A star could be born on Season 12 of “The Voice” and his name is Chris Blue, who overpowered everybody else on Monday’s episode. This two-hour program featured the first knockouts of the spring cycle, and if I’m right about Blue, Alicia Keys will triumph in her sophomore season as a coach. She is facing off against Gwen Stefani, five-time champ Blake Shelton, and three-time winner Adam Levine. Nobody is saltier about this situation than Shelton, who couldn’t stop complaining that Blue was the last contestant to perform during the blind auditions, while Team Alicia held the only open slot available. Will this self-described pop-soul artist become Shelton’s worst nightmare and give Alicia her first victory?
Let’s take a look at Monday’s six knockout pairings, who prevailed to reach the upcoming live rounds, which ones were eliminated, and my rankings from top to bottom. Tell us if you agree or disagree with our choices? Also be sure to read through our recent power rankings of all four teams: Team Adam, Team Alicia, Team Blake, and Team Gwen.
1. Chris Blue (“Superstition”) vs. Quizz Swanigan (“Chains”) – Team Alicia
The best knockout of the night paired Quiz, the youngest competitor to ever perform on “The Voice,” against Chris, one of the most exciting artists to appear on this series in recent years. To kick things off, Chris absolutely blew the roof off the building with his rendition of a Stevie Wonder classic. The only thing more impressive than his showmanship is his insane vocal range. Quizz had to follow up that showstopper with one of his own, showing more poise and charisma than any 13-year old should ever possess. It was clear to everyone that Chris could potentially win this season, so Alicia had no choice but declare him the winner. But Gwen wasted no time stealing the teenage phenom for herself and both will now compete in the live playoffs.
2. Ashley Levin (“Fancy”) vs. Lilli Passero (“Tears Dry on Their Own”) – Team Alicia
Ashley was originally on Team Blake, but lost to Casi Joy in a close battle. She then became the first country artist to work with Alicia and she delivered with a Reba McEntire hit. Her voice is pure and she’s a natural on stage with potential to win over viewers over time. Lilli has been a frontrunner this season since Alicia serenaded her right onto her team during the blind auditions. Her old-school vibe was the perfect match for an Amy Winehouse cover, which Lilli delivered with sophisticated perfection. Alicia chose Ashley as the winner, and Adam earned a much needed upgrade for his team by stealing Lilli.
3. Hunter Plake (“I Want to Know What Love Is”) vs. Johnny Gates (“Million Reasons”) – Team Gwen
If there is an artist on this season I could imagine on the radio right now, it would be Hunter who gave a soul-stirring performance of a Foreigner classic. His emotional delivery and recognizable tone once again stood out while keeping his authentic sound intact. Following him was Gates, who I have considered a frontrunner since his blind audition. The charisma he has on stage is tough to compete with, but this battle was as close as it gets. Gwen may have shocked some people when she chose Hunter as the winner, but I believe she made the right call. But I also believe the remaining coaches missed out on a great steal in Johnny, and instead sent him home early.
4. Autumn Turner (“Respect”) vs. Hanna Eyre (“Bleeding Love”) – Team Adam
It’s a tall order to cover a song from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, but that was the bar Autumn set for herself and it proved to be her undoing. Although giving a respectable rendition, the coaches seemed to agree it was a poor song choice that didn’t show what kind of record she would make in today’s music landscape. In contrast, Hanna showed exponential growth since her blind audition and delivered a clear, meticulous performance of a more contemporary Leona Lewis song. Adam made the right choice in choosing Hanna as the winner and Autumn was sadly sent packing.
5. Johnny Hayes (“Statesboro Blues”) vs. Josh West (“Carry On Wayward Son”) – Team Adam
Johnny has such a natural ease about him on stage and this performance was no different. His soulful/rock vibe generally fares well in this competition, and I love how he holds nothing back on stage. In contrast, Josh feels a bit like a kid playing dress up. Although his voice is good, his performance reminded me of a Broadway show about a rock band — not a genuine artist on stage. Adam disagreed with me and chose Josh as the winner of this knockout. I was shocked to see Johnny go home at this stage.
6. Casi Joy (“My Church”) vs. Felicia Temple (“My Heart Will Go On”) – Team Blake
It was fun to see Casi finally loosen up on a more current country song. So far this season she has appeared a little old-fashioned and this showed a new side to her. Felicia’s choice to cover Celine Dion had me expecting her to crash and burn, but to my surprise she pulled it off with incredible power and control. Blake has a history of remaining loyal to his original team members, and because Felicia was originally on Team Alicia, I figured she was at a steep disadvantage. That turned out to be true, as Blake named Casi the winner and Felicia was eliminated from the competition.