We mcDonald Voice Knockouts

The Voice Recap: School of Hard Knockouts

Forgive me for stealing Carson Daly’s hyperactive terrier refrain — “WE’VE GOT A STEAL!” — and twisting it into a battle cry for The Voice‘s Season 11 Knockout Rounds.

Just when this cycle of NBC’s reality singing competition was starting to look sleepier than Christina Aguilera during an Adam Levine monologue, tonight’s two-hour extravaganza delivered not one, not two, but five or six potential contenders to Alisan Porter’s iron(-throated) throne.

Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen… “WE’VE GOT A SEASON!”

Knockouts mentors/upsettingly attractive duo Faith Hill and Tim McGraw deserve a little credit — they listened carefully and dispensed specific, actionable advice. But seeing how this is the one round where artists choose (and advance or faceplant on the strength of) their own material, let’s offer a resounding “hip-hip, hurrah!” to Wé, Kylie, Jason, Ali, Simone and Sundance. (OK, OK, maybe it’s cruel to omit just two advancing singers from the party, but wouldn’t it be far more heartless to celebrate their newfound status as Live Playoffs cannon fodder?)

With that in mind, allow me to rank tonight’s Knockout showdowns from least- to most-promising winner — bearing in mind I’ll be back overnight to update this URL with more detailed performance reviews (Update: Full reviews of every performance now added to the recap below!):

6. Team Adam: Riley Elmore – Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” defeats Jason Warrior – Luke James’ “I Want You” (Jason stolen by Blake) | When the definitive book of The Voice history is published in 2028 (when the show is finally cancelled after 34 seasons), Riley-over-Jason is a mortal lock to crack the list of Top 5 Most Boneheaded Decisions by a Coach. I mean, is Adam actively trying to build a team of singers destined for early elimination? Does he have some music or movie project in the works that’ll pull the bulk of his focus between now and the holidays? And if not, can someone throw out some other plausible theory for why the Maroon 5 frontman would choose Riley’s tepid, timid, tremulous performance over Jason’s deeply felt, undeniably ambitious, technically dazzling cover? Yeah, yeah, Adam can declare that Riley’s “unlike anything we’ve had on this show before” — if, of course, you forget the half-dozen or so out-of-their-depths teenage crooners who’ve come before him — but I’ll let Blake have the last word on Mr. Levine’s decision. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Jason, meanwhile, has the chops to be a Top 10 contender, and let’s thank Gwen Stefani’s main squeeze for recognizing it.

5. Team Blake: Sundance Head – Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” defeats Josh Gallagher – Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria” (Josh stolen by Adam) | Just a paragraph ago, I wondered if Adam might be on a path of deliberate self-sabotage, and that conspiracy theory was underscored by his use of a steal on the competent but utterly unoriginal Josh. Even from the standpoint of technique, Josh’s flimsy falsetta* (*the country term for falsetto) and aimless phrasing made him a clear second place behind Sundance. The latter singer, an erstwhile American Idol front-runner early in Season 6, may have hit a couple sharp notes at the end, but his gutsy decision to forego the house band and stick with sparse, acoustic self-accompaniment highlighted his sincerity and an achy-breaky tone as complex and silky as his Game of Thrones-ready beard.

4. Team Adam: Simone Gundy – Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” defeats Dave Moisan – Sam Smith’s “Like I Can” | “If you think, ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ then maybe you shouldn’t,” noted guest mentor Faith, after hearing Dave mangle the highest notes of his cover like a barn cat tearing into a chipmunk. And while I hoped the Blind Audition standout would emerge stronger, suaver and more in tune once he hit the main stage, the end result was hotter and messier than a fondue pot falling off a counter top. That left a wide open path to the playoffs for Simone, and what her rendition of “Midnight Train” lacked in originality, it made up for with heart, soul and intonation. Aside from Jason-over-Riley (which, granted, didn’t actually work out that way), this was the easiest decision of the Monday-night episode.

3. Team Miley: Ali Caldwell – Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” defeats Lauren Diaz — Andra Day’s “Rise Up” | Don’t get me wrong: The sweeping glory notes at the end of Lauren’s cover had that boom-boom-pow the Black Eyed Peas once advertised. Unfortunately, though, the rushed tempo of the arrangement made Lauren sound slightly gaspy on the verses, and that misstep wasn’t going to cut it against Ali, a singer who took every vocal plank in the back of her pickup truck, nailed each one together with ferocious passion and a will to win, and built a bridge straight into the live voting rounds. Ali (who was my favorite coming out of Blinds/Battles) definitely needs a crash course in Less Is More When It Comes to Voter Preferences/Overall Listenability, but I’m oddly confident Miley is the right professor for the job.

