The Top 12 take the stage

By Amanda Bell
April 23, 2018 at 10:34 PM EDT
Trae Patton/NBC
S14 E18
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After last week’s somewhat batty introduction to The Voice‘s live rounds for Season 14, we’re back at it again this week with the Top 12’s live performances. As conflicted as many of us were over some of the contestant choices (raises hand to the sky right here), it’s hard to deny that they line up to offer a pretty decent night of music this evening, all things considered.

Perhaps it’s the fact that they all have to choose songs they have some deep-seated personal connection to, or perhaps it has something to do with the coaches only having three people to train, as opposed to a half dozen, but there is a marked improvement in the all-around show quality this time.

Let’s walk through each of the night’s performances and see if we can figure out who’s not gonna make it to the Top 11, then, shall we?

Team Adam: Rayshun LaMarr
“When Love Takes Over” by David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland

It’s pretty hard to dislike Rayshun LaMarr. C’mon, the man is a wrecking ball made of sunshine, beating everyone down with his, well, rays. Last week, he arrived as one of the surprise standouts of the initial live rounds and, deservedly, comes into this week with some newfound momentum.

That energy results in a performance so full-bodied that I broke a sweat just watching it, and somehow he manages to maintain his vocals throughout. I’m not sure it’s as electric and determinative as last week’s showcase, but he’s certainly not done anything to hurt himself. The fact that his connection to the song is that it reminds him of his partner in love is icing on the cake.

Team Kelly: Kaleb Lee
“Amazed” by Lonestar

Okay, okay, so it’s pretty lame that Kaleb Lee is faking his way through the theme tonight — that story about how he thought this was his wedding song? Spare me. That said, I can see why he wanted to go with this one because it’s a natural match for his vocals and seems to be easy peasy for him to perform. His tones are soft and measured in the open, holding just enough back to keep us from getting burned out after the first chorus, before he busts out with the bigger notes to close things out on a larger scale. There are some points where he loses the flow of this familiar country favorite, but this is overall a decent, albeit very standard rendition of this song.

Team Alicia: Jackie Foster
“Toxic” by Britney Spears

Oof. In theory, this should’ve been good. It’s a chance for Jackie Foster to show us something new of herself and distinguish herself from the pack — especially the other contestant named Jackie — plus, it’s a song and rearrangement she’s had plenty of practice with through her band. 

However, it fails to impress. This may be one of those situations where if we hadn’t been given the rehearsal footage, it might’ve been more of a fun surprise to hear this one, but even then her delivery would’ve still be rough. For starters, she has a lot of trouble hitting the falsetto hop [cue up the requisite Britney Spears “Work B–ch” pun here], and the rest of it is somehow derivative and slow. It’s a very “meh” moment that could’ve been much more. This is disappointing after she had such a killer showcase last week.

Team Blake: Spensha Baker
“Down On My Knees” by Trisha Yearwood

And the award for most improved player goes to…

Whether or not you agree with Blake Shelton’s decision to keep her around over any of the other three that were sent home from his squad last week, it’s clear he’s putting a lot of work into helping her reach her potential. Tonight, it pays off in a big way as she lays down her most cohesive performance of the competition to-date.

It’s moody, it’s strong where it needs to be and soft in spurts too, and most importantly, it sounds pretty. After tonight, it sounds like she can play around with some other genres going forward as well, so if they’re smart about song selections moving forward, we might start to see and hear some interesting things happen with Spensha’s deliveries going forward.

Team Alicia: Christiana Danielle
“Say Something” by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera

I can’t help but believe Christiana Danielle when she says, “The longer I stay here, the more I realize this is what I’m meant to do” because she’s observably coming into her own on this show. Although this is a slight variation on the original version of the song, she imbues the same kind of ache and grit that made its radio run so successful.

What’s even better is that Christiana also throws in some tricks with her final verse tone changes that make her personal connection to the song even more apparent. And that’s the whole name of the game tonight, then, isn’t it?

Team Kelly: D.R. King
“White Flag” by Dido

Kelly Clarkson says that she chose D.R. King to stick around because she thinks he can tackle any song she throws at him, and this, well, this is a good test. Not only is this song originally popularized by a woman, but she’s also a high-pitched singer with a soft cadence and traditionally slower measuring, and D.R. King is exactly none of those things.

That said, his take on the tune is not too shabby. Although it’s clear he’s got his work cut out for him all the way through, he does manage to take some creative liberties here and there with choice power notes contrasted with softer riffs. It gets a little messy toward the end, but if nothing else, the song certainly showcases the quality of his voice…and all the many things he can do with it.

