The fans take control, bringing the Top 10 songs from from Rihanna to Chris Stapleton, Kane Brown, Billie Eilish JVKE and Foreigner -- plus, one artist tests positive for Covid.
The fans took control of "The Voice" this week as the Top 10 took the stage ahead of next week's semi-finals. That meant they were in charge of introducing the artists, and picking their songs!
Props to the fans, though, as they really picked some great songs, in some cases challenging the artists in all the right ways, while at other times they just helped an artist really showcase why they're so incredible.
One young singer got the challenge of her life when the fans chose Billie Eilish's "i love you" to sing, while another artist got one of the most challenging cadences this show has ever seen with JVKE's "golden hour."
And then, there was the artist who was staring down the barrel of "Tennessee Whiskey," which Chris Stapleton turned into a monster smash and a signature song for his heartbroken tone. Throw in Rihanna, Kane Brown and even a little Foreigner, and it was definitely a night for unforgettable performances.
Who rose to the fans' challenge, and who faltered under the weight of their expectations? With only two weeks until the finale, we've already got our Top 5 (which you can see in our rankings below). Will they go all the way?
("i love you," Billie Eilish - 17, Rapid City, SD) The fans definitely gave Rowan a huge challenge with one of Eilish's more complex vocals. She handled it capably enough, though she didn't always nail the pitch. She also didn't quite have that ethereal quality that Eilish has on the track. We'd have almost liked to see her tweak the arrangement just a bit here and there to better spotlight what her strengths are as an artist than this very sound-a-like approach. It did show that she can handle some of the more unique styles that exist for female pop singers in modern music, but there was a conviction lacking in her performance that made it sound more amateurish than pro level.
Brayden Lape [Team Blake]
("Homesick," Kane Brown - 16, Grass Lake, MI) His voice is still a little thin in places, getting drowned out by the band and background singers, but when he does shine through that innocent sweetness is so endearing. When he stepped forward and the band dropped out, that's the moment that Brayden managed to really capture the audience's attention. He's always managed to find those moments, but we wish he could more consistently have us like he did in the pre-live rounds. There's no doubt he's a great find for this show and someone with infinite potential, but we find ourselves still waiting for that heartbreakingly sincere performance from him ... because we know it's in there and he's so close!
Justin Aaron [Team Gwen]
("Just Once," Quincy Jones f. James Ingram - 34, Junction City, KS) It took a little too long for Justin to find his big emotional hook, leaving the performance feeling a lot of the same and getting boring. When he finally made it to the front of the stage, it's as if he found himself and finally took the song to the next level. Justin has one of the strongest voices in the competition and usually is so great at creating that connection, but it was broken through the whole first half of the song. We're not sure if it was the staging or that soft opening, but thank goodness he finally found himself and redeemed the performance by the end.
("Sand in My Boots," Morgan Wallen - 22, Woodstock, GA) It was with a cool confidence that Bryce tackled this song, which was a bit of a departure from him. He's been rocking that old-school vibe since the beginning and it really suits him well. There was a bit of a disconnect at times for us with him on this more current track, but he managed to pull it together by the end and really sold it. He has such a professional sounding voice it can come across almost clinical at times, which is the antithesis of great country music. At other times, he lands right in that sweet spot that feels like an aural embrace. He just needs to lean more into that side of what he does.
Kique [Team Gwen]
("Call Out My Name," The Weeknd - 19, Miami, FL) Unfortunately for Kique, he wasn't able to perform live to get America's vote. That's because he tested positive for Covid. Carson said that they pre-recorded his performance from "another location," and it was definitely a smaller stage than the big show. On top of that, it looked like he didn't have a live audience to feed off of at all. It's just another challenge for the singer coming off of America's Save last week.
We're not sure if it was the smaller stage, but Kique did not take advantage even of the space he was given. He did say he's used to a 4'x4' performance space, and that much was clear as he stayed within that smaller space. His body language at times had us thinking this was rehearsal footage, as he wasn't selling from start to finish. Vocally, though, he was in great form, giving his signature low-to-high runs and beautifully caressing the verses. He's such a unique talent, but definitely a gifted one who consistently delivers solid vocals -- he just needs to work on that stage presence ... though we're not sure how critical we should be this week on that.