2. Team Alicia: Kylie Rothfield – Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” defeats Whitney & Shannon — Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” | Maybe Alicia went a tad overboard in describing Whitney & Shannon as their generation’s “brown goddesses” of rootsy folk, but I suspect her over-the-top praise was meant as a consolation prize to a pair of sweet sisters who didn’t do anything wrong with their Jason Mraz jam, but didn’t do anything especially exciting with it, either. Kylie, on the other hand, went all soft and breathy on the verse, executed some divine high notes on the chorus and then finished with a gruff stankness that was nothing short of revelatory. In the process, the Season 11 dark horse breathed sexual, empowered fire into a 64-year-old classic — and made it sound not a day over 21.

1. Team Alicia: Wé McDonald — Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” defeats Courtnie Ramirez — Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” | I giggled a little when Alicia pointed out Wé’s name as one of her many competitive advantages — but in all seriousness, would you really be shocked to be downloading The Wé, The Truth and The Light next year, Where There’s a Will There’s a Wé in 2019 and the multiple Grammy-winning The Wé of the Master in 2020? The 17-year-old has a voice so deep and rich, it conjures up memories of Toni Childs and Abbey Lincoln, with just a touch of Macy Gray off-kilterness (though maybe it’s her squeaky speaking voice that’s causing that last comparison). I worried the demon-banishing “No More Drama” would be too tall a task for one so young, but as Wé ripped through the verse, her tone resonating like a brass section of an especially tight jazz ensemble, my doubts disappated. Sure, she didn’t really know where to end the performance, but that’s where Alicia can help. When Courtnie’s opening verse went askew — she’s one of those divas who struggles when she’s not belting full blast — the TKO was a foregone conclusion.

Individual Rankings Based on Knockout Round Performances
8. Riley Elmore – Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet”
7. Josh Gallagher – Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria”
6. Sundance Head – Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb”
5. Simone Gundy – Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”
4. Ali Caldwell – Sade’s “No Ordinary Love”
3. Jason Warrior – Luke James’ “I Want You”
2. Kylie Rothfield – Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”
1. We McDonald — Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama”

What did you think of Night 1 of The Voice Season 11 Knockouts? Who did you like best? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Mge says:

    Another week goes by with Riley advancing and I’m sitting here stunned. I don’t understand why Adam has seemed to latch onto this jazz singer as opposed to other jazz singers from previous seasons with more talent and way more stage presence. Also, Jason straight up slaughtered him in battle yet he still gets chosen. I don’t get it.

    • Mge says:

      Also, We rocked my world tonight, as usual. She’s really something else.

      • The Beach says:

        I agree about Jason. I find his voice to be very generic R&B. If he came on the radio I would not be inclined to Shazam him to find out who it was.

        • The Beach says:

          This comment got placed in the wrong spot. Sorry. I do agree wholeheartedly about We. Her lower notes especially are like honey and make me smile.

      • davmon says:

        Yeah, We’ may be the story of the season. She just has a remarkable and unique voice, and unaffected teen charm. Ali may have as much or more talent, but thought her way into a less effective performance.

    • Oscarpig says:

      Agree. Some things just don’t make much sense

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      Exactly. How is Riley still around and Courtnie goes home???

      • Mge says:

        Courtnie got put up against (probably) the best of each respective team she was on, unfortunately. I really liked everything that she did.

        • Seth says:

          Talk about no luck. Paired with Ali in the Battles and Wé in the playoffs? Courtnie had an impossibly tough road. That said, I’m surprised she wasn’t stolen. Am I missing something?

          • kevstar69 says:

            Yes, Courtnie should have gotten stolen. Don’t understand why Adam chose Josh. He was SO outsung by Sundance, it was an obvious choice.

      • Hawkins says:

        Easy. It’s not *just* about the best singer, it’s about maketability to fan bases who will vote. The Voice is a show that skews to two fan bases: young women and older couples. Riley’s cute (the former) and a throwback (the latter).

        • Reamer says:

          Riley is 16 years old. The producers think he’ll bring in the teen voters.

          As for everyone else, the producers think that it makes “good drama” to watch a kid who’s too young for the competition flail out of his depth.

          Remember Braiden Sunshine?

      • Lizzie says:

        Riley’s voice is better than Courtnie’s.

  2. Oscarpig says:

    We’ all the way. She is amazing

  3. Michael H. says:

    Wé had me screaming my face off at my t.v. As Melinda says, that heffa sang. Also, mad props to Kylie for continuing to leave me shocked every week with how intensely she feels every song. Ali also did a great job, even if I think this was a little down from her personal best. Simone as well, was sensational in her improvement from her blinds. She’s a dark horse, and on team Adam, I think she’s almost guaranteed a spot in the live rounds. I would’ve leaned more towards the smoothness of Josh’s voice, but Sundance is deserving as well. I want to hear no more of Riley though.

