The Voice‘s season 11 teams are starting to truly thin out in preparation for the live rounds, and tonight, another two hopefuls find themselves headed for the exit sign. Meanwhile, a couple of industry veterans who really, really want the 2.0 versions of their careers to work out — and believe this show will be the platform to make that happen — stroll right on through.
The surprise of the night happens, though, when a little-seen contestant emerges to own the night with an almost effortless show of emotional countenance, skill, and imagination. With so many shriekers taking the stage this week, her light and airy presence is a welcome relief for the eardrums. Here’s what happened in round two of the knockouts.
Team Blake: Bindi Liebowitz vs. Courtney Harrell
Bindi Liebowitz had a legitimate chance to make this call a lot more difficult than it was. Long-time songwriter Courtney Harrell has got some remarkable intensity and lyrical enthusiasm going for her, but Bindi’s raw, Rihanna-esque scratch-pipes are also incredibly pleasant and exciting, and possibly even more suited for a show called The Voice… Well, except when she misuses her instrument like she does tonight.
Courtney takes the stage with every intention of removing the studio roof with her performance of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High,” but the problem is we’ve heard enough big, bustling ballads to last a lifetime already. We’re only halfway through the knockouts, and her scream-singing routine gets old around the second or third crescendo. She doesn’t hold a candle to what we heard coming from Wé McDonald in round one, so that high bar gives Bindi a real chance to prove she’s a stand-alone genre-hopper for the season by going in another, more emotionally connective direction altogether.
Unfortunately, her rusty rendition of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” is brimming with so much note confusion she seems to give up the ghost about halfway through the effort, handing whatever chance she might have had right over to her opponent tonight.
Winner: Courtney Harrell
Team Adam: Billy Gilman vs. Ponciano Seoane III
Adam Levine decided to throw himself a softball with this matchup. No disrespect to Ponciano here, but his rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” is more suited for a dimly lit coffee-shop crowd — or some grassy knoll in a college dorm’s courtyard — than this stage of the competition. Meanwhile, it’s becoming ever clearer that former child star Billy Gilman is Adam’s big finale hopeful, so stacking the two together almost seems almost cruel for the coach to do.
Ponciano does fine enough with his folksy soft-rock song, and given how little we’ve actually heard from him, the solidarity of his note control is a touch surprising. But Billy came back from the battles ready to play for the endgame. His choice of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” might seem a little hokey or juvenile, but it’s actually a pretty stellar match for his tones and reach. What’s even better is he plays it safe on the first verse before punching up the volume and fervor for the second, avoiding the chance that an exact repetition of the first might expose his flaws. A wise choice.
Winner: Billy Gilman
Team Alicia: Belle Jewel vs. Christian Cuevas
Belle Jewel is another singer who’s been largely absent from the highlights reel so far this season, but now I’ve gotta wonder what we’ve been missing from this woman? Her swing-club ready visual vibe is intriguing enough, but she backs up that vintage aesthetic with a modish sweetheart sound — perfect for fans of Lana Del Rey and Ingrid Michaelson — during her performance of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (How’s *that* for a song choice?!).
Christian Cuevas is a carbon copy of himself in the blinds and battles — he doesn’t move the mark far from the max decibel reading he’d reached before — and even though Alicia is still “feelin'” this guy, his performance of Luther Vandross’ “Superstar” is a lot less colorful and perfunctory than what Belle did using just half the notes he does. Miley recognizes something in Belle that Alicia overlooks and scoops her up with a quick steal; now, Belle’s going to need to distinguish herself from Team Miley’s other dreamy triller, Darby Walker.
Winner: Christian Cuevas
- Team Adam — Riley Elmore, Billy Gilman, Brendan Fletcher, Simone Gundy, Nolan Neal, Josh Gallagher
- Team Alicia — Wé McDonald, Christian Cuevas, Michael Sanchez, Kylie Rothfield, Sa’Rayah
- Team Blake — Sundance Head, Dana Harper, Gabe Broussard, Austin Allsup, Courtney Harrell, Karlee Metzger, Jason Warrior
- Team Miley — Darby Walker, Ali Caldwell, Sophia Urista, Aaron Gibson, Maye Thomas, Josette Diaz, Josh Halverson, Belle Jewel
Tastiest coaching ribs of the night:
Adam (about Blake): “I’m sorry I was interrupted by this hillbilly!”
Miley: “Don’t talk about me like that!”
Adam: “I forgot there’s two now.”