The top 12 face their first live performances of the season
We made it! We’re in the lives now. And with just 12 singers left in the competition, the endgame is starting to become clearer for some of these singers. While we’ve got a few left who are desperately trying to establish their identities, others know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it.
So, who arrives as the most impressive singer(s) of the night? And who might find themselves in the bottom for tomorrow’s eliminations? Let’s take a look.
Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
“Praying” by Kesha
The final slot of any given live round is largely considered to be the so-called “pimp spot,” but there might be a near-equal benefit to being the first performer of the night…as long as you can knock it out of the park, at least. For Brooke Simpson, it’s no trouble for her to handle Kesha’s most important number because she’s got the right smooth mid-voice to make that cascading chorus come through as beautifully as the evocative original.
Brooke has got the energy and self-possession of a pop star but also boasts some organic groove. She’s still not the most unique singer of the show this year, but she does have some pipes and a solid approach for using them. And that moment when she switches to her head voice in the outtro? *Chef’s kiss*
Team Blake: Red Marlow
“The Church on Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah
Some people might be charmed by Red Marlow’s deep drawl and smirky asides, but when it comes to his actual voice, there’s just not much happening. Even in the rehearsals footage, Blake Shelton seems to know that his old-school country crooner risks being a bore for those not born and bred into the deep country music circuit.
And Red does little to improve upon that possibility in the live performance. Not only does he hover around the same three notes the entire time — even a well-placed “woo” might’ve kicked up the appeal here — but he’s drowned out by the instrumentals and background singers for a good chunk of the song, so it’s hard to even hear it when he does carry the chorus like the original version.
Team Jennifer: Shi’Ann Jones
“Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
There’s…a lot happening in this performance. Shi’Ann Jones has been known to put it all out there during her showcases, but this has got to be her wildest stage moment yet. To be fair to her, that’s exactly what this number requires; Mariah Carey’s original version is filled with thrilling runs and spans the entire sum of her considerable range. It’s impressive that Shi’Ann is even able to attempt to replicate any part of what she’s done.
The good news is that it does prove all those runs she does are intentional and she’s not just shooting from the hip of ungroomed talent. But Shi’Ann might want to go subtle next time to have a standout moment, à la Alisan Porter and “Let Him Fly.” (Recap continues on page 2)
Team Adam: Jon Mero
“Why I Love You” by Major
Jon Mero’s been one of the surprises of the last few weeks because he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve and has been very timely in revealing his hand. He can do falsetto like nobody’s business — tonight, he’s able to play with his head voice with so much charisma that he could easily spend the whole song there and sail through to the next round — and his full voice is the exact kind of warmth you wanna swim in.
Per Adam Levine’s instruction, he lets himself get lost in the delicate number, and while it’s not quite as much ownage as he delivered last week, he’s still keeping himself in the true contender circle with this one.
Team Miley: Ashland Craft
“Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker
During rehearsals, Miley Cyrus lets Ashland Craft play her way into singing “Delta Dawn” above her second choice (Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried,” which is not as hokey as the title suggests). And her acoustic take on the song is just tender enough to take it outside its obvious lane, but what she does with it on stage tonight is not that.
If she had come out with a subdued rendition of this piece, as previewed in the prep footage, it may have been very pretty, but Ashland’s performance is busy and forced. What should be a sweet little melody has become some twisted rock rampage that just doesn’t match the mood of the song. And she’s at max screech capacity, leaving little room for nuance.
Team Adam: Adam Cunningham
“Against All Odds” by Phil Collins
Now, I know Adam Levine instructs Adam Cunningham to sing this like it’s a Chris Stapleton cover, but it’s clear he’s trying to replicate Noah Mac’s moment of self-betterment from the playoffs by giving him a Phil Collins song. And…it’s not working for anyone.
Adam is behind the tempo of this song right off the rip and spends the rest of the tune struggling dearly to salvage things. On top of that, his normally strong, scratchy country voice sounds desperate in the most important notes. The coaches do their best to throw on a “you’ll get ’em next time” cheerleading session, but it’s obvious he’s put himself in jeopardy here tonight.
Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski
“Thank You” by Dido
Girl. This is how it’s done. Chloe Kohanski is already coming into this night with a lot of momentum behind her — as Blake Shelton points out, her playoff single is breaking records with audience engagement. And she does not spoil it one bit. In fact, this song choice is pretty killer because even though Dido does it in an entirely different key, Chloe knows how to make it her own without alienating the original feel.
Her haunting low tones are well matched with the upped tempo, and she maintains an even composure throughout. For someone who’s never had any formal training, she sure knows how to play to her own strengths, and her smoky tones are just fun to listen to. With Chloe, it’s the rare case of never having too much of a good thing, even if she does get pretty repetitive in this and most of her other song choices. If and when she becomes a recording artist, producers won’t even have to cut and paste her chorus in to make it even.
Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming
“Love on Top” by Beyoncé
Jennifer Hudson had to call in a favor to her fellow Dreamgirls alum Beyoncé to let her teammate try his hand at her song. But Davon Fleming manages to make it mostly his own, despite the fact that it comes from such a living icon. Sure, there’s still the same cheery feel to the number, but he sounds more like he’s waxing Stevie Wonder than Queen Bey.
Adam Levine and Jennifer Hudson are driven to throw shoes at his stage after Davon Fleming melts the place with his dramatic crowd play and honey tones. It’s still not perfect, nor is it his most convincing performance of the season, but it’s still enough to see him through, and it won’t be making anyone’s blooper reels. That said, Davon will probably want to hone things in a little more if he’s going to compete with the other soul singers of this competition. (Recap continues on page 3)
Team Adam: Addison Agen
“She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles
Oh no! In theory, Addison Agen is a perfect match for a Sara Bareilles song because she has the same knack for energizing her low note range, but this is a bad, bad match for her. While her jazzy tones are ordinarily pretty intoxicating, it’s pretty clear here that she’s either not emotionally connected to the weight of these lyrics or she’s too much so. Either way, Addison is not able to deliver this song with any semblance of the authenticity we’ve seen in past performances.
She’s pitchy at parts, her delightful throaty low notes are almost completely absent, and she’s inconsistent throughout the song. It’s not the worst performance of the night, by any stretch, but to see Addison deliver such an ordinary, unimpressive showcase is a whammy. Even the coaches have to find compliments about her confidence and raw potential because, sadly, there’s really nothing positive to say about what she’s done here tonight.
Team Blake: Keisha Renee
“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips
Tonight, Keisha Renee is attempting to take the reverse approach to combining country and soul music by starting with a classic Motown number that absolutely everyone knows and leaning on Blake Shelton’s knowledge of Southern instrument fare to arrange it with a little honky tonk accompaniment.
And while the background banjo might be a bit distracting at times, Keisha is fully capable of carrying the number by channeling the Empress of Soul herself. Not only are her tones as smooth as ever, but she also pulls out a new trick with some hum-singing that I’d be delighted to hear more of. That said, she might want to consider drawing back on a few belts here and there just to mix things up; not every syllable needs to be extended to accent her skills. But still, she’s a gem.
Team Jennifer: Noah Mac
“Speed of Sound” by Coldplay
Last week, Noah Mac showed us a kernel of something fierce tucked beneath those boyish charms, so tonight he seems to want to really show us his preferred lane of music. My, is it something else. He rearranges the band’s accompaniment to this song — which even the most diehard Coldplay fans (hi) would tell you is defined by its instrumentals — to the point of unrecognizability. That might be interesting if his vocals were strong enough, but, sorry, this performance is just a big old mess.
Stripping down a song like this is not wise, and coming at it with wonky vocals is even worse. Noah has waffled through genres pretty aimlessly this season, and he does the same in this song: There are moments when he sounds like he’s just a guy with a guitar trying out for the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack and others when he’s going for some punk persuasion, which is not organic to him in the least. The fact that he’s removed all the cover the original arrangement might’ve offered just exposes his flaws even more.
Team Miley: Janice Freeman
“The Story” by Brandi Carlile
Janice Freeman has been operating at full tilt all season long, and it hasn’t gotten old yet, so why change? Tonight, she picks a song that’s meant to bridge her interests in soul music and rock & roll, allowing a few growl belts to come through where she’d otherwise be doing her diva deal, and it’s just as hair raising as anything else she’s laid down on this show so far.
She might not be the most versatile singer of the season — as evidenced by her struggles to temper her intro to this one — but Janice seems to know where her strengths lie. She’s the kind of performer who’s coming in to knock off socks, and lo, that’s exactly what she does.
- Chloe Kohanski, Jon Mero, Brooke Simpson, Shi’Ann Jones, Davon Fleming, Keisha Renee, and Janice Freeman sail through without a fight. Theirs were the most impressive performances of the evening, and they’ve been consistently good all season.
- Addison Agen, Red Marlow, and Ashland Craft will have to sweat but will ultimately make it through.
- Adam Cunningham and Noah Mac will be in the bottom two and have to perform for the instant save.
- Noah Mac will go home.
- Team Adam: Addison Agen, Jon Mero, Adam Cunningham
- Team Miley: Brooke Simpson, Janice Freeman, Ashland Craft
- Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming, Shi’Ann Jones, Noah Mac
- Team Blake: Keisha Renee, Red Marlow, Chloe Kohanski