Team Adam: Sharane Calister
“In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes

The ladies are all right tonight. Here’s another sweet and still spicy song performance by a woman who’s managed to make herself stand out in previous rounds. Compared to her colleagues, especially the other women of her same genre, she’s probably got a touch more solidity and range than the others, and she’s probably also the most transportative of them all because between her voice and the red lights show, the whole thing seemed like some kind of trance-induction ritual. She’s not going anywhere.

Team Blake: Pryor Baird
“Pickin’ Wildflowers” by Keith Anderson

There’s so much clapping for this man from the studio audience, and… I don’t get it. I really don’t. To his credit, he does opt for the bluesy-rock side of the country circuit, which seems like a solid match for his style, so he ends up offering a dash of dynamism here and there. But it’s still a lot of the same brassy, sharp screech vocals he’s had going on all season long. Obviously this is all working for somebody out there — a great many somebodies, actually, if he’s winning vote tallies for his team — so feel free to fill me in on what I’m missing here.

Team Kelly: Brynn Cartelli
“Up to the Mountain” by Patty Griffin

It’s easy to forget how young Brynn Cartelli is, since she’s got such a developed countenance and mature sound on display any time she takes the stage. Tonight, she approaches a pretty lofty song but has no trouble tackling the lyrics and then making them her own.

She’s got that same appeal with her clean power notes as Kelly Clarkson did back when she was on the American Idol stage so long ago. There’s also an intriguing R&B quality to her voice that gives her pop-soul sound some unique inflection, but it’s hard to pin down where she lives, genre-wise in general. There’s no doubt she’s going to go far in this competition; the only question is how long can she keep bewildering everyone like this?

Team Adam: Jackie Verna
“I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne

Adam Levine has been Jackie Verna’s biggest cheerleader all season long, and tonight, she’s trying to live up to that hype with a relatively ambitious song choice. Granted, she does slow it down a notch in the intro, and she doesn’t seem so keen on the points of staccato found in the original version either, but otherwise, this is mostly good.

She hits some snags in the first verse, falling flat on some major notes, but whatever she lacks in those early lines she more than makes up for later on in the song as she belts her little heart out. It’s hard to believe that much power can come from such a small person, but anatomy is weird like that.

Team Alicia: Britton Buchanan
“Small Town” by John Mellencamp

It’s pretty uncanny how well Britton Buchanan disappears into his whole singer-storyteller routine any time he’s touching one of these classic favorites, and, for the most part, that schtick has been working. Tonight, though, it might be a little too obvious. First, there’s the problem of him slipping on some relatively simple notes, and then there’s the matter of him scaling steps, slinging around his guitar, and otherwise trying to do too much with the stage presence element of his performance.

Britton has strong enough vocals without that much showmanship on display. Even if he’s not the most technically impressive singer of the evening though, it’s still hard to imagine him being voted out at this point, and it’s especially hard to see him losing in any instant save situation.

Team Blake: Kyla Jade
“One Night Only” by Jennifer Hudson

Now, here’s what you call a show stopper. It’s impressive enough that Kyla can just Facetime Jennifer Hudson to talk about the song she’s borrowing from her collection for the evening, but it’s even more impressive when she pulls it off to such a degree that you can easily forget it wasn’t hers to begin with.

Kyla has a rich, resonant voice, and she smartly unravels it little by little as the song progresses. Once she gets going, it’s full-tilt all the way, of course, but it’s still a treat to hear her get there so gamefully. She has not had a perfect performance record this season, but tonight, she manages to make everyone else look like amateurs. As Blake Shelton keenly advises her, if she can keep up this level of confidence and execution, she can take this thing pretty far.

PREDICTIONS:

  • Kyla Jade will go through first, then Jackie Verna, Sharane Calister, and Brynn Cartelli (good night for the gals)
  • Kaleb Lee’ll also make it through, alongside Britton Buchanan
  • Jackie Foster will end up in the bottom two against (it should be Pryor Baird, but that seems unlikely somehow) so instead it’ll be D.R. King.
  • Jackie Foster makes another surprising return to form and sends D.R. packing.

TEAM STANDINGS:
Team Adam: Sharane Calister, Rayshun LaMarr, Jackie Verna
Team Alicia: Britton Buchanan, Jackie Foster, Christiana Danielle
Team Kelly: Brynn Cartelli, Kaleb Lee, D.R. King
Team Blake: Kyla Jade, Pryor Baird, Spensha Baker

Episode Recaps

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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  • 04/26/11
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