Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani are definitely at a disadvantage this round because they have the strongest teams -- plus, who won the 4-Way Knockout?
The most massive night of competition all season on “The Voice” as 17 artists hit the stage vying for just nine spots in next week’s semi-finals.
Yes, just like last season’s COVID-19 adjustments, this season is also only featuring three weeks of live shows. That means it’s do or die every single time these artists perform. And with them still firmly divided by teams, it’s also a little lopsided and unfair.
Let’s just say it. Blake and Gwen had the strongest overall teams heading into these live shows, which means there is much stiffer competition for their competitors than, say, Team Kelly. Sorry, it’s just not a great team this year.
This week, America picks a winner from each team who automatically advances. Then, the Coach picks another contestant to join them. Then, the highest vote-getter among the remaining artists on each team advances to a Wild Card round during the results show that plays out pretty much like the 4-Way Knockouts -- only one will survive and join the Top 8, rounding it to 9.
Speaking of which, before the Top 17 could even hit the stage, we needed to find out who would be joining them. And let’s just say, after seeing how America voted in their first chance this season, we are preparing ourselves for three weeks of disappointment and frustration. Thanks for that!
And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first on each team to see who my favorites are, and then see how close you are to getting it right with your votes (i.e., agreeing with me).
To wrap up the Knockouts Round, one contestant from each team that had been Saved by their coach in the Battle Round took to the stage one by one by one by one to sing for their very lives in the season’s first public vote.
Only one would survive that Knockout to advance to these live shows taking the 17th slot. In other words, there was a pretty important piece of business to take care of before the singing could properly get under way.
We knew 16 of the performers on the night, but would they be joined by Team Legend’s Julia Cooper, Team Gwen’s Larriah Jackson, Team Kelly’s Ryan Gallagher or Team Blake’s Taryn Papa? In predicting the night, we thought Larriah the most deserving, but suspected Ryan would advance.
Turns out that wasn’t going to happen, as Ryan actually exited the competition (it appeared to be quite sudden and there has been no reason provided). On his IG Stories, Gallagher said that he "didn't drop out" and "details are still to come," but ET reports that he broke the show's Covid protocols and thus had to leave.
So which of the remaining ladies slid in there?
It turns out the performer we thought was the weakest last week was the one to advance, as Taryn Papa got the golden nod to advance. Never underestimate the power of that country music contingency. Maybe Blake’s right and this really is his show.
(“What If I Never Get Over You,” Lady A) With a very shaky delivery, Madline took a bit to settle into her groove on this track. She also missed a few notes on both her low end and in her upper register. And while she got better vocally as she went along, she never connected with the message and heart of the song. We’d have loved to feel this journey with her, but she was too in her head to really open up to us, leaving the performance feeling a bit flat.
(“Lovin’ on You,” Luke Combs) There’s a difference between muttering and forgetting the lyrics, and Tanner firmly fell into the latter category during the opening verse. We were really enjoying his tone, but he did not cover this screw-up well, getting softer as he fumbled around to keep noise coming out. He’s got a great, natural tone and once he got into the chorus he felt more comfortable, and kept that going through the rest of the song. Definitely points for most improved, and he at least was able to share that sense of high-energy fun, but that was quite a bump in the road.
(“What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Tina Turner) Desz has always made smart choices with her big voice to showcase what she does, but she didn’t this week. She only went with the full-throated wail for a few bars and that was so out of touch with the song. We get there’s a sultry side to this piece, and she did that well, but Tina also belts out the tune and Desz instead used that opportunity to do some odd runs. She could have sustained that belt a little longer and had a memorable performance but it never quite came together.
(“Never Tear Us Apart,” INXS) For such a well-known song, Cami managed to put an interesting and singular twist on it, injecting so much of her own artistry and vision into every aspect of it from the vocals, to the performance itself. She was only surpassed in showmanship by Desz, but we feel Cami brought more dynamism to her vocal performance, making a more memorable overall experience. Plus, we can see the artist behind the cover, and that’s always the key.
