's Knockouts are perfectly fine. However, they rarely rise above the level of "filler." They feel like a slight riff on the Battle Rounds. In season 14, The Voice
is finally changing things up. The Knockouts are getting a pair of twists, one much more impactful than the other. Together, they finally give the Knockouts a much-needed lift.
The first, and lesser, of the new twists is that for the Knockouts, all the coaches' mentors are previous winners of The Voice. The artists coming back range from obvious to weird, but it does manage to be a nice sample size of Voice history.
- Team Blake has season 13 winner Khloe Kohanski. Khloe is a very boring and unremarkable option for Blake. She has very little to offer to artists, but it's harmless that The Voice wants to promote its most recent winner.
- Team Kelly has season 3 winner Cassadee Pope. Even though Cassadee was a Team Blake artist, she feels right at home on Team Kelly. Cassadee is the biggest female winner of The Voice, and Kelly is the biggest winner of
American Idol that other show.
- Team Adam has season 9 winner Jordan Smith. This is another natural selection as Jordan is the "best-selling artist" from The Voice, according to Carson Daly's screaming introduction anyway.
- Team Alicia has season 12 winner Chris Blue. Chris is Alicia's only winner, so she really had no other choice, but that doesn't take away that these two are a delight to see together again.
The second twist is the big one. This time, the coaches don't just have Steals for the Knockouts. They've been also given a Save.
The Save allows a coach to save an eliminated artist on their own team after the performance. The only catch is that it's still possible for other coaches to use their Steals. In other words, a Save is just a Steal but for an artist that's already on the coach's team. It's much less complicated than it sounds.
Jaclyn Lovey ("Put Your Records On") vs. Kyla Jade ("You Don't Know Me")
Team Blake starts things off with one of the weirdest Knockouts in recent memory. Luckily, Jaclyn and Kyla don't have to sing together (because that would be a real mess). Yet the tonal whiplash between these two performances is real and jarring. Jaclyn starts things off with a very wavy (her arms and hands don't stop moving) and laid-back performance of "Put Your Records On." It's easy listening to his dullest extreme.
Kyla, meanwhile, turns on every bit of volume for "You Don't Know Me." Kyla is never going to win this show, but she really does bring the house down. It completely wipes out all memory of Jaclyn's easiest-of-easy listening routines.
The coaches go wild over Kyla, and poor Jaclyn basically folds in on herself. It's clear that Blake had no interest in letting Jaclyn survive past this round.
Winner: Kyla Jade
Kaleb Lee ("Free") vs. Justin Kilgore ("Shameless")
Kelly's decision to steal Kaleb in the Battle Rounds seemed like a huge mistake. Yet Kelly and Kaleb manage to prove everyone wrong now. Kaleb pulls off a confident and magnetic performance that perfectly captures the feeling he wants to convey. It doesn't make Kaleb a frontrunner, by any means, but this is his best performance.
Justin, meanwhile, continues to buckle under the weight of his nerves. He does have more range in his voice. Yet Justin comes off looking much poorer and unsteady. Kaleb is ready to go. Justin still isn't anywhere near where he needs to be to stand a chance in this competition. It's sad, but he needs to grow up a little more.
Winner: Kaleb Lee
Jackie Foster ("Bring Me to Life") vs. Mia Boostrom ("Wade in the Water")
This is the first Knockout where the benefit of the Save is starting to emerge. Adam would never have risked getting rid of Mia and Jackie if he didn't have a chance to continue with both. This is a huge gamble for Adam.
Jackie kicks things off with a haunting update of Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life." It feels different from anything else Jackie's done on the show but proves why she was completely deserving of a three-way Steal that landed her on Team Adam in the first place.
Meanwhile, Mia turns in a tremendous jazzy performance that's just wonderful on every level. Adam has been singing Mia's praises from the beginning (and so have I); now the rest are finally beginning to catch up. Everyone knows that Adam paired these two together so he could try to keep both. It's really just a matter of personal preference for the winner.
Winner: Mia Boostrom
Of course, things implode once Mia is chosen. Before Adam can push his Save, Kelly jumps in with a Steal, followed by Blake. If that's not enough to give Carson an aneurysm as he wails about Steals, Alicia jumps into the mix. It's total mayhem, in the best way, but Jackie really does deserve it.
In a real shocker, though, Jackie jumps ship from Team Adam to move onto Team Alicia. Maybe if Adam had chosen Jackie to start, he coud've kept both, but he seemed doomed to lose one here, no matter what happened.
Steal: Alicia Steals Jackie Foster!
Austin Giorgio ("Almost Like Being in Love") vs. Spensha Baker ("Broken Halos")
Blake continues to have weird match-ups, as Austin and Spensha take the stage. Things appear like they'll play out exactly like they did with Jaclyn and Kyla; the first artist is being used as a sacrificial lamb.
Austin starts things off. He continues to be exactly as hammy as he's been this whole season. Austin has such a loud, flamboyant (and cliched) persona. It's either a train you're on or off at this point. His voice is good, but he just does too much to "enhance" everything. It's all very artificial.
Spensha, meanwhile, is just effortlessly cool. She's not trying so hard to build her identity, like Austin. Spensha's just herself, and that's a magnificent artist. Spensha is the one to keep an eye on on Team Blake. Luckily, Blake recognizes how special she is, but he also has a soft spot for Austin.
Winner: Spensha Baker
Blake does step in and use his Save to keep Austin. However, it's telling that no one fights him on it with a Steal.
Save: Blake Saves Austin!
Johnny Bliss ("Alive") vs. Miya Bass ("Castle on a Hill")
Team Alicia finally joins us with a showdown between two of her powerhouse singers. Johnny Bliss had a strong Blind Audition, but he got montaged in the Battle Rounds. Johnny does start off his Knockout performance on rough footing, which makes it seem like The Voice made the right choice skipping over him. He does recover. The other two-thirds of his performance manage to make up for the weak beginning.
Luckily for Johnny, Miya ends up making even bigger mistakes. She's picked the wrong song. There's way too many lyrics for her style of singing. She's fighting to catch up the entire time. Miya comes way under where she should be, and though she has a bit more potential, she totally flounders.
Winner: Johnny Bliss
Drew Cole ("Slow Hands") vs. Jackie Verna ("American Honey")
Team Adam closes the first night of the Knockouts, as Adam tries desperately to make up for the blunder of giving up Jackie Foster. This match-up isn't quite as obvious a showstopper. It does earn being the final one of the night.
Drew has yet to have his moment on the show, even though Adam really enjoys him. Finally, that moment arrives in this Knockout. Drew isn't quite a superstar, but he does show a little more identity than the Hipster Jesus he has been supplying so far.
However, there's no mistaking that this performance is Jackie's "moment." Jackie really turns up the heat and rises to the top as one of the season's best country artists. She has a silky and soothing voice that forces you to take notice. Jackie should win the Knockout, but Adam does have a real kinship with Drew. Luckily, Adam makes the right choice.
Winner: Jackie Verna
Of course, Adam presses his Save for Drew. Equally as obvious, Blake presses his Steal for Drew. Truly, it's all just to mess with Adam. Yet 86% of Blake's existence on The Voice
is to mess with Adam. It's an uphill battle to fight the bromance between Drew and Adam. Blake knows it too.
Save: Adam saves Drew!
What did you make of the first night of the Knockouts? How do you feel about the Save twist? Does it shake things up correctly? Should it return? Did Blake and Adam use their Saves correctly or will they regret them? Whose team is shaping up to be the best one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)