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The Voice recap: Jake Your Way to the Top

Two players get the cowboy boot from Blake Shelton on the first night of playoffs.

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The Voice

TV Show
Reality TV, Music
run date:
Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson
Current Status:
In Season

(Note: This recap’s title is a reference to the seminal 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Congrats, you’ve now been culture-bombed.)

Welcome to the playoffs! For the first time this season, the artists get to choose their own song (cleared by the show’s music and legal departments of course), and it’s a little change that makes big waves for the contestants in the best way possible. Well, for everyone except Madilyn. We start the playoffs with the folks representing Blake Shelton, who has to eliminate two players from his already-slim five by the evening’s end.

Before the playoffs began, I posted my Top 20 power list, and I’m well aware that my choices riled up some people, so to them I say, take a breath—if I did in fact prematurely underestimate your favorites, then you must trust that they’ll find their way to the top of the list if they’re truly that good. For instance, after tonight’s episode, I already know that Jake Worthington is due for a Superman-sized leap towards the top.

For what it’s worth, I predicted that Blake would likely ditch Ryan Whyte Maloney (definitely) and Madilyn Paige (probably)—and I think the logic to that is sound. Ryan has largely unimpressed throughout the season, and I just can’t envision a scenario in which Madilyn beats out Shelton favorites like Audra McLaughin, Sisaundra Lewis and Jake Worthington.

So how did I do in my predictions? Well, let’s find out:

Our first artist up is Audra McLaughlin. I’ve sung the praises of Audra quite often, from her knockout audition to her consistently exciting performances during the battles. Hell, I even ranked her second for the whole season, so I’ve placed quite a few expectations on her this round.

With the power to choose her own song, Audra picks Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing.” It’s perfectly suited to her country style and demonstrates why she’s a concrete performer to watch, even if she’s lacking just a little in the Lord and Taylor charisma department. It’s not always about the vocals, you know—there has to be a complete package there, and while Audra certainly has elements to being a star, she still needs to work on charm (I recommend Hogwarts). Adam calls Audra a contender and admits that she “hasn’t shown a weak side” yet, and it’s true, but she also hasn’t positively popped the way she needs to in order to survive the lives. Audra is talented but she kind exists in a weird where-do-we-go-from-here purgatory, like if Carrie had still won prom queen but just sort of stayed and enjoyed the night.

Next comes Ryan Whyte Maloney, a mildly forgettable player and the sole singer on Blake’s team who doesn’t register for some reason. I mean, the dude can sing—it’s not up for debate that he’s got a remarkable voice—but why, then, do I find myself not rooting for him? There’s something so forgettable about Ryan and I want to feel bad about it, but I forget why.

He picks Shinedown’s “Second Chance,” and it’s another great song choice (who would have thought that letting artists pick their own songs begets the best vocal results?). Maybe in another season, Ryan would have really popped, but despite his gritty rock performance, his outlook in the competition is still pretty bleak and no last-ditch playoff effort is going to save him at this point. He could do the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs and he still wouldn’t stand a chance.

That said, Usher gives Ryan mega praise, saying the only other artist who can hold notes like him is Adam Levine, who BLUSHES like Bashful after Snow White matched with him on Tinder. Then Usher tells Ryan that he’s “moving in the right direction,” which is sort of vague, and Shakira calls him an imperfect surprise (another ouch) while Adam kindly compliment-sandwiches Ryan’s rough edges. Blake says he’s overwhelmed with excitement and heartbreak, which basically throws up the red flag that Ryan’s not going anywhere near the live rounds. But he is coming to a garbage truck near you! (Sorry, was that rude? It felt rude. But, I mean…he’s a garbageman.)

NEXT: The Paigemaster takes the stage—epileptics, be warned.