The Voice recap: The Top 17 sing live!
Season 19 of The Voice has finally gone live, people. We've reached the Live Playoffs and those that have watched the show before know that the first round is a big ol' singing bloodbath. All 17 of the artists will be singing tonight (buckle in, kids) for just nine spots in the semi-final. Nine spots! That is... well, it's not a lot and favorites will be going home. Happy holidays, I guess? Before we get to those performances, some business: It turns out Team Kelly's Ryan Gallagher had to drop out of the competition, so the Four-Way Knockout becomes a Three-Way Knockout between Team Gwen's Larriah Jackson, Team Legend's Julia Cooper, and Team Blake's Taryn Papa. The winner is Taryn Papa. So, you know, more country. It's not that surprising anymore.
Anyway, let's take a look at your Top 17.
Desz // “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner
We need Desz in the finals. We deserve Desz in the finals, people. I mean, the low notes! The vocal control! The performance value. THE RANGE. All of this was showcased in her take on this Tina Turner classic. Friends, readers, countrymen, that note that blew the roof off the place? Can we talk about that note? John Legend calls Desz “an assassin” in the way she’s so intentional in every note, every move, even her look. He is “thoroughly impressed,” and that’s not nothing.
Madeline Consoer // “What If I Never Get Over You” by Lady A
Madeline may be Team Kelly’s chameleon, but she’s seemed to settle in the pop-country lane and it really suits her voice. Still, with so many country artists this year, it’s going to take a lot for her to stand out — which is extra hard to do after the performance she’s following. As always, Madeline’s great at connecting emotionally to her song. Blake Shelton approves of her genre selection, of course, and also loves the song choice for her. Coach Kelly Clarkson loves how much Madeline's voice opens up on those big notes — she really can tackle anything.
Tanner Gomes // “Lovin’ On You” by Luke Combs
Kelly’s good ol’ country boy, not surprisingly, goes full out country. But compared to Madeline, Tanner is deep, all-in country. Again, there are tons of country options this season and Tanner might not hold up against some of Blake’s heavy hitters. Still, Tanner makes his coach very happy — she praises his instincts when it comes to musical choices, but also just loves that he’s always having a great time up there. It’s infectious.
Cami Clune // “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS
Cami Clune is such an exciting contestant to have on a show like this: You never know what she’s going to do each week and she keeps growing in her confidence. Aside from her artistry, her vocals on this song are stronger than ever. She brings the drama and the power. Also, she makes me believe I too could pull off the longest of fake nails, bless her. Kelly Clarkson calls Cami a “one-woman show” and compares her to Annie Lennox, telling her she’s “so dramatic in the most classy, cool way.” That comparison has to feel pretty good.
Payge Turner // “It’s Gonna Be Me” by NSYNC
Oh, Payge. I needed this song choice and I needed this glitter suit. Many thanks for these gifts. Like Cami, Payge is in her own lane and she uses what little time she has in this performance bonanza to remind us of that. It’s such a smart choice. Host Carson Daly tells Payge that the whole thing “felt like a James Bond opening sequence” and Payge’s own coach Gwen Stefani compares her to Prince. Gwen especially loves how Payge made it her own without making it completely unrecognizable. (I mean, it’s very different from the original, but yes, you never forget it’s an NSYNC jam.) So, uh, yeah, everyone really enjoyed it.
Ben Allen // “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney
Every team has at least one country artist, and Ben Allen is Gwen’s — a steal from Blake’s team. It was a great move on Gwen’s part: Ben’s voice is so rich and round and he seemed to fly under the radar in earlier rounds. That’s probably why, according to Gwen Stefani, Ben decided to strip the song down and really showcase his vocals. It’s a great choice, allowing us to hear his voice in a new way and really pay attention to what he’s capable of. Carson Daly’s enjoying watching Blake seethe a little bit over letting this guy go.
Joseph Soul // “How Deep Is Your Love” by The Bee Gees
Joseph Soul’s voice is so warm and inviting and although he hasn’t gotten as much airtime as some other contestants, the guy can work some runs. Like Payge, Joseph Soul really makes this song his own. His coach is beyond impressed and excited to see that he “showed a side no one has seen yet” and looked more confident in who he is as an artist. She also applauds the fact that she didn’t hear one bad note and that he’s so skilled in moving between his head and chest voice. All important things in a singing competition!
Carter Rubin // “Hero” by Mariah Carey
I mean, we can all agree that Carter should be sailing to the finals, right? He’s the perfect vocal competition contestant, which is not to knock his talent — the (newly) 15-year-old takes on Mariah Freaking Carey. With some growls and all the power notes to go with it. And the runs at the end of his performance? Unreal. Once again, Carter leaves his coach in tears (can we get an update on Kelly Clarkson, guys?). She’s continually proud and inspired by him, not just because the boy has some vocals, but because he seems so at ease in this high-pressure situation.
