And the live playoffs have begun!
If you aren’t familiar with the show, the live playoffs are when each coach has five artists left on their respective teams, and those singers will choose songs to sing during the course of the live shows, spread out over two nights. In addition, in a new twist added from last season, each coach can bring back one previously eliminated artist to give them a second chance to advance in the competition. Last night’s show featured the teams of Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera; tomorrow night’s shows will feature Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams’ teams. (NOTE: I will not be able to do a post on tomorrow night’s show; I have a prior commitment). At the end of this round, the viewing public will vote to keep two artists on each team, and the coach will pick the remaining artist that will go forward on the show, leaving twelve artists to compete for the top prize.
Paxton Ingram led off the show for Team Blake, and chose to sing “How Deep Is Your Love” by Calvin Harris & The Disciples. Ingram wanted something to show off his dance background and moves, and he picked this uptempo number to do just that. To me though, once he started to dance, his vocals suffered. He just didn’t sound as good as he did when the song started; and in some stretches he sounded out of breath. He was decent, but I have heard him sing better.
Next up from Team Christina was Ryan Quinn, who took on Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One.” Ryan has always sounded good to me, it’s all in whether or not he connects with the material. This time, the song and singer were a good match, and Quinn did very well. I think he will have no trouble making it to the next round.
Back to Team Blake, the next performer was country singer Katie Basden, who chose to perform “Georgia Rain” by Trisha Yearwood. Blake made the comment in rehearsals that the song was a perfect fit for Basden, and she did a pretty good job with it, though I did hear some minor pitch issues. Whether or not that sinks her, I can’t really tell.
The fourth artist to perform was Kata Hay from Team Christina. Hay decides to swing for the fences with her song choice of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. At the urging of her coach, Hay gives the song a Janis Joplin makeover, which to these ears only helped so much. I wasn’t blown away by the performance, even as the added sassiness in her vocals gave her a little boost.
At this point in the show, Christina announces that her comeback artist is Nick Hagelin. Hagelin chooses to sing “Stay” by Rihanna. I felt that Nick should have made it this far to begin with, so I was hoping he would do well enough this time that he might be able to keep going in the competition. And his performance was really good. Only America or Aguilera can tell if he does make it to the next round, but I think he should. He was certainly better than some of the artists who did make it through.
Joe Maye, who was actually stolen by Blake from Team Christina, is the next artist to perform and he sung “Long Train Runnin'” by the Doobie Brothers. Not exactly the song I would choose for a show called The Voice, but then again, what do I know? The arrangement was changed at the beginning, starting slowly rather than charging out of the gate, which played to Maye’s strengths. He actually acquitted himself well once the tempo picked up, but I’d be hard pressed to say if he will stick around beyond this point.
The second half of the show began with Adam Wakefield from Team Blake, who performed “Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. I don’t think he could’ve picked a much better song than that one. It was right in his wheelhouse, and he didn’t disappoint. I’ve liked Adam right from the start; and it’s my opinion that he should cruise into the next round based off this performance.
Returning to Team Christina, Tamar Davis is the next artist to perform. She chose “Rise Up” by Andra Day as her song. In rehearsals, coach Aguilera decides that the song needed a boost in tempo, and that carries over into the live performance. As for me, I just didn’t think the song gave Tamar enough to work with. She was vocally good, I thought; but all I heard was the chorus and a lot of “oooh-oooh-oooh’s”. While she is vocally gifted, I wonder if her spot might be gone after this performance. Not many singers like her win this show, and I fear she won’t be one either.
Next up for Team Blake was classic country singer Mary Sarah, who tried something new with the Lynn Anderson classic “Rose Garden.” You know a singer may be in trouble when Christina reaches for “you look lovely today” as a form of praise for their performance. It’s not so much that it was bad, but it wasn’t Mary Sarah’s best performance by a long shot. There were places where she seemed to run out of breath. Except for Blake, none of the coaches seemed wowed by this effort.
Bryan Bautista from Team Christina performed “Pillowtalk” by Zayn. While I haven’t heard the song before, his live performance of it was pretty good—and a far cry from his efforts in rehearsals, where the size of the moment appeared to get to him and affect his confidence. I think he may make it to the next round, but you never know.
Blake’s comeback artist pick is Justin Whisnant, who was on his team earlier in the competition, but was knocked out by Mary Sarah in the battle rounds. He returned to perform “Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares) by Travis Tritt. Other than one part where he sounded a bit shaky, he was solid. But with Blake holding several country singers, I don’t know if there’s room for him in the next round.
The last artist to perform on the show was Alisan Porter from Team Christina. Porter chose to perform “Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin. To me, Porter has been the front-runner for the title ever since she opened her mouth at the blind auditions, and her performance last night did nothing to change my mind. She shut the show down, as the last performer often does, thanks to the Crack Editing Team™. Even without them though, she earns the honor of best of the night. There is no way she doesn’t go through to the final twelve.
My top three of the night were Alisan, Adam and Ryan. What say you? Leave your impressions of the first night of live playoffs in the comments.