Welcome to the live shows!
I always think of (and write about) ‘The Voice’ as a sort of sporting event, and by naming this week of shows the “Live Playoffs,” the show is pretty much embracing this. If you don’t remember from last season, this week will feature two performance shows where each of the 16 remaining contestants will perform. Fans will then vote for their favorites, and the two singers on each team that receive the most votes will be safe on Wednesday’s results show. That will leave two singers per team, with the decision of who to keep and who to send home resting squarely on the coach’s shoulders.
Following the Blind Auditions, I ranked the entire field of 48 contestants. With this season finally going live, it felt like the right time to re-rank the remaining 16. My full preview piece went up earlier today, but here’s my updated list of rankings, based on who I believe has the best chance to win this season:
16. Garrett Gardner (Shakira)
15. Vedo (Usher)
14. The Swon Brothers (Blake)
13. Caroline Glaser (Adam)
12. Kris Thomas (Shakira)
11. Cathia (Usher)
10. Josiah Hawley (Usher)
9. Michelle Chamuel (Usher)
8. Karina Iglesias (Shakira)
7. Holly Tucker (Blake)
6. Justin Rivers (Blake)
5. Amber Carrington (Adam)
4. Danielle Bradbery (Blake)
3. Sasha Allen (Shakira)
2. Judith Hill (Adam)
1. Sarah Simmons (Adam)
Those rankings make things pretty easy for this week: I’m predicting that Garrett Gardner, Vedo, Swon Brothers, and Caroline Glaser go home in the Live Playoffs.
Let’s get to it!
-THIS IS THE VOICE! Is it just me or has that sound effect been missing the last few weeks? Either way, it’s back now. A dapper Carson Daly welcomes us to the Live Playoffs. This is his time to shine!
-Oh boy, I had forgotten that these live shows require the judges speak off-the-cuff. Luckily Usher prepared his remarks with a truly groan-inducing “teamwork makes the dream work” saying.
-Tonight is Team Adam and Team Usher. In other words, the best team and the worst team. Carson lets us know that they’re going to be performing stripped-down versions of songs tonight, which is…interesting. We’ll see how it goes.
-Usher is training his team in a boxing gym, because…because…medicine balls? Michelle Chamuel is REALLY struggling here, but adorably so. Anyway, Usher’s team takes the stage to perform a bland but harmless version of “Black and Gold.”
-And here we go! Our first playoff performance is from..
#5 Amber Carrington, “Stay”
Country girl Amber singing a Rihanna song? Good thing she’s not on Team Blake, or she’d be instantly eliminated! On stage, she’s got some real retro 80’s hair. This is a slow song and not my favorite, but Amber is nearly flawless. She eve has a couple of real “wow” moments, and I’m confident in my top-5 ranking of her. Bad news for Caroline Glaser, who can pack her bags now. The judges universally praise her, even though Usher seems confused that anyone could sing a slow song.
#10 Josiah Hawley, “Starlight”
Enjoying Usher’s Muse song choice for Josiah. I love that Usher is pushing Josiah as a rock star, not as a crooner like Xtina did with Dez Duron last season. He gets about 80% of it right – it’s not a fantastic performance and there are some issues (as Adam notes), but the spirit behind it is good. I think Josiah’s got a good chance of moving on past the live playoffs.
#1 Sarah Simmons, “Angel”
Well, here we go, my #1 contestant in action. She’s singing a Sarah McLaughlin song, and Sarah cries about 5 times during rehearsals. She’s comes off as impossibly sweet. She’s also impossibly good. Sarah not only sings beautifully, but can do so in such an effortless way. I prefer Sarah growling her way through pop-rock songs, but I get what Adam’s doing here. I’ve had her ranked #1 since her audition, and nothing’s changed that assessment.
#11 Cathia, “I Am Nothing”
Usher’s giving poor Cathia a Whitney song, so he either has irrational confidence in her or wants her to go home. He trains her by ballroom dancing around the rehearsal studio, so I’m guessing it’s the latter. The performance goes as you’d expect – the fans get excited, Cathia gives it her all (she’s a GOOD singer!), but she just doesn’t have the voice for a song like this. It’s too much for her. Usher’s a rookie judge and just plain overreached for this. You’ve got to play to your contestants’ strengths. He gave Cathia more than she could chew here. Shakira lays it out in plain terms (ouch!), and Usher agrees with her (double ouch!). Bad night for Cathia.
-Halftime! Adam and Usher team up to perform “Superstition.” It’s perfectly pleasant.
#13 Caroline Glaser, “The A-Team”
I love Caroline, but she’s got virtually no chance to advance on Team Adam unless she really wows tonight. Unfortunately, Adam’s chosen a song for her that doesn’t appear to allow that to happen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song for her to be singing, but not the kind that’s going to stack up against what Amber Carrington did, much less Sarah or Judith. Caroline does kill it though, and maybe Adam will surprise me by picking her over Amber.
#15 Vedo, “Against All Odds”
Vedo opens by talking about how he’s done over 250 shows, which floors me. I had no idea that he had a music career of any kind. Anyway, Usher’s giving him a Phil Collins, who Vedo has hilariously never heard of. Unfortunately, Vedo’s my #15 out of 16 for a reason – he’s just not great vocally. He wasn’t great in the auditions, wasn’t great in the battles, wasn’t great in the knockouts, and wasn’t great tonight. I don’t know what to tell you. Shakira doesn’t either, instead choosing to stall by talking about her place in the universe. I love Shakira.
-We take a break for our Team Adam group performance. They’re singing a Florence & The Machine song, but not before they do some shopping with Adam’s personal stylist (???). Anyway, Sarah completely mails in the performance itself – the first this season she hasn’t sounded good. Caroline also struggles. Judith is Judith, and Amber sounds really good. This might not bode well for any potential Caroline-over-Amber upset.
#9 Michelle Chamuel, “True Colors”
Usher’s having Michelle go soft and tender this week, and why not? She’s almost certainly going to advance on fan voting no matter what. In an inspired bit of oddball coaches, Usher holds up a big mirror for her to sing in to during rehearsals. Really enjoying Usher. I think he’s a crazy person. This performance is very pretty and I feel like Michelle connects with her song in a way that no contestant has thus far. She could go very far this season, especially because Michelle’s adorable nerdyness will make her a fan voting favorite.
#2 Judith Hill, “Feeling Good”
Right now, this season is shaping up to be Sarah vs. Judith, so we’re only in the very early stages of these two titans going up against each other. She starts her performance a capella and is instantly captivating. Judith is just so classy, and always seems to make the right choices with her vocals. She doesn’t try to push every note up to 11, which is something you see with a lot of contestants on the show. I think the word for her is “classy.” Also, “awesome.” Judith even incorporates a mid-performance walk around the stage. Swag set to infinity.
Best performance of the night? Judith Hill. Superstar.
Runner-Up? Michelle Chamuel.
Biggest surprise? Michelle Chamuel. Pleasantly surprised to be wrong about her not having the vocal chops. She could absolutely make the finals.
Struggling tonight? Cathia was bad, Vedo was Vedo (though Usher continues to love him). Everyone on Team Adam was pretty fantastic, but by default that means Caroline is in trouble.