Welcome to New York. Sorry, you’ll excuse me for having Taylor Swift on the brain. Welcome to the Knockout rounds, rather. But you might have mistaken it for just another stop on the 1989 press tour. The album, after all, is out today. But, alas, this is The Voice, and Taylor Swift was simply an adviser for all of the teams. And here’s the thing: She was great at it. I’m not just saying this as a Taylor fan, which I am. T-Swift gave advice that shaped performances. She also gave Blake Shelton one of the dirtiest looks when he dared to insult cats, but that’s another story.
No, say what you will about Taylor Swift, but she knows what she’s doing, and her clear knowledge of and excitement for all types of music was very evident on screen. Some of her best bits of counseling? She told Bryana Salaz to use her falsetto when performing Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack.” Following Taylor’s instructions could have very well resulted in a Bryana’s win. She encouraged Toia Jones to stray away from Beyoncé’s interpretation of “Crazy in Love,” which focused on the love part of the song, and embrace the “crazy.” (This seems to be part and parcel with Taylor’s m.o. these days, look no further than the 1989 song “Blank Space,” in which she sings “Got a long list of ex-lovers / They’ll tell you I’m insane.”) Toia didn’t win her round, but she won raves from the coaches. Perhaps Taylor’s greatest hit however, was telling Taylor Phelan to get rid of his guitar. “I think it’s a teddy bear,” she said. She was right. Pharrell picked Luke Wade, but all three coaches attempted to steal Taylor, who eventually went with Adam.
Sorry not sorry, for raving about Taylor. Despite the fact that her own vocal performances can be shaky live, she has a fantastic handle on what it means to be a musician and a pop star. But let’s stop obsessing over Tay—and trust me, it’s hard for me to stop these days—to take a look at some of the performances.
Honestly, I’m having a lot of trouble deeming one performance “the best,” this go around. There were a number of performances this episode that were really really strong, and I find it hard to pick one over the others. So, here are my top picks. When it comes to purely vocal power, it’s hard to beat DaNica Shirey and her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You.” During rehearsal, Swift said she needed to wait before moving her legs, and she was right. Luke Wade is on that same level, and that was evident in his performance of Hall and Oates’s “Rich Girl,” and in fact Luke may have the edge on DaNica simply because of the originality in his voice.
But then I also have some sentimental favorites. Taylor Phelan, who sang “Rather Be,” certainly doesn’t have as big a sound as Luke does, but he’s energetic and a great performer. I also have a big weak spot for Jessie Pitts, who knows exactly what her voice can do and how she can manipulate it. That was proof positive in her rendition of “Your Song,” which went all over the place—in a good way.
Least popular, but best pick
Even though Toia Jones performances of “Crazy in Love” was fearless, taking Swift’s advice to heart, I have to hand it to Adam for choosing Damien’s more subdued take on Leann Rimes’s “How Do I Live?” The other coaches were clearly on Toia’s side—Pharrell even got up and grooved during her performance—but Adam was right. Damien’s choice of song and performance proved him to be an artist who is ultimately more mature. “No one would have ever come up with that choice other than Damien,” Adam said about his song choice.
Best starstruck moment
Poor little Tanner Linford. He was so overwhelmed to see Taylor Swift he tripped coming up on stage. And then she told him to work the “cute boy factor,” which almost made him lose the power of speech. That experience? “Very cooooool,” he said. He also confessed, “I should have hugged her or something. I didn’t even hug her.”
Best Swift put-downs
Before a contestant arrived Adam told Swift he was “part cyborg.” She said, “It sounds like a conversation for maybe never.” She barely needed words when she took down Blake with her eyes after he compared a tree that smells like cat pee to owning cats. “That’s not the same,” she said. Jessie brought up the subject when she said she follows Taylor Swift on Instagram and is obsessed with her cat. Taylor corrected that to “cats.” Do not mess with T-Swift and her cats. Also, was that barely concealed disdain for Griffin’s choice of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” on her part?
Please visit the EW Community to read season 2 semifinalist Katrina Parker’s take on last night’s episode of The Voice.