A Season 2 semifinalist, I blog about the NBC competition every week for TheWrap
It's the first week of Live Rounds on NBC's “The Voice”! After what seemed like an interminable stay in the limbo of Battles, making it to Lives feels like an accomplishment. Now there's a LOT of ground to cover, so let's mix a stiff drink and talk this week's Top 12.
1. There's a fire starting in my voice…
We kicked off Live Rounds with “Rolling in the Deep,” a song we've all sung in our cars more times than we'd like to admit. It's risky to do a song this universally loved, but Team Usher's Bria Kelly put her own stamp on it. Was it her best performance? Not necessarily, but even on an average night, Bria's still a force.
2. Coach fashion
Adam Levine and Usher are dressed for their first day of the 4th grade (in stripes and plaid respectively). Blake Shelton is dressed like a cool dad at a graduation ceremony, and Shakira is going to the disco.
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3. Infectious…in a good way!
“Infectious in a good way” was Blake's description of Team Usher's T.J. Wilkins, but I think it also applies to Team Adam's Delvin Choice. T.J.'s “Waiting on the World to Change” was low-key fun, while Delvin's “Unchained Melody” took a happier approach to a song that's more commonly read as pleading and emotional. Both turned in solid performances where they didn't fully shine, but both were a joy to watch regardless.
4. The thrill and the pain of live TV
Live TV brought us an array of awkward moments this week. First, Shakira ignored Carson Daly and gave her opinion after he asked Adam for his feedback on a performance. Then Carson had to sweat it out while contestants made unrehearsed shout-outs before commercial breaks. Poor Carson! Trying to keep this show on time is like trying to wrangle a pack of puppies into a basket.
5. When mom and dad argue…
Nobody likes it when Adam and Shakira argue (think of the children, you guys!). This week's tiff was about Team Shakira's Dani Moz. Dani's “Just Give Me a Reason” was fantastic, starting vulnerably and building into some great bigger moments. When Adam noted that he was hoping for more dynamics, Shakira vehemently disagreed. Then Blake came in to stir the pot, because that's what Blake does best.
6. But enough about peeing
Team Blake's Audra McLaughlin is consistently good week after week, and her “Angel of the Morning” was no exception. It wasn't her most electric performance to date (I'd love to hear her relax a little more!), but it was lovely enough to inspire Blake to say he peed himself. Everybody now – Oh, Blake.
7. Anything but a dark horse
Team Adam's Christina Grimmie was a dynamo this week, powering her way through “Dark Horse” with a fury and navigating both the quiet moments and the bigger moments with finesse. Blake reiterated his ongoing theme that “Dynamite comes in small packages!” while Shakira interjected “Give it up for the tiny people!” Indeed, Shakira.
8. Caging the tiger
“Caging the tiger” is no easy feat for someone with a voice as tremendous as Team Blake's Sisaundra Lewis. Her nuanced rendition of “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me” was especially impressive since “singing for the fences” comes so easily to her (per Adam). My only hope is to hear her do some contemporary songs that might place her in a more modern context moving forward. That may be the key to making sure Sisaundra stays right where she belongs – at the front of “The Voice” stage.
9. If I believed in conspiracies…
First, Team Shakira's Kristen Merlin was montaged TWICE during Battle Rounds, giving her a huge disadvantage going into Live Rounds. Then the mic went out during her touching performance of “Stay,” muting a third of the song. I know logically it's just a string of bad luck (and some ill advised editing), but Kristen deserves a massive do-over. Her poise under pressure was amazing, and I hope she stays another week and has every possible advantage next time around. This show owes her that!
10. Magic woman
Covering Heart is a ballsy move, and Team Adam's Kat Perkins is one of the few who can pull it off. Her “Magic Man” was pure magic. It allowed her to show more of her incredible range than last week's “Open Arms” and gave her the opportunity to demonstrate some stellar showmanship, interacting with the audience and members of the band with ease.
11. Honesty is the best policy
Honesty means everything in Country music, and Team Blake's Jake Worthington has that in spades. His “Anymore” started off a little hesitant but kicked it into high gear in the last half, showing some surprising intensity and emotion. Shakira called him “the most endearing contestant on this show,” and I'd have to agree.
12. Be yourself, just tougher
This is the advice Shakira gave Tess Boyer before her spirited rendition of “I'll Be There For You” and I have to admit – it's good general life advice as well! The more you know, the more you grow, right?
13. Performance of the week!
My favorite performance this week belonged to Team Usher's Josh Kaufman. His charismatic “Stay With Me” was the perfect combination of song and contestant, giving Josh the chance to showcase his rare mix of killer tone and professional technique. He also demonstrated that he's capable of giving a less introspective performance, really “commanding and demanding the stage” per Usher. It gave me chills, and I can't wait to hear what he does next.
Who were your favorites this week? And did you feel like there weren't enough defining “moments” in some of the performances? Leave your thoughts in the comments.