The Voice recap: Blake Shelton thinks one contestant could be the first real Voice superstar
Welcome to one of the craziest nights of The Voice season: The first Live Round, in which our Top 17 will each be performing in hopes of earning one of just nine spots in the next round. How do contestants move forward, you ask? Well, the person on each team with the highest audience vote automatically moves forward. Then, each coach gets to save one remaining member of their team. The ninth and final spot will go to a Wild Card winner made up of the next highest vote-getter on each team after that. So a lot is riding on tonight's quickie performances.
Before we even get to those performances, we need to round out this Top 17 by crowning the winner of the Four-Way Knockout that took place in the last performance episode. Carson Daly doesn't let Savanna Woods, Devan Blake Jones, Carolina Rial, and Emma Caroline sweat it out for too long: That 17th spot goes to Team Nick's Devan Blake Jones!
And now with everyone aboard, we can kick off the season 20 Lives:
Team Kelly: Corey Ward, "Bruises" by Lewis Capaldi
Kelly Clarkson calls Corey Ward her "sensitive soldier" because he's an intensely emotional storyteller, so a Lewis Capaldi song is actually a perfect pick for him. He's so great at selling the emotion and making it feel like he wrote the song he's performing; it's all so personal. That's not a surprise, but on top of that, his vocals are great tonight, even if Nick Jonas says that he thinks Corey's passion sometimes means he's "sacrificing technique." Coach Kelly doesn't give two hoots about technique; you can't teach passion like Corey pours into his performances.
Team Kelly: Gihanna Zoë, "Always Remember Us This Way" by Lady Gaga
Gihanna is Kelly's 17-year-old "powerhouse" who sounds lightyears more mature than her age, which is showcased again here with this Lady Gaga cover. Her Pink song in the previous round was more emotional, but this one feels very professional. Actually, John Legend tells Gihanna she has an "elite level" of professionalism and brings up that not-so-minor Beyoncé comparison one more time, saying she is harnessing Bey more than ever tonight, especially with the gorgeous vibrato. Kelly tells Gihanna that everything she does seems "effortless" and also calls her a "painful angel" which.. is... something?
Team Kelly: Zae Romeo, "When I Look At You" by Miley Cyrus
Zae Romeo is Kelly's steal, and she seems pretty happy she nabbed him and his "sad, pure" vocals for her team. Speaking of sad and pure: this song! It's a great pick for him, and those huge notes at the end are moving, although overall, his vocals have been stronger in the past. This is Kelly's first time working with Zae, and she applauds his song choice while also beaming over the amount of "soul and rawness" he has in his voice.
Team Kelly: Kenzie Wheeler, "Red Dirt" by Brooks & Dunn
Kenzie Wheeler is a lock for the Top 9 — sorry to everyone else on Kelly's team — even if he doesn't win the public vote, there's no way Kelly's letting her old-school country male vocalist go home. For the mullet alone, maybe. So it doesn't much matter what Kenzie does tonight, but if you're interested, the guy does his country thing. It's certainly not his most exciting performance nor his best vocal, but he has an undeniably clear country voice. Kelly had challenged him to push himself and go bigger, and she's so proud to see that he did that tonight.
Team Legend: Ryleigh Modig, "Driver's License" by Olivia Rodrigo
John Legend won this pop singer from Team Kelly after duking it out in a triple steal-off with the other guys and it was a smart move. She has her own lane on this show, as the coaches like to point out. This is a cool song choice although it is lacking that haunting Billie Eilish-vibe she's so good at. After her performance, John tells her how "lucky" he feels to have her on his team, especially with a vocal that he describes as having "so much heart and soul and sadness and beauty." That's a nice vote of confidence from Mr. Legend!
Team Legend: Zania Alaké, "Dangerous Woman" by Ariana Grande
Okay, I know a lot is going on but does everyone remember how good Zania's "If I Were Your Woman" was? I can't stop thinking about it. This is obviously a very different direction than we've seen for Zania, showing off a more modern, sensual side. It doesn't connect as well as her previous performances, but she just knows how to navigate through a song. Coach Legend says that he knew Zania could sing, obviously, but this performance was more about revealing stage presence. He tells her that she had "extra-level star power" and embodied the song in a powerful way.
Team Legend: Pia Renee, "Need U Bad" by Jazmine Sullivan
Okay, Pia showed up to the Lives making sure everyone knows she already looks like a freaking star. This! Outfit! (It's definitely not from Marshalls.) Pia has to be the Team Legend front-runner, right? In the pre-package intro, John Legend specifically calls her out for being a "dynamic" singer and that's on display here. Blake calls it the best performance from Team Legend so far and tells Pia that she's having a breakout performance at the exact right time. Pia's coach is pleased, too. He loves how alive Pia becomes during her performances and says she gave everything — from the outfit to the energy to the runs.
Team Legend: Victor Solomon, "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder
Victor Solomon is John Legend's "classic soul king," and his coach loves how much Victor "projects positivity" in every performance. This Stevie Wonder jam is no different. It's so fun! The pink suit! The choreography! Victor is LIVING. By the end, all four coaches are up on their feet for the first time tonight. John praises his artist for his charisma and passion. He calls it a "flawless" performance both in regards to stage presence and vocals. What more can you do, really?