    • davmon says:

      Gosh, your musta read my notes. We’–terrific. Kylie is from Berklee so is super talented; she buried those poor sisters. Ali was a bit cavalier this round–needs to be reined in by coach; that was a bit messy; but talent-wise, she may be We’s only competition. Simone was good tonight–but with so many black women singers as cream of the crop this season, she may only be 5th or so even in that subgroup. Like you, I actually liked the quality of Josh voice over the blandness of Sundance, whose character is visual, not vocal. Riley & Jason did not reach me, but partly I was distracted… BTW, my fave for a steal was Lauren….oh well…

  4. Gailer says:

    We is the only standout for me this season so far. I liked Josh more than Sundance.

    • Annie says:

      Thank you! I thought Josh was much better than Sundance too. But I am also partial to the song “My Maria”. I am not a big country music fan but I do really like that song.

  5. Kimmy Moores says:

    That is what we calll Wé now.

  6. JMark (formerly JM) says:

    We’, Kylie and Ali. That is all, IMO.

  7. Florence+TheMachineRulez!!! #TeamMariah says:

    Wé, Ali, Kylie, Jason, and Simone SLAYED!!! No words!!! 🙌🏽👏🏽 buy their songs y’all and help them get far in this competition!!!

  8. OhMy says:

    In what way is that Mama Thorton’s version? You can only say that if you havent heard her version.

    • kevstar69 says:

      Most people know the Elvis version, because most people don’t know that Elvis remade a blues song by a black female.

      • OhMy says:

        Well, actually it’s a Lieber and Stoller song — it was first recorded by Mama Thorton, but it’s a stretch to say it was a blues song by a black female. Her version is the best, in my opinion. But the one tonight was pretty thin in comparison and other than it was song by a woman, there wasn’t much similarity.

  9. Seth says:

    Said it after the Blinds and again after the Battles. This is Wé’s competition to lose. There are some challengers, but they’ll need Alicia to miss on song choices or Wé to lose her nerve.

  10. Dee says:

    Adam clearly needs a break… Cause he made 2 bonehead decisions tonight. 1st, you get trigger happy and waste your 1 steal on Josh who you should have just let go cause he won’t make it in the rounds.

    Then you have the audacity to say Riley was the winner over Jason. He must not want his team to go far cause he might have just handed Blake another win there.

    • Slymon Cowfeet says:

      He can’t get enough of other white guys.

    • Oscarpig says:

      Come on guys. It’s rigged. Blake who owns the show ( note Gwen returning next season. ) needed some better singers. I assume he is pisssed. The girls r overshaowing him in every way. Soooooo. Adam hands him some contenders by choosing the losers. It’s obvious. This isn’t for fun. They make a ton of money with thus show.

  11. KathyF says:

    “My Maria” came out in 1973, and the original artist is B.W. Stevenson, not Brooks and Dunn. Just sayin’.

  12. Angie_Overrated says:

    Great night. Really great. Put Kylie in last place and put Sundance in her spot and I’d agree with these rankings.
    We and Ali are setting themselves up to be around for several more weeks.
    People here don’t seem to love Sundance, but I think he’s got a terrific voice. His voice has this cool ability to cut through the band the same way a Broadway singer does it with squillo. It’s a focused sound that has given me the chills every single time I’ve heard it. He’s my dark horse pick.

    • analythinker says:

      I love Sundance, but I also like Kylie!

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        Kylie doesn’t float my boat. I immediately tune out each time she’s on my tv.
        There was lot of talent tonight, so I cannot complain.

        • analythinker says:

          I don’t get her personality, though, so I get ya. There’s some talent to look forward to as well, tomorrow.

    • Russ says:

      Being on Blake’s team, I would say Sundance would be considered higher than a dark horse. With Blake’s help he might make the top 4. Has anybody seen Jazzy? With all the talented ladies and the two girl power coaches she must be on cloud nine.

    • danin says:

      I thought Kylie was mediocre! I liked Sundance+ the guy he sang against(I like that song My Maria)

  13. analythinker says:

    The top three in the poll are my choice as well. The women really slay! (I just realized this was the first time I used the word “slay”). Love a good night of strong voices, I’m satisfied.

  14. analythinker says:

    I was thinking that Adam might want to keep Billy, Nolan, and Brendan for the live playoffs by keeping Riley and stealing Josh. But I just did a head count, and he’s bound to lose one of the three. Perhaps his top 3 would be Billy, Nolan/Brendan, and Riley.

