All four of The Voice‘s coaches have carefully crafted their teams into dynamic arrays of interesting voices, but this week, we’ll see half of the season 10 talents go home empty-handed as the live playoffs begin on an epic slash-and-dash three-day sprint for Top 12. It’s efficient, sure, but also brutal.
Which means tonight’s contestants from Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton‘s teams have got to bring everything they’ve got to the stage and let the voters decide whom they want to hear more of. With two last-minute returnees getting second shots at stardom, the first leg of the Top 24 performances kick off with each making their case for another round.
1. Paxton Ingram (Team Blake):
Team Blake’s resident whip and nae nae instructor has apparently been getting the star treatment back home in Miami, Florida — he even got asked for some selfie time during a random fender bender — since making it past the knockouts. And now he’s totally ready to take that to the next level, as proven by his performance of Calvin Harris and the Disciples’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” Not only are his notes on-point, but he manages to keep the performance strong throughout, even as he’s zipping around the stage at oxygen-depriving speeds. Needless to say, it’s one heck of an enthusiastic intro to the lives, and he gets a well-deserved four-part series of double thumbs up from the coaching squad. Blake feels good about his chances of making it into the Top 12, easily.
2. Ryan Quinn (Team Christina):
The Quinnsanity (which should probably be a trademarked term, tbh) is definitely real. The music teacher with a heart of gold has already turned fans into a gaggle of heart-eyed emojis, all while keeping his calm and collected persona steady throughout the blinds, battles, and knockouts. But now Christina wants him to reveal a deeper, more vulnerable side to himself, which includes ripping off the glasses and transplanting his heart to his sleeve during his performance of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One.” And, well, mission accomplished. As Pharrell puts it, he delivers “one of those performances where you have to give it up … you’re a hater if you don’t.” By the time he takes the stage, any pre-performance jitters that had him breaking at the high notes are gone, and he’s “effortless” with the trills and thrills.
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3. Katie Basden (Team Blake):
For Blake, Katie Basden is, in music math, Trisha Yearwood 2.0 plus a dash of Carrie Underwood, so he’s hopeful that her rendition of “Georgia Rain” can help to show off her status as the “rangiest singer on the show.” She, meanwhile, just wants to be a sweet stage storyteller who reaches people who might be going through what she has, and when she hits the stage, she finds herself somewhere in the middle. There are definitely moments when she’d be audibly indistinguishable from the woman who originated the song, but then there are others when she takes it away into her own little place of deep tonal dives. While Adam’s eating his heart out for letting her go since she sounds like she’s already on her third record release, Blake’s pretty cheesed out with a smile that says she’s got the stuff to make it past this week’s eliminations.
NEXT: A pitch perfect song choice earns all the smiles …
4. Kata Hay (Team Christina):
Kata Hay singing Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” feels like reading a page out of her own diary because it’s very on-brand for the guttural gem. Whereas her knockouts performance seemed to require some imagination-stretching to fit in her style range, this song is completely meant to be keyed up to a rock star-slash-diva persona. Her low, screechy tones blend in so well with the truth of the song that, in Pharrell’s words, “that poor gas pedal is jammed” from all her attitude acceleration. Well-played, Kata Hay. Well played.
5. Nick Hagelin (comeback artist for Team Christina):
Christina was openly disappointed when Nick Hagelin (also popularly known as Bash’s dad) got his ticket home from Team Pharrell in the knockouts round, so when she has the chance to put someone back on the stage for America to weigh in on the matter, she branches outside of her own crop of sent-home hopefuls and selects him to sync up with her squad. And, as a bit of song title subtext, he opts to try a far less falsetto number (last time, he unwisely went the Robin Thicke ear-piercing route) by way of Rihanna’s version of “Stay,” and it’s a good match for his sound. Also a good match? Nick and Christina, as she’s able to help him smooth out all the snags he reveals in rehearsals and deliver a smooth solo where his high notes are more of a delicious side dish than the main course — meaning, we aren’t too full of them by the time the musical meal’s done.
6. Joe Maye (Team Blake):
Blake Shelton’s final steal CLEARLY came into good use when he salvaged Joe Maye from the third round of knockouts because the kid can sing. Not only is his version of the Doobie Brothers’s “Long Train Running” completely accurate and exciting, but he’s also got a certain zeal for himself and music as a whole that rings through in every line he sings. Especially when he’s holding onto notes so long even the audience is getting blue in the face with anticipation of the next breath. Pharrell’s left all but speechless by what his former teammate puts up there, while Blake’s convinced he’s “got a shot to win this thing” now. Cue the Shelton Shuffle.
