The Voice recap: The not-so-live playoffs get started
The Voice Live Playoffs may not be live live this season because of, well, you know, but just because our playoff contenders will be singing for votes by way of pre-recorded performances from their homes doesn't mean The Voice is taking it easy.
There's a lot going on as our artists compete for a spot in the Top 9: First, we have to announce the winner of the first-ever four-way Knockout between Todd Michael Hall, Nelson Cade III, Michael Williams, and Samantha Howell. Not surprisingly, the 17th spot goes to Team Nick's Michael Williams!
Now that the Top 17 is sorted out, and James Taylor has made us all cry with a rendition of "Shower the People" that he sings remotely with our Voice contestants, we can get to the performances. After the votes are in, the four artists with the highest votes on each team will make it through to the next round. Then each coach will be able to save one artist from each of their teams, bringing us to a Top 8, and then, because The Voice loves complicated rules, the next highest vote-getter on each team will compete for the Wildcard Instant Save — one of those four contestants will move forward. Whew, that's a lot of rules. Should we get to the singing?
Thunderstorm Artis, Portland, Ore. // “Summertime”
Wow, The Voice has the artists all spiffed up in their pre-recorded performances here — think lots of special effects, guys — and here, at least, it adds a little formality to the situation. Thunderstorm, unsurprisingly, sounds great on this song, making it extra-moody with his bare-bones acoustic arrangement. And then, guys, the whistling. Thunderstorm has a whistling section and ... it is great? His former coach John Legend compares it to how he felt after Thunderstorm performed “Blackbird” in his audition. That’s how good it is.
Allegra Miles, West Palm Beach, Fla. // “New York State of Mind”
It’s tough to follow up Thunderstorm’s emotional performance, but if anyone on Team Nick has the pipes to do it, it’s probably Allegra. There’s not a real connection here, but she works the dynamics of this arrangement well and some of her choices in runs are just incredible. Blake Shelton thinks maybe this format should become permanent and, I mean, Allegra is very good but let’s not go crazy, you know? Her own coach, Nick Jonas, is happy to see how much Allegra’s grown throughout the competition and thinks this is her best performance yet.
Arei Moon, Tampa, Fla. // “Finesse”
It’s so hard to bring the party to The Voice in this format, but Arei somehow manages it. She’s got the sparkles, she’s got the mall glamour shots filter going, and she has some great vocals on this Bruno Mars song. It’s so much fun — even without being able to play around with a live audience. Her coach Nick is impressed with how she really owned this format and made this song her own.
Roderick Chambers, Orange, Calif. // “Lost Without U”
Um, friends. I think Team Nick is really stacked. Like, it snuck up on me how stacked it is. Roderick throwing down such a sexy vibe on this Robin Thicke song really proves it. John Legend is particularly into how effortlessly Roderick moves from his chest voice into his head voice and back. Along those same lines, Nick knows how much precision and practice goes into nailing the falsetto on this song, and Roderick accomplished just that.
Michael Williams, Mason, Ohio // “Sign of the Times”
Our four-way Knockout winner isn’t making things easy on himself by picking a Harry Styles banger, but it seems like he knows exactly what he’s doing. The second half of this performance is where Michael really shines. Going from some big power notes into falsetto? We’re all into that. Nick tells his artist that his version is just as good as the original, if not better. So, he liked it.
Zan Fiskum, Maple Valley, Wash. // “Blowin’ in the Wind”
The Voice is trying really hard to make these remote performances feel like trippy music videos, and this time we have Zan dancing in the woods because I guess that’s what the kids do these days while listening to Bob Dylan. Not like she needs anything to distract us: Kelly Clarkson says it’s “the best version of that song [she’s] ever heard.” Zan’s coach John Legend is equally pleased: He tells Zan that this arrangement showed off everything her voice can do, it was full of “nuance” and “intention." It’s a good start for Team Legend.
Mike Jerel, Columbus, Ga. // “All My Life”
I’d like to give Mike Jerel an automatic spot in the Top 9 for picking this K-Ci & JoJo song that, sure, is overplayed, but remains both a jam and a portal to middle school dances. It’s not the most moving performance we’ve seen from Mike, but coach John Legend is glad to see he took this well-known song and mixed it up enough to make it his own. Mike's vocal sweet spot is his big power notes, and he hits some of those at the end with ease.
Mandi Castillo, Carlsbad, Calif. // “¡Corre!”
This is the perfect song choice for Mandi: It’s a contemporary Spanish-language pop song (by Jesse & Joy). She sounds great on it, per usual, and just makes it all seem so effortless. John Legend calls out Mandi’s “beautiful tone” and “beautiful vibrato” and he loves seeing how much “passion and power” she brings to her performance the moment she opens her mouth. She’s so unassuming but endlessly appealing as an artist.
