Night 3 delivers a stunning four-chair turn, a hilarious t-shirt launch fail and the "Magic Moment" Gwen Stefani beat John Legend for one of the season's strongest contestants.
There’s a reason the Blind Auditions remain the most popular part of “The Voice.” It’s the gimmick that makes this show, and nothing beats being blown away by a voice and then blown away again by the body behind it.
One of the show’s biggest shocker moments like that definitely came on this third night of the Blinds with the reveal of a 14-year-old singer who came with so much control in that voice we’re still reeling at what we just witnessed.
But for every stellar performance that leaves jaws dropping, there are those who just fail to live up to their own potential. Even some who’ve managed to make a career out of singing somehow falter to the point they sound like rank amateurs.
And that’s the fun of the Blinds, you never know what’s going to happen and it offers surprises good and bad. So what better way to explore them than by taking a look at the best (and worst) of each night to see who brought their A game, and who just dropped the ball.
Along the way, we’ll get to see the ridiculous props the coaches are using this season due to COVID-19, as they can’t hug their contestants anymore. And tonight featured the infamous t-shirt “failure to launch” moment that’s dominated the promos.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Blake Shelton. And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are.
(“American Woman,” The Guess Who - 33, Fargo, ND) From performing in theater to singing backup to Rod Stewart, Becca was taking center stage for the first time. But would her diverse background help inform her vision for herself as an artist?
For us, this just felt very underwhelming at the start, and even when she tried to kick it up a notch, her voice stayed far softer than we expected for the track. She’s got a lot of personality in what she does, but it never really captured us or drew us in. It just never came together strong enough for us. She definitely sang like a backup singer tonight, unfortunately.
Result: NO CHAIR TURNS
(“Talk,” Khalid- 30, Newport News, VA) After having his mother as his biggest supporter through his younger years, and then taking care of her after her MS diagnosis, Covid has made it harder for him to be there in the way he’d like, but the connection between them was so palpable.
He seemed a bit eager as he jumped into a track that immediately pushed him to show both his falsetto and the rich timbre of his natural voice. While he had a nice quality to his voice, it felt so rough and unpolished overall, like he needed some training to bring out his best textures. Even his big notes didn’t feel big and show enough dynamic range, but he got Blake’s attention right at the end.
(“The Show Must Go On,” Queen - 27, Memphis, TN) While he’s found some success as a local singer in his hometown, this was actually the first time James had ever flown on a plane. He also shared how Covid has impacted his family, losing both of his grandfathers in short order (one to the pandemic, the other to diabetes) -- and the family couldn’t visit either.
There was a theatricality to even his speaking voice, so we weren’t surprised he went all in on a Freddie Mercury classic. But he lacked some control, which cost him many of the notes he was targeting. He’s got an impressive instrument with a lot of power, but he needs to gain better control of it.
If we’re being honest, though, we’re a little more upset that these music professionals did not recognize this Queen track. Only Kelly didn’t confess whether she knew it or not, but the other three had no idea … come on!!
Result: NO CHAIR TURNS
(“Carolina on My Mind,” James Taylor - 28, Salt Lake City, UT) Michelle missed her first opportunity to audition on “The Voice” because she found out she was pregnant. So instead, she did the whole parent thing, which became the single parent thing before her son Liam was three.
Now, with a new man and musical partner in her life, she finds herself with the support needed to take another shot six years later at this dream. There was a maturity in her voice, which was wispy and almost breathy, but with a very folksy quality to it that’s nice to listen to. But is it current enough to compete? We’re not really so sure as she showed no real dynamism or range that could be worked with.
(“Red Dirt Road,” Brooks & Dunn - 42, Estero, FL) Ben came late to music after spending his 20s obsessed with mountain biking. But at 30 years old, he picked up a guitar and started putting a country twang on everything he touched. His brother, who got him into biking, never got to see him play live as he himself died in a motorcycle accident.
We can’t even blame Blake for jumping on this one right away, as Ben had about as authentic a country voice as you’d expect. You could feel his years and hear his heart as he perfectly sold the story of this song. And that’s what country music is all about. This is the real deal, and even the pain he’s endured in life could be heard in how he caressed the chorus, though we would have loved a bit more range on the upper end for this one.
Result: Blake, Gwen, John turn -- TEAM BLAKE
(“Baby I Love You!,” Aretha Franklin- 39, New Orleans, LA) Casmè started a mentoring program for young women complete with a guidebook on how to be their best selves through school and beyond into adult life. She made so many connections she had 34 -- yes 34!! -- bridesmaids at her wedding.
