I could kick off this recap of The Voice‘s final set of Knockout Rounds complaining about Carson Daly’s “coming up on…” teases — and how they snuff out suspense like a fire hose pointed at a toddler’s birthday candles. But no — this time around I’m gonna focus on the positives:
* We were treated to four or five performances during the two-hour telecast that were promising enough to signal a potential Season 5 champ.
* While at least one terrific prospect walked the guillotine, the two remaining Steals were used in ways that did not leave me blind with rage.
* And nobody got the dreaded montage treatment (aka The Voice equivalent of dropping a rock in a contestant’s trick-or-treat sack)!
Anyhow…enough kudos for Mark Burnett & Co. — lest they get swelled heads! Let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Knockouts from least- to most-promising winner. (In the interest of time — and being able to crank out an X Factor recap as well — I’ll try to limit my reviews to a Twitter-esque 140 characters or less):
8) Team Blake: Austin Jenckes (“I’ll Be) defeats Brandon Chase (“Even if It Breaks Your Heart”) | Austin sounded solid enough, but if he wants to build some buzz vs this deep field, he’s going to have to be more daring in the song-selection dept.
7) Team Adam: Preston Pohl (“No Woman No Cry”) defeats Lina Gaudenzi (“I’d Rather Go Blind”) | Preston was the clear winner in this mismatched heat, but a few of his riffs on the melody fell apart like glass figurines getting hit with baseballs. How come nobody called him out?
6) Team Adam: James Wolpert (“More Than a Feeling”) defeats Juhi (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”) | There were moments when James’ pitch matched his passion and ambition, but since when is he supposed to be the bombastic classic rock dude? Terry McDermott, you’re not, buddy. Personally, I’d have given the win to Juhi
5) Team Blake: Ray Boudreaux (“Hard to Handle”) defeats E.G. Daily (“I Can’t Make You Love Me”) | With his nifty sense of rhythm and cool, Ray totally dominated over a crackly-nervous E.G. Still, I’d like to see him wrap his signature style around some less obvious song choices going forward, wouldn’t you? I mean, there’s got to be a well of untapped creativity in there.
4) Team Cee Lo: Tamara Chauniece (“No One”) defeats Stephanie Anne Johnson (“Don’t Know Why”) — Stephanie Anne stolen back by Xtina | The night’s most closely matched battle featured two women who scored major points for originality, as Xtina noted. I adored Stphanie Anne’s mixture of power and squeak on her Norah Jones cover — even if she overbaked the embellishments on one or two occasions. Tamara, for her part, started a little too clipped to sound truly reggae, but by the time she’d finished with a flourish of shriekeration, I was at the cash register, buyin’ what she was sellin’. Xtina’s Steal meant happy endings and good vibes all around. Hurrah!
3) Team Xtina: Jacquie Lee (“Stompa”) defeats Anthony Paul (“The Other Side”) | Given Anthony’s self-immolating performance, the bar was set low for a Jacquie victory. But her awesome choice of Serena Ryder’s retro-funky earworm — and her near-perfect pitch — proved downright revelatory. We might’ve lost Juhi this week, but a new teen-queen contender has emerged in her place. Viva Jacquie!
2) Team Xtina: Matthew Schuler (“Cosmic Love”) defeats Will Champlin (“When I Was Your Man”) — Will stolen back by Adam | Wait, what did I say about Stephanie and Tamara being the most closely matched? Scratch that. Matthew came out roaring on one of those pedal-to-the-medal Florence + the Machine vocals that could’ve easily gone off the rails but miraculously, never did. The kid is a total beast. To my ear, though, Will’s gruff, heartbroken Bruno Mars cover was even better. The depth of emotion on his crackling “oooh-ooohs” alone signaled that he’s a legit Top 6 contender.
1) Team Cee Lo: Caroline Pennell (“The Way I Am”) defeats George Horga Jr. (Ne-Yo’s “Because of You”) | I’m never one to prematurely crown a winner on a reality singing competition, but win, lose or get sabotaged by Cee Lo’s wackiness, I’m ready to pre-order Caroline’s debut CD based off her sublime, razor-precise interpretation of Ingrid Michaelson’s ditty. As Blake put it, “Caroline makes me want to buy a cat and a pink blanket, and build a little fire in the house, and just curl up with a cup of hot chocolate.” Poor George never stood a chance, though let’s be honest: If he got half of the production and marketing boost as Justin Bieber, there’s no reason the kid couldn’t or shouldn’t be a huge star, too.
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of tonight’s Knockout Rounds? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ decisions on Knockout wins or Steals? Sound off in the comments!