On the final night of season nine’s Knockout Round, the coaches made their last cuts to their teams ahead of the Live Playoffs, which kick off next week. Rihanna finished out her role as the season’s key advisor, pushing the remaining contestants to discover their strengths in order to survive the Knockouts. Pharrell, who is being very measured with his steals this season, was the only coach who started the night with a steal left.
Adam Levine was up first, matching James Dupre and Shelby Brown, Team Adam’s two country artists. Dupre and Brown proved they’re artists who take risks in the Blind Auditions when they both opted for Levine over “country mafia’s” Blake Shelton. Brown decided to sing Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel.” She was nervous during her rehearsal, which was causing her to sing flat, but Rihanna helped her perfect her runs.
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Dupre chose Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did” for his Knockout song. He also suffered from some nerves in his rehearsal, but both artists came to life in their performances. Brown nailed the big notes in her chorus, and Dupre had so much control over his vibrato. Levine chose Brown as the winner and said he thinks she could go all the way.
Levine heads into the Live Playoffs with Brown, Amy Vachal, Blaine Mitchell, Jordan Smith and Keith Semple.
Team Pharrell was up next, with Mark Hood and Siahna Im facing off. Hood, who usually prefers bold, dramatic songs, decided to sing strip things down a bit by singing the simple classic “Stand By Me.” Pharrell and Rihanna both advised him to build up to his theatrics instead of starting too big. Im made an ambitious song choice, deciding to sing “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. Rihanna helped her tighten it up by telling her not to be too airy at the top and really go for the bold, full sound.
Hood worked the stage so well, but the vocals were on fire, too. He had tight control over his runs. Im also gave a solid performance, but it was such a difficult song to sing that she didn’t have perfect precision over her vocals. Still, she impressed, and as Levine put it, she’s a unique artist in the competition. But Pharrell chose Hood as the winner, and it was the end of the road for Im.
Next, Gwen Stefani paired Jeffery Austin and Kota Wade. Austin chose to sing “Turning Tables” by Adele, which he said he had an intimate emotional connection with since the song came out shortly after he went through a breakup. Rihanna pushed him to really tell a story with his singing, and it led to a powerful performance. Austin has such a distinct tone to his voice, and it makes him a versatile artist.
Wade chose “Barracuda” by Heart as her song, saying it fits her well because of her background in rock ‘n’ roll. It was another bold song choice, but Wade has the power for it. Rihanna said she was one of the most comfortable artists on the stage this season. Wade indeed gave an incredibly fiery performance that showed she can handle a huge rock song, but the vocals weren’t perfect. She controlled the stage but not the vocals. And even though the whole package matters, this show is called The Voice. The vocals need to be the star. Stefani chose Austin as the winner, and Wade went home.
Shelton pitted Emily Ann Roberts against Nadjah Nicole next. Roberts chose “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks, and she struggled with nerves in her rehearsal, especially since it’s a big song for her delicate, soft voice. Nicole, who is the only real pop singer on Shelton’s team, decided to sing “A Woman’s Worth” by Alicia Keys. She similarly needed to be pushed to let down her guard, but Rihanna was there to suggest some new runs to really shake up her performance.
Roberts found her comfort zone in her performance, and her vocals were super strong as a result. Both artists got over their nerves, and Nicole gave one of the most mesmerizing performances of the night. They’re both such different artists that they left Shelton with a difficult decision. He ended up choosing Roberts, which wasn’t all that surprising, since she fits his country brand. Shelton might regret not holding onto a more versatile artist later on down the road.
Team Blake will be represented in the Live Playoffs by Roberts, Zach Seabaugh, Barrett Baber, Ivonne Acero, and Morgan Frazier. Acero is the only non-country artist.
Pharrell decided to pit his indie artists against each other next, matching Evan McKeel and Tim Atlas. McKell chose Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” and wanted to play the guitar for himself in the performance. Rihanna advised him to drop the guitar though so that it wouldn’t hide his emotion while singing. It was the right call and allowed McKeel to let down his guard in his performance. The rich textures in his voice that Rihanna pointed out really came through in the Knockout, and even though the song choice was a bit lackluster, he sounded great.
Atlas chose “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, and he made the song his own, leading to one of the most original performances of the night. Atlas is a very different artist, and Pharrell does really well with artists who exist outside of the mainstream. But ultimately, he chose McKeel to advance.
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In the final Knockout performance of the season, Stefani matched Regina Love with Riley Biederer, two of her steals. Biederer decided to sing “XO” by Beyonce, which was yet another ambitious song choice of the night. In her rehearsal, Biederer really proved why Stefani made the right choice by stealing her. “You’ve got some hard decisions to make, girlfriend,” Rihanna said to Stefani after seeing both Love and Biederer in rehearsal. Beyonce songs are notoriously hard to sing, but Biederer did a great job and even managed to bring some of her own style and personality to the song.
Love sang “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and it was the perfect choice for her. Her voice sounded amazing in her Knockout, and both she and Biederer delivered the tightest Knockout of the night. They both played to their strengths, leaving Stefani with a tough choice. She picked Love as the winner, but thankfully Pharrell still had a steal left, so he swooped in and picked up Biederer.
Stefani will bring Love, Austin, Braiden Sunshine, Korin Bukowski and Viktor Király to the Live Playoffs, and Pharrell heads to the next round of the competition with Biederer, McKeel, Hood, Darius Scott and Madi Davis.
Next week, the Live Playoffs begin. Which artists do you think are ready to take their vocals to the next level? Sound off in the comments, below.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.