Cami seems a shoe-in for Kelly after that commanding performance that easily dominated the rest of her teammates. But if it were up to us, she might be the only one to advance. If the show follows last season, America will pick one and Kelly the other, meaning if America goes Cami, as we predict, Kelly will probably choose Desz.
Overall, we’re not feeling really strongly about Kelly’s team, aside from Cami. Desz has been somewhat inconsistent in what she does, and kind of lacks an artistic identity. And some of these other teams are really, really strong. Speaking of which --
(“How Deep Is Your Love,” The Bee Gees) Joseph put a pretty cool swag on this piece, and had some nice moments, but overall this felt like an overly cautious and tepid performance when we know he’s capable of so much more. In particular, it felt like his signature falsetto wasn’t quite responding the way he needed it to, missing a few notes and shaking his confidence. At other times, it was just beautiful, but perhaps a bit too inconsistent this time.
(“There Goes My Life,” Kenny Chesney) With an incredible richness to his tone, we were surprised at the emotional disconnect when Ben reached the chorus of this emotional track. We were right there with him through the verses, but then he started really projecting and we lost that connection. He sounds great, but we were lacking that ache that good country can sell so well. Thankfully, he reined it in for the second run on the chorus and hit it right in that sweet spot.
(“Hero,” Mariah Carey) A sophomore in high school had the nerve to take on Mariah, and then he quickly showed why. Yes, we heard his nerves a bit, but we also heard an incredible range, the power of his voice and that longing hope those early lines evoke. His ability to sell a lyric is incredible for his tender age, with a little growl, and a lot of power he effortlessly performed this song like he’d written it.
(“It’s Gonna Be Me,” *NSYNC) What if a boy band performed in a smokey coffee house? Payge is one of the coolest performers on the show this season, and she proved it why this week with the guitar and this stripped-down take on an *NSYNC classic. It almost sounds like an entirely new song in her capable hands, and what she lacks in power and range she more than makes up for with control, precision, intention and just a very, very, very cool vibe.
Gwen came into this with one of her strongest teams yet, but not everyone stepped up as needed. Joseph didn’t really pull it out the way we know he can while Ben’s nerves seemed to get the best of him, hampering his emotional connection.
That gives the edge to Carter and Payge, both who have been consistently incredible and reliable for her. We think Carter gets America’s vote and Payge Gwen’s backing, but it could also go the other way.
If Ben pulls this one out in America’s vote, though, then we know that country fans are absolutely dominant out there.
(“I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Carly Pearce & Lee Brice) This piece seemed a little overeager and a lot over-performed, especially in the earliest lines. But throughout, Taryn fell victim to her own excesses, as if this was a country song by way of a theatrical stage production where she was told to perform to the back of the room. She’s got a big voice, and good control of it, but she just oversang this one from start to finish and it didn’t work.
(“Beyond,” Leon Bridges) We’re not sure Sid could have made a better choice in song and artist, as he shares a lot of artistic and vocal qualities with Leon Bridges. He’s got a signature sound and vibe all his own that’s very easy to listen to. This was a very classy vocal performance, if a little more about showmanship than emotional resonance. But what a showcase and what a voice. Sid is perhaps too cool for this show.
Worth the Wait
(“Love Is Alive,” The Judds) This family trio has been a lot of fun to watch this season, but they’ve actually grown each time they’ve hit the stage as well, with this easily their strongest performance. All three now are confident in their solo moments, which just adds to their already impressive arsenal of power, but they’re real strength is in those incredible harmonies. They’re just so effortless every single time, but so soothing to the ear.
(“Rumor,” Lee Brice) This is how you put soul into country, injecting all the passion and personality we could have ever wanted in just one performance. Only Jim does this each and every time. There’s so much texture in his voice, he was built for storytelling. Every note was pitch perfect and filled with so much character, he took us on a journey and we didn’t want it to end.
