Monday, April 29, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Knockout Rounds 1

So far in Season 4, we have seen the blind auditions, and judges Shakira, Usher, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton spin their chair to fill out their teams. Next came the Battle Rounds, which brought the number from 12 to 8 on each team. Now it is time for the next step, the Knockouts, with two hours of performances tonight and tomorrow night. This will leave each team with 4 acts, and ready to begin the finals next week with live shows. This is the last chance for Adam, Blake, Usher and Shakira to tweak their teams to pick what they believe will be the best lineup they can put out in the finals, and see how the home audience will react with their vote. This is when each team will pit one act against another to cut the numbers in half, in a sudden death playoff situation. The artists will pick out their own songs, and see who will survive. So ready or not, here come the Knockouts.

The Voice Season 4 photo The-Voice-First-Look_zps3d84fe46.jpg
Left to right: Adam Levine, Usher, Blake Shelton, and Shakira.

Tonight, we will see both Team Adam and Team Shakira on the stage, and in fact it is Team Adam who is first up. He has chosen to pit Amber Carrington against Midas Whale, a battle of opposites in many ways. Amber is the big voiced Country singer, while Midas Whale is the quirky Folk duo with as much charm as talent. Amber is up first, and she sings Avril Lavigne song "I'm With You". Her voice is big and bold, not straying from pitch for a moment. There seemed to be no nerves, and she just sang the song the best she could. Midas Whale has the daunting task of singing next, and they choose to take on "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder.

They give it a makeover, with an amped-up frenetic pace making it tough to really hear their harmonies. Pretty much it is a no-brainer, and Adam picks Amber to move on to the finals. So it is time for Team Shakira to make an appearance, and the Latin beauty calls on Garrett Gardner and Tawnya Reynolds to be her first Knockout. Garrett decides to sing Alex Clare's "Too Close". The rocker with the gritty voice and good looks got some help from his mentor during rehearsals and seems ready. Tawnya is singing "Hell On Heels" by Pistol Annies, another Country effort. But it was Garrett who was first up singing "Too Close".

He did a nice job, and I was a bit impressed. He kinda swallowed the title line, but really loved the rest of the song. I thought Tawnya did a nice job, but was a bit too reserved, lacking some originality. Blake, Adam and Usher were all supportive of both singers, and finally Shakira decided to bring Garrett to the finals, and send Tawnya home. It seems Shakira sees star power in Garrett, and Blake agrees. Back to Team Adam, and he will put Amy Whitcomb and Caroline Glaser. Amy is the big voiced singer who comes from the world of choral groups, while Caroline is the quirky alternative singer more at home in the coffeehouse. Amy will be singing "House of the Rising Sun", the traditional Folk song best known for the version by The Animals in 1964. Caroline will be singing "Little Talks", by the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men. Here are the Animals with "House of the Rising Sun".

Amy was the first out of the gate, and while she has a nice voice, she just really trampled all over the song, favoring power notes and contrived growls over substance or emotion. I was just waiting for her to step it back a bit and appreciate the lyrics just a little, but instead got form over function. Next up, we had Caroline singing "Little Talks", a perfect song for her. I liked her take on the song, and it just sounded like she had a perfect delivery. Blake would pick Caroline for the round, while Usher picked Amy. So it is up to Adam, who admits both were better in rehearsal, and that worries him a bit. But he picks Caroline, and sends Amy home. Backstage, Amy said she will be cheering for Caroline for the win, and was proud of her performance. After a commercial break, it is time for Shakira to put the next two artists up for possible elimination. She announces that Kris Thomas will be taking on Mary Miranda, an interesting battle indeed. Kris will be singing Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World". In rehearsals, Shakira wants him to show control, and enhance the sweetness in his voice, instead of trying to manufacture power. She is dead on with that. Mary will be singing "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, which sounds like an odd choice in rehearsals. Here is the classic from The Police.

