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