For those of us not particularly keen on the whole elimination-round episode setup of The Voice, tonight’s special election edition certainly proved that, AHA! It can be done, but there are some consequences to the hurry-up approach. In some cases, the contestants are forced to rush through their numbers, and you have to believe the long-range voting process draws more of a voter turnout (not that we’re shown the numbers either way, of course).
In the end, the results are (mostly) pretty justified as to who advances from the Top 20 into the Top 12, so here’s how the first round of lives for The Voice season 11 played out.
Team Alicia Keys
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
Before tonight, Christian Cuevas could have rightly been accused of reaching the decibel notch-breaker notes a little too early and often in his performances, so his decision to go for a drawn-back acoustic tune everyone knows is both smart and effective. Alicia Keys describes her bustling ballad-maker as a “love song” aficionado, and indeed, somehow he turns this iconic wistful number into something rather cheery in parts and manages to display a previously unseen part of his skill set in the process.
Whatever occasional flaws there are register as charming and honest, so considering what he manages to do within such a limited window — arguably the most authentic performance of the night — it’s no wonder he’s America’s first choice for the Top 12 (“no particular order” results, my foot).
“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
Kudos to Kylie Rothfield for reaching deep to emit her signature guttural rock tones and all, and that Melissa Etheridge cover band looking for a new lead should give this woman a call, like, yesterday. Even so, her show is pretty one-note tonight…which isn’t altogether uncommon for her at this point. This whole competition night was about someone either going out on a limb to show off something totally new (with mixed results) or honing in on exactly what makes them them in the first place (sometimes ad nauseam).
Kylie opts for the latter option tenfold. Following Christian’s lovely performance with such an unimaginative song selection is detrimental enough on its own, but the fact she becomes so repetitive and range-y before closing on a wackadoodle “Woo” seals the deal on this being her final stop. She’s never been the kinda name you’d go to Vegas with anyway.
“Home” by Diana Ross
Let’s face it; Wé McDonald is decidedly not on her game tonight. It didn’t matter much, though, because she already did enough to prove her worth for a spot in the Top 12 long before the show even started. While her surprisingly off-pitch Broadway audition might not have earned her any new fans — especially compared to some of the others in her powerhouse ilk this evening — she’s got enough Team Wé loyalty going to earn the American vote for the next phase of this thing.
“Cupid” by Sam Cooke
Man, this one’s a bummer… But Alicia’s decision to let him go is still not unjust. Josh Halverson’s got a lot of style and intrigue, but unfortunately, he doesn’t bring one iota of that to the stage tonight. From the opening refrain, his pitch is off and his sense of mystery is completely absent to the point of virtual unrecognizability.
While he did try to supplement this terrible song selection (for him, at least) with some of the quivery vocal appeal that’s gotten him this far, it’s lost in the ho-hum rendition of this seasonal, silly oldies song that’s far too chipper for the Halverson fan-club sensibilities. Whatever momentum he may have carried into this level is completely forgotten by the time he steps away from the mic tonight. He will still be missed…gulp.
“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James
Tonight, Sa’Rayah gets up on the stage to tell everyone a story, and she’s got the full presentation going on to back up the vocals of her narrative — the hair, the dress, the belief in the words she’s uttering. Is it perfect? Probably not. But she ends her brief window of time on a power note that might not have had the voters pausing at the presidential polls to tweet one in on her behalf, but lets her coach know her soulful enthusiasm is real. Or, as she puts it, “When I’m watching you, I’m feeling God in the room.” That might be hyperbole, but it’s not completely unwarranted.
America’s top two: Christian Cuevas and Wé McDonald
Coach’s choice: Sa’Rayah
NEXT: Blake makes the right call, despite a somewhat shoddy showing
Team Blake Shelton
“Maneater” by Hall & Oates
This song might have seemed like the perfect genre selection for her, since it’s exactly the kind of music her soft tones are built for, but she makes a critical mistake by reaching for those low notes that impressed the coaches in prior showings. Instead of drumming up something that might help her stand out from the crowd, she sounds a little contrived. Perhaps more damaging is the fact her energy meter is reading pretty low, and she comes off as stiff and non-emotive, especially compared to the fellas who follow.
