Kelly Clarkson and Niall Horan both have to cut their teams from five to two as the Playoffs wrap on "The Voice," leading to some devastating fan-favorite cuts -- plus, one artist delivers the single best performance of the season, but was it enough?
Once again, "The Voice" sent two Coaches into the hardest decisions of the season, cutting five artists from their team to just two to move into next week's live rounds.
Team Niall really stepped up to the plate, with one contestant arguably delivering the single best performance of this entire season -- and possibly the past several. Meanwhile, Team Kelly blew the roof off the studio so much we were ready to advance four of the five and had no idea what she was going to do.
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No matter which way she went, we were going to be heartbroken. Niall's team, too, saw some real talents go home. Tonight, we said goodbye to one of the season's sentimental favorites, and some of the most consistently beautiful and powerful voices of the year. That's a testament to how good the night was, because everyone who stayed is incredible, too.
It doesn't look like there are any wild card or last-minute saves, either, as we were hoping last week -- unless they're saving a surprise for next week, but we doubt it. Next week, the Top 8 take to the stage live for the first time. But it's also the semi-finals already, with Season 23 wrapping up with a two-night finale the following week!
In other words, there is no time to mess around! For the first time ever, as well, "The Voice" is following "American Idol's" lead and dumping it's results show to deliver live results the same night the contestants perform. We don't know how many will make it, but it can't be any worse than tonight's cuts … can it?
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, Niall Horan and Blake Shelton. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are, and then see how they do as the season progresses.
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("Alone," Heart [as performed by Céline Dion] - 33, Atlanta, GA) With a breathy, full-throated opening, Cait had this unexpectedly alluring delivery to draw us in before smacking us with the purity of her full voice. The second verse started off a bit shaky and she didn't quite nail all of the notes she was looking for, but there were so many layers in the performance, we were nevertheless so enamored with her. She's an incredible powerhouse who was just a little wild on this one. When she was on, though, it was incredible. She just wasn't consistently on.
("Bring on the Rain," Jo Dee Messina - 22, Meridian, MS) Holly gave us an interesting, and at times jarring, combination of heartfelt emotional moments and technical showcasing. Both were incredibly delivered, but we did find ourselves getting pulled out of the emotional side a bit so we could be properly impressed with her perfection. So it was always a positive reaction to what she was doing, the shifting was what was a little jarring for us. She's got to be one of the strongest pure vocalists in the country lane right now, so when she masters reining all that in to serve the story at all times, she could be unstoppable.
("Location," Khalid - 25 Birmingham, AL) D. had already delivered a timeless, killer vocal throughout this piece with incredible runs and this rich texture in his voice … and then he sat at the front of the stage and wrapped it all up with these unbelievable ad libs. He was so in the moment, and we were there with him, afraid to breathe for fear we might mess him up or miss a moment. That was such a pro move and a testament to how polished and confident he is as a singer and performer.
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("Never Alone," Tori Kelly f. Kirk Franklin - 24, Walnut, CA) Ali may not have that stratospheric range that a lot of people on this show has, but she makes up for it with such a strong connection and passion in her voice. She has this gift to draw people in, evidenced by the backup singers embracing her at the end of this performance, and that's all heart. Ali leads with her heart in every performance and it's captivating. We loved the subtle opening with just her and the guitar building to those church anthem wails by the end. Kelly's idea to tweak the arrangement like this definitely strengthened Ali's shot here.
("Have a Little Faith in Me," John Hiatt - 34, St. Louis, MO) Kelly's note was for Neil to get out of his own way and just feel the song without thinking about his next move and he clearly took it. This was his loosest performance yet, and for that his most dynamic. He said he thought of it almost like a church song, and he definitely took us to church with this performance. The playfulness of his delivery, some of the runs and ad libs, it was how you take a song and not only make it yours, but make it a moment.
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("With or Without You," U2 - 33, McCloud, OK) Niall really gave Ross a huge challenge, and it swallowed him up just a bit. He never quite settled into the lower part at the beginning and then lost his way even more when the song exploded even more. We were hoping one or the other would be solid, but it just didn't happen. This has to be one of the most challenging songs for any singer on a show like this. Tonight, it was probably Ross' undoing.
