Nick Jonas begs his 'ex' to come back to him on 'The Voice'


When The Voice Season 18 Knockout Rounds commenced Monday, coach Nick Jonas was in a reunion state of mind, downright pleading for Joanna Serenko to give him another chance. “It would be great for us to get back together,” he said.

But don’t worry — Nick and his bride, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, are doing just fine. Nick was just trying to use his Steal to reclaim his former contestant, whom he’d foolishly let go during the Battle Rounds. But Joanna was having none of it — especially since Nick’s contradictory words soon amusingly came back to haunt him.

First, let's back up a bit. Earlier in the night, two of Kelly Clarkson’s contestants, raspy country ingenue Megan Danielle and soul crooner Cammwess, got in the ring. Cammwess had actually originally been on Team Legend, but John Legend had let him go during the Battles. And this Monday, after watching Cammwess doing an absolutely exquisite, faith-based, churchy version of A Great Big World’s “Say Something” — a real breakout moment — John realized he’d made a huge mistake by letting this promising singer slip away to Team Kelly. “I have mountains of regret that you’re not on my team,” he admitted, calling Cammwess’s performance “one of the best things we will see on this show, in any round.”

As fantastic as Cammwess was, Kelly simply couldn’t eliminate talented teenager Danielle, with whom she shared a special bond: Megan, whose father abandoned her as a child, had just achingly covered Kelly’s own deadbeat-dad heartbreak ballad “Piece by Piece,” and had even personalized the song by changing the age-specific lyric to “seven years old.” So, with Cammwess now available to steal, both John and Nick swooped in.

And that’s when Nick warned Cammwess not return to the coach who’d dumped him: “I’m going to jump in right away and say the same thing I’ve ever said to any friend who’d getting back with an ex: ‘Why? Why would you do that?’” John countered by pointing out that sometimes exes do get back together and “live happily ever after,” so Cammwess decided to “go back home” to the man who’d once done him wrong: John.

And now, back to Team Legend’s above-mentioned Knockout between Zan Fiskum and former Team Nick hopeful Joanna Serenko — a very even match. Joanna, doing the timelier-than-ever “Angel From Montgomery” (obviously this episode was taped months ago, before the song’s composer, John Prine, died due to coronavirus complications), delivered a tasteful performance, with a lovely head voice and a tone that John described as “fluttery.” But Zan’s passionate, powerful cover of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” was more challenging vocally and a true tour de force, and so she prevailed.

These singers are similar, so I suppose I understand why John didn’t feel a need to keep both on his team — but after his terrible mistake of pitting his two best contestants against each other in last week’s Battles, I still couldn’t really wrap my head around his strategy when it came to this pairing. But thankfully, both Blake Shelton and Nick wanted Joanna. And now, suddenly… Nick thought “exes” reuniting was a brilliant idea. Apparently, according to the Friends-quoting Kelly, Nick and Joanna had just been “on a break!”

“I made an argument before about getting back with an ex and how bad that is. I’ve had a sudden change of heart about this issue,” Nick sheepishly explained to Joanna. “I would love to complete the circle here. It would be great for us to get back together.”

“I don’t play games with you like Nick does,” argued Blake. “I don’t beg you to be on my team, just to turn around and dump you!” And thus, it seemed Joanna was ready for a new man — or, um, a new coach — in her life. “Nick, we had a great run, but I think I just need to move on, you know?” she quipped, opting to join Team Blake instead. Ooh, burn!

“I love that as a 43-year-old man, I can say a girl left Nick Jonas for me!” Blake later gloated.

But the real man of the hour this Monday had to be, as Kelly accurately put it, “one of the best singer-songwriters in all of the universe”: James Taylor, who signed on to advise Season 18’s Knockouts after producers had apparently been pursuing him for years. “We dropped the hammer this season when it comes to Mega-Mentors,” declared Blake. The contestants (even the younger ones that I feared would have no idea who this legend was) and coaches alike were fan-boy/-girling out — especially when James picked up an acoustic guitar to demonstrate one of his astute points or play a little bit of one of Blake’s favorite tunes, “Mexico,” or even sing a snippet of one of Kelly’s own songs. Amazingly, James actually said it was an “honor” for him to appear on The Voice, saying it’s “hands-down, the most positive and effective” singing show on TV. How sweet it was, indeed.

