Several singers showed new sides of themselves tonight, in an episode full of surprising performances and on-point song choices.
The Voice opens with Team Adam’s Shelby Brown, singing Lady Gaga’s “Yoü & I.” (As an ode to her home state, she changes all the “Nebraska” references to “Alabama.”) Adam and Shelby tried to create “a moment” last week, but her rendition of “In Color” was plagued with technical issues. This time around, Shelby comes much closer to pulling off that special performance. On this vocal, which she makes fit her country-rock vibe, we get to hear more of her funky growl (even a tad too much, as Gwen points out) and her signature sassy attitude, which she pulls off better than any of the other female artists. Shelby is still in it to win it, to borrow a phrase from Randy Jackson.
After that rousing performance, the show calms down with Evan McKeel’s take on Nat King Cole’s “Smile.” It’s a soft, slow song already, and Evan doesn’t do much to add additional, more interesting elements into the mix. He gets to play guitar for once (it seems all the coaches have allowed their artists more free range with their instruments as of late), but I would have been more intrigued if he shown off his musicianship on an upbeat track, instead of this meandering one. Without the ability to get up and use his physicality, the whole performance feels flat. Evan relies on this beloved song to carry him through, but his own vocal isn’t all that impressive.
Team Blake’s first artist of the night, Barrett Baber, needs little introduction. At this point, we know he consistently delivers and that he’s here to entertain. Although he could coast through this episode on another emotional ballad, Barrett switches things up: He decides to update Tanya Tucker’s classic “Delta Dawn,” by adding a soulful rock twist. It’s the right move. For once, we get to see Barrett have full-throttled fun with a song, instead of pulling our heartstrings. I also heard, for the first time, more of what makes his particular tone unique. He’s slightly nasal (which isn’t a bad thing for him), and his twang is on full display. It makes for a good time all around, especially when a choir shows up to accompany him.
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Following Barrett is America’s Instant Save from last week, Korin Bukowski. After being in the bottom two, she needs to show viewers why we should keep her around. But I don’t know if her performance of Mandy Moore’s “Only Hope” — so many middle school memories! — was enough to do that. After Korin’s take on “Titanium,” we know she’s capable of a whole range of emotions, dynamics, and tones. “Only Hope,” however, brings her back into that extra-high, breathy zone, which is becoming overplayed. She sounds so thin and fragile in the highest parts of the song, I worry (more than once) she’s about to crack or can’t hit the note. That tone can be delicate and pretty, but I’d like to hear a little more strength from her.
NEXT: Don’t say I didn’t warn ya