The Voice recap: Ed Sheeran joins season 21 as the Knockouts Mega-Mentor

·7 min read

The season 21 Knockouts have arrived and with them, a little ol' singer-songwriter named Ed Sheeran, ever heard of him? He'll be this round's mega-mentor and, as our coaches point out, he's written songs in many genres, so he seems like a great fit for this. But ultimately, the fate of these contestants is up to them (okay fine, it's a little bit up to coaches Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and Ariana Grande). Do they have what it takes to make it to the live rounds? Let's find out.

Team Blake: Jonathan Mouton, "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash vs. Wendy Moten, "Ain't No Way" by Aretha Franklin

Oh, buddy, Wendy Moten was already a lock for the live playoffs before she picked this tear-the-house-down Aretha Franklin song so sorry, not sorry but Jonathan really had no chance here. Jonathan sounds great on this song — Kelly Clarkson thought he had "great energy" — but even in rehearsals, Ed Sheeran tells Wendy that she should be the one in their seats critiquing them. As Ariana Grande points out, Wendy doesn't toss the original out the window, but she does make this her own. She also asks Wendy to hold some meet-and-greet passes for her and Kelly when she goes on tour. She's a pro and she knows how to milk every note of this song to highlight her voice. Blake thought Jonathan really rose to the occasion here, but he also simply congratulates Wendy on finally getting her time to shine by being on this show. You know exactly which way this is going.

Winner: Wendy Moten!

Steals: none

Team Ariana: Katie Rae, "Hold on to Me" by Lauren Daigle vs. Raquel Trinidad, "Valerie" by the Zutons

Katie Rae and Raquel Trinidad have very different vibes and tones and that's all highlighted here by way of their song choices. Katie Rae chooses an emotional, powerhouse song and Raquel Trinidad is going for more of an upbeat soul number that shows off her personality as well as her vocal chops. In rehearsal, Ed Sheeran advises Katie Rae to make the verses a bit softer and more intimate since the choruses are big and powerful. Ariana Grande tells Raquel to trust and support her higher register, where she can really shine. The performances the two ladies give us don't make Ariana's choice easy. John thinks Katie Rae sings with "so much heart and connection to the song" and that Raquel is full of "charisma." Plus, he notes she pulls off cool little runs that add a lot of personality to her vocal. Kelly tells Katie Rae that she has "one of [her] favorite tones of the whole show," and Blake thinks Raquel "lit up the room." Ariana is torn because while Katie Rae's tone is such a strength, the intricacies Raquel pulls off seem so effortless.

Winner: Raquel Trinidad!

Steals: Kelly Clarkson meant it when she said Katie Rae was one of her favorites. She'll be moving over to Team Kelly.

Team Kelly: Gymani, "Pillow Talk" by Zayn vs. Kinsey Rose, "Strawberry Wine" by Deana Carter

If Raquel and Katie Rae felt like different types of singers, Gymani and Kinsey Rose are worlds apart. Coach Kelly is a little apprehensive at first when Gymani picks this Zayn song since it's not really one that will highlight all Gymani can do — but then Gymani performs it. All that apprehension is gone. She makes it her own and takes us on a real ride, building up to an intense, powerful ending. Add that power with her rasp — Ed Sheeran compares her to Jazmine Sullivan — and you've got a real winner. Kinsey Rose goes classic country here, but it isn't her best vocal by any means and to have a shot against Gymani, she needed to be perfect. Even our country guy Blake picks Gymani as his winner here. Kelly says she wants to go with the "better competitor" and this performance proved to her that Gymani came to win.

Winner: Gymani!

