Eight weeks into Season 22 of The Voice, NBC’s sing-off really came to life — at least in so far as it went live Monday for the Playoffs. All 16 remaining contestants performed in hopes of earning enough viewer votes to advance or so impressing Blake Shelton, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and/or Camila Cabello that their coach would save them or another coach would steal them during Tuesday’s results show.
Now, before we get to discussing the pivotal episode, I want to apologize in advance for my grading. Like the singing, it’s done live, in the moment, so all of my reactions are knee-jerk. When I read the comments Tuesday morning suggesting that my earwax situation has gotten outta control, I’m sure to go back and rewatch some performances and be like, “I’m an idiot.” It never fails. But if you’re willing to buckle down and bear with me, let’s get to recapping, shall we?
Omar Jose Cardona, “Living On a Prayer” — Grade: C | First impression: This is overwrought, like a musical-theater singer tackling Bon Jovi. (Also, man, did I miss the pre-sweetened vocals we got during the taped episodes.) Second impression: Not a great song selection; it didn’t let Omar Jose’s vocal soar in that way that really lets him shine. This was less “Into the Unknown” than “Future Is Uncertain.”
Kim Cruse, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” — Grade: B+ | John’s “velvet powerhouse” delivered a fantastically bluesy rendition of Aretha Franklin’s classic… that I had a feeling was not going to win her enough votes to guarantee safe passage to the Top 13 Tuesday. The notes were there, the power was there, but the song selection… Again, perhaps not the shrewdest choice.
Sasha Hurtado, “Tiny Dancer” — Grade: C+ | After being “tossed around like a hot potato” from team to team, Sasha turned out a cover of Elton John’s hit that started out lovely, then hit a bit of a rough patch. Then another bit of a rough patch. Ultimately, I missed the flawlessness and fire that had inspired John to steal her. Perhaps tellingly, Gwen’s first comment to Sasha was, “You look adorable.” Never a good sign.
Parijita Bastola, “I’ll Never Love Again” — Grade: A | I had nosebleed-high expectations for Parijita, aka the most consistently compelling member of Team Legend, and she not only met them, she exceeded them. This kid sang her freaking lungs out on that stage, bringing to her performance a strength, a vulnerability, a star quality that I was absolutely Gaga about. Is she not the one to beat in Season 22?
Kique, “As It Was” — Grade: B+ | The teenager whose coach calls him a “diamond in the rough” tackled a slowed-down and ultimately rocked-out rendition of Harry Styles’ smash that was, to my surprise, pretty good. He showed off his range, didn’t hit any notes that made me cringe and even pulled off the more raucous elements of his cover. I just don’t see the “wow” in Kique. (Yes, I hear you: Maybe I need to get my glasses checked.)
Kevin Hawkins, “Skate” — Grade: B+ | On stage, Kevin was a bundle of pastel-hued energy that was utterly determined to show us a good time. At least he managed to show us a pretty good time. His number, however, didn’t necessarily highlight the pristine beauty of his voice, which is sorta what he’s known for, right? Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, and viewers will be excited that he showed a different side of himself. Doubt it, though.
Alyssa Witrado, “Angels Like You” — Grade: C | Aw, I like Alyssa. I really do. But she had as many pitch problems on her Miley Cyrus cover as I’d have if I tried to throw a fast ball in the World Series. Maybe it would’ve been better if she’d gone with another of her coach’s songs. Maybe not. Gwen marveled that her Mini-Me had been “so in tune.” Could it be that that doesn’t mean what I’ve always thought that it did?
Justin Aaron, “Here and Now” — Grade: A- | On his Luther Vandross cover, the one-chair turn started off by pouring out a vocal that was as sweet as caramel drizzled over more caramel. He seemed to struggle a bit as the ballad got bigger but stuck the landing in such an impactful way that I suspected no one would remember any dodgy spots. Gwen exclaimed that Justin’s rendition “was beyond my dream” of how it would sound.
Morgan Myles, “Let Him Fly” — Grade: B+ | Ha — smart of Morgan to play guitar during her performance after last week’s “Holy crap, is she having hand spasms?” moment. The move majorly cut down on the gesticulating and just let us focus on her Patty Griffin cover, which was mostly beautiful. “Your pitch was perfect,” Blake cheered. Mm, I’d say, like, 85-percent perfect, but who am I to argue with Blake Shelton?
Eric Who, “Rumor Has It” — Grade: B | After Camila told us that Eric had the same instincts as Lady Gaga and Beyonce, he strutted out on stage and damn well proved it. If the show gave out an award for Best Body Language, he’d win it. If only Eric also had Gaga or Beyonce’s vocal abilities. He definitely has moments of awesomeness — and charisma to burn — but at the end of the day, he’s just an above-average singer who’s really fun to watch.
Kate Kalvach, “You’re Still the One” — Grade: C- | After Kate’s performance, we learned that she hadn’t been able to hear herself in her earpiece, which really undermined her. Although she tends to use so much vibrato, I’m not sure how much it would’ve helped; her vocals wobble so much, they call to mind the goat that Blake once used to try to recruit her. I suspect she’s toast Tuesday.
Devix, “Sex on Fire” — Grade: B+ | Oo, from note No. 1, Devix had me living for his take on Kings of Leon. His voice was so strong, it sounded like it had been hitting the gym eight days a week. As his performance went on, he ran into a spot of trouble with his high notes, and the arrangement never really took us anywhere. But for my money, he’s the most ready-made star on Team Camila.
Bryce Leatherwood, “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” — Grade: C | On his Travis Tritt cover, Blake’s one and only country boy sounded fine… but just fine. There was nothing to his performance that would’ve made us really sit up and take notice. That said, he’s probably a safe bet to survive the Results Show as (a) he’s country and (b) he’s basically on Team Country.
Rowan Grace, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” — Grade: C+ | OK, first of all, bonus points for singing Livvie. Second of all… oh dear. Rowan needed those bonus points. Love her as I may, this performance was a little all over the place, pitchy in some places, weirdly loud in others. It just never came together as a cohesive whole, and definitely not one that reminded us of how good the 17-year-old is at her best.
Brayden Lape, “Buy Dirt” — Grade: B | The singer that Rowan called “the heartthrob of the season” delivered a nice, understated rendition of Jordan Davis’ song that started in spot A and ended in spot A. It never really went anywhere, but it was perfectly pleasant throughout. No vocal “zowie” there, but the teen-idol factor seems likely to score Brayden a ticket to the Top 13.
bodie, “Glimpse of Us” — Grade: B+ | Rounding out the night, bodie, who seemed to have earpiece woes a la Kate, had unfortunate pitch problems early on in what should’ve been a top-to-bottom intimate and powerful performance. He rebounded like crazy, though, and when the song let him cut loose, he roared with an emotion that, combined with his innate likability, made him a sure thing to advance.
So, which singers do you think are sure bets to advance, and which do you predict will be going home? Vote in the polls below, then the comments section awaits your critiques.