Well, that was unexpected… Although, maybe it shouldn’t have been.
Tonight’s “save me” performances prove it’s really not over until it’s over for someone, even when they’ve had a pretty awful live performance the night before an elimination round. Tonight, two contestants are sent packing from Studio 12, and in the process, the bottom-three member who convinces voters another chance is due might have just become a dark-horse contender in the process. What?!
First thing’s first. Here’s who America saved, in order of their announcements:
Predictably, that left two from Blake Shelton’s squad on the chopping block — rock-country crooner Austin Allsup and veteran songwriter Courtney Harrell — along with Aaron Gibson, who’s amassed a ton of experience fighting his way back from the bottom.
All three singers had poor performances last night, thanks to some ill-advised song selections across the board, but tonight each of them turns that trend around and mics up with something flattering. What they accomplish with their numbers of the night, however, is a mixed bag.
Austin Allsup (Team Blake)
“Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton
Blake Shelton is right to say that what Austin Allsup brings to his genre is something that’s not common to it right now. His steely sound isn’t altogether new, of course; Robert Plant and John Fogerty come to mind as possible inspirations for his tone. But what he does, he does well most of the time. As for tonight, it’s a good idea in theory for him to tackle a song that’s right there in his musical wheelhouse, but there are some moments where he falls just as flat as he did last night, which is what landed him in this position in the first place. He almost sounds stuffed-up in some moments; even when he throws in some colorful pulls and tugs at the feel-strings by giving a shout-out to his wife afterwards, it’s otherwise very forgettable, unfortunately.
Courtney Harrell (Team Blake)
“Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts
There are a couple of reasons why this song choice was, in theory, a pitch-perfect way for Courtney Harrell to state her case for the Top 8. It’s a crowd-pleaser, especially for the country wedding song-loving collective who might be tempted to vote for her teammate/competitor, and, frankly, it’s melodically the exact opposite of what was happening last night with her chaotic callback to the ’80s. If only Courtney had chosen to let the song rest in its original, soft form, rather than throwing in so many oohs and ahhs of extra, this might’ve been a convincing showcase. If only.
Aaron Gibson (Team Miley)
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan
How does he do it? After last night’s decimation of an Elton John favorite (plus the fact he’s been in the bottom-two barrel two weeks in a row before tonight), I was ready to write Aaron Gibson off. But all that time spent in this position must’ve erased any jitters he might’ve had about performing in this moment, because his rendition of this song is filled with the precise notes of “come what may” and easy style add-ins that make his attachment to it completely convincing. Voters might’ve also been convinced by the fact he brought coach Miley Cyrus to actual tears with his light, but still raw performance — and Adam Levine’s decision to step in and insist Aaron Gibson was the one who deserved to go through didn’t hurt. And with that, we’ve all forgotten just how WTF his showing last night was. Well played, indeed.
The percentage ticker from the commercial break shows it became a real race between Austin and Aaron with viral voters, but Aaron ultimately prevails with yet another crunch-time number gone right.
As for the night’s cast-offs, they seem like they’ll be okay. Austin’s parting words to coach Blake Shelton express his gratitude for being given his single-turn in the blinds and for coaching him this far, while Courtney Harrell’s lapping even more thanks upon Blake for helping her realize she doesn’t just belong in the writer’s room for these songs anymore.
Gulp. Things are gonna get even more intense from here. Will Aaron Gibson’s surprise momentum from tonight take him even further than this? Gah, at this point, you certainly can’t count the kid out. I predict next week he’ll turn to a Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, or Phillip Phillips hit to just go ahead and seal the deal on his audio-doppelgänger awareness factor.