We’re liiiiiiive, babies. The Live Playoffs truly make or break an artist, since it is our first indication as to how they’ll do under the pressure of a live show. All 20 artists are performing tonight — I’m already exhausted — and tomorrow night, we’ll learn which three artists from each team have made it through (plus, we get one wild card instant save). That means seven of the performers below will be singing for the last time. Seven! Call me cold-hearted, but it’s about time we trimmed the fat a little. Okay, enough stalling, let’s see how our Top 20 performed this evening.
THE VOICE — “Live Playoffs Top 20” Episode 1715A — Pictured: (l-r) Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, John Legend, Blake Shelton — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
Ricky Duran, “Small Town” by John Mellencamp
Ricky’s getting back to basics with his guitar! I’m so used to seeing Ricky sans his instrument, strolling about the stage and working the crowd, I almost forgot that he’s a band guy. Gwen notes just how natural and professional he looks up there throughout the performance. It’s not a terrible song choice — his coach Blake tells him he could sing any genre — but it does get a little repetitive and Ricky’s at his best when he can freely move about the stage. Could changing up your act be a mistake on a night when you’re trying to stand out amongst 20 performances? Possibly.
Cali Wilson, “Toxic” by Britney Spears
Um, so, I pegged Cali as a sort of country-pop singer and not a….this. Even John’s critique is just like, “Well, that was unexpected” which is neither good nor bad. Cali gives the Britney Spears hit a moody, jazzy arrangement, and that’s cool, but I don’t fully get what it’s saying about her as an artist. Basically, my notes were: What is happening here? She was coming off such a high with “Wicked Game.” Why, Cali, why?
Gracee Shriver, “American Honey” by Lady Antebellum
Apparently, before Gracee started her performance, something went wrong with her guitar and she had to bail. No one would’ve known had the coaches not mentioned it — that’s how professional this Oklahoma teen looked up on stage. You definitely need to enjoy country to get behind Gracee’s voice — the yodel! — but I think everyone can agree that the girl knows how to pick songs that fit her perfectly.
Kat Hammock, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
There’s something about Kat’s airy, angelic voice that turns this Beach Boys song into something so incredibly haunting. That matched up with her long, white dress, I was feeling the Miss Havisham of it all. Kat gets the first standing ovation from the coaches tonight, and it’s definitely warranted. No one sounds like Kat and she’s telling the stories of these songs in ways no one else can.
Ricky Braddy, “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood
I needed a good bop after being shaken to my core, so I am fully on board with Ricky Braddy’s song choice. It’s a party! Ricky has always had great performance value, and that’s no different here. It’s not as powerful a performance as he’s had in the past, but this song definitely allows him to show off his range and that falsetto at the end sounds good. So, there’s that.
Rose Short, “What Have You Done For Me Lately” by Janet Jackson
Reader, I squealed when Carson Daly announced Rose’s song for the evening. If anyone could own this Janet hit, it is Rose Short. You guys, she did more than own it, she annihilated it. It was sexy and fun with a vicious edge. Not only does Rose get to show off her personality with a killer performance but, um, hi, her vocals on this are also insane. Kelly, not even her coach, can’t sit down because she is so excited about what Rose just did up there. We’re all excited about Rose!
Kyndal Inskeep, “10,000 Hours” Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
Gwen loves the style in Kyndal’s unique voice. Have you heard? That Kyndal’s voice is unique? Because it is. Too bad this performance showed off less of her, yes, we get it, unique tone and more of some, um, vocal problems. It was messy. Should Kyndal maybe have leaned more into her stylization in order to stand out? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!
Joana Martinez, “You Can’t Stop the Girl” by Bebe Rexha
As always with Joana, a teen I will never believe is a teen, the technical stuff she can do with her voice is impressive. This is a big ol’ song, and she nails the big notes, while also getting into the more intimate parts. Still, the emotional connection isn’t completely there and there’s still some awkwardness in stage presence to shake out — I feel bad even writing that, as I shudder to think of myself at 15, a true horror show. Gwen’s team has some heavy hitters, so we’ll see if Joana has done enough here.
Myracle Holloway, “Get Here” by Brenda Russell
True story: All I could think about during Myracle’s performance was if Kelly Clarkson was having flashbacks to Justin Guarini singing this song on Idol. It is the only version of “Get Here” that I accept. Myracle’s version is, of course, great. As John points out, she takes a song that’s been done many, many times (still, Justin’s rules, the rest drools) and makes it her own. She’s been more emotionally affecting in previous rounds, but if Myracle doesn’t make it through, it’ll be a tragedy. FOR ALL OF US.
Jake HaldenVang, “Turning Tables” by Adele
So, I’m still not over Jake’s — our classic rock guy — decision to sing an Adele song for the live rounds. What a risk! What a wonder! I was waiting for it to have one big moment, but I am still waiting. This is the most emotionally connected Jake’s been to one of his songs and it’s a good time in the competition to do that. Both Kelly and Gwen are also into his song choice, as it reminds people that Jake’s voice can take on more than just rock.
