NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, November 2, 2015, 11:12 PM
It’s down to the final 20.
With an elusive shot at the live shows hanging in the balance, hearts were broken, dreams were answered and Blake Shelton was rejected once more.
It came as little surprise that Blake’s one-on-one antics with Rihanna from last week were not a one-time ploy. He was back at it Monday night, trying to elicit some kind of response from Rihanna as her time on the show dwindled.
Nicknames were again the source of his flirtations, and you can’t fault the guy for trying. Calling the “Diamonds” singer “Ahnna,” so that on a second date she could become “Re-Ahnna” was actually almost clever.
In the end he was the butt of the joke, though, as Rihanna referred to Blake as “the ugly guy,” and Adam crowned him “the King of Stupid.”
Blake took the jabs in stride, solidifying a team with a plethora of country talent by foregoing more traditional voices.
The final knockout round sent some surprising names home in heart wrenching fashion, but here’s how the night ultimately shaped up.
Shelby Brown vs. James Dupre
Adam stuck it to Blake by stealing two country artists from under his nose in the blind auditions, but by pitting them against one another he proved a greater willingness to work with other genres more in his comfort zone.
Even his ultimate choice of Shelby, who was billed as a country artist but has shown versatility in earlier rounds, was a nod to his own strengths as a coach. James Dupre’s performance of a Blake Shelton hit was flawless and technically sound, but it didn’t have quite enough flair to sway Adam.
Even Blake said he felt that James sang his own song with more ease than he ever could, but that laid back attitude may have been the father of four’s Achilles’ heel.
Despite a nervous energy at the outset, Shelby put more feeling into her rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” at times transforming the country song and giving it a touch of gospel.
With his team now locked in for the live shows, Adam’s squad features a host of power and multiple artists with the chops to win it all.
Siahna Im vs. Mark Hood
This one was a heartbreaker.
It was certainly a gutsy move for a 15-year-old to take on Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” but why should we have expected anything less from the fiercely talented Siahna Im, whom Pharrell rightly called “fearless.”
Unfortunately she was going up against a more experienced artist whose ability to work the crowd ultimately wooed Pharrell.
Mark just looked like he was having the time of his life on stage as he got the audience up and clapping along with the beat of “Stand by Me.” One moment down on his knees holding a note, the next leaping into the air, the vibrancy of Mark’s performance overwhelmed Siahna’s charm.
Pharrell turned his back on a crowd pleaser in Siahna, an artist who could have won over America’s hearts in the live shows just based on the old soul lodged somewhere deep inside her slight frame.
It’s possible that Pharrell saw something of himself in Mark, and he wanted more time to see that through.
Jeffery Austin vs. Kota Wade
As the second male artist to attempt an Adele hit in the knockouts, Jeffery Austin had big shoes to fill after watching Jordan Smith set fire to the stage last week.
Just as he did in the blind auditions, though, he had Gwen transfixed throughout the performance, which solidified the fact that he is more than just a one-chair turn fluke.
The pop artist has now tackled Ed Sheeran and Adele with poise and dexterity, two artists who incessantly frequent the radio waves, and yet through all that he has somehow displayed originality.
Kota chose a truly difficult song in “Barracuda,” and although it perfectly coincided with her sassy rocker personality, it fell short vocally. The distracting strobe lights and blaring rock music couldn’t mask a few of the flat notes that the coaches pointed out.
Jeffery was the clear winner, and although he may not be at Jordan Smith level yet, he certainly has the potential to get there.
Emily Ann Roberts vs. Nadjah Nicole
Under the tutelage of a coach just too invested in his country artists and the genre itself, Nadjah Nicole never really had a shot.
It’s only been two years since Blake carried another pretty, young, blond country artist all the way to “The Voice” glory, and clearly Blake saw some Danielle Bradbery potential in Emily Ann Roberts.
This is not to take anything away from Emily Ann as her own individual. She has improved throughout every stage of the competition and this round was no exception, as she took a Dixie Chicks classic and made it relatable to a younger generation.
On the losing end of all this was Nadjah, whose performance of Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth” was brilliant and brought the exact kind of “feminine power” to the stage that Nadjah said she hoped to showcase.
Even her incredible jazzy falsetto runs were not enough to haul Blake over the country hump.
It hurts to say in retrospect, but things could have been very different for Nadjah Nicole had she chosen Adam as her coach in the blind auditions.
Evan McKeel vs. Tim Atlas
When Rihanna asked Evan McKeel to get rid of his guitar, she freed up a voice that should never be hindered.
The subtle change helped his performance of “Dare You to Move” open up to the audience. It let his hands mimic the emotion of the song, and he was able to show off a different side of his voice, proving that he is more than just a spot-on Stevie Wonder impersonator.
Tim, the steal from Team Gwen, came into the knockouts as an underdog, but he made a bid to change Pharrell’s mind. His former coach lauded a voice that nobody else on the show could boast, but the gritty anger he poured into a rendition of “Torn” ultimately could not mask Evan’s natural talent.
Regina Love had the audience going wild during her performance of “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Riley Biederer vs. Regina Love
As usual, “The Voice” saved the best for last.
Regina Love absolutely blew the roof off with her hammering performance of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” At times it was almost scary to hear the notes she was hitting with the force of, well, a freight train.
For Riley, it’s been a roller coaster ride already, and she found herself looking at the biggest drop when put up against Regina.
But the 19-year-old YouTube sensation more than held her own with a unique interpretation of Beyonce’s “XO.”
Pharrell was eerily prophetic when he said after the performances that “there’s no reason why either one of you should go home.” He made sure of that by stealing Riley back from Gwen, ending the knockouts on a high note by allowing Riley to go from agony to ecstasy in mere seconds.
As we head full steam for the live shows, here are the final five performers on each team:
– Team Adam: Amy Vachal, Blaine Mitchell, Jordan Smith, Keith Semple, Shelby Brown
– Team Blake: Barrett Baber, Emily Ann Roberts, Morgan Frazier, Ivonne Acero, Zach Seabaugh
– Team Gwen: Braiden Sunshine, Jeffery Austin, Korin Bukowski, Regina Love, Viktor Kiraly
– Team Pharrell: Darius Scott, Evan McKeel, Madi Davis, Mark Hood, Riley Biederer
Check back here tomorrow night for a recap of the first round of live performances.