Reality Rocks

‘The Voice’ Knockout Rounds, Pt. 2: Hard to Handle

Lyndsey Parker
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Worst. Knockout. Pairing. Ever.

"The Voice" Season 5 solidified its top 20 lineup this Tuesday, with the coaches picking their five contestants each who'll be moving on to the live shows. It was all very suspenseful, with two coaches actually stealing back contestants they'd previously lost in the Battle Rounds. That was some good TV.

But unfortunately, the most Steal-worthy singer of all ended up going home. That was bad, bad TV.

Here's what went down in the final Knockout Rounds...

TEAM ADAM: Lina Gaudenzi vs. Preston Pohl

Come on, we all knew how this one would turn out. I almost didn't bother to watch. I am glad I did watch, though, because Lina's "I'd Rather Go Blind" was rather great, full of power and passion. I'd underestimated this girl.

But still. She was no match for Preston, one of the best and most unique singers of this "Voice" season. I could listen to Preston's voice for hours, and I just might do that after I finish banging out this recap. His "No Woman No Cry" was the performance of a potential winner.

Adam Levine rather rudely admitted that he had assumed Lina would be cannon fodder, and that he hadn't expected this decision to be so tough. I guess he too had underestimated Lina. But still, his choice was clear. Preston prevailed.

WINNER: Preston

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TEAM BLAKE: E.G. Daily vs. Ray Boudreaux

E.G., a 52-year-old veteran of the stage and screen, did herself no favors with her song choice, the oft-covered "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. It was an old-fashioned, sleepy tune that only aged her more, or at least drew attention to the fact that she was the oldest contestant left on the show. A younger, fresher, more upbeat song would have made her seem less old-school and little more cool. Then she messed up a big note at the end (was she sick?), and she blew it. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew she'd blown it, too.

Ray has been one of my favorites this season — I've said more than once that he could win it all — but his "Hard to Handle" was not my favorite performance from him. He did nothing new with the song, and he certainly didn't have the grit and gravitas of either Otis Redding or the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson. There was nothing really special about his delivery. If Ray gives more performances like this on the live shows, he will lose his frontrunner status fast.

But of course, Ray will be advancing to the live shows, because Blake Shelton saved him over E.G. Blake cited E.G.'s embarrassing voice-crack as the reason that he let her go, but I have a feeling she would have lost against Ray regardless. Just sayin'.

WINNER: Ray

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TEAM XTINA: Anthony Paul vs. Jacquie Lee

Christina Aguilera, who's turning out to be a surprisingly good mentor this season, warned Anthony that Jason Derulo's "The Other Side" was the wrong song for him. He really should have listened to her. His performance was ouchy from beginning to end. I lost count of how many times I cringed during this number. Too bad. The guy had potential, but "The Other Side" was his undoing.

Conversely, Jacquie owned Serena Ryder's "Stompa." She stomped the stage and handled every big note (of which there were plenty) with ease. The way she smiled when she finished the big, brash anthem indicated that she knew she'd done a fantastic job. The wild audience applause was another tipoff.

Of course Jacquie won this one. This truly was a knockout. Would Anthony have had a fighting chance if he'd gone with another song? We'll never know.

WINNER: Jacquie

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TEAM CEELO: Stephanie Anne Johnson vs. Tamara Chauniece

Stephanie definitely has one of the more interesting voices and vibes of Season 5, but her yodely rendition of Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why" totally missed the mark for me. It was all over the place, very fussy, with too many embellishments and too much going on. It was like she was trying way too hard to prove she could make the song her own. All of those vocal acrobatics were distracting, and with talent like hers, unnecessary.

I enjoyed Tamara's reggae version of Alicia Keys's "No One," which was a better example of how to change up a song without ruining it. I still took issue with her old-fashioned image (it should be noted that CeeLo Green compared her to Anita Baker), but vocally, this was by far the superior performance.

CeeLo kept Tamara…but then, in a "Voice" first, Christina stole back her old contestant Stephanie, who she'd sacrificed in the Battle Rounds. Apparently Christina still believes in Stephanie. Hopefully moving on to the live shows, Christina can give her off/on protégé some much-needed guidance.

WINNER: Tamara
STEAL: Stephanie moves back to Team Xtina

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TEAM ADAM: James Wolpert vs. Juhi

Grrrrr. I'm still mad about this one. It was unforgivable, Adam pitting these two against each other. Even worse? That Adam pretty much admitted that he'd planned to pick James all along, and that Juhi, one of his stolen contestants from the Battle Rounds, had been set up as fodder. Juhi is too good to ever be fodder. This was wrong.

