The Voice recap: 'Live Playoffs, Night 1'
Six hopefuls are sent packing from Team Blake and Team Alicia
This year’s battle and knockout rounds of The Voice were fairly brutal, but tonight’s first live elimination round is a full-on gut wallop, even if the six chosen to remain on Team Blake Shelton and Team Alicia Keys were the right ones. Twelve artists come and go from the two teams (with Team Adam Levine and Team Gwen Stefani running their respective gauntlets tomorrow), and at the end of it, half of them are sent packing, with four of the go-aheads doled out by voters and the other two granted by their coaches. Let’s run through what went down, team by team, tonight on The Voice.
This is the first time we really get to see what remains of Team Blake all assembled at once, and, frankly, our Southern charmer did a pretty bang-up job assembling an interesting pack. Of course, some legs of the table are stronger than others, so it’s not time for heartbreak over those who don’t make it through, but still. Solid assembly, coach.
Voted in to the top 12:
Lauren Duski (“Someone Else’s Star” by Bryan White): Blake Shelton is right to think that he’s got a talented and instinctual artist in Lauren Duski, because she sounds like some kinda magical combination of Celine Dion’s elegance and Martina McBride’s power note strength, and there’s really no question that she’s a solid fit for the current country music scene. She’s not a perfect performer, but she’s one of those rare cases for whom a slip here and there almost elevates the rest, because she makes a lot of competent choices with her cover that can only come courtesy of genuine core talent.
Aliyah Moulden (“Mercy” by Duffy): The term “firecracker” comes up to describe the contestants a few times tonight, but it’s most appropriate when applied to Aliyah Moulden. There’s no question that the girl’s got some pep in her step. And to her credit, she’s able to rise to a pretty difficult challenge when Blake asks her to abandon her default falsetto in a certain part in favor a full vocal reach she’ll have to coax out of herself (spoiler: she does). She might do better with a less repetitive song going forward, though, because once she turns up the notch, she seems to have a hard time scaling back down. It was obviously enough for viewers tonight, though.
Saved by Blake:
TSoul (“Knock On Wood” by Eddie Wood): Give TSoul credit; he always comes out there and is exactly who he says he is. Tonight, he takes us right to his particular parcel of land in funky town with a solid and smooth rendition of this oldies favorite, and he doesn’t leave. His energy infects the whole room as he coasts through the notes with his signature snare, and as Blake puts it after the performance, “If people didn’t like that, something’s wrong with them.” Blake makes good on his spoken confidence for this crooner, too, by (rightly, by the way) choosing him to advance over the others who remain on the chopping block after the votes are tallied.
Casi Joy (“Parachute” by Chris Stapleton): Before tonight, I’d been a little salty about Casi Joy defeating Felicia Temple in the knockouts, but tonight she’s more than proven herself as a competent country artist. Not only does she have the requisite hometown heehaw vibes going on (c’mon, her family and friends actually rented the girl a limo with bull horns on it), but her ability to vacillate between a full-on yokel yodel and rocker growl without pause is impressive.
Felicia Temple (“Defying Gravity” from Wicked): I wanted so much for Felicia Temple to take the opportunity that comes with being Blake’s comeback artist of the night and smear everyone’s faces in their doubtitude. What can I say? She’s easy to root for. Unfortunately, though, this song choice is much, much too ambitious and theatrical for her to adequately control, and what results is something messy. She spends too much time trying to compensate for a lack of nuance with excess volume. Bummer.
Aaliyah Rose (“Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders): Props to Aaliyah Rose for venturing outside of her Meghan Trainor-centric comfort zone. I gotta say, I have a lot of respect for what she did with this number, because while she tended to fall a little under the tempo, she totally rolled with it. If the instrumentals had been rearranged to match, this could’ve been extremely interesting. Alas.
Last season was Alicia’s first run as a coach on this series, but already the gal’s at the top of her game. Her soliloquies of advice for her squad members can seem a little lofty at times (mostly because she’s so positive that it’s hard to imagine her dogging anyone over anything ever), but she knows what she’s doing, as evidenced by who gets set up to get through and who she chooses to nudge when the votes are all tallied up. We might just have a winner from Team Alicia this season, y’all.
Voted in to the Top 12:
Chris Blue (“Love on the Brain” by Rihanna): Is the driver’s seat the desirable one this season? Because there’s gotta be a reason Alicia Keys chose Chris Blue to lead her team and set the bar too high for almost anyone else to reach (the exception being Vanessa Ferguson, of course). Chris Blue is a stud on the stage, and he’s not just a ball of infectious energy; he’s also got the pipes to back it up. Wafting from his ridiculous falsetto command into a full voice that can rival anyone on the stage tonight, he murders this song from the first verse and picks up the pieces of the rest to play with them, just because he can.
Vanessa Ferguson (“Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake): Alicia selected this up-tempo number for Vanessa to show off what she can do outside of her pure groove gift, but man, does this song do a disservice to what might be one of the strongest performers of the whole competition. It’s a good thing voters weren’t sleeping through the prior rounds and still voted her through, because the pace of this number gave listeners little time to appreciate just how well she hits her notes and plays with the melody. This woman is an entertainment pistol. As Adam Levine notes, she’s 1000 percent ready for the big leagues. From her easy steeze to her full-on pro stage power to her excellent vocals, it’s just all there. Full package, people. Good voting, everyone.
Saved by Alicia:
Stephanie Rice (“Every Breath You Take” by The Police): As much as a Stephanie Rice stan as I have become already this season, this wasn’t her best effort. Whether it’s because of the nerves of going live or being last or the song, I don’t know. But something was definitely amiss with her showcase tonight. I’m gonna go ahead and peg the song selection as the biggest mismatch for her, because that gritty emotional depth that was so striking about her prior performances was completely missing from this one. She also seemed to have to force those bigger notes to give the tune some much-needed inflection, since the natural tenderness she’d imbued other melodies with was completely absent. She still totally deserved to be waved through, and I’m glad Alicia did it, but next week, she’s gonna have to really hone in on a number that matters to her so her real magic can come into play.
Anatalia Villaranda (“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King): Let’s try the compliment sandwich approach here because this is gal is young and is certainly trying her best. There’s something cool about how well she opens by dragging the floor of her full voice with purpose, and she succeeds. What’s not cool is how carried away she gets with her belting. And for the other slice of bread, props to her for always being a, to borrow Alicia’s phrasing here, “burst of energy and light.”
Jack Cassidy (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” by Elton John): Alicia chooses Jack Cassidy as her comeback artist because, as she tells him, she’s heard something during their rehearsals that the rest of the world hasn’t yet gotten to see. She estimates he’s at about a 97th-percentile range in the practice rounds but only landing at around 70 percent during stage performances. If tonight’s screechy, disjointed rendition of this all-time classic is any indication of his full power, we were doing much better before, because this was… not good. Alicia and Gwen Stefani were still feeling it somehow, but no.
Ashley Levin (“I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Ann Peebles): Ashley Levin, we barely got to know thee… Even though her song selection was kind of off brand in theory, she still tried to put her own country-rock spin on it, which might’ve been fine if not for the fact that Lauren Duski had just blown everyone’s socks off with her own country crooning. Compared to that, she didn’t, couldn’t, hold a candle.
- Team Adam: Mark Isaiah, Jesse Larson, Josh West, Hanna Eyre, Lilli Passero
- Team Gwen: Joshua “JChosen” Hunter, Troy Ramey, Brennley Brown, Hunter Plake, Quizz Swanigan
- Team Alicia: Vanessa Ferguson, Chris Blue, Stephanie Rice
- Team Blake: Lauren Duski, Aliyah Moulden, TSoul