From the Blind Auditions on, there’s been a general consensus among Voice viewers that Team Adam is the standout group this season. Once Team Gwen picked up Viktor Király, its star rose as well. But Team Blake and Team Pharrell both came hard during the second live episode, and now it’s anyone’s game.
Pharrell starts off the night with one of his frontrunners, Darius Scott. From the rehearsal footage, it sounds like Darius chose his own song, Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” The singer-producer created an original arrangement as well. I’ve always respected Darius for demonstrating his producing chops as well as his musical talent, though I can’t say that setting himself up in comparison to über-producer Kanye is the smartest idea. Darius’ version certainly does more to show off the vocal than the original, though. I just wish he’d chosen a less repetitive song to play around on. There are only so many ways you can sing those same four words. But Blake is a big fan, saying he thinks Darius is the guy on Team Pharrell the other coaches have to worry about.
Team Blake’s first singer, Ivonne Acero, didn’t start out a frontrunner like Darius. But her journey from meek girl into this powerful performer is the more interesting story. Ivonne showed the first glimpses of what she’s capable of during the Knockouts, when she sang Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.” And she only grows stronger during Lives. Blake gives her Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” and Ivonne is happy to get a faith-based song. (So many of the Voice singers come from church backgrounds, I always wish the coaches would advise some of them to consider careers in the religious side of the industry.) Ivonne builds on the hype from her last performance, delivering an even stronger vocal this time. She knows, naturally, how to build a song to its peak and to keep the audience right in sync with her. Ivonne is showing the most progress of anyone in the competition, and I think she’ll go far.
Following Ivonne is no easy feat, but Blake’s next artist, Morgan Frazier, is up to the task. Blake gives her Jack Ingram’s country cover of Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel.” The rock anthem translates surprisingly well, and Morgan is the right singer to take it on. She lets loose with her strong, no-nonsense vocal right from the start, accompanied by a Carrie Underwood strut for good measure. I’d like to see even more of that scorned-woman attitude from her as this competition continues. It’s an angle that easily crosses over, not to mention it’s a lot of fun. Morgan is able to keep the song’s intensity high, without resorting to belting the entire thing. She’s a natural, and she always leaves me wanting more.
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Then, it’s time for Evan McKeel of Team Pharrell to debut his live performance. Except, this ain’t exactly a debut. Pharrell gives Evan Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” which the coach also asked him to sing during his audition. Pharrell says people now want to hear the whole thing. But what I think people actually want is something fresh. We’ve already heard half of this performance (and the show promoted the hell out of it back during the Blinds). A second take on “Overjoyed” doesn’t add any more information about Evan than we already have, whereas every other singer is showing off something new tonight. That said, it’s one of Evan’s better performances. He calms down a bit on the theatrics (though Gwen still says he could look more honest on stage) and gives a solid take on a difficult number.
NEXT: More Irish yodeling, please