The knockout rounds of The Voice season 15 wrapped up with a dramatic flourish on Monday night, with the final performance coming down to a coin flip and plenty of country music throughout the show. The lineup is now set for next week’s live playoffs.
Beginning with a fitting salute to Veterans Day, young Chevel Shepherd stepped up with the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” against fellow teenager Sarah Grace and the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Taking superstar advisor Mariah Carey’s advice to heart and working to connect with the audience — as well as bring out the song’s message for anyone unfamiliar with the track — Shepherd’s heartfelt performance was fairly tame, but solid enough to secure the win over Grace, with coach Kelly Clarkson using her save to keep Grace in the game.
Shortly after, Houston native and Hurricane Harvey survivor DeAndre Nico displayed his striking talent as a song stylist, transforming Hunter Hayes’ romantic country hit “Wanted” into a soul/R&B/Gospel anthem. He put all the bells and whistles on this one — Carey even warned him not to do too much — with soaring high notes and slippery vocal runs throughout. On another night, it might have seemed forced, but paired against Jake Wells’ underwhelming cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow,” coach Adam Levine made the easy choice to send Nico on.
Meanwhile, one of the night’s many standout moments was supplied by 13-year-old vocal diva Kennedy Holmes, whose blistering rendition of Pink’s “What About Us” showed off her ridiculous range and old-soul poise on stage. She looks to be a contender going forward, breezing through her Knockout for Jennifer Hudson’s team against promising folk-pop singer Anthony Arya.
The country highlights continued with Alabama native Kirk Jay, whose emotional cover of Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know” hit with surprising force. Also showing off his proficiency on the keyboard, the serene, pitch-perfect performance had the audience and coaches alike enthralled, with Jay looking set for a deep push into the playoffs. His triumph actually included a tear-filled surprise for his competitor Colton Smith, who earned a steal from Hudson despite a train wreck performance of Labelle’s 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade.” Smith couldn’t hear himself, getting totally lost throughout the performance, but the coaches were sympathetic. “We’ve all been there,” Clarkson told him.
But the night’s final matchup, shown in the video at the top, was red hot. Blake Shelton paired both of his rockers against each other, with Chris Kroeze and Michael Lee heading off in opposite directions. First up was Wisconsin native Kroeze, who re-imagined Cam’s “Burning House” to surprising effect. Toying with the melody ever so slightly and adding the smoky-sweet gravel of his vocal, Kroeze’s rendition was both delicate and unexpectedly powerful, showing he’s not afraid to take artistic chances. Not to be outdone, Lee hit the ground running with the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” unleashing a wild-eyed blues vocal that brought the crowd to a frenzied fever pitch and left Shelton with no clear winner.
Shelton had a touch choice to make, admitting “My biggest regret of the season so far is pairing these two together” in a video testimonial. But he also knew it was coming, and so brought out his secret weapon – a coin. Lee won the 50/50 toss, but Shelton had no intention of delivering a cheap shot. Instead, he used his save to keep Kroeze in the running.
The Voice continues with a special episode Thursday at 9/8c on NBC. Next Tuesday, the all-important Live Playoffs kick off at 8/7c.
Here’s a complete Live Playoff lineup:
Team Adam Levine
Team Kelly Clarkson
Team Jennifer Hudson
Team Blake Shelton