Another contestant brings the house down with the season's best performance (and one of the best ever), while Gwen Stefani brings the party with her new single, "Let Me Reintroduce Myself."
Once again, the stage is set for a bloodbath before next week’s finale on “The Voice.” After all, we have nine singers hitting the stage and only five can make it to the end.
For this week’s semi-finals, the top vote-getter for each team advances to the finale, with the remainder of contestants competing head-to-head Tuesday night for that final slot in an Insta-Save round.
With a pretty incredible Top 9, there were no bad performances, but there were plenty of imperfections across the night. At the same time, we got what will easily stand as one of the greatest “Voice” performances of all time -- we know we’ll be watching it a few more times!
One of John Legend’s contestants touchingly dedicated his performance of Coldplay’s “Fix You” to John and Chrissy Teigen, after the challenging year they’ve had in the wake of Chrissy’s miscarriage. It was a touching tribute and an incredibly heartfelt performance.
Keeping it much lighter, Gwen Stefani performed her brand-new single, which is an ode and tribute … to herself. It’s definitely in keeping with that signature style and sound that’s defined her entire career, and she certainly looked and sounded incredible. Oddly, NBC didn’t share footage of her performing it, so enjoy her lyric video instead.
Sounding like a mashup of her No Doubt sound and her solo work, “Let Me Reintroduce Myself’ was a tribute to Gwen’s legacy as well as a statement that she is absolutely still who she’s always been -- an original. On top of that, while sounding like like signature Gwen, the track has a rhythm and hook that’s also totally fresh and current. That’s how you do it!
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 in each round 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).
(“Let It Be,” The Beatles) Were those nerves we heard on the opening lines? Luckily, whatever it was, aTamara shook it off almost immediately to really take us on a journey through this Beatles classic. She lost us a bit through the middle as it felt like we were just meandering and retreading the same ground, but she picked it up again toward the end.
Strangely enough, though, it felt like she was undersinging her potential throughout this piece. We didn’t need or want her to really belt this one out, but we wanted to feel something more throughout the piece than we got. It’s as if she was holding back her own emotional connection as well as the full potential power of her voice, rather than offering a subtle exploration of the lyric.
Cami Clune [Team Kelly]
(“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile) Cami dedicated her performance to the show, while also opening up about the support she’s received from other EDS (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) sufferers for helping to raise awareness and serving as inspiration that you can still live with it.
Taking Kelly’s notes to add variance really made a huge difference in this whole performance, which started off intimately and inviting before knocking us back in our seats. It’s an incredible song in the right hands, and Cami put a really powerful spin on it. She got a little sharp the first time she pushed into her full voice, and fell flat with an awkward warble later. We lost some of the connection as we went along, but she remains eminently watchable and with such a cool vibe.
Bailey Rae [Team Legend]
(“Georgia on My Mind,” Ray Charles) There’s something very comfortable about the way Bailey sings, it almost feels like a warm hug embracing your ears and heart. She delivered again with that classic country sound meshing perfectly with Ray Charles’ classic track (no stranger to country interpretations).
We’re not entirely sure it was a super exciting performance, nor did it have quite the emotional wallop we were hoping for consistently throughout. The problem is that comfortable and relaxing and soothing can sometimes get forgettable.
While we don’t espouse power notes to grab the audience attention all the time, we do like some dynamism and variance in a live performance. Bailey is incredible at what she does and we would buy her record tomorrow, but we’re a little worried in a competition like this she didn’t do enough here … especially on this tough team.
(“Without You,” Harry Nilsson) Jim has such a huge fanbase at home with his church and community there clearly wasn’t room for masks or social distancing anywhere, based on a clip shown. Regardless, he took on a mammoth song to honor them and his father’s support.
While we love Jim’s voice and the power of it, we were less enamored with his gentle intonations to kick off this piece. Once he kicked it into gear, it was much more consistently strong, with a bit of ‘80s throwback vocal styling. He has an incredible voice and has been consistent to this point, but there were a few wobbly moments that pulled us out of the rapture of his talent here and there.
Ian Flanigan [Team Blake]
(“Angel,” Sarah McLachlan) Ian was still glowing as he and Blake talked, revealing that he’d just proposed to his fiancee on his last trip home. Now that’s something he and Blake have in common as they navigated an unexpected recommendation from Kelly for Ian. Luckily, Ian was able to connect with the story of addiction Sarah was writing.
We know Blake told him not to change the arrangement much, but we would have like a little more meat on the bones of that melody for Ian to sink his own signature sound into. He has such a cool gravel in his voice that can absolutely break your heart, and yet it didn’t happen here because it was just too much of a copycat performance. We’d have liked a bit of a wail or cry somewhere to let us know Ian was feeling it, rather than just parroting it very well.
Ben Allen [Team Gwen]
(“All About Tonight,” Blake Shelton) Ben carries himself like a professional, taking the stage like this was the encore of his very own concert. It was a masterful performance, not just with consistently solid and authentic vocals but incredible showmanship.