("Here," Alessia Cara - 21, Colorado Springs, CO) This song leaves almost no room to breathe and it did seem Tasha struggled a bit with breath placement a few times, but she got through that speedy rhythm very effectively. She definitely twisted the song up to spotlight the power in her voice and it was mostly effective. It did feel like the character of the song, the mood of its message, got a bit lost along the way, but for sheer power and delivery, she nailed this moment.
("The Joke," Brandi Carlile - 29, Los Angeles, CA) This was a perfect song for Michael in this moment. He definitely emoted the story of the song and delivered both the pain and the power. His voice is so effortlessly powerful with a ridiculous range, it was appreciated that he reined it in to give a more tasteful delivery. Rather than the voice taking center stage, the song itself did and that made for a palpably emotional performance … and one of Michael's best!
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Ryley Tate Wilson
("when the party's over," Billie Eilish - 15, Montgomery, AL) There is absolutely no place to hide on this entire track, but Ryley didn't need to hide. His voice handled that gentle climb through the verses and the heights the chorus demands. His falsetto was tastefully deployed, but mostly this performance was in the fullness of his natural range. Add to that a palpable emotional connection and this was another standout performance by Ryley, proving why he earned that Playoff Pass. Could lives be next?
("Wicked Game," Chris Isaak - 19, Paxton, IL) A finale-caliber performance, Gina gave us everything we could have ever wanted. She was a little haunted, a lot forlorn and utterly transfixing. Her falsetto was sublime, but we can't discredit that beautiful ache in her full voice. We not only were blown away by the technical quality of her pitch-perfect performance, but we felt everything in this one. And that sustained note? Wh-what?! This was one of the best "Voice" moments of all time.
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PREDICTIONS & RESULTS
Team Kelly: We're with Chance on our assessment of Kelly's team. We know she's good at this show, but we weren't quite aware of just how stacked her team is. Honestly, four of these five contenders are worthy of their shot in the lives -- and even Cait has proven her worthiness in prior rounds. We have a feeling, though, the fact Neil is new here is going to hurt him. We see D.Smooth as an obvious choice, but it's less obvious between Ali and Holly. The latter has more technical prowess, but we think Ali's heart might have pushed her over the edge.
The first artist Kelly put into her live team was D.Smooth, which felt like an obvious choice. He's so consistent every time he comes up there. The way he attacked tonight's whole performance was just further proof of just how ready he is to take the next step in his career. She surprised us, then, going with Holly Brand over Ali. We don't deny how incredibly gifted Holly is; she just needs to make sure her voice serves the song and not the other way around.
Team Niall: Niall's story feels a lot more cut-and-dry this week, with only Michael really poised to be a potential spoiler. Ross got lost in his huge song choice while Tasha struggled a bit to control her breathing and offer consistency. Both Gina and Ryley, two of this season's youngest contenders, delivered incredibly emotional performances that were also technically flawless. There was no denying the power of those performances, so we figured Niall wouldn't bother to deny either of them.
Niall made the obvious choice with Ryley Tate Wilson after that incredible performance, and his consistency throughout the performance. After that choice, though, it felt even more obvious that he would have to choose Gina to join him. She gave the performance of the night and impressed us even more than she had to this point. Thankfully, he did just that, making a teen powerhouse team with Ryley and Gina Miles.
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TOP 8 REVEALED
As a quick reminder, joining tonight's four advancing artists were Chance's stunning sisters trio Sorelle and his R&B superstar Ray Uriel. Meanwhile, Blake advanced his own powerhouse in NOIVAS and a polished country crooner in Grace West.
That means we'll have three soulful R&B male powerhouses squaring off and two strong female country singers facing off. The other three slots are filled by two incredibly emotional teen pop singers and the unique artistry of our remaining group of singers. It's definitely a very strong Top 8 because we sure have no idea who's got the edge right now.
- D.Smooth [Team Kelly]
- Gina Miles [Team Niall]
- Grace West [Tean Blake]
- Holly Brand [Team Kelly]
- NOIVAS [Team Blake]
- Ray Uriel [Team Chance]
- Ryley Tate Wilson [Team Niall]
- Sorelle [Team Chance]
"The Voice" continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.