7. Adam Wakefield (Team Blake):
If you put Adam Wakefield and Chris Stapleton on the stage, they’d be twinning in more ways than one. Not only do they look alike and sound alike, but they’ve also got that same sense of old school country flare that gets you there with no matter what they’re singing. This time, for Adam, it’s “Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson, which he handles like a pro (to the surprise of exactly zero people who’ve been paying attention to him). Adam reluctantly admits that for him, this Adam is his favorite of the season because he doesn’t have to get up on stage and showboat to own it. He’s got everything he needs right there in his voice — which is the name of the game, after all, right? And his own coach can’t help but agree with that sentiment. “You’ve got a hell of a future in front of you, man,” Blake predicts (hey, he would know).
8. Támar Davis (Team Christina):
Támar Davis is definitely one of Christina’s favorites to help her break the “girl curse” because she’s got gobs of talent and isn’t afraid to stretch herself onto the next level. She chooses Andra Day’s “Rise Up” to escalate her super duper high note game, and as a fellow belting enthusiast, Christina’s floored by what she pulls off with the octave-jumping rendition. Pharrell calls her a “rainbow of range,” while Blake lauds her smile-worthy presence, but Christina’s heaping the heftiest praise on her girl by schooling everyone on just how impressive her “joyous” delivery is, considering how challenging the number happens to be.
NEXT: He’s “unfair”-ly good …
9. Mary Sarah (Team Blake):
The second of Blake’s built-in country superstars is Mary Sarah, who’s already got a duets album on shelves and sings like she’s got 50 years below her rhinestone belt to boot. She’s ready to try her hand at a contemporary variation on Lynn Anderson’s “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” and were it anyone else, Blake would be nervous about a contestant tinkering with the classics, but with Mary Sarah, he’s sold from the word go. Sure, she’s got some issues with breathiness during stretch lines during the rehearsals, but that’s all behind her once she takes the stage and lets her deep sass shine. Blake knows she’s a team fave, and he’s definitely into how she lets her inner “hillbilly” loose on the crowd during her unapologetically twangy performances.
10. Bryan Bautista (Team Christina):
Bryan Bautista — whose style and innate swagger have captured the hearts of Christina Aguilera and viewers alike (thanks to Adam getting in his business we now know that he does have a GF, sorry) — is surprisingly nervous during his rehearsals, considering how self-possessed he’s been on the show so far. But before we can even get nervous about it ourselves, there he is in full steezy glory, laying it down like nobody’s business with Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk.” His grip of the song is pretty much flawless, so that combined with his stage command wins him ample praise from the coaching staff. “You came out here and you murdered that song, like ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘How?’ ‘When?'” Adam praises. “You don’t even make it fair,” Christina adds.
11. Justin Whisnant (comeback artist for Team Blake):
When Blake went with Mary Sarah over Justin Whisnant during the knockouts round, it wasn’t an easy decision for him. They were two of a kind with the old school southern stylings, but somehow his voice was lost in what amounted to be The Mary Sarah Show that was their duet. So, when Blake has a chance to resurrect someone from the list of castoffs, he opts for the former oil rig worker who’s putting it all on the line for his dream. In return for that generosity, Justin tries his hand at one of Blake’s first favorites (to play on the guitar, at least), “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” by Travis Tritt. Blake sees himself in Justin’s hunger and drive, and that comes through too in Justin’s perfectly imperfect performance.
12. Alisan Porter (Team Christina):
If there’s one performer who has yet to miss a beat, in the literal and figurative sense, it’s definitely the Curly Sue child star-turned-whammy of a singer Alisan Porter. As expected by everyone (including, obviously, the producers who’ve saved her for last in hopes that she’ll again be one of, if not the, best), she slays Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.” Absolutely nails every note with a power that is at this point completely undeniable. If you’re betting against this woman, you’re throwing your money away.
- Team Adam: Shalyah Fearing, Brian Nhira, Caroline Burns, Laith Al-Saadi, and Owen Danoff
- Team Pharrell: Lacy Mandigo, Caity Peters, Emily Keener, Hannah Huston, and Moushumi
- Team Christina: Ryan Quinn, Bryan Bautista, Alisan Porter, Kata Hay, Támar Davis, and Nick Hagelin
- Team Blake: Joe Maye, Paxton Ingram, Mary Sarah, Adam Wakefield, Katie Basden, and Justin Whisnant