Shane Q, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli
Shane seems to be a little nervous as we head into the Live Playoffs, and the first indication is a stumble over the lyrics at the top. Still, he recovers and his vocal performance is not at all hindered. Seriously, Shane’s voice is, well, I’d like to be wrapped up in it, frankly. The thing that’s still missing, however, is in Shane’s performance. Once he learns to connect more with the music and the audience, oh boy, he’d be truly great.
Hello Sunday, “Hello” by Adele
How! Are! They! 14! These ladies are so professional, even Kelly Clarkson, who was 19 on Idol, admits that she would’ve never made it as a 14-year-old. This wasn’t my favorite Hello Sunday performance, and even Coach Kelly notes that they started out shaky before they built to their typical magic, but they’re always fun to watch, even if they are becoming a bit predictable.
Damali, “You Say” by Lauren Daigle
Damali here is riding off of that high from her performance of “Sober” in the Knockouts. A blessing and a curse! Her vocals sound okay, but the energy and emotion she showed with that Demi Lovato song remain unmatched. John Legend was impressed, though, and he enjoys that she tells the story of a song with her entire body. Kelly gives her the “you don’t know how good you are, believe in yourself” critique, which isn’t exactly what you want to hear in the Live Playoffs.
Max Boyle, “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
MAX BOYLE FOR EVERYTHING! This was an excellent use of Coach Kelly’s steal in the Knockouts and it seems like all of the coaches are starting to see Max as a contender. Obviously, this song hits you in the gut once it reaches the big notes at the end, but Max does the slower, softer build-up to those big notes just as well, and the entire thing is thoroughly engaging. And yes, of course, after Max steps away from the mic stand and the song opens up, I was bawling. Just a typical Monday night, you guys!
Jake Hoot, “You Lie” by Reba McEntire
Although I’m all about efficiency and truly appreciate a performance round with 20 artists, the downside is we don’t get to see the rehearsals leading up to these performances, which I would’ve loved in Jake’s case. It seems it was Coach Kelly who pushed him to take on this Reba classic and he was hesitant. As Kelly points out, not all male country artists could cover this song, but Jake’s range lets him take on the risk without any hesitation needed. Another country classic done and done.
Khalea Lynee, “Love Like This” by Faith Evans
After her Knockout performance that was all white gown, belting Celine Dion, Khalea reminds us that she can have a good time, too. It’s a lighter performance than one might expect, but that doesn’t mean she skimps on the vocals. No matter the song, or type of performance, John praises his artist for her ability to make things look so easy, even when they are not. It might not be a showstopper, but if proves Khalea has versatility. Versatility isn’t the sexiest thing to vote for, but one never knows!
Alex Guthrie, “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
Oh, I love Alex’s voice more every time I hear it. Coach John Legend is impressed too, and I have a feeling it was him who encouraged Alex to pick a song that showed off his baritone range. John gushes about it in his post-performance response. As good as those are, Alex also really shines in those Alicia Keys-worthy high notes. The boy’s got range! I wish all five of Team Legend’s artists could move forward. Alas! Alas! Rules.
Marybeth Byrd, “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding
Kill me with this performance, would ya? It is wonderful. Even Marybeth’s coach is completely taken aback with how good it is. He rightly notes that the way she slips in and out of her chest voice and falsetto is something to behold. Plus, watching this country-leaning artist go full pop is kind of fun. Team Legend has some much showier artists, but Marybeth remains my favorite voice on his team.
Will Breman, “Style” by Taylor Swift
Has the crowd ever gone as wild as they do for Will Breman’s cover of Taylor Swift’s (our Mega Mentor, gone but not forgotten!) “Style?” It is insanity in The Voice studio when Will finishes. Kelly Clarkson tells him he just won the show, which is a bold statement for many reasons but is she right? Will’s very charming and this song choice is smart if he’s going after the teen vote. Sometimes I feel like Will’s doing a little too much and I can’t wait to see him slow things down eventually. I mean, he’ll have plenty of time.
Katie Kadan, “Always Remember Us This Way” by Lady Gaga
Well, if anyone had to follow Will Breman, at least it’s Katie Kadan and Lady Gaga. No one else could handle it. It’s a shame that Katie’s first attempt to show us the more vulnerable side of her voice (don’t get me wrong, she belts some power notes with the grit we know and love) is a little overshadowed by the performance that came before her. Still, Katie’s gonna Katie, so we don’t have to worry too much about her and it was about time she showed us more levels to her voice. Sounds impossible, I know.
Twenty artists, 20 performances. We did it, friends! We made it to the end of the Live Playoffs. Now, all that awaits is tomorrow night’s results show, also known as The Voice Bloodbath. Who do you think will survive? Who should we be worried about? Can I please go back and listen to Rose Short do Janet Jackson one more time?
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