So anyway, I love me some James, but I'm not sure what he was thinking when he chose Boston's "More Than a Feeling." Terry McDermott can get away with that song. Not James. This almost seemed like a karaoke-jokey performance, and the power ballad sucked all the nerdy-cool right out of the guy. Even his styling was all wrong. Where were his cute glasses? Plus, James sounded really strident and shrill in parts.

Juhi, on the other hand, was beyond-awesome singing the CCR version of "Heard It Through the Grapevine." She was fierce, feisty, fearless, ferocious, fun…really, there are a lot of F-words that could describe this number. "Fantastic" is another one. Juhi wiped the floor with James, much as I hate to admit it.

As I've already spoiled, Adam ignored what he'd just seen and heard and picked James anyway. And with no more Steals left in play (other than Adam's own), Juhi had to go. Now please kindly excuse me while I go stick some pins in my Adam Levine voodoo doll…

WINNER: James

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TEAM BLAKE: Austin Jenckes vs. Brandon Chase

Really, Austin? "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain? I guess Austin didn't watch "American Idol" or any other singing competition for the past, oh, 12 years. This is one of the most overdone songs ever. It should be blacklisted from all reality shows. He did a nice job with it, but it was nothing I hadn't heard before, and it was hard for me to get too excited over it. Meh.

Brandon's cover of the Eli Young Band's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" wasn't much more exciting, but at least it felt new and young and commercial; it was easy to imagine him on country radio or touring as the opening act for someone like Jason Aldean. And he had the look that would rake in votes from the girls, let's be frank.

But Blake picked…Austin. Surprising. I guess he's not sick of that Edwin McCain song. We'll see how long Austin lasts on the live shows, but I think Brandon would have lasted longer.

WINNER: Austin

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TEAM CEELO: Caroline Pennell vs. George Horga Jr.

George had surprised me before, when he triumphed over quirky Juhi in the Battle Rounds. Would he beat out quirky Caroline, too? I prayed not.

Caroline warbled Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am," which I thought was a rather predictable song choice; I would have preferred it if she'd taken a song outside her obvious wheelhouse and made it her own, rather than just cover a fellow indie coffeehouse girl. But hey, she was adorbs. And she sang the song well.

George tried something a little different, at least, with Ne-Yo's "Because of You," but his performance was a mess. It was plagued with pitch problems, and his cheesy Blue Steel/Dylan McKay expressions fluctuated between being amusing and just plain annoying.

Thankfully, CeeLo kept Caroline. I wish he'd kept Juhi all along…but I guess he figured out early on that there was only room for one quirky girl in the Red Zone this season.

WINNER: Caroline

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TEAM XTINA: Matthew Schuler vs. Will Champlin

Matthew took on a mighty challenge choosing Florence & The Machine's "Cosmic Love," but he handled the huge Lungs song with ease and continued to establish himself as this season's man to beat. This performance was phenomenal. It was the perfect balance of technical perfection and pure fire, and after this, I wondered why Will even bothered to get onstage. He must have known he was goner. There was no way he'd top this.

But Will actually was great, too, belting Bruno Mars's' "When I Was Your Man." His performance also had a lot of heart and character. Oh dear. How on earth would Christina choose?

Well, of course Christina chose Matthew. But hey, it didn't matter, because guess what? Adam still had one Steal left...

WINNER: Matthew
STEAL: Will moves back to Team Adam

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So Adam stole back his original contestant Will, and all was right with the world once again. Except for the fact that Juhi was gone, that is.

So there you have it. Now we are down to the 20 contestants who will move on to the Live Playoffs. But until then, let's take a look at where all the teams stand right now. Below I've ranked the teams from strongest to weakest (in my not-so-humble opinion), with the individual contestants ranked within each list — although, really, every team is strong and boasts at least two singers who could win. And based on this week's performances, my rankings have definitely changed since the top 32.

TEAM ADAM
Preston Pohl
Tessanne Chin
Will Champlin
James Wolpert
Grey

TEAM BLAKE
Cole Vosbury
Nic Hawk
Shelbie Z.
Ray Boudreaux
Austin Jenckes

TEAM CEELO
Jonny Gray
Caroline Pennell
Kat Robichaud
Amber Nicole
Tamara Chauniece

TEAM XTINA
Matthew Schuler
Jacquie Lee
Stephanie Anne Johnson
Josh Logan
Olivia Henken

See you next week, when "The Voice" Season 5 goes live!

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