Adam Levine's over-eager refrain of "This may very well be the winner of The Voice!" may get tiring, but at least the Season 12 competition is shaping up to be a fierce one. Last night, the knockout rounds commenced with a pair of memorable country performances.
Perhaps the biggest standout of the bunch was Casi Joy, 26, who performed a lively rendition of Maren Morris' "My Church" the day after the singer made a splash on the annual ACM Awards by performing her new single "I Could Use a Love Song" and her part on Thomas Rhett's "Craving You." "It is really great to finally get to do a current country song and showcase the different tones that I have in my voice," says Joy during rehearsal.
"I love Casi's song choice," reaffirms Coach Blake Shelton. "It gives her the chance to really solidify the fact that she's a little edgier version of a country artist," before urging her to break some potentially negative singing habits.
Come stage time, it was clear she took Shelton's advice to heart. With a guitar slung around her shoulders, she started softly with a restrained opening before launching into the rollicking chorus. Throughout, she highlighted the many facets of her voice – the growl, the yodel, classic country twang, and even a hint of cabaret-style singing. Ultimately, she triumphed over Felicia Temple, who performed a soaring version of Céline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." Shelton struggled with his choice, admitting, "There is no stopping Casi Joy," and after host Carson Daly's prodding, finally settled on Joy as victor.
Later on came Ashley Levin, 23, originally a member of Team Blake, and now the first country artist on Alicia Keys' team, who was pitted against Lilli Passero, 26. Levin chose Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy," a huge hit for Reba McEntire. A wordy and challenging song, Levin gave it some soul-country flair, though at times it felt a bit lackluster. Meanwhile, Passero opted for Amy Winehouse's "Tears Dry On Their Own," highlighting the beauty of her well-controlled, jazzy vocals. In a surprise move, Keys chose Levin. "Ashley, this song was so complex," she explained. "There are so many words, every word counts. We spoke about that a lot and it's hard to do that cold. . .[to] sing that super heavy, deep, complex song about human beings and you did it." Passero was stolen by Levine, though Shelton put up a strong fight to secure her for his team. Watch Levin's performance below.
The Voice knockout rounds continue tonight, Tuesday, April 4th at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.