Steals: none

Team Legend: Joshua Vacanti, "Falling" by Harry Styles vs. Sabrina Dias, "Photograph" by Ed Sheeran

Oh, I love this song choice for Joshua Vacanti. He can really bring the drama here while still sounding modern. That's exactly what he does — he's able to infuse a lot of emotion into the performance and really sells it. Sabrina Dias — who gets to sing with Ed Sheeran during rehearsals — isn't just showing off her vocals here; she also decides to play both the guitar and drums. Kelly loves Joshua's "big and round" tone and that he can maneuver from chest voice to falsetto so effortlessly. Blake thinks it's "impressive how dialed in to [her] craft" she is, but ultimately thought that Joshua sang like he was leaving it all on the stage. John Legend was super impressed by Joshua's ability to make the audience "feel every word."

Winner: Joshua Vacanti!

Steals: none

Team Blake: Hailey Green, "God's Country" by Blake Shelton vs LiBianca, "everything i wanted" by Billie Eilish

Hailey Green has that rock grit in her voice but she's country in her heart, so her coach's big, country anthem feels like a great song choice for her. In rehearsals, Blake thinks Hailey trying to play the guitar so much during this song might be a bit of a distraction and that she should concentrate on putting the vocals first. Meanwhile, LiBianca is performing a Billie Eilish song that is so meaningful to her that she has to stop partway through because she's getting so emotional. Blake and Ed advise her to use that emotion but to channel it in a way that won't affect her vocals. Hailey certainly does her thing — dang, this girl can sing some low notes — and as John points out, Hailey "filled up [the] room with energy" and her powerful voice. But he's also right that LiBianca gives us a real "master class in vocals." You never know where she's going next and you can't wait to find out. In the end, Blake is impressed that LiBianca could really pull herself together emotionally to give that kind of performance. She's a pro.

Winner: LiBianca!

Steals: none

Team Kelly: Holly Forbes, "Superstar" by Delaney & Bonnie vs. Girl Named Tom, "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell

This is a tough pairing because they're both four-chair turns (although Ariana did block John for Holly Forbes), and while Holly had a terrific Blind audition, you can tell Kelly really wants to bring her sibling trio to the Live Playoffs. Holly wants to show Kelly what kind of artist she is — straight soul — and in rehearsals, while Ed and Kelly agree that Holly's rendition of this song is really tasteful, it feels almost too safe. He wants her to play with her runs a little more. It's time for her to show off. Meanwhile, Girl Named Tom really uses this song choice to show how effective their simple yet precise harmonies can be. During the performance, John points out the one moment where they do this big swell of notes and it's gorgeous. They know what they're doing, these three! They end up earning a standing ovation from the coaches, who call their performance things like "seamless," "special," and "flawless." Holly Forbes is no slouch, though: Ariana Grande tells her that her voice is the kind of voice that she grew up wanting to sound like and John thought she was so emotionally connected to both the song and audience. It's a tough choice for Kelly, but she also knows that whoever she doesn't pick is more than likely going to end up on someone else's team, so it isn't that heartbreaking.

Winner: Girl Named Tom!

Steals: Both Ariana Grande and John Legend want Holly Forbes to join their squads. Ariana reminds Holly that she wanted her so badly in the Blinds she blocked John Legend back then, and that seems to work — Holly Forbes moves to Team Ariana.

TEAM STANDINGS

TEAM KELLY: Katie Rae (steal), Gymani, Girl Named Tom

Still to Perform: Jeremy Rosado, Xavier Cornell, Hailey Mia, The Cunningham Sisters

TEAM LEGEND: Joshua Vacanti

Still to Perform: Samuel Harness, Jershika Maple, BrittanyBree, Samara Brown, Shadale, Paris Winningham

TEAM ARIANA: Raquel Trinidad, Holly Forbes (steal)

Still to Perform: Bella DeNapoli, David Vogel, Katherine Ann Mohler, Jim and Sasha Allen, Manny Keith, Ryleigh Plank

TEAM BLAKE: Wendy Moten, LiBianca

Still to Perform: Peedy Chavis, Hailey Green, Lana Scott, LiBianca, Carson Peters, Berritt Haynes

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