A Season 2 semifinalist, I blog about the NBC competition every week for TheWrap
It's Playoffs week on NBC's “The Voice,” and coaches are making some tough decisions on who will stay and who will go before voting begins next week. Now let's pull up a chair, pour a cup of brandy and talk about my highlights.
1. Welcome back!
After two rounds of being montaged, Team Shakira's Kristen Merlin finally got to do a full, non-montaged performance. While her “Two Black Cadillacs” wasn't perfect by any means, she gave a strong showing, hitting some impressive targets throughout the song and demonstrating great stage presence that had me wondering why she was ever montaged in the first place.
Team Shakira had two game changing moments this week thanks to some stripped down arrangements and emotionally connected performances. Tess Boyer (who has now been on every team but Adam's) did an understated rendition of “Human” that Usher called “superhuman,” further cementing her status as the little underdog that could. Dani Moz was even more of a revelation, putting a new spin on “Edge of Glory” from behind the piano. While the coaches didn't seem too ecstatic about it, I thought Dani's raw, genuine performance was the most pleasant surprise this week.
3. Trouble, trouble, trouble
Team Shakira's Patrick Thomson and Team Adam's Morgan Wallen both have interesting tones, but at times I think their rasp overcomes them. Patrick's “Trouble” had all the requisite grit but none of the finesse required to compete with the original. Morgan's “Stay” started off well, but the more he pushed his chest voice, the more he struggled. That's the tricky thing with grit – it works best when combined with a certain amount of range and flexibility. Otherwise, it can just read as strained.
4. The “Comeback Kid” keeps coming back!
Once again, Team Adam's Delvin Choice gave a wonderful performance, cementing himself as a front-runner in this competition. His “Let's Stay Together” was relaxed and fun and showed off his impressive lower range without overdoing it on the tricks. Adam expressed his astonishment that no one turned around for Delvin the first time he auditioned, and Delvin gently reminded him that “no one” included Adam. Haaa, nicely done, Delvin.
5. Open lungs
After an ill-fitting song choice in Battles: Round 2, it was refreshing to see Team Adam's Kat Perkins in her element, doing the exhausting '80's vocal exercise “Open Arms” (This is my “sing in the shower” jam, you guys!). As expected, Kat made mince meat of the song, powering through it with ease and range, making Adam positively giddy with pride and moving Blake to rename the song “Open Lungs.”
6. So much voice in such little packages…
Big things really do come in small packages – as demonstrated this week by Team Usher's Bria Kelly and Team Adam's Christina Grimmie, both petite songstresses who incited super-sized reactions from the coaches. Bria's appropriately wild “Wild Horses” was a good fit for her vocal sensibility, allowing her to experiment with quieter moments in the verses while wailing with her signature grit on the choruses. Christina also showcased some fantastic dynamics, doing a fiery performance of “I Won't Give Up” that inspired disconcerting baby talk from Blake and the “baby Celine Dion” label from Usher.
7. Best burn
When Adam pointed out that Blake called him “little” all the time (in solidarity with Christina who Blake called “little” repeatedly), Usher responded “No, he said parts of you are little.” Then Usher lit his burn book on fire and dropped the mic.
8. Favorite performance
Although the coaches were more excited about other artists this week, my favorite performance belonged to Team Usher's T.J. Wilkins. His “Tell Me Something Good” was silky smooth but also really interesting. His riffs and melodic choices were creative and unexpected but felt right at home in the context of the song. Add a spirited, joyful performance to that equation, and you have the right combination for one of this season's most underrated singers to become a fan favorite.
9. Most creative feedback
This would have to go to Blake for comparing Stevie Jo's performance of “The Thrill is Gone” to a rabbit chase, telling the lithe voiced R&B singer that it was like he was “sneaking up on a rabbit” the whole time. Oh, Blake.
10. Collaborative effort
While I didn't think “It Will Rain” was the ideal song choice for Team Usher's Josh Kaufman, he still made it work in the last half, relaxing into the song and really utilizing it to show off his raspy and rounded vocal range and striking gospel influences. Usher noted that this was really a collaborative effort between himself, Adam and Josh, in effect patting himself on the back for Josh's stellar performance.
11. Pop culture with Blake Shelton
We could fill a book with all the things Blake didn't know this week… like who is Eddie Vedder, where did the song “Halo” originate and just what is a tenor saxophone?
12. And then there were nine…
After much ado, the coaches revealed each of their Top 3 contestants. Shakira chose Tess, Kristen and Dani. Adam revealed his final 3 to be Christina, Delvin and Kat, while Usher went with Bria, Josh and T.J.
Side note: Producers have now sent someone to the live rounds to be voted on by a public who has only seen them perform TWICE (Kristen). That doesn't seem like much of a fair shot, does it?
Did you agree or disagree with this week's Playoff decisions? Who are your favorites going into Lives? Share your thoughts in the comments!