with her gut…

KIMBERLY NICHOLE WINS THE KNOCKOUT BATTLE!

-Christina says she needed to go with Kimberly because she’s such a “firecracker,” you never know what to expect from her. Backstage, Kimberly is in tears, saying she’s glad Christina sees something in her. Back in the studio, Christina is on her knees, pleading with the other coaches to steal Koryn. And Pharrell is happy to oblige…

PHARRELL WILLIAMS STEALS KORYN HAWTHORNE!

-Pharrell hugs Koryn, and part of me feels like it was a reluctant steal on his part. But either way, he seems stoked to have her when he talks to her backstage, saying he has no one like Koryn on his team. For her part, Koryn is stoked to work with another one of the greats in Pharrell Williams.

-And that’s a wrap! To recap tonight’s knockouts…

Team Adam Levine: Nathan Hermida defeats Clint Washington

Team Pharrell Williams: Sawyer Fredericks and Mia Z defeat Paul Pfau

Team Christina Aguilera: Sonic defeats Ashley Morgan, Kimberly Nichole defeats Koryn Hawthorne (Koryn Hawthorne STOLEN by Pharrell Williams!)

Team Blake Shelton: Meghan Linsey defeats Travis Ewing, Sarah Potenza defeats Brian Johnson (Brian Johnson STOLEN by Adam Levine!)

What did you think of tonight’s show? Did the right singers advance? Did the coaches make the right picks in their steals? Sound off in the comments! Until tomorrow night, thanks for reading and hanging out! It’s been fun!

GOODNIGHT!

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