shakira usher the voice nbc 'The Voice' live blog: Knockout rounds, night twoIt’s night two of the knockout rounds on “The Voice,” with coaches Blake Shelton and Usher pitting their teams against one another to see who’ll make it to the live shows next week, after Adam Levine and Shakira put their teams through the paces last night. Who will make it through?

First Knockout: Team Blake – Savannah Berry vs. Justin Rivers

Songs: “As Long As You Love Me” – Justin Bieber (Savannah); “The Climb” – Miley Cyrus (Justin)

Performances: It’s interesting that both chose a gender-flipping pop star’s song to compete with. Justin’s rehearsals reveal that he’s bringing a much more straightforward version of Miley’s track, while Savannah’s really trying to something different with her spin on the Biebs.

In her performance, Savannah really presents a twist on “ALAYLM,” charming Bieber’s mentor Usher even into singing along. Justin’s performance is a slog. This song choice doesn’t make any sense for him. I understand he connected lyrically, but — bleh. He belts out some great notes towards the end, but it’s still, artistically, a weird choice.

Winner: Justin. None of the judges agreed with my assessment. Oh well.  

Second Knockout: Team Usher – Josiah Hawley vs. Jess Kellner

Songs: “Back to Black” – Amy Winehouse (Josiah); “You Give Me Something” – James Morrison (Jess)

Performances: During rehearsals, Josiah’s got his song on lock, while Jess seems to be struggling a bit. Josiah’s performance is pretty terrific — he’s charming, he handles the song quite well, and he’s got the swag that Usher could coach to the top.

Jess still struggles with pitch during her performance, almost right off the bat. She’s all over the place with notes throughout the song, struggling to hit notes or even stay on ones she’s found. It’s a rough one. The winner seems clear to me. Blake says he likes what Jess did, which makes me wonder if he was actually listening.

Winner: Josiah, after Usher’s odd fake out.

Third Knockout: Team Blake – Holly Tucker vs. Luke Edgemon

Songs: “Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw (Holly); “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry (Luke)

It’s time to see if Luke’s strategic choice of jumping to Blake’s team over Usher’s was a good idea. He believes he’ll stick out because he’s not country like the rest of the team, but with Blake’s clear desire to win with a country artist, can Luke beat Holly?

Holly’s performance is good, but it’s expected. She goes the country route, sticking what she knows, opting to flex no artistic risk-taking. That’s not a bad thing, just an observation. She sings the heck out of it, so she knows what she’s doing.

Luke’s completely turned “Teenage Dream” into something unrecognizable, in the best way possible. He’s turned the song into a smooth R&B bedroom burner. I immediately want a full-length recording of that. I’m with Shakira and Adam on this one — Usher’s notes against it, about an inability to connect to the song are wrong.

Winner: Holly. I’m not surprised, though I think Blake is a fool.

Fourth Knockout: Team Usher – Audrey Karrasch vs. Michelle Chamuel

Songs: “How To Love” – Lil Wayne (Audrey); “Raise Your Glass” – Pink (Michelle)

Performances: I think Audrey’s song choice is really cool. I’ve always weirdly been a fan of this odd Lil Wayne song. However, just like in her rehearsal package, Audrey never overcame her trouble with the higher notes when it came time to perform. It’s good to know your limitations and pick a song that won’t put them on display. I think this backfired on Audrey.

Michelle, on the other hand, was a total blast during her performance. She’s a bundle of personality and she sings the heck out of the Pink track. I think Michelle takes this one.

Winner: Michelle. It’ll be fun to see her in the live shows. Good choice, Usher.

Fifth Knockout: Team Blake – Danielle Bradbery vs. Taylor Beckham

Songs: “Jesus, Take The Wheel” – Carrie Underwood (Danielle); “Russian Roulette” – Rihanna (Taylor)

Performances: Gee, country artist versus non-country artist. I wonder who Blake will pick? Danielle sounds good, like always. I’m never going to be a country fan, so I’ll never be over the moon for her, but she can belt like nobody’s business and that transcends genre.

Taylor starts off really shaky and has a lot of trouble recovering. In fact, she never does. Sadly, the lyric “So just pull the trigger” will probably prove oddly prescient. She’s likely going home.

Winner: Danielle. Was there any doubt?

Sixth Knockout: Team Usher – C. Perkins vs. Vedo

Songs: “She Ain’t You” – Chris Brown (C.); “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Bryan Adams (Vedo)

Performances: C. sounds a little strident on a track that’s more than a little strident to begin with. Chris Brown often just whines his way through a track, so it’s a battle to take on one of his tracks.

Vedo’s performance for his mother is powerful. It’s the true definition of “knockout.” That extended note at the end just seals the deal. This is Vedo’s to lose.

Winner: Vedo. Another foregone conclusion. Let’s hope the last two have at least a little suspense.

Seventh Knockout: Team Blake – Grace Askew vs. The Swon Brothers

Songs: “I Can’t Stand The Rain” – Tina Turner (Grace); “Drift Away” – Uncle Kracker (Swon Bros.)

Performances: Grace has an interesting tone. I can’t tell if I like it or hate it yet. I don’t think I liked it on this song, but I’m really not sure. Suffice to say, I’m not raving about this one.

“Drift Away” might be one of my least favorite songs of all time, but The Swon Bros. sound good. So, they win? I don’t know, guys. This knockout round — I’m not feeling anything.

Winner: The Swon Brothers. Blake thinks he can get a “better grip” on them, which seems to be code for: “I’m afraid of things that are more outside the box.” Oh well, a duo makes it to the live shows!

Eighth Knockout: Team Usher – Cathia vs. Ryan Innes

Songs: “Mr. Know It All” – Kelly Clarkson (Cathia); “I Don’t Want To Be” – Gavin DeGraw (Ryan)

Performances: It’s lovely to hear Cathia sing in English. Not because I’d rather hear someone sing in English than Spanish, but because she handles it much better than the girl who Shakira chose over her in the battle rounds. She doesn’t hold a candle to Kelly Clarkson (no one does), but she’s surprisingly successful during her performance.

Ryan’s been incredible throughout the competition so far, but, while I understand his desire to show what else he can do, I’m not sure this song fit him well. His performance seemed strained and some of those high notes hurt. What happened here?

Winner: Cathia. Not the outcome anyone expected going into this, but the right choice after watching both sing. I say this all the time: Song choice is paramount, artists!

Are you ready for the live playoffs, “Voice” fans? Did your favorites make the cut?

Posted by:Billy Nilles