The Knockouts kicked off on season 15 of The Voice tonight, with coaches Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine presenting their artists who made it through the grueling Battle Round. The 32 artists remaining got to choose their own songs to sing against their matchup, and the winner will advance to the Live Playoffs. Coaches only have one steal for this round, but they also have the chance to save one artist this round if the matchup is particularly close. This season’s key advisor was Mariah Carey, who helped prepare the artists to do their best.
The first artists up were Keith Paluso and Tyke James of Team Adam. Paluso chose to sing “You Are The Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne. Carey encouraged him to soften the beginning, and Paluso eventually found the right tone for the gentle, emotional song. His phrasing and breath control were strong, yielding a soulful performance. He also landed the high note.
James sang “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, and despite the common song choice, he found ways to make it his own. He connected with the lyrics and let his personality come through, and Clarkson called it a “fearless” performance. Ultimately, it was up to Levine, and he chose Tyke but tried to save Paluso, but Clarkson also swooped in for the steal. Paluso chose Team Kelly.
Team Kelly’s Cody Ray Raymond had to depart the show for personal reasons, so the next Knockout matchup involved three artists. Kymberli Joye, Zaxai and Natasia Greycloud all faced off in a battle of the divas.
Nastasia Greycloud followed with her performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. The country singer showcased her range and strong creative sensibilities, making it clear that pop-country is the right lane for her. It already seemed like a close Knockout.
And then Zaxai stepped up with his performance of “Crusin” by Smokey Robinson. The song choice suited him well, and Carey worked with him on his falsetto. He brought charisma and strong vocals to his performance, leaving Clarkson with a very difficult decision to make. She went with Joye and Zaxai, leaving Greycloud on the chopping block. But Shelton unsurprisingly stole the country singer.
Next up, Team Jennifer’s MaKenzie Thomas and Mike Parker faced off. Parker sang “Breakeven” by the Script, and while he worked hard in rehearsal, his nerves still came through in his final performance. He took risks with the arrangement, but they didn’t pay off.
Thomas proved to be the stronger vocalist with her performance of “How Deep is Your Love.” She brought a jazzy sound to the song and showcased impressive artistry. Hudson went with MaKenzie, and Parker went home.
Team Adam’s Radha and Reagan Strange were up next, and Radha sang “I’ll Be There” by Michael Jackson and Carey. The ambitious young singer took Carey’s advice on hitting the emotions of the song, but she hit the high notes, too.
Strange gave an equally strong power-pop performance of “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, leaving Levine with a difficult decision since both young singers have a similar style and range. Levine chose Strange as the winner, but he also saved Radha, keeping them both in play.
Team Blake’s Katrina Cain and Funsho faced off next. Cain sang “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers, a song choice that played to her strengths. She hit the high notes, too, and showcased her unique tone.
Singing “Earned It” by The Weeknd, Funsho got to show off his falsetto and give a very clean pop sound behind his vocals. He kept it close to the original, but it worked. Shelton chose Funsho as the winner, and Cain went home.
Closing out the evening, Team Jennifer’s Patrique Forston and Sandy Redd sang against one another. Fortson sang “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith, and his experience came through in his performance. He played up the dynamics and made it his own.
It was a well-matched Knockout, though, and Redd’s performance of “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande played to her strengths. Her bold voice filled the room, and she proved that she can deliver strong stage presence. Hudson crowned Forston the winner, but she also saved Redd, so both artists remain in competition.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.