Kris is up first, and he freshens up the older song with his R&B take on the song, and he added a great touch with the song. He took Shakira's notes, and put out a beautiful performance. Then Mary came out and delivered an interesting twist on the Police song, really giving it a Spanish flavor, and I was pleasantly surprised. Adam would give the nod to Mary, while Blake wouldn't be able to decide, he enjoyed them both. And while Usher's thoughts seem to favor Kris, he doesn't really endorse either officially. So it is up to Shakria, and she picks Kris to move on to the finals, and sends Mary home. After another break, Team Adam returns to the stage. The Maroon 5 frontman sends Judith Hill and Orlando Dixon to the stage. Judith will be singing "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, and in rehearsal she sounds amazing. Orlando will be singing "All My Life" by K-Ci & JoJo. His rehearsal shows the need for a little work. This is the song as performed by K-Ci & JoJo.

Judith is up first, and her voice is gorgeous, and she delivers a beautiful version of the song that sounded fresh and new. That was a standout performance. Orlando is up next, and he starts off nicely, but the chorus gets busy and congested, and just so muddled. Blake is up first, and he would pick Judith. Usher thought Orlando was good, but the nod must go to Judith. Shakira thought the round went to Judith, and it was time for Adam to make the decision. It is no surprise, he picks Judith. Orlando will be going home. We are just over the midway point of tonight's episode, with three Knockouts remaining. Shakria picks out her next match up, and it is Karina Iglesias singing opposite Monique Abbadie. Karina will be taking on a great rock song, "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz. Meanwhile, Monique will be singing "The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush, but made popular by Celine Dion. But first, here is Lenny Kravitz doing his thing.

Karina was up first, and from the start, I thought her performance lacked a little juice, a little energy. Rather than taking control of the song, she let the band have the lead. She sounded on key, just a bit underwhelming. When Monique begins, I will admit to thinking this song is sung way too often on reality television, and seldom does it work. But I must admit, she added a few nice touches to the opening lines, and remained on key throughout, which is often the downfall. This round is surprisingly tight, although not very impressive for either, and not sure who I'd pick. Adam thought he would side with Karina, while Blake would side with Monique. No one really thought the song choices were great this round. After much consternation, Shakira goes with Karina, due to her show of confidence. After another break, it is time for the last battle for Team Adam, as Sarah Simmons and Warren Stone will be taking to the stage for a chance in the finals. Warren will be singing "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" by Cutting Crew, taking the Rock song and making it Country. Sarah will be taking on "Wild Horses", the song made famous by The Rolling Stone. But first, here is The Cutting Crew on their great song, "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight".

Warren is up first, and he really changed up the song, and did a great job with it. He brings a real Country/Rock vibe to it, and allowed his voice to soar when needed. I wasn't sure he could actually do this well. But his battle is definitely in the hands of Sarah, whose angelic voice has an amazing ethereal quality. Wow, I am a little confused. I was really expecting this to be better than it is - she allowed the song to get mired down, and kinda lost me. I was disappointed. Blake, Usher, and Shakira all praised Warren, but gave the round to Sarah. I figured that is the way it would go, but not sure that is the call I would make. In fact, I would have picked Warren, who really delivered tonight. But Adam makes the expected pick by going with Sarah, and completes his all-girl team. And in the final Knockout of the night, Shakira sends Shawna P and Sasha Allen to the stage. Sasha will be singing "At Last", the song made great by Etta James. Shawna will be taking on "Maybe I"m Amazed", the great song by Paul McCartney. But first, let's listen to Paul singing his classic song.

Sasha came out and sang the crap out of the song, and gave a truly wonderful performance. That was different from the original, with her own special flair. Shawna came out, and delivered a good, but not great performance. She was a bit affected, and really needs to take a step back and get a fresh look at her style. Her voice has some power. Adam, Blake and Usher all offer their support to Sasha, and Shakira makes it official, and Sasha moves on to the finals. This finishes out Shakira's team, with two boys and two girls. Tomorrow night, The Voice comes back for two more hours as Team Blake and Team Usher figure out who will be competing in the finals.

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