The Voice Season 24’s three-way Knockout Rounds commenced Monday, and this stage of the competition featured what Team Reba contestant Jacquie Roar amusingly called “two redheaded beauties!” Along with new coach Reba McEntire, who has really found her footing on the show after a bit of a wobbly start, the episode marked the debut of this season’s Mega-Mentor” Reba’s longtime pal, Wynonna Judd.
“OK, there’s Red... and then there’s Big Red,” Jacquie chuckled, upon entering the rehearsal room and seeing the two flame-haired country divas together.
There was quite a lovefest going on between Reba and Wynonna – who, as Reba herself noted, have 90 years of show business experience between them. “It was really important to be here, because Reba is like family,” said Wynonna. Reba said she was “thrilled to pieces” when she found out Wynonna was going to be this season’s 24 Mega-Mentor, and she even revealed that if she could take only one album with her to a deserted island, it’d be one Wynonna’s self-titled 1992 solo debut.
The Knockouts were a lovefest in general for Wynonna, who exuded what John Legend called “warm, motherly energy.” She explained that she “needed to do [The Voice] to connect with the next generation of greatness,” and said she felt “blessed to be among all this talent.” She clearly made a sincere effort to connect with each contestant she mentored, and the direct results showed during a night of strong and highly competitive Knockout performances.
But before the Wynonna-mentored Knockout Rounds kicked off, there were a few more Battle Rounds to get out of the way, because John had yet to use his one remaining Steal. John used that Steal wisely, on (spoiler alert) Brandon Montel, so I look forward to seeing Wynonna mother Brandon during a future Knockouts rehearsal. In the meantime, here’s what happened on The Voice Monday:
TEAM NIALL: Brailey Lenderman vs. Huntley, “Hold My Hand”
Niall Horan paired his two “soulful pop-rockers” hoping for a “huge moment” that would “rip the roof off the place,” but during rehearsals he quickly realized that Brailey was nervous and didn’t “fully trust her voice yet.” Brailey still seemed intimidated once she got onstage, nodding at her duet partner’s opening verse as if she was already acknowledging her inevitable defeat. Huntley arguably sang this Hootie and the Blowfish hit better than Darius Rucker himself — “It was like he wrong that song,” Gwen Stefani noted. Gwen also admitted to Huntley, “I’m worried that you might win this show!” For now, he was the obvious winner of this Battle.
TEAM REBA: Crystal Nicole vs. Caitlin Quisenberry, “The Song Remembers When”
It’s understandable that Caitlin would be intimidated by Crystal, a Grammy-winning and power-singing industry veteran who has co-written/produced songs for the likes of Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Brandy, Ciara, and Jennifer Hudson, and whose round tone, as Niall put it, “filled up the room.” But this Trisha Yearwood ballad was much more in country songbird Caitlin’s wheelhouse. I understood why Reba chose Caitlin, based on this Battle, but I was initially surprised that John didn’t Crystal. John teased that he already had a certain “redemptive” Steal planned, so Reba was guilt-stricken as Crystal exited the competition. “I didn’t think that would hit me that hard, but it did,” Reba said through tears.
WINNER: Caitlin Quisenberry
TEAM GWEN: Brandon Montel vs. Kara Tenae, “Have You Ever”
Brandon, a true star in the making, gave one of my favorite (four-chair) auditions of the season, but this week, his soft and airy tone was overpowered by Kara, who was a better fit for this big Brandy song. The arrangement here was messy, with Brandon and Kara’s overlapping parts clashing confusingly (Niall compared their vocal interplay to a “tennis match,” although he meant that as a compliment). But Kara’s voice ultimately cut through; it almost sounded like her microphone was turned up louder. Gwen said she was “messed up” by this tough decision, and she hemmed and hawed before reluctantly choosing Kara… but then John got that “redemption” he’d been talking about. John had not been able to recruit Brandon during the Blinds because Reba had blocked him, but now Brandon was finally able to “come home” to Team Legend. And now I was glad that John hadn’t used his Steal on Crystal.
WINNER:Kara Tenae / STOLEN: Brandon Montel moves to Team Legend
TEAM REBA: Jacquie Roar vs. Alison Albrecht vs. Tom Nitti
Of these three, country showman Tom made the most interesting and risky song choice with his childhood favorite, “I Know I’m Losing You” by the Temptations — and he surprisingly nailed it, storming right out of the gate and boldly attacking the song. Meanwhile, Alison took perhaps toomuch of a risk with Carole King’s beloved classic, “It’s Too Late” (one of Niall’s childhood favorites), singing perfectly prettily, but failing to totally tap into the deep sadness of the song. Gretchen Wilson-esque country rebel Jacquie’s song pick, Maren Morris’s “Girl,” was the most on-brand of the three, so she won this Knockout — but then Reba immediately used her Save on Tom. (This season’s Battle Rounds did not feature any Saves, but Saves were back in play for the Knockouts.) Tom did have another option, because Gwen tried to use her Steal on him, much to Reba’s chagrin. But Tom understood that there was a “method to Reba’s madness” and remained loyal to his original coach. As for Alison, it was too late, baby, indeed.
WINNER:Jacquie Roar / SAVED: Tom Nitti
TEAM LEGEND: Mara Justine vs. Caleb Sasser vs. Kaylee Shimizu
All three of these contestants were four-chair turns, so this Knockout really came down to song selection (for the Knockouts, the contestants, not the coaches, choose the songs). Caleb exhibited star quality and impressive falsetto mastery on former Voice coach Nick Jonas’s banger “Jealous,” but his opponents went with show-stopping, chest-beating ballads, the sort of fight songs that were more likely to connect with the coaches and audience. Seventeen-year Kaylee fearlessly belted Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” which she’d never felt “ready” to sing until now; her fellow diva, 21-year-old Mara, took on an equally challenging classic, the Mariah Carey version of Badfinger/Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” The coaches seemed downright flabbergasted by the latter two performances, leaving poor Caleb the odd man out. I thought John might pick Mara as his sentimental favorite, since he spontaneously dueted with her on his hit “All of Me” during the Blind Auditions, but he simply could not let go of Kaylee, who he called “one of the most gifted vocalists I’ve never been around.” Luckily, both Gwen and Niall eagerly swooped in to steal Mara… but since Monday’s episode ended in a cliffhanger, we’ll just have to wait until Tuesday to find out Mara’s decision.
WINNER:Kaylee Shimizu / STOLEN: Mara Justine moves to Team… to be continued. (Gwen gave the more passionate sales pitch, so I predict she’ll become Mara’s new coach.)
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