‘The Voice’ Before The Battles: A Handicapper’s Guide

Congrats! You got chosen for The Voice, but just making the show is only half the battle and the number of competitors will nearly be cut in half by the time the Battle Rounds are done. So after the Blind Auditions, let’s take a look at each team and which singers should shape the competition as the year continues.

Team Adam

THE VOICE -- "Team Adam Battle Reality" -- Pictured: (l-r) Natasha Bure, Ponciano Seoane, JSoul, Brendan Fletcher, Billy Gilman, Simone Gundy, Elia Esparza, Nolan Neal, Adam Levine, Riley Elmore, Bindi Liebowitz, Andrew Demuro, Johnny Rez -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Team Adam Battle Reality” — Pictured: (l-r) Natasha Bure, Ponciano Seoane, JSoul, Brendan Fletcher, Billy Gilman, Simone Gundy, Elia Esparza, Nolan Neal, Adam Levine, Riley Elmore, Bindi Liebowitz, Andrew Demuro, Johnny Rez — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

The Darkhorse: Nolan Neal

After failing to get a chair turn in the spring, the veteran rock singer returned for a second chance and wowed the coaches with the more suitable choice of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” On a team not overcome with rock type singers that have the grit of his voice, Neal stands out. But song choice and more display of his range will play a key role in his future on the show.

The Story: Billy Gilman

Whatever happened to Billy Gilman — the young country singer who wowed at a tender young age, but slipped out of the public eye after announcing he was gay as a teenager? Gilman is a little older, a little wiser, his voice has matured and he’s leaning more toward a pop sound these days, meaning that Adam Levine is the perfect coach to help him resurrect his career. His performance of “When We Were Young” yielded chair turns with enthusiasm for what he might accomplish.

The Contender: Andrew DeMuro

Of the auditions for Team Adam, DeMuro delivered one of the more confident and standout sets, taking on Billy Joel’s “Vienna” to the delight of Adam Levine. He has a strong voice that appears capable of doing a lot of things and it will be interesting to see what he can handle as Levine should and probably will give him a wide range of song selections.

The Frontrunner: Simone Gundy

The jaw drops were in full effect when Simone Gundy performed “I (Who Have Nothing),” a tricky track that allowed the vocalist to not only show her range, but the dynamics of which she can deliver a song. It’s that big kind of soulful voice that could take her a long way if things break right.

It should also be noted that crooner Riley Elmore, soulful yet montaged vocalist JSOUL and the power vocals of Elia Esparza could also fare well, depending on song selection.

Team Blake

The Darkhorse: Gabe Broussard

The young vocalist wowed on opening night with his performance of Marc Broussard’s “Lonely Night in Georgia.” His vocal has a unique tone that could prove to be special enough to get him far in the competition. The main issue for Gabe will be that Blake’s team is stacked, and with vocalists that have more seasoning than him. But there’s no doubt that he has the goods to take it all the way if the performances are strong.

The Story: Dan Shafer

As one of the oldest vocalists in the competition, Dan Shafer surprised the coaches when the chairs turned. But there was no denying the strength of his Vince Gill-esque soprano as he sang “Marry Me” for the coaches. Typically the older singers don’t make it far on The Voice, but it will be interesting to see how far Dan’s smooth vocals can take him.

The Contender: Blaine Long

The veteran singer/songwriter won over the coaches by performing John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith” while adding his own stamp to the arrangement. The coaches were falling all over him when he discussed being a songwriter as well. He definitely has the vocal chops, the playing ability and appears to be his own artist, and Blake appears to be the perfect coach for his country leaning sounds.

The Frontrunner: Courtney Harrell

This should be interesting. Blake has a proven track record with country artists, and though he won a season with Jermaine Paul, it’s been rare to see other styles of music represented on his team in the latter weeks of competition. But Blake pitched hard for Courtney Harrell after hearing her take on James Bay’s “Let It Go” and she surprisingly picked him over what would seem to be the better pick on the surface, Alicia Keys. Time will tell if Blake lives up to the hard sell and helps Courtney to the end.

It’s quite possible that Blake has the deepest team of talent, with Sundance Head coming off like last year’s Adam Wakefield, a stellar talent in Josh Gallagher with room to improve and the montaged Tarra Layne showing some swagger and power.