    • Rhokita says:

      Remember the public votes in 2 of the 3 contestants in the lives. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them is Riley. I think the public will also vote in Brendan. I doubt Adam will save Simone or Josh–it’ll probably be Nolan. My hunch is that Adam doesn’t think 2 women can win in a row which is probably why he’s grabbing a lot of guys this season.

      • analythinker says:

        Um, you are forgetting Billy. The two contestants left to knock out each other from Team Adam are Nolan and Brendan, so it is impossible to have both. Historically, people vote for contestant who is shown more, and in this case, it’s Nolan (if he wins the knockout). If Nolan loses and Adam is left with Billy, Simone, Josh, Riley, and Brendan, America will choose Billy and Riley. Adam will pick Brendan. If the scenario is with Billy, Simone, Josh, Riley, and Nolan, I *think* America will advance Billy and Nolan. Adam might pick Riley (although I want him to pick Simone).

  15. scott says:

    Is it me or was tonight a little underwhelming. I thought We’ was ok, but I just can’t see her winning the whole thing. I know the show is shoving her down our throats, but I have a feeling there are a handful of contenders that will not make it so cut n dry.

    • MC says:

      It wasn’t you. I had the same reaction. I was disappointed that Lauren Diaz did not advance because she is one of the most emotionally connected singers from this season. There is some internet chatter that she will be a wild card (if that is available this season). Ali was powerful, but she strangled too many of the notes for my taste. Sundance was fairly good, but I thought this was his weakest performance yet. I generally like him, though. Jason Warrior was pretty good; he has potential and Blake saw that. Riley is just another boy crooner and he was very by the numbers covering Buble. Kylie was alright, but “revelatory” is way too strong a term for her. I do admire her control, but she is one of those who can only do slow tempo songs or slow versions of fast songs. I am looking forward to Dana Harper (who was ridiculously montaged in the battles) and, of course, the charming Darby Walker.

      • scott says:

        I tend to agree with most of what you said. I’m looking to see what Michael Sanchez can do. The live shows will be very telling and I think someone will emerge as serious contenders.

  16. skrable2a says:

    The look on Tim McGraw’s face when We got going during rehearsal was classic And it was Faith Hill who first suggested that Sundance go acoustic.

  17. Barry says:

    Great night, Wé won it for me, but Sundance, Kylie and Ali where right on her heels. People shouldn’t underestimate Sundance, that guy is fantastic, and his song is at the top on Itunes from last night, above Wé. Don’t know why people seem to not really get behind him here, he is seriously good. So happy that people are giving some love to Kylie, I thought that I was the only one who loves her. I understand that she doesn’t appeal to everyone but she really speaks to me, no way she’ll make it past the Playoffs, especially on team Alicia, but I’ll enjoy her while I can.

  18. dj says:

    I totally agree about Adam. He made one bad decision after another last night. I don’t think he has much chance to win. He needs to get his ears checked.

  19. Roger says:

    All of a sudden We’ is my dark horse favorite to win the whole thing with Sundance a close second. In the end though it all boils down to song choice. The talent is already there for both of them.

  20. Kylie knocked me out How to make over Hound Dog seem brand new!

  21. Mike says:

    Sadly, I think the advice to have Whitney and Shannon sing more separately might have been their downfall. They’re far better harmonizing. :(

    • skrable2a says:

      i agree with this, but there’s a downside to that as well. Their harmonies were beautiful and delicate, but it seemed as though that’s the only “lane” (Voice coach term alert) they seemed comfortable to be in. It was already starting to feel as though everything would sound the same from them.

      Kylie switching things up, as Sunshine did with his song choice, made them stand apart from the safe choices of their knockout opponents

  22. Allie says:

    It was hard to pick just 3. Lots of great performances. We is amazing. Kylie and Ali were my other top picks but James was a close 4th. It was a bit baffling to see Riley and Josh advance while Courtnie left but I think Adam is totally blinded in his pursuit to defeat Blake with a country singer that he just doesn’t care about anything else. I was surprised that Whitney and Shannon left given the way the judges gushed over them all the time but it was the right decision.

  23. Oksana says:

    We has a killer voice but I didn’t feel the drama and pain that I wanted.

  24. Toba7 says:

    Riley over Jason? Totally ridiculous. What is Adam thinking?

  25. Lulu says:

    Maybe Riley is not good enough in the Knockout, bcoz of the song is not good for his voice. He chose the song wrongly. But actually Riley’s voice is not bad. He has his own marks. Nevertheles, my fav in this season are Billy Gilman (of course!!!!), Michael Sanchez, and We..

  26. Carp Finley says:


  27. stevessf says:

    We is a special talent, so who’s idea was it to dress her up in that God-awful clown suite and hair? Sheesh. Ali was brilliant too.