These were the other Knockouts of the night:

TEAM BLAKE: Levi Watkins vs. Joei Fulco

Levi absolutely made the wrong song choice with Waylon Jennings’s outlaw anthem “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This.” The cherub-faced 14-year-old didn’t make a very convincing bad boy, and his entire performance was lightweight and smacked of novelty — coming from a cute kid who actually hasn’t lived very long at all.

So, tough country-rock chick Joei, a bodybuilder and MME fighter by day, had no problem annihilating little Levi in the ring with the Linda Ronstadt version of “When Will I Be Loved? — James Taylor even marveled at the “physical strength” in her voice. Her performance was a bit shticky and Branson-y, but she showcased a nice round sound and controlled vibrato, so she was clearly more ready for prime time.

WINNER: Joei Fulco

TEAM LEGEND: Darious Lyles vs. Mike Jerel

Darious radiated pure class with his “Me and Mrs. Jones” — a song choice that could have come across as loungey and fuddy-duddy, but thanks to Darious’s smooth style (which James Taylor described as “easy, fluid, and articulate”) just seemed timeless and classic instead. I felt Darious was the winner here.

Mike’s “Versace on the Floor” had some groovy moments, but there were many pitch issues, particularly in his higher register, that the coaches readily noted. And the retro-‘90s Bruno Mars lothario ballad sounded cheesy, like the theme song to Tim Meadows’s old SNL skit “The Ladies’ Man” or something. I was shocked when John decided Mike had more “fire”; I suspect that he’d made up his mind before this round even began, based solely on Mike’s four-chair Blind Audition. Chalk it up to the onetime VEGOT-winner’s many baffling Season 18 mistakes.

WINNER: Mike Jerel

TEAM NICK: Roderick Chambers vs. Tate Brusa

This week’s apples/oranges showdown came down to age versus experience: 38-year-old former boy band singer Roderick and 16-year-old boy Tate. I assumed, considering this series’ ongoing and increasing obsession with youth as well as Nick’s own bond with Tate, that Roderick was toast. But his “Redbone” cover was impressive. It’s not easy to sing a song almost entirely in falsetto, but Roderick pulled it off and delivered his most relevant and modern performance yet. James Taylor even described Roderick’s voice as having a “Prince-like affect,” which was hardly faint praise.

Conversely, something was off during Tate’s “The Scientist.” He wavered, he was flat, and some of his melody choices were questionable, rendering the Coldplay classic nearly unrecognizable. I guess he wasn’t quite ready for prime time himself. Oh well. Maybe Tate and Levi can start a boy band of their own.

WINNER: Roderick Chambers

TEAM BLAKE: Todd Tilghman vs. Cam Spinks

Todd is always bouncing and bopping around like he just pounded eight Red Bulls, and his energy when he came face-to-face with James Taylor was so through the roof, I thought Mark Burnett might call security. James seemed a little weirded out himself. Pastor Todd’s manic personality is both his greatest asset and his greatest weakness — but luckily, he managed to calm down a bit by the time he got onstage to do Travis Tritt’s “Anymore,” and he channeled all that adrenaline for good. “I was imagining being at your church… I felt it,” said John.

Cam’s cover of Lee Brice’s “Rumor” was bound to be a comedown after that. While Todd may suffer from an abundance of personality, at least he has a personality. Cam, conversely, is this season’s generic country dude. And while generic country dudes often go surprisingly far on this show (case in point: last year’s one-chair winner, Jake Hoot), Cam was bland even by those standards. He was so low-energy, I wondered if he thought this was a dress rehearsal just to mark the performance and didn’t realize the cameras were rolling. Blake ended up having an easy decision here.

WINNER: Todd Tilghman

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Originally published