Team Alicia

THE VOICE -- "Team Alicia Battle Reality" -- Pictured: (l-r) Christian Cuevas, Whitney, Josh Halverson, Shannon, Lauren Diaz, Dave Moisan, Gabriel Violett, Michael Sanchez, Alicia Keys, Jason Warrior, We' McDonald, Belle Jewel, Kylie Rothfield, Halle Tomlinson -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Team Alicia Battle Reality” — Pictured: (l-r) Christian Cuevas, Whitney, Josh Halverson, Shannon, Lauren Diaz, Dave Moisan, Gabriel Violett, Michael Sanchez, Alicia Keys, Jason Warrior, We’ McDonald, Belle Jewel, Kylie Rothfield, Halle Tomlinson — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

The Darkhorse: Gabriel Violett

The talent at the top of Alicia Keys’ team is scary, and you can count Gabriel Violett among them. Of the male vocalists on Alicia’s team, he had the most polished blind audition with his performance of “Treat You Better.” It would not be a surprise to see Gabriel be around for weeks, with the chance to even up his game as the numbers narrow.

The Story: Whitney and Shannon

These sisters are not the first vocal partners and likely won’t be the last. But there is something in their vocal harmony, especially during their audition of the Dixie Chicks version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” that was just music to the ears, so to speak. It’s not been an easy path for most duet pairings on The Voice, with The Swon Brothers really being the only one to make a lasting impression. But it will be interesting to watch how Alicia Keys utilizes them in the Battle Rounds and Knockout Rounds, where its a little odd with the competition. If they can emerge from both, they have a real shot.

The Contender: Lauren Diaz

It’s ballsy to sing Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” with her sitting right there in judgment, but Lauren Diaz did that and not only got a chair turn by Alicia, but major compliments and overwhelming respect. It’s scary to think where Keys and Diaz could go with the music from here on out, as she has the voice to go far in this competition.

The Frontrunner: We McDonald

This teen’s voice is just unreal, especially when you hear her speaking voice. Her low end is deeper and more polished than women twice her age and that’s what has the coaches most intrigued. We’s performance of “Feeling Good” was universally cheered and quite honestly, she could be our favorite to win the whole thing based off the Blind Audition performance. But there’s still a full season ahead, so time will tell if McDonald can take it all the way.

As stated, Alicia’s team is a little top heavy. But it’s not out of the question to think that Halle Tomlinson, the unique but montaged singer Belle Jewel, Kylie Rothfield or Christian Cuevas could step up in the coming weeks.

Team Miley

THE VOICE -- "Team Miley Battle Reality" -- Pictured: (l-r) Josette Diaz, Lane Mack, Sophia Urista, Charity Bowden, Karlee Metzger, Darby Walker, Aaron Gibson, Khaliya Kimberlie, Miley Cyrus, Courtnie Ramirez, Maye Thomas, Ali Caldwell, SaRayah -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Team Miley Battle Reality” — Pictured: (l-r) Josette Diaz, Lane Mack, Sophia Urista, Charity Bowden, Karlee Metzger, Darby Walker, Aaron Gibson, Khaliya Kimberlie, Miley Cyrus, Courtnie Ramirez, Maye Thomas, Ali Caldwell, SaRayah — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

The Darkhorse: Josette Diaz

Her closing night performance of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” sounded smooth and was delivered with the confidence of an older performer, but the track didn’t exactly allow for many power moments, relying on the subtlety to do the trick. It will be interesting to see what Josette can accomplish with more powerful material.

The Story: Khaliya Kimberlie

For years, Blake Shelton has ruled the roost on The Voice when it comes to country vocalists, but it is quite possible that he missed out on arguably the top female country vocalist in the competition, when Miley got the nod after Khaliya sung “Dibs.” Her performance was strong and confident and had a bit of attitude. If she ever becomes available for a steal, expect Blake to swoop in.

The Contender: Ali Caldwell

Power — Ali be thy name! Ali Caldwell had power, attitude and command as she delivered Arianna Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” on opening night. Some were shocked she chose Miley when there were other options. We’ll see if it pans out, but for now she’s in a great spot to go far.

The Frontrunner: Sa’Rayah

Take us to church! Sa’Rayah earned every little ounce of standing o’s and scrunched up facial gestures with her commanding and powerful performance of “Drown in My Own Tears.” But it was so big, we have to wonder what she can do for an encore. That will be Miley’s job to help showcase Sa’Rayah as a more well rounded singer who can do more than deliver impactful gospel vocals. If she can, it would not be a surprise to see Sa’Rayah on finals night.

We’re already assuming there will be a Darby Walker / Karlee Metzger Battle Round pairing, as both thrive in that indie sound. Miley also could help advance montaged country singer Charity Bowden and it would not be a surprise to see Aaron Gibson hanging around for a while.

So there you have it … these are some of the vocalists to watch at The Voice season continues. Speaking of which, be sure to tune in to NBC at 8PM ET / PT Monday night for the beginning of the Battle Rounds.

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