Jim Ranger // “Rumor” by Lee Brice
Blake won with a pastor last season, could this be a repeat? In the team package, Blake calls Jim Ranger “a dark horse” but I feel like he’s been floating toward the top of the pack for some time now. He’s always so emotionally connected to the song, he sounds like he could be on the radio today, and hi, yes, that rasp. And after that performance, Jim’s coach certainly doesn’t view him as a dark horse anymore: “I believe in my heart you’re gonna be in the finale. Let’s go win this thing,” an excited Blake Shelton tells his artist.
Worth the Wait // “Love is Alive” by the Judds
Blake’s team has some serious contenders and although Worth the Wait’s harmonies are getting better every time they perform (all the coaches agree this is the family trio’s best performance yet), I don’t know if just being a trio will give them a pass this season. It was nice to hear Jacy take the lead, and proud coach Blake notes that the live rounds really show the coaches and the audience what the artists are made of. He thought Worth the Wait stepped up.
Ian Flanigan // “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan
This is a great song choice for Ian Flanigan — it gives him a chance to show that he’s not just a barreling, gritty voice, by allowing him to show some real emotion. It works! All four coaches hop out of their seats as he finishes up a truly moving performance (am I just worn down by the sheer amount of performances we’ve been through? Who knows! The Live Playoffs, everybody!). Blake, who seems sincerely hyped by his team this season, sums it up nicely: “This show is called The Voice. When have you ever in your life heard a voice like that? Recognize it and reward it.”
Taryn Papa // “I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Lee Brice and Carly Pearce
For the Four-Way Knockout, Taryn sang a Faith Hill song and that’s exactly who her voice reminds me of every time she sings. Just giving us all the '90s power country we can handle. Speaking of, after her performance, Blake tells her she needs to get her vocals on a Martina McBride song, which is also not a terrible idea. Taryn does her thing, and gives a solid, strong country vocal, but is that enough to stand out on Blake’s team?
Sid Kingsley // “Beyond” by Leon Bridges
It’s pretty insane that someone as good as Sid Kingsley has now been on three different teams — although, perhaps it's a testament to his talent that even though he hasn’t won a round yet, he’s still hanging in there. By sitting behind his keyboard for this round, Sid feels a little removed from the whole performance, but his vocals remain as insane as ever. He’s a pro. Blake praises Sid for being “an incredible musician” and perhaps more importantly, for being “an incredible vocalist.” He makes it all seem effortless.
Tamara Jade // “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley
I’m still thinking about Tamara’s Stevie Wonder Knockout performance because it begs to be thought about. And then she shows up here to do her own take on “Crazy” — the woman is a true performer. Or, as her own coach calls her, “a superstar.” She owns the stage any time she walks on it, and more than that, she squeezed every great vocal moment out of that song that she could. “You know you’re supposed to be here,” John Legend tells her, wowed by Tamara’s confidence and showmanship. Plus, he calls her voice “magnificent” and “beautiful.” So, Tamara has that going for her, too.
Chloé Hogan // “my future” by Billie Eilish
Chloé Hogan made all the coaches take notice of her artistry with her SWV Knockout song, and now she’s working on making the audience do the same. Once again, she shows off her prowess in making great, meaningful musical choices and takes us on a dynamic journey. Coach John Legend calls the performance “graceful and tasteful” and praises her for getting her take on the song “exactly right.” All four of the coaches are on their feet by the song’s end.
Bailey Rae // “Sweet Music Man” by Kenny Rogers
A few questions: Is Bailey Rae the most country of all the country on this show this season? Is this the best Bailey Rae’s sounded? The answer might be yes to both? She’s strong and precise and tells a story. John Legend, who gives props to Kelly Clarkson for suggesting Bailey perform this song, tells his country artist that her “voice has so much presence and clarity” and he “loved hearing her voice on that song.” It’s a pleasing performance for Bailey Rae’s coach.
John Holiday // “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra
We’re ending the show with some of John Holiday’s vocal Olympics, naturally. Part of me wishes he had saved “All By Myself” for this moment to make the choice undeniable, but his coach praises his artist for showing us all that he can do, across various genres, throughout this competition. It’s a fun, jazzy way to end the night and John Holiday continues to show off his insane vocal control. “You’re one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever seen on this show,” John Legend says.
Take a deep breath, people: We’ve made it through 17 performances. Who are we thinking cracks the Top 9 and how do you think it’ll break down between America’s votes and who each coach decides to save? There will surely be some angst.
A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.