Cammwess Blythewood, S.C. // “Ain't No Sunshine”
Cammwess, everybody! Cammwess is not messing around. He may just be sitting in his house with his guitar, but he milks this arrangement of the late Bill Withers’s iconic song and is able to show off every vocal trick he has. Kelly Clarkson is really kicking herself for letting him go in the Knockouts. John Legend certainly isn’t — he’s pumped that Camm’s “honey butter” tone is safely back on his team. He calls Cammwess’s voice “sweet and beautiful” and really what else do you need?
Megan Danielle, Winston Ga. // “Anyone”
Okay, The Voice, you’ve proved your point with these special effects. Megan here looks like she’s stepped into some detective film from the 1940s. Just let the girl sing! Megan’s powerful vibrato takes center stage here, but it’s clear that her head voice isn’t as strong as her chest voice in this instance. Still, she earns only rave reviews from her coach, who loves how easy it is for the young artist to take on different genres. Nick Jonas sums it up when he calls her a “gifted vocalist.”
Mandi Thomas, Memphis, Tenn. // “I Hope You Dance”
Poor Mandi! Out of all the artists in the Top 17, we’ve probably seen her perform the least thus far and that’s a big disadvantage when such a big cut looms. Mandi came in as an opera singer, but we’ve heard her try on country before, and it really suits her voice. This isn’t the most impactful performance of the night, but Kelly’s right: Mandi really does soar on the big notes. You can't deny her power.
Micah Iverson, Atlanta, Ga. // “Your Song”
After a shocking win over Tayler Green in the Knockouts, Micah redeems himself and shows us exactly why Kelly Clarkson kept him on her team. The kid has never sounded better. This is easily one of the best performances of the night. Micah’s coach points out how difficult this song is, but is amazed at how effortless Micah made “jumping around in [his] range” seem. On a night of 17 (!!) performances, Micah’s will be an easy one to remember.
Cedrice, San Diego, Calif. // “everything i wanted”
Cedrice is a mood, Billie Eilish is a mood, so this song is a perfect fit. I guess I’m even fine with the staging and trippy filter they give Cedrice here. You’ve worn me down, show. It all works — Cedrice knows how to perform and how to work a camera. There are better technical vocalists, but as Kelly and the other coaches repeatedly tell her, Cedrice is “a superstar.” Kelly’s ready to see Cedrice in concert.
Toneisha Harris, Roswell, Ga. // “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)"
I mean, friends, what can’t Toneisha sing? Normally, you’d worry about someone taking on a Kelly Clarkson anthem, but not Toneisha. She is in control of this huge song the entire time. Her personality really shines through here, too. It’s effortless, it’s fun, and holy hell, this woman has pipes. Not that Blake is biased or anything, but he declares it “the best vocal performance of the night.” If Toneisha doesn't make it into the finals than what are we even doing?
Joei Fulco, Lancaster, Calif. // “Runaway”
Joei’s voice is just cool. During his critique, Blake describes it as having a “buzz” to it when she hits the bigger notes and it “starts to shred.” It’s so uniquely her. Both Blake and Nick tell Joei how much fun they have listening to her voice. She’s a rocker but brings a ton of heart to every performance.
Joanna Serenko, St. Louis, Mo. // “Rich Girl”
Love! This! Song choice! Blake notes that Joanna mostly stuck to the original Hall & Oates arrangement, yet still, thanks to her killer voice, was able to make it her own from start to finish. It sounded so fresh and contemporary and I’m deeply obsessed with the lower part of Joanna’s range. Her performance is jazzy and cool and showed a new level of artistry.
Todd Tilghman, Meridian, Miss. // “Glory of Love”
Todd does not do one karate move in his performance and that, (karate) kids (part II), is what they call a missed opportunity. And yes, I know he does one when Blake says that Todd is “literally the karate kid” but still — there should’ve been fight choreography, okay? It’s not surprising that Todd’s big, booming voice sounds great on Peter Cetera’s '80s ballad. Blake tells Todd that he’s one of his “favorite artists [he’s] ever worked with on the show” and that’s huge because Blake’s worked with an estimated 3,007 artists at this point.
And we did it! All 17 of our contestants showed off their stuff remotely and there were only a few awkward moments, including but not limited to that time when Nick Jonas held up a whiteboard that said “shut up, Blake” for no reason. That’s a win for everyone! Tomorrow night we’ll have live results as this group is whittled down to just nine. Who do you think will grab one of those spots?
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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.