Team Nick: Dana Monique, "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue
Dana Monique joined Team Nick because Nick Jonas said he had something to prove and it resonated with her, someone who's been a background singer for most of her career and also is looking to prove something. Uh, guys, she proves it tonight. She lights things up on that stage and again, all four coaches are out of their seats by the time Dana tosses her hat to punctuate the performance. Kelly just keeps throwing things at her. She's obsessed with what just happened and tells Dana Monique that what she has is a gift and she'd be happy to sing backup for her any day. Coach Nick simply says that "it's an honor to be [her] coach," because that performance was "incredible."
Team Nick: Andrew Marshall, "Put Your Records On" by Corinne Bailey Rae
Ah yes, Andrew Marshall is back on Team Nick after that whole Battles debacle. In previous rounds, Andrew's shown a lot of heart and emotion when he sings, and that's obviously paid off for him, so this song choice is a little confusing. He's showing a different side on the performance aspect of things, but his vocals really suffer, and there are rough moments throughout. Coach Nick doesn't ignore those vocal problems, telling Andrew that they both know "not everything came together perfectly" but still calls the pop singer a "star" and applauds his "wonderful tone."
Team Nick: Jose Figueroa Jr., "Talking To The Moon" by Bruno Mars
Jose Figueroa Jr. hasn't gotten a ton of screen time this season, but in the intro package, Nick Jonas praises him for always putting the work in and connecting to what he's singing. You can feel that connection in this performance, too. Coach Nick tells Jose that this was his "best vocal performance" on the show thus far and commends him for picking a song that would actually push him a bit — has Jose ever sounded this modern? — and John Legend calls Jose's voice "spiritual and engaging." "It's always a pleasure to hear you sing," he says.
Team Nick: Devan Blake Jones, "Shape of My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys
Well, our Four-Way Knockout winner has become the showman of the season, so going full boy band in the Lives feels like a natural progression. It's not a great vocal but Devan tries to make the best of it. Coach Nick is all smiles at the end, though: He's into the song choice and tells Devan that "hearing [him] sing that song makes [him] happy" and calls the whole thing a special moment for Devan, one that he should be happy about.
Team Nick: Rachel Mac, "Rainbow" by Kacey Musgraves
Carson Daly introduces Rachel Mac as a "country folk" artist, so her Kacey Musgraves song choice is spot on. It's her best vocal and her most confident performance to date. She has some cool, unexpected flourishes she adds to notes, and it really works in this song. I'd be SHOCKED (and bummed) if Team Nick isn't represented by two female vocalists in the Top 9. Nick Jonas says as much when he tells her that he loves hearing her voice on that song and knows she'll be singing more in this competition. He also tells Rachel that she was "born for this stage," which has to feel good for this teenager who was a one-chair turn in the Blinds.
Team Blake: Jordan Matthew Young, "Gold Dust Woman" by Fleetwood Mac
Jordan Matthew Young is a cool fusion of blues, rock, and country music, Coach Blake Shelton points out, and he's very good at making any song work for his voice. This Fleetwood Mac song is a nice choice for him — the whole thing has a very cool, lived-in vibe to it, plus he gets to show off some power in his voice. He gets a standing ovation from the coaches. Kelly Clarkson immediately tells Jordan that he's "too cool to be on Blake's team." She thought the performance had the "right amount of mystery" and loves his mix of soul and rock-n-roll. Coach Blake is quite happy as well: He calls Jordan a "breath of fresh air" because there is no other vocalist like him in the competition this season.
Team Blake: Anna Grace, "Let Her Go" by Passenger
Blake really does have a great mix of genres on his team this season. Anna Grace is the indie-pop singer he stole from Kelly's team, and although she's been a little inconsistent this season, she sounds great here. She's very in control of her vocals and sings with more confidence than we've seen from her before. Her head voice particularly sounds nice on this song. Blake is effusive after the performance, telling Anna Grace that no one else tonight has sung "with so much artistry and finesse." He's simply excited that he gets to work with an artist like her this season.
Team Blake: Pete Mroz, "We Belong" by Pat Benatar
Pete's song choices this season have been wild. It's still a little unclear as to what kind of artist he wants to be or what his album would sound like, but it's always clear that Pete is such a pro at this. Those big notes at the end of the song are especially nice. Blake tells his old pal that he "deserve[s] to be here" and is moved by the "passion" Pete clearly has for music. Oh and having "raw talent" doesn't hurt either.
Team Blake: Cam Anthony, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier
In the intro package, all of the coaches are still in disbelief that this "pop and R&B superstar" and a clear front-runner has somehow ended up on Team Blake. Cam Anthony just gets better each week. He knows how to perform, but he also makes his vocal control seem so effortless. John Legend calls him "phenomenal" and thinks Cam is brimming with potential. Blake sees it too, telling Cam that not only has he "delivered" with this performance but that he "could be the first superstar that we launch off this show." That's a way to end the Lives, buddies.
So, 17 performances down, but only nine spots remain. Let's hear some predictions.