After eight seasons, The Voice can officially consider itself an old hand in the reality game. This show is a well-oiled machine, and it has its beats down pat. Which is why the announcement that a new wrench is being thrown into the mix, in the form of “comeback artists,” was so surprising. This season, each coach gets to bring back one singer they’d previously let go. This could be a shot at redemption for a previously underappreciated performer…or it could just be prolonging the inevitable. We’ll find out which on Wednedsay.
The first night of Lives kicks off with performances from all of Team Adam and Team Gwen, including their comeback picks (or, as I like to think of them, “zombie artists” risen from the dead). Twelve songs is a lot to pack into this show (and into a recap), and the tired call for less banter has never felt more relevant.
First up is Adam’s rocker Blaine Mitchell, who got married since we saw him last. Adam gives Blaine “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS (whose frontman, Michael Hutchence, Adam has been comparing Blaine to all season). Blaine has steadily grown from bit player to one of this year’s stars, but his version of “Never Tear Us Apart” doesn’t conjure impressions of a leading role. Blaine’s a natural onstage, but the song has a repetitive tempo that doesn’t build to anything. That said, Blaine still sounds (and looks) like he believes in his own power as a performer. If America doesn’t keep him, I believe Adam will.
Following Blain comes Regina Love of Team Gwen, who’s given the challenge (or maybe it’s the burden) of performing Adele’s new single, “Hello.” Typically, when a contestant can pull off the likes of Adele, Sam Smith, Alicia Keys, or other singers with otherworldly voices, it’s a major coup for them. But “Hello” is so new, and was so immediately beloved that Regina can only look lesser by comparison. It doesn’t help that this is not Regina’s strongest showing. She sounds like she has problems with her breath control, pausing in the middle of phrases. “Hello” offers some of her subtlest work yet, and she shows off a delicate high range that adds nuance to the performance, but it’s also her least in-control number to date.
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Team Adam’s second singer, Keith Semple, is back with another stadium anthem, “To Be With You” by Mr. Big. During rehearsal, Keith says he’s worried that, by doing too much ‘80s rock (never mind that “To Be With You” came out in 1991), people will think that’s all he can do. Adam shrugs off his concerns, but I wouldn’t be so quick to put that fear to rest. Keith’s had four performances at this point. If he hasn’t shown us by now what else he can do besides cheesy ballads, when will he? No matter the genre, “To Be With You” is also just a lightweight choice — both vocally and in terms of emotional and lyrical complexity. Adam and Keith could have cooked up a heftier version, but Keith’s take is too bouncy and diaphanous to turn anyone into a fan who wasn’t one already.
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