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'The Voice' Season 8 Recap & Review: Knockout Rounds Show Contestants' Personality as Nate Ruess Helps

by Carolyn Menyes   Mar 23, 2015 22:06 PM EDT

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The always dreaded battle rounds of The Voice season eight are over, and now we've moved on to the knockouts. This is where the solo artists on each coach's team (Christina Aguilera, Pharrell, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine) get to shine, both through their song choice and work ethic.

With the help of "Nothing Without Love" singer Nate Ruess, the remaining contestants all got to show off their individual personalities, and while there were few blow away moments, it was still nice to finally get a true sense of personality as we move ever-nearer to the live shows.

So, let's look at how they did:

Ashley Morgan, "Heartbreaker": The storyline for backup singer Ashley Morgan this season has been that she's one of the more technically proficient singers on this show, but she lacks any sort of passion or personality on stage. And, while she played the part well of the woman scorned on her take of "Heartbreaker," it's still hard to realty feel through her stone cold exterior. She nailed the vocals, bringing some of that Christina Aguilera coaching power into her performance. She didn't over-sing her performance, by any means, but she sure did toe the line...
Sonic, "A Woman's Worth": If Ashley lacks passion but is 100 percent technical perfection, Sonic is all passion and mostly vocal power. Her song choice was key here. I mean, she couldn't have done better than Alicia Keys; the soul was there and the range was right in Sonic's wheelhouse. She had a few sour notes, but she was very captivating to watch.
Who technically won the knockout? Sonic. The choice seemed to narrow down to who had that je ne sais quoi and who was more in Christina's wheelhouse. As Blake Shelton pointed out, this performance was very much in line with what Xtina can do. So, she had that choice down easily.
Who should have won the knockout? It's hard to say Sonic when Ashley was more on note, but it was all Sonic. There's just something special about that girl. It was hard to look away while she was on the screen, while Ashley's performance will be forgotten about in, like, two days. Plus, Ashely's song choice... what does Pat Benatar say about her? It showed off every level of her voice but none of the personality... and that's what she needed.

Brian Johnson, "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You": Brian Johnson is usually one of The Voice's most dynamic and reaching performers, but this performance just didn't quite sell it for me. Maybe it was the song choice, but his highly emotional, powerhouse cutting voice just wasn't present. It was nice to see a softer side of this softie - I mean we know that Brian is just a very good person. But in a knockout that was promising to knock out socks off, this was a very tepid start.
Sarah Potenza, "Wasted Love": Ready for some Voice inception? Sarah Potenza singing a song that could very well have won the show last year (from Matt McAndrew). This was the powerful performance that we deserved. Despite not being a fan of McAndrew's last year, you can't deny that this was a great song, and a good choice for Sarah, who was able to show off her powerful side and soft side. Sarah was bringing this song up and down and all over the place and really feeling it, like a true artist.
Who technically won the knockout? The passion of Sarah could not be matched.
Who should have won the knockout? Blake made the right choice with Sarah. But, Brian is safe, getting stolen for Team Adam. Brian has been an enjoyable presence on The Voice and even if his take on "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You" wasn't 100 percent up to snuff, he has room on this show and deserves a spot.

Clinton Washington, "Wanted": In the grand scheme of things, Clint Washington is a pretty forgettable part of The Voice roster. Though, when he stood up and matched the power of India Carney on the Battle Round of Rihanna's "Stay," he showed his hand by going 180 degrees with Hunter Hayes' country ballad "Wanted." As Blake Shelton described, Clinton moved seamlessly between the falsetto and throat voice and it worked wonders.
Nathan Hermida, "Leave Your Lover": This performance was pretty silky and overall an impressive feat for a 17-year-old. Sam Smith is a hard singer to tackle, and Nathan Hermida tried his very best with his falsetto. There were some pitch issues, but he managed to maintain it well enough. The emotion was there, and that's what sold this performance in the end.
Who technically won the knockout? Who knew Adam Levine was such a softie? Nathan "showing his heart" caused him to win this knockout.
Who should have won the knockout? To be perfectly honest, neither of these performances was exactly what I would call a "knock out." Personally, Clinton is a more interesting artist to me. Who can do pop, R&B and country all in a span of weeks? Realistically, though, neither of these dudes will go *that* far.

Mia Z, "Hold On I'm Comin'": Here it is... The Voice's very first three-way knockout battle on The Voice, after one member of Team Pharrell left the show. These contestants were nervous about this proposition, even though you have better odds (66.6 percent) of staying on the show than a traditional battle (50 percent). It sees like the more natural combination would have been just Sawyer verses Paul, but Mia Z was tacked onto this too, making this a very odd knockout round. Mia continues to be so incredibly ~other~ that she really stands out on this show. Even though her lower register can be a little to nasally for my taste, she can kill a whistle note better than most professional singers out there, and she sure did show that off here.
Paul Pfau, "Don't Need No Doctor": Paul Pfau is a very good guitar player - that cannot be denied. His vocals? Well... I will say that I took notes, took some time to write about Mia and Sawyer, revisited this middle performance and forgot everything about it. That... does not bode well. It's maybe been three minutes since he sang live on NBC's broadcast. SOO... that being said... eh?
Sawyer Fredericks, "Collide": It's impressive that Sawyer Fredericks was willing to let go of his crutch of the guitar for this performance. It did feel like something was missing here, but he did show his versatility in here. That was smart. Despite not necessarily being the most engaging performer, he still managed to sell the emotion and shine through the room.
Who technically won the knockout? Sawyer got the first secured spot on Team Pharrell, which was an easy choice because he's somehow so magnetizing. And then the next spot went to Mia. The artistry was the winner at the end of the day.
Who should have won the knockout? Sawyer and Mia were far and away the best two of these three. For once, Pharrell made the right choice.

Meghan Linsey, "Natural Woman": Sometimes it still feels a wee bit unfair that Meghan Linsey is on The Voice because she really did have a successful music career. And that's why each of her performances just ooze with professionalism. Despite leaning toward the world of country, Meghan's performance of "Natural Woman" was filled with rasp and soul. It's what makes her so interesting and engaging and a real potential winner of this show.
Travis Ewing, "I Don't Want to Be": Was it just me or was Travis Ewing just slightly ahead of the beat of this song through the first chorus? With that being said, Travis was able to show off his powerful vocal but it was much more difficult to see who he was as an artist - this felt just way too close to Gavin DeGraw's original version.
Who technically won the battle? Meghan Linsey. Admittedly, this was always her battle to lose, and she wasn't going to let it go. She cut through this song like a knife, and it was so effortless and powerful. She's a real "natural woman" and performer, for sure.
Who should have won the battle? Meghan Linsey was the right choice both for Team Blake and this battle.

Kimberly Nichole, "If You Need Somebody": This was a tough knockout from the get-go, because both Kimberly Nichole and Koryn Hawthorne are strong divalicious performers. She brought her own original edge to this song, singing and executing the notes flawlessly. The song choice maybe dragged a little bit, but she knocked this one out of the park.
Koryn Hawthorne, "Try": This song just doesn't feel like it works with Koryn Hawthorne's vocals. She has the power to project and sing this song with all of the power that Pink injected in the original, but her range is just a little too deep and she's much less gritty than the edgy pop star. It just sounded like she was trying a little too hard for all of this. She should be better than this.
Who technically won the battle? Kimberly Nichole took this one home from the sheer power of her voice.
Who should have won the battle? I think Kimberly edged this one out, just because she had a more natural performance. But, that shouldn't discount Koryn's take - she really sold it, even if it wasn't always quite perfect. And that will now be up to Pharrell to fix.

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