Credit where credit is due: Blake has been taking some chances on non-country artists this year, and it’s really been paying off for him. Although some members of his remaining squad practically eliminate themselves through poor performances tonight, what he’s left with is a pretty strong little trio indeed.
Red Marlowe’s been nothing if not consistent throughout the season so far, but tonight actually gives him a chance to try something just new enough to stand out. Sure, Vern Gosdin’s “Chiseled in Stone” might not be the kind of song to get every audience member mouthing along to the lyrics, but it’s just familiar enough to be warm and inviting, and it’s twang-free enough to be very near to mainstream for modern country fans.
Red’s got some strong Willie Nelson notes coming through in tonight’s showcase, fitting for his particular subgenre of deep, old-school country. This is his most convincing delivery of the season so far, if you ask me, even if he’s still a bit boring in his key choices at times.
My apologies for forgetting Chloe Kohanski in the predictions list last time. Truly. Because, yes, Chloe’s rendition of “Landslide” during the Knockouts was sublime. If anyone has developed an impressive portfolio of performances this season, it’s Chloe.
For the playoffs, Blake Shelton doesn’t stray far from her safe zone and chooses the Cyndi Lauper song, “Time After Time.” Chloe manages to make it even more calm than the original and doesn’t take too many chances by straying far from the source material. Thanks to that, we get to hear her organic, tempered, lovely tones come through…time after time…but about three repetitions in, it starts to drag. Wisely, though, she tacks a sick power note onto the tail end of the tune and clenches it. Chloe is the kind of singer you just want to hear more from. As Blake might put it, “I’m a fan.”
It’s honestly a little bit of a shocker to me that Blake decides to bring back Natalie Stovall as his comeback artist because her knockout performance was so lackluster that it seemed like sending her home would be an easy break for him. But not only does he give her a second shot in the playoffs, he also hands her double duty of having to play her fiddle in Garth Brooks’ already cumbersome love anthem “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”
The song is busy all on its own, so adding in her instrumentals and weird dance moves means Natalie can hardly catch her breath before she’s back at the mic, sounding more nasal and unrehearsed than ever. Hey, maybe Blake just brought her back to make this round’s cuts easier on him.
It hurts to say this, it really does, but Esera Tuaolo definitely makes the biggest mess of the night. There’s pretty much nothing nice I can say about what he does to LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live.” Esera is incredibly likable, he approaches the stage in earnest, and it’s easy to want him to do well. But this song is just too big for him in every respect.
While he seems to thrive in that happy beach vacation vibe, he just cannot deliver what he needs to make a rendition of this massively emotional number work. To be fair to Blake Shelton, this song was first popularized by someone who was still a teenager at the time, so experience isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for performing it, but with Esera’s particular range, he could spend a decade practicing and never be the right fit.
When we first learned that Mitchell Lee would be singing “Heaven” by Bryan Adams, I literally typed out a four letter word preceded by “holy” that perfectly described my enthusiasm, but…that was a premature reaction to the news. While I was hoping this might be his moment to break away from those “folk-rock jam sessions in the college courtyard”-style expectations that he’d built up so far this season, it’s just too much for him tonight.
That said, he does deserve some credit for not getting exposed quite as badly as Lucas, Esera, and Natalie, thanks to some clever rearrangement that collapses in all the notes that would have stretched his reach beyond repair. But he never takes it home, and when you’re at a cutthroat moment like this, you have to deliver something truly convincing to keep going. Pity.
This freaking woman. Can I go ahead and pre-order her album already? Keisha Renee is the real deal. She can sing anything and make it all her own. Tonight, she handles The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge” like she wrote it all for herself, and I’ve still got goosebumps.
Her voice is classic and transformative at the same time. She’s got those choice runs and escalations that separate her rendition from the original, but there’s so much authenticity in her delivery that it’s easy to forget any other version of this song exists anyway. Keisha Renee might just be the surprise of the season if she can keep pulling this off. Jennifer’s right: She does merge gospel and country music in a way that’s been talked about very often on this show, but rarely accomplished. She’s got it, and she makes it look effortless, too.
- After her absolute gut-punch of a performance (not to mention last week’s work) even Blake can’t help but choose Keisha Renee to stay first. She’s his star, and he knows it.
- The writing’s pretty much on the wall that Blake won’t let Red go without a fight, so it should surprise exactly zero people that he’s going to stick around a bit.
- Blake might’ve been leaning toward keeping Mitchell around longer, since he’s kinda-sorta in his wheelhouse, genre-wise, and he has that good-old-boy appeal, but Chloe Kohanski has done more than enough to secure her spot. He admits he’s surprised that a stolen contestant has become such a must-have for Team Blake, but it’s also the right call.
- That means we’ll be saying goodbye to Natalie, Esera, and Mitchell.
- Team Adam: Anthony Alexander, Emily Luther, Jon Mero, Addison Agen, Adam Cunningham
- Team Miley: Janice Freeman, Brooke Simpson, Ashland Craft, Moriah Formica, Adam Pearce
- Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming, Shi’Ann Jones, Noah Mac
- Team Blake: Keisha Renee, Red Marlow, Chloe Kohanski