The knockouts kicked off tonight in season 15 of The Voice with coaches Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine introducing their artists to make it through the grueling Battle Round. The remaining 32 artists were able to choose their own songs to sing against their match, and the winner comes to the live playoffs. Coaches have only one stone left for this round, but they also have the chance to save an artist in this round if the match is particularly tight. The main speaker this season was Mariah Carey, who helped to prepare the artists to do their best.
The first artists were Keith Paluso and Tyke James from Team Adam. Paluso chose Ray LaMontagne's "You Are The Best Thing". Carey encouraged him to ease the beginning, and Paluso finally found the right tone for the gentle, emotional song. His phrasing and breath control were strong and gave a soulful performance. He also reached the high grade.
James sang "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash, and despite the general song choice, he found ways to make it his own. He combined 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 jumped for the theft. Paluso chose Team Kelly.
Cody Ray Raymond of Team Kelly had to leave the show for personal reasons, so the next knockout match included three artists. Kymberli Joye, Zaxai and Natasia Greycloud faced each other in a fight between the divas.
Joye sang "The Middle" by Maren Morris and Zedd, and her gospel background came through, leading to strong ad libs and runs. She presented impressive bandwidth and made the song her own.
Nastasia Greycloud followed with her performance of "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton. The country singer showed her breadth and her strong creative flair and made it clear that pop country is the right track for her. It already seemed like a tight knockout.
And then Zaxai performed 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, which made Clarkson a very difficult decision. She went with Joye and Zaxai and left Greycloud on the chopping block. But Shelton stole the country singer surprisingly.
Next came team Jennifer MaKenzie Thomas and Mike Parker. Parker sang "Breakeven" from the script, and while he worked hard in the rehearsal, his nerves came through in his last performance. He took risks with the arrangement, but they did not pay.
Thomas proved to be the stronger singer with her performance of "How Deep is Your Love". It brought a jazzy sound to the song and showed impressive artistry. Hudson went with MaKenzie, and Parker went home.
Team Adams Radha and Reagan Strange were next, and Radha sang "I'll be there" by Michael Jackson and Carey. The ambitious young singer took Carey's advice to beat the emotion of the song, but it also hit the high notes.
Strange gave an equally powerful power-pop performance of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" and left Levine with a tough one, as both young singers have a similar style and range. Levine chose Strange as the winner, but he also saved Radha by keeping both in the game.
Katrina Cain and Funsho of Team Blake were the next. Cain sang "Do not Let Me Down" by The Chainsmokers, a song choice that was one of her strengths. She also hit the high notes and showed her unique tone.
Singing "Earned It" by The Weeknd, Farsho had to show his falsetto and give a very clear 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.
Finally, team Jennifer Singers Patrique Forstton and Sandy Redd sang against each other. Fortson sang "I do not want to miss anything" from Aerosmith, and his experience came through in his performance. He played up the dynamics and made them his own.
It was a well-tuned knockout, and Redd's performance of "Dangerous Woman" by Ariana Grande was her strong point. Her bold voice filled the room and she proved that she can deliver a strong stage presence. Hudson crowned Forston the winner, but she also saved Redd, so both artists remain in the competition.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.