As for music, she’s been performing with corporate bands since she was 19, so while she’s been immersed in music, it hasn’t been her music and her dream. She definitely brought a sultriness to the track, caressing her way through the lyrics. It was seductive and when she finally showed that she had some power and grit in there, too, John turned for her. She’s definitely in his wheelhouse, which could be why everyone else just let him have her, because she really is quite remarkable..
(“Waiting on the World to Change,” John Mayer - 27, Dallas, TX) What a beautiful grittiness Ryan has in his voice. It sounds so weathered, he brought an even cooler vibe to the track that John Mayer’s original. We also applaud Gwen for blocking John because this was an artist who could well go that way. The only drawback is that he mostly stayed in that pocket, never showing much range or diversity in what he was doing.
After his performance, we learned that his mother came out as gay when he was 18, and how much that impacted not only their home life, but their standing in their Southern Baptist community (it did not go well). That struggle informs some of the pain and authenticity, he carries in his voice and performance.
This was also one of the funniest teaser moments, as Ryan was the contestant that got Gwen’s t-shirt misfire where she had to steal John’s extend-o-hand to give it to him. Ah, Covid, you just make everything a little bit weirder.
Result: Gwen, John (Blocked) turn -- TEAM GWEN
(“I Dare You,” Kelly Clarkson - 29, Nashville, TN) A showboat worker, Kelise gets to sing whatever she wants but it’s a grueling job that keeps her performing, but not at the level she wants. It also doesn’t allow her to be a pirate, hilariously her second dream job after music.
She twisted up Kelly’s own track to try and stand out and we adored the tenderness of her vocal as she oozed into it. But it just kept building until a ridiculously high crescendo forced Kelly and Gwen to turn and face her. It wasn’t the most exciting part for us, but knowing what tools she has in her arsenal beyond clever and moving vocal choices certainly makes her more formidable as an artist.
(“Unbreak My Heart,” Toni Braxton - 30, Houston, TX) What a heartbreaking story, though it actually catapulted her into music. At 11 years old, Desz’ mother heard her singing in the car and told her she wanted her to sing that same song at her funeral. Not only did Desz not know she could sing, she certainly wasn’t thinking about her mother dying. But a month later, she did.
Now, every performance is for her mother and she went full tilt into music, getting scholarships, singing opera and gigging for a decade up to becoming a part of Kanye West’s Choir. After touring the world with him, she was ready to pursue her own career and her own spotlight.
All that pain and all that glory came together in an incredible vocal that only built through the audition. What’s amazing is she was getting chair turns without hitting huge notes or going as high as we expected her to until toward the end (that last one got Blake). What’s remarkable is that she was that strong, but you could still see how much better she could be.
Result: Kelly, John, Gwen, Blake turn -- [TBD]
(“Cruisin’,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - 28, Detroit, MI) This factory line worker brought a lot of hometown pride, taking on Motown and the sincerity of his soulful delivery had Gwen turning around in seconds, followed in turn by John and Kelly. He had an effortless groove, a beautiful range and even a little stank on that vocal. He knows his lane and he’s incredible in it. We’re not sure if he can stay too far, though, based on that, which could be why Blake stayed out of it.
Result: Gwen, John, Kelly turn -- TEAM LEGEND
(“Before You Go,” Lewis Capaldi - 14, Long Island, NY) Had the coaches known this was a young boy instead of a woman, they might have all turned. His range as a woman would have felt ever so slightly limited, and the voice just a little off, but this kid has an incredible and powerful voice for his age.
It is reminiscent of a young Justin Bieber, pre-puberty, with that same power and control. If he can navigate puberty without losing the purity of it even as it deepens, he should be able to just grow even more as he really has the most amazing instrument and emotional connection to the lyric already.
Some of his maturity as a vocalist and performer might have to do with how he’s stepped up as an “older” brother to his 18 year old autistic brother at home. Their bond was spotlighted and it truly is adorable, but that kind of experience ultimately informs every aspect of your life.
We also learned that his grandfather was part of the “This Magic Moment” group Jay and the Americans, which isn’t a bad pedigree to have. And you can see some of that musical confidence in how he tackled this audition.
Result: John, Gwen turn -- TEAM GWEN
“The Voice” Blind Auditions continue Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.