“I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” by Rodney Crowell
Austin Allsup wisely changed things up a bit last week, but now that we all know who he is and what he can do, he’s getting back to basics to introduce himself to America in his original rock-twang form. And it definitely works this time. His stage commandment is simply undeniable — the man just looks and sounds like he’s having a great time being an entertainer for everyone in the room, and that doing it is as easy for him as breathing.
Some of his belt moments get drowned out by the fray of the background music and lights show, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows he reached them just fine. Given the crowd he’s playing to with the Team Blake fan base, he’s hitting the right notes in more ways than one. Let’s just hope his song title isn’t indicative of his future on this squad…
“Once Dance” by Drake
Jason Warrior is so charming and spritely, it’s hard not to like him… But this was not a good song choice. Sure, it gives him a few moments to splay out on the floor and inject a few church choir-leader notes here and there — and as Carson Daly puts it, he’s “fun to watch.” However, a lot of his real-deal power gets lost in the hustle of the piece, and it makes an easy case for those cowboy-hat-loving voters (and even Blake) to pass on pushing him through. Pity, really, because even Blake thought there was a longer tenure on this show ahead for the kid.
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban
Sundance Head has picked a song that might not be as mainstream as others tonight, but he notably rushes past the first verse and arrives at a chorus he knows is the real meat hook of the melody — a disarming croon that could just as easily have belonged to his coach’s collection — to convince voters he’s their guy tonight. In addition to being chosen first for the go-ahead, he also wins the quote of the night by saying, “I’m just glad my dad didn’t name me Richard.” Think about it.
“It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
Courtney, Courtney, Courtney. She’s so much better than this. First of all, the song selection seems like a winner at first, but as soon as the melody begins to play, it’s clear the rush job that is this night won’t allow her to give the song its true due. It’s the most awkward abbreviation of the night, really, and the pace is clearly too fast for her own comfort. It’s a shame; she probably could’ve killed it even more than she did if she had a full runtime to work with, especially with those lovely note drops dispersed throughout the song.
She doesn’t get America’s nod, but Blake knows she’s got something worth hanging onto for the next round. “Courtney is one of those artists that you wonder why on Earth isn’t she already famous,” he said before tonight, and while this alone might not have proven his statement true, she still deserved the green light.
America’s top two: Sundance Head and Austin Allsup
Coach’s choice: Courtney Harrell
NEXT: Miley stands by her “mini-me”
Team Miley Cyrus
“Do You Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart
Sophia Urista was criminally undercut in prior performances, so tonight they make it up to her by giving her the first chance to impress audiences with her sparkly pantsuit and husky vocal pizzazz — and her song choice seems to be pretty on-the-nose with her vocal stylings. However, despite a worthy effort to cull some favor with the crowd and some fist-bump-y fandemonium from her coach, this is the end of the road for the burlesque stylist that is Sophia Urista.
“Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin
Okay, okay. So, I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. I didn’t expect much from Darby Walker tonight after she’d doubled down on the Florence Welch impersonations in the earlier rounds, but finally, she’s got a song that’s letting her show us something. She’s able to nimbly leap between her haunting tones and some ridiculous falsetto work with this one, so it’s understandable Miley would wave her so-called “mini-me” through when she’s not chosen by voters already. This was the performance Kylie Rothfield needed to put forth.
“Round Here” by the Counting Crows
At this point, Aaron Gibson’s Dave-Matthews-meets-Phillip-Phillips impression is either working for you or it’s not. His scratchy tones are well-controlled, and it’s almost merciful he opts to go with what he knows rather than trying to reach for the range Adam Duritz achieves in the original version. America’s obviously drinking the Aaron Gibson Kool-Aid right now, so hey.
