The Voice's first knockout rounds began Monday, with coaches Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani whittling down their ranks to find the pony in this competition who can strut all the way to the winner's circle. Pitting artists from the same team against each other, the knockouts made the best singers in the competition float to the top because... talent, sure, but largely because contestants got to choose the ditties they'd sing. That meant the game was pure strategy and, well, this worked out for some better than it did others.
Here's who's moving on, and who got eliminated.
The matchup: Autumn Turner, singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect" vs. Hanna Eyre singing "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis
How'd it go?: The concerned look on the faces of Blake and Gwen when Autumn started signing were a red flag, but we really didn't need that. This was a Girl, what were you thinking?! moment. You simply don't attempt Aretha unless you're incredible, and Autumn was not incredible. At one point it seemed like she was just panting out the words like some sort of spoken-word poetry slam thing. All Hanna had to do was basically stay upright and not soil herself to win — which she more than did when she slayed "Bleeding Love" — so, that was that.
Moving on to playoffs: Hanna
The matchup: Johnny Hayes singing "Statesboro Blues" by The Allman Brothers Band vs. Josh West singing "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas
How'd it go?: Johnny, who's been eliminated from The Voice once before, did a decent turn with "Statesboro Blues" (which you think he'd absolutely murder given that he performs it with his band all the time) but up against Josh's singing, whipping his luxurious mane and those high kicks, there was no competition.
Eliminated: Johnny, again.
Moving on to playoffs: Josh
The matchup: Chris Blue singing Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" vs. Quizz Swanigan singing "Chains" by Nick Jonas
The first performance of the night, these guys' awkward watching as the other prepared was too funny — and kind of a metaphor for their so-so performances. Despite the coaches raving about him, Chris had moments of greatness but was overall uneven as he occasionally dropped notes and sounded winded. Quizz felt like the more captivating performer, though the polish he was missing (he's only 13 after all) was evident.
Eliminated: Quizz, but he was stolen by Gwen!
Moving on to playoffs: Chris
The matchup: Ashley Levin doing "Fancy" vs. Lilli Passero singing "Tears Dry on Their Own" by Amy Winehouse
How'd it go?: Poor Lilli. She's talented and has a good voice, but Amy Winehouse — may she rest in peace — was so iconic, so talented, so powerful a singer that doing one of her most rocking numbers made Lilli sound like the cruise ship version of Amy Winehouse. Against the more mature-sounding Ashley, Lilli was sure to be drying her tears with the wind created by exiting stage left.
Eliminated: Lilli, but not really! She got saved; both Adam and Blake wanted her but she chose Adam.
Moving on to playoffs: Ashley
The matchup: Casi Joy singing Maren Morris' "My Church" vs. Felicia Temple doing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On"
How'd it go?: This was tough! As everyone said, Blake was crazy for putting these two together. Casi nailed her take though, which prompted fears that Felicia had made a big uh-oh in doing deity-in-the-flesh Celine. But she killed her song too, making for the biggest nail-biting moment of the night.
Eliminated: Felicia! Though she sang her face off, Blake chose Casi. His proclivity towards country played a part in Blake's choice no doubt, but Casi's youthful vibe meant more room for her to grow.
Moving on to playoffs: Casi
The matchup: Hunter Plake singing "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner vs. Johnny Gates going with "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga
How'd it go?: You could tell from the moment Hunter opened his mouth that his beautiful, hipster-y spin on Foreigner's power ballad would be hard to beat. Johnny by contrast, sounded like he was straining in spots, and whether you wanted to or not, you could still hear Gaga in your head, meaning he wasn't really making it his own.
Moving on to playoffs: Hunter
Did all the eliminated contestants deserve to go? Who was your favorite?
The Voice airs Monday and Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.