Parijita Bastola [Team Legend]
("Scars to Your Beautiful," Alessia Cara - 17, Severna Park, MD) Parajita was nervous about taking on this song because the more upbeat melodies aren't really her thing. That said, this isn't a super upbeat song, so we're glad she's at least willing to stretch this far! On the stage, she could have come off that mic stand a little earlier, but that's about the only thing we could criticize. Her vocals were just sensational, with perfect pitch and perfect emphasis on the lyrics. It's definitely a message she can relate to and she projected that beautifully to the audience. It was a confident performance and definitely showed another side of her that's hip and current. She's got a great style and look and sound and everything you need already packaged and ready to go.
("golden hour," JVKE - 29, Ladera Ranch, CA) An unexpected song choice from the fans, but one that bodie fully embraced. In fact, he said the dramatic shifts from almost rap-like rapid-fire delivery in the verse to that soaring chorus is more in line with the kind of music he writes and gravitates toward. It was evident how comfortable he was in it, and how much fun he was having, right away. He did have perfect control of those two disparate sides, save for one moment of strain toward the end. When he belted, it created these magical moments that felt like they were going to go on forever. He's such a gifted artist already, and on top of that he's touching lives and inspiring people by being so open about how alopecia has impacted his life.
Omar Jose Cardona [Team Legend]
("I Want to Know What Love Is," Foreigner - 34, Orlando, FL) Omar's fans clearly know exactly who he is as an artist, giving him this huge classic rock singer to tackle. And boy did he tackle it right into the ground and conquer every moment of this. There was a perfect build throughout, climaxing with the part when the music stripped out and he led the audience in clapping along to his high-flying vocal acrobatics. We had no doubt Omar could do this song justice and he offered no real surprises along the way, doing just that. It would have been fun to see him catch us off guard, but playing it straight did definitively prove what an incredible gift he has. His range is just incredible and he makes it all look so effortless.
Morgan Myles [Team Camila]
("Tennessee Whiskey," David Allan Coe [as performed by Chris Stapleton] - 35, Nashville, TN) Camila was right to use the term smorgasbord to describe what Morgan does as a singer because she was giving everything on that stage. There was grit and grown, beautiful falsetto, whispering tenderness and heartfelt passion. This is one of the most compelling records in recent memory (the Stapleton version) and one of the most well known. Morgan managed to put her own texture on it with the right changes and made this an encore-level performance for her growing Mylestones fanbase. That's how you fight to win a show like this!
Kim Cruse [Team Legend]
("Love on the Brain," Rihanna - 30, Woodville, TX) Holy crap! Truthfully, we could stop right there because that sums up the gut punch that was this moment for Kim. She's had moments before, but this was far and away her most commanding performance on this show. From the staging to her wardrobe to that incredible vocal, Kim took to this like she was the marquee guest at an awards show getting a lifetime achievement award. Everything about it was so tasteful and beautifully arranged to spotlight her incredible instrument and total control over it. This was the perfect song and a perfect interpretation of it by a consummate artist who is so ready!
We have to continue to give huge props to Team Legend. Not only does John have all three of his artists still in this Top 10, but we ranked all of them in our personal Top 5 and feel confident all of them will continue.
We can't say the same for Team Blake, despite him carrying an incredible four artists into the Top 10. We really do feel that clean sweep will come to an end this week, as Rowan Grace came in last in our rankings and really struggled to find her place this week. Unless she does something incredible in an Instant-Save moment, we don't see her surviving the week.
This week's cut goes to the Top 8, so only two artists will be getting cut. But that means three artists will find themselves in danger. So who's going to join Rowan in the Bottom Three? Based on our rankings, it would be Brayden Lape and Justin Aaron, but we're not so sure about that.
Honestly -- and we know we've said this before -- we feel that Kique is again going to slip into the Bottom 3 position. With him not available to compete tonight, how would he perform a Save-Me song? Has he already recorded it, or will he be set up in a private space where he can perform?
For the third slot, we think it'll come down to Blake's country crooners, with either Bryce Leatherwood or Brayden Lape slipping. We may have Brayden in our personal Bottom 2, but he also has that "it" factor that America seems to love, so we'll say that Bryce will falter.
Of those three artists, we could see Kique again saving himself. But we could also see America giving him some sympathy love, which could be bad news for Justin Aaron. Either way, though, whether it's Justin or Kique, we have a feeling Team Gwen will emerge triumphant with voters.
Now we wait ... to see how wrong we are about all of this!
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.