“Runaway” by Del Shannon
Ah, Belle Jewel. This could’ve been brilliant, it really could’ve. Her dreamy tones come through so well in the verses of this song, but when the chorus rolls around, she stays a little too true to the quirky oldies-station favorite to impress. The interpretation was still loyal to her spunky demeanor, and she really does have a gorgeous voice and enticing presence about her — what better name than hers to describe who she is? But unfortunately, it’s not enough to carry her through to the Top 12. She still has a future in this industry, though… Count on that.
“Times Have Changed” by Irma Thomas
Ali Caldwell’s song lyrics tonight might tell us one thing about times changing, but everything else about her performance tells us otherwise. She stays so true to the doo-wop generation’s sense of swagger with her performance, she manages to stave off any chance of diva overload and earn the vote to go ahead.
America’s top two: Aaron Gibson and Ali Caldwell
Coach’s choice: Darby Walker
NEXT: A split decision by Adam sends two of his favorites home
Team Adam Levine
“To Love Somebody” by Michael Bolton
For some, Brendan Fletcher is the Bryan Adams redux we all need to hear right now, and for others he’s a big batch of “meh.” Tonight, he does his darndest to save himself from slumping out of this thing by adding some last-minute inflection to an otherwise yawn-worthy, almost-whispered rendition of the sock-rock song, but he doesn’t gain any fans if the votes are any indication. Even so, Adam comes through with the save pick, and Brendan lives to sing another day on the show.
“Diamonds” by Rihanna
There’s something to be said for the fact Simone “Bubbles” Gundy doesn’t rely on theatrics to present a clean, strong vocal display tonight, but she does have some trouble with the more dynamic notes in the song that tend to distract from her gorgeous midrange. Her cutie kid is dancing after she’s done because it seems she’s put up enough of a fight in the Team Adam bouts to move on, but alas.
“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band
Without his Stetson on, Josh Gallagher’s really doing his best to convince everyone who’s looking that he’s secretly the guy who plays Frank Delfino on How to Get Away with Murder. But as soon as he opens his mouth, he’s reminding the country-loving crowd he’s a lot like any number of country artists who’ve come before him, and he’s obviously not ashamed of it, either. Tonight, he lets ‘er rip with his usual game, and it’s obviously enough to convince the Team Blake voters Team Adam’s also got a man in the country-genre contest tonight.
“Luck be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra
Surprise, surprise, a Frank Sinatra song from Riley Elmore. Seriously, though, the kid does know what he’s good at and doesn’t waver from that increasingly small pool of music. There’s not much wiggle room available with his particular pipe pathways, so he deserves credit for knowing who he is this early in the game. It’s not enough to sway America (or Adam) to his corner, but hey, maybe Vegas has an opening at one of their martini bars, or maybe there’s a classics Christmas album producer that needs someone to cover Mickey Blue Eyes’ music. Who knows.
“Crying” by Roy Orbison
There’s a reason Billy Gilman was selected to close out the evening — we’re supposed to like him. He does his best to justify the hype with his crystal-clear tones and surprisingly great song choice. The only thing that’s painfully missing from his rendition is attention to the “over you” lyrics, but stacked up against the inconsistencies of the evening, he is (as Blake and Adam say) a “no-brainer” for the next round.
America’s top two: Billy Gilman and Josh Gallagher
Coach’s choice: Brendan Fletcher
- Team Adam — Billy Gilman, Josh Gallagher, Brendan Fletcher
- Team Alicia — Christian Cuevas, Wé McDonald, Sa’Rayah
- Team Blake — Sundance Head, Austin Allsup, Courtney Harrell
- Team Miley — Aaron Gibson, Ali Caldwell, Darby Walker
A few predictions for the Top 12:
- The country crowd is going to have a tough decision ahead when it comes to whittling down the three crooners on deck for the next round, but despite his lack of originality, Josh Gallagher might just be a dark horse for the finales after all.
- As much as Miley loves her, Darby Walker is not long for this competition.
Coaching ribs of the night:
- Adam (to Josh Gallagher): “Dude, you’re amazing — someone who I definitely — ding-dong missed out on over there.”
Blake: “Did you call me ‘ding-dong’? You can’t say ‘ding-dong’ on television!”