(“Make You Feel My Love,” Bob Dylan) While Ian still has that signature sound that’s unmistakably his and absolutely awesome, this performance didn’t seem to have quite as much heart as some of his past performances. About halfway through, he toned it down and started to really pull us back in, but there just wasn’t as much song left to get us crying -- and we know that voice is capable of it! The coaches were right to stand up and applaud, but it’s amazing to know that he’s capable of even more heart than this.
Blake’s team was in a tough spot as well heading into this round, as all four of his original artists have had some of the season’s most memorable performances, with apologies to Taryn who’s been less strong or consistent. The reigning champ is definitely positioned to repeat -- if only he could keep more than two (or three).
Honestly, this was almost a four-way tie at the top, giving Blake the best shot at having an artist win that insta-save vote for the elusive ninth slot in the next round. We have a feeling America is either going to reward Ian or Worth the Wait, and we suspect Blake would snatch up the other.
That would leave Sid and Jim as real contenders for that Wild Card slot. If we had to pick one, though, we think Jim would be the most likely of the two to grab it.
To this point, their only competition would be Gwen’s Ben, but in head-to-head country combat, Jim would take him!
(“Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley) We loved the lounge singer kickoff to one of the coolest tracks of this century. In fact, we loved it a lot more than when she started to deliver the song with a more familiar rhythm and beat as it took away some of what was making the performance special. She still sounded great, but the song didn’t have as much meat for her to grab onto, and we missed that ability of hers to really connect and sell a song. Still, she can sing .. or is that sang?!
(“Fly Me to the Moon,” Frank Sinatra) Considering the range we knew John has, this was an unexpected song choice. And then, of course, he immediately took it up about thirty octaves or so to start in the stratosphere. But we’re not sure we needed quite so much of the performance up that high. The richest tones in his voice are a hair lower than this, and we really wanted to feel the warmth he carries more than we got here. The stratosphere is impressive to visit, but we didn’t want to move in.
(“Sweet Music Man,” Kenny Rogers) Speaking of bending a note, Bailey does it with intention and perfection. She also has a classic old-school vibe, and delivered a pitch-perfect classic country track. The drawback, though, is that it’s not a particularly exciting song and she didn’t really inject it with anything to make herself stand out and demand to be remembered among 16 other contestants. It was a great performance, but ultimately unremarkable.
(“my future,” Billie Eilish) Not only did Chloé drop an old-school soul vibe on Billie’s more ethereal track, she even slipped in some sign language. She put a whole different energy into this and it worked beautifully, proving that there is always another compelling way to perform a track. She did have to bend her big note before hitting the right mark. We’re just not sure she did enough to sell it to a voting audience, but it was an incredibly sweet and pretty vocal.
Honestly, we’re not sure how America is going to feel about John’s sky-high performance, but we suspect if they don’t pick him to win this team, then John will vote to keep him around. We’d like to imagine Chloé gets America’s vote, but we suspect Bailey just might.
There is a lot of talent on the show tonight and only nine of these 17 singers are going to be able to advance to next week’s show. Honestly, sticking with this format change is a disservice to the artists.
“The Voice” already had a very short window of live shows to really get any sort of continuity or connection with the artists, and now it’s hardly any at all. Thankfully, a few have managed to stand out regardless of how the journey has gone.
It also makes it harder to predict how America will vote, but that’s never stopped us before.
Kelly: Cami Clune (America’s Vote), Desz (Kelly’s Vote)
Gwen: Carter Rubin (America’s Vote), Payge Turner (Gwen’s Vote)
Blake: Worth the Wait (America’s Vote), Ian Flanigan (Blake’s Vote)
John: Bailey Rae (America’s Vote), John Holiday (John's Vote)
The top vote-getter on each team that didn’t advance will compete in a special Wild Card round during Tuesday night’s result show, with the winner advancing. So why not? -- here’s how we think that’s going to play out, too.
Wild Cards: Madeline Consoer, Ben Allen, Jim Ranger, Chloé Hogan
Winner: Jim Ranger
“The Voice” airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.