There’s something to be said for experience and comfort in your own skin, and Ben carries himself like someone who knows who he is and what he brings to the stage each and every time. He almost makes it look too easy, like he’s already got a dozen records and half as many CMAs on the shelf.
(“Rainbow Connection,” from “The Muppet Movie”) What a fun and interesting song choice. There’s a timeless innocence to this Kermit the Frog staple that actually suits Carter’s wholesome image as we’ve seen it thus far beautifully. On top of that, the song has real heart, and Carter is great at presenting that.
It’s also a vocal challenge, but Carter proved absolutely up to the challenge. He delivered the nuances beautifully. Honestly, he was so on pitch and showed so much power throughout, we actually found ourselves annoyed he threw a patented reality show power note at the end, because he just didn’t need it. He has such a big voice and so much talent at such a young age, he already had us even before that superfluous addition.
John Holiday [Team Legend]
(“Fix You,” Coldplay) Holiday said that as much as the song means to him, he also couldn’t help but think about his coach and wife’s recent miscarriage while connecting with its lyrics. Legend agreed, sharing that he remembers sitting with his family and tearing up as well while playing it. “We all just started crying because, as a lot of people know, we’ve been through a lot this year. The lyric of the song just spoke to us,” he told Holiday.
In a confessional he added, “Going through what we went through as a family this year and then what so many other families in the world are going through, there’s just a lot of folks out there who are struggling and could use this kind of message.”
It was wonderful to see this more tender side of Holiday’s voice, as we already know the acrobatics he’s capable of. In fact, we found ourselves wishing he’d go back behind the piano after he came out and started pushing harder. We loved the tender tenor so much, he could have kept us enraptured without having to do those gymnastics each time. That said, he brought it back in and just kilt that ending!
Desz [Team Kelly]
(“Don’t Let Go (Love),” En Vogue) As a “thicc diva” representing for all the plus-sized women around the world who need to just love themselves as they are, Desz dedicated this behemoth of a vocal track to them. Despite progress, it’s still very hard for a woman beyond a single-digit size to make it in entertainment, giving them an extra hurdle they must overcome.
When you bring it like that, it doesn’t matter how big you are, what color you are, how you identify. Talent like this knows no boundaries and demands to be recognized for what it is. Desz has been incredible since Day 1, but this performance was so many heads and shoulders even above her own very high bar, it has to be one of the best this show has ever seen -- and yes, we mean ever!
There’s confidence, there’s showmanship, there’s ownership of yourself and your talent and then there’s just taking us into your own personal heaven. We know we’ve written a lot about this but that’s because it doesn’t feel like there are enough words out there to truly capture what she just pulled off.
(“Pompeii,” Bastille) Yikes, it seems like John was the only one who felt comfortable on this song -- or perhaps he just feels comfortable on all songs. He certainly sounded like the best fit, even as his delivery was very different from the original. Cami did alright on it, though she didn’t seem to quite capture the cadence, while Bailey seemed like she couldn’t even get comfortable with the melody. Who picked this song for the night’s most random trio? Even their harmonies weren’t harmonious.
Tamara Jade, Ian Flanigan & Ben Allen
(“Tulsa Time,” Don Williams) So much of country music comes from the blues, and you could really feel that blend in the deliveries of Ian and Tamara in particular. In fact, they sounded great together just as a duet. That’s not to knock Ben, who was his usual brilliantly classic country artist. We just found ourselves really enjoying how Ian and Tamara interpreted the song with a more modern vibe and energy. This might have looked like and odd trio on paper, but they really delivered.
Desz, Carter Rubin & Jim Ranger
(“Will It Go Round in Circles,” Billy Preston) Jim really redeemed himself on this one after an inconsistent first round, really serving as the vocal foundation of this incredible performance. Carter showed off swag we didn’t know he had with a very cool confidence out there, while Desz just soared as we already knew she could and would. So overall, we loved that Jim was the root and Carter showed off another side while Desz continued to prove herself one of the best voices of this season.
Honestly, this looks like a slam dunk for Teams Kelly and Legend as it seems painfully obvious that Desz and John Holiday are going to take this thing home. But it gets a lot tougher when you look at Blake and Gwen’s teams.
We’ve got Carter Rubin and Ben Allen back-to-back up above because both really brought flawless performances in what they do. For overall mind-blowing talent, we’d give the edge to Carter, but this show has a strong country following and Ben killed it in country.
Right behind those two, we pitted Blake’s pairing back-to-back. Honestly, we don’t think either Ian Flanigan or Jim Ranger gave the best performances we’ve ever seen, but both are incredible artists in their own right. We’d give this to Ian for his incredibly unique tone, but Jim is so clean, and was so good in his trio, we think he might get the edge.
Last week, Bailey Rae took the Wild Card, but unless she really pulls off an incredible performance we don’t see it happening again. Her competition is much fiercer. In fact, unless something crazy happens, we think this comes down to Ian Flanigan and Ben Allen, and we’d have to give it to Ian based on what he’s done throughout the season -- unless he blows it!
Gwen: Carter Rubin
Blake: Jim Ranger
John: John Holiday
Wild Card: Ian Flanigan
“The Voice” continues Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.