Like ripping off a Band-Aid, the coaches grit their teeth tonight and let go of 12 singers at once. Results shows on The Voice are invariably painful (favorites are sent home; coaches feel guilty; Carson gets more lines), and tonight may have been the toughest in years. Since season five, just two of the singers on each team were sent home at the end of the Playoffs, allowing the coaches to keep the majority of their performers. But, because of the comeback twist, fully half of each team was eliminated this episode. Tonight was the only night in recent Voice history that each artist, statistically, had an equal chance of staying and going.
But that’s enough math for one recap. Sure, statistically Keith Semple has just as much of a shot at sticking around as Jordan Smith, but we all know who’s the more realistic pick. (Spoiler alert: Keith Semple does not stick around.) Team Gwen starts the night off with a group performance of “O-o-h Child,” originally by the Five Stairsteps. Half of the team sounds fine together, but some artists with more singular voices, like Ellie Lawrence and Regina Love, weren’t made for six-part harmonies. They stand out like sore thumbs, and the whole performance suffers as a result.
Once that’s out of the way, we’re treated to a synopsis of not just all of Team Gwen’s Playoff performances, but of the coaches’ interchangeable responses to each, as well. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say no one needed to be reminded of the songs from just two nights ago. These segments happen after each team performs, so if you didn’t watch, just imagine them at the appropriate places as this recap continues.
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Then, it’s time to reveal who from Team Gwen America saved: it’s Jeffery Austin and Braiden Sunshine. Jeffery is a no brainer, but I had Viktor Király pegged for runner-up. Braiden is a welcome surprise, though. He’s one of the most likable singers on this show. Gwen is now forced to decide among Viktor, Ellie, Regina, and Korin Bukowski. Again, Viktor seems like the obvious choice, but Gwen says she’s going to go with her heart and pick the singer she can help the most. That’s Korin Bukowski.
Following the culling of Team Gwen, Carson has a surprise for us: Michelle Obama’s on the line, with a Veterans Day message. The message is support the veterans. (Also, go to joiningforces.gov).
We were told last night that last season’s winner, Sawyer Fredericks, would be back to debut his new single, “Take It All,” off his self-titled EP. Again, Carson remarks on how impressive it is that Sawyer already has music out. Is it that impressive, though? Sawyer won The Voice in May, more than five months ago, and he has four songs to show for it. Willie Nelson would have released, like, three albums and a box set by now. “Take It All” is quite pleasant, in a Mumford & Sons-ish way. It’s optimized to show off the texture in his voice, if not to get anyone’s heart racing. If you liked Sawyer last time you saw him on this show, you’ll probably still like him now.
NEXT: Blake pulls a fast one
Second to face the gauntlet is Team Blake. They sing Rascal Flatts’ “Stand,” and this song lends itself much more readily to a group performance. Against the sea of blond country crooners, Nadjah Nicole looks like she somehow wandered over from another, hipper team. Carson tells us “Stand” was suggested by audience members, using The Voice app. Allowing millions of viewers to virtually propose song choices sounds like a trolling disaster just waiting to happen. Did the producers learn nothing from what happened with Sanjaya on American Idol?! We had to live through that, remember?
Once again, it’s time for hard choices to be made. We find out that America saved Barrett Baber and Zach Seabaugh. No surprises there: Those guys were two of the standouts from last night. Blake says, “There are a million ways to make it in this industry,” but he’s basing his decision on who he thinks could thrive in this particular situation, and that’s Emily Ann Roberts. I feel Blake really missed out by not sticking with Ivonne Acero, who’s grown tremendously in just a few weeks — not to mention she completely trounced Emily Ann during the Playoffs. (Strategically, it makes sense for Blake to keep it 100 percent country, but Morgan Frazier also speaks to that demographic, and she sang better than Emily Ann as well.)
Then, it’s Team Pharrell’s turn on the chopping block. First though, they sing R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” It is far and away the best group performance of the night. Not only do all of Pharrell’s singers mesh well together, the arrangement also lets them each show off individual strengths. Darius Scott lets loose the prettiest run, Celeste Betton gives a deep throated roar, and I am reminded that this show is a lot of fun sometimes.
But all too soon, fun time is over and it’s down to business. America saves Madi Davis and Evan McKeel. Evan’s save is the first genuine disappointment of the night for me. Can anyone name three different personality traits this guy possesses? With so many more interesting singers in the mix, keeping him is a missed opportunity. Pharrell is left with Darius, Celeste, Riley Biederer, and Mark Hood. The choice seems so clear. (If it’s not quite as clear as I think, the choice I’m referring to is Darius.) But Pharrell is unpredictable, and he chooses Mark Hood to move on instead. I am not happy.
Finally, Team Adam takes the stage. They perform “Diamonds” by Johnnyswim. You are not alone: I had no idea either who Johnnyswim was before this evening, but now I am enlightened. They’re a married pop-folk duo, one half of which is Donna Summer’s daughter. Anyway, “Diamonds” is way too country to suit most of Adam’s team, Shelby Brown excepted.
Speaking of Shelby Brown, she’s saved by America, along with the surest thing in this competition, Jordan Smith. I’m holding out hope for Chance Peña, but Adam saves Amy Vachal instead, which is a perfectly reasonable choice, if not the bravest. I’m still hoping for more variety from her, and maybe this save will give her time to show it to me.
- So the comeback twist probably didn’t work as the show intended: None of the four artists made it through to the Top 12
- Only Jordan and Emily Ann made it into the iTunes Top 10 before voting ended (and as of Wednedsay, Emily Ann has slipped to the eleventh spot). Closest on their heels was Madi Davis.