We’ve seen them audition, we’ve seen them battle and yes we’ve even seen a few get knocked out. Only 20 remain (though four additional performers are getting a second chance) as we head into the first night of The Voice Live Rounds. Two of the teams, Blake Shelton‘s and Christina Aguilera‘s, will be cut significantly after tonight’s performances, so let’s get into it.
Team Blake’s live wire Paxton Ingram is the first up, aiming to mix things up from his previous ballads with the upbeat Calvin Harris song “How Deep Is Your Love?” Paxton was a dancer by trade before choosing to pursue singing and his command of the stage is obvious, but the song choice didn’t always show off the finer parts of his voice. Christina loves the way he worked the stage and is excited to see what else he has to offer. Pharrell Williams says he feels like Paxton just had his moment. Adam Levine says he felt like Paxton was having the time of his life. Blake says Paxton has commanded the stage unlike anyone he’s seen on the show before and is confident he’ll move on.
Team Christina’s first performer is Ryan Quinn, who she stole from Adam in the last round. He picks Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One,” and Christina tells him to not be afraid to be vulnerable. Unlike last week, Ryan feels more connected and hits some of the big high notes the show the emotion of the song. All four coaches give him a standing ovation after the final note. Pharrell says he had to give it up and he loved Ryan’s control. Adam says he was happy to see Ryan cracked the code of what he couldn’t do with him. Christina says it just felt effortless and once they found the truth in the song, it worked.
Katie Basden draws the next slot for Team Blake. She plays to the country fanbase, choosing to take on the soulful Trisha Yearwood favorite “Georgia Rain.” Blake feels it’s the perfect match of song and artist. She delivers a powerful rendition, but Pharrell starts to question her as to where she sees her future and he says she should be actively pursuing music now. Adam says she’s so good and he loves listening to her voice. Blake says the future of country looks really good because her version was beautiful.
Firecracker Team Christina artists Kata Hay is next, choosing another song that lets her belt. She picks the Aretha Franklin classic, “Natural Woman.” During the rehearsal, Christina says she hears Kata go into a Janis Joplin mode, but her vibrato tremble needs to be cut back. When it comes to the performance, she has a bit more control and this song seems to be perfectly in her wheelhouse. She also commanded the stage throughout as well. Pharrell says it was a super spirited performance. Adam says there was no shortage of sass and felt like it was an exorcism. Christina throws out adjectives like spirited and fiery and feels that Kata just moves people.
There’s a twist this season with the Comeback Artist feature, with coaches now allowed to pick any eliminated performer regardless of whether they were on their team or not. Christina is the first to reveal her comeback artist, Nick Hagelin, who was never actually on her team. She reveals she almost chose to steal him before, but hesitated. Nick heads back to Los Angeles, and picks “Stay” from Rihanna for his performance. It’s a nice return, but with the way that artists have been elevating their game, it’s probably not a performance that’s going to advance him. Pharrell says he deserves this moment. Adam says he’s still improving and each performance is better. Christina says she knew that he had more in him and deserved a chance to move forward.
Team Blake’s Knockout Rounds steal Joe Maye is next up, stepping a bit out of the realm of what you might expect. He takes on a Doobie Brothers favorite, “Long Train Runnin’,” bringing even more soul to it. Blake offers a few notes on the arrangement, and when Joe performs he can tell that audiences are going to fall in love. Joe’s tweaks to the arrangement pay off and simply put, he engages the audience with his performance. Christina says it was so much fun and she feels this beat his other performances. Blake says he was happy to get him on his team and he feels this is the type of performance that thinks he has a chance to win it all.
The singers keep coming, and Team Blake’s Adam Wakefield is next. He picks Willie Nelson and Ray Charles’ “Seven Spanish Angels,” a song that highlights both the country and soul parts of his voice. Blake calls him on throwing away parts, and Adam admits his bad habit. It’s corrected by the time he hits the stage. Adam Levine says Adam Wakefield is his favorite in the competition right now and he’s able to transcend with his voice. Blake says he can only think of three singers in country that have that soulful country sound that Adam has, comparing him to Ronnie Milsap, Travis Tritt and Chris Stapleton.
Tamar Davis has been a favorite throughout the competition so far and the Team Christina vocalist goes with Andra Day’s “Rise Up” for her latest performance. The song definitely provides some challenges with sharp shifts in range and Christina tries to help out by suggesting some tempo to follow. For the performance, there are some unreal notes she’s hitting. By the end, she’s getting a standing ovation from Pharrell, who says it was “a rainbow of range.” Blake says Tamar is one of his favorites and she has great presence. Christina says it was just a joyous performance and it should be noted how challenging that song was.
Team Blake’s Mary Sarah is up next, picking another song suited to her classic sounding voice — the Lynn Anderson favorite “Rose Garden.” It has a personal attachment as Mary sang it with her grandmother before she passed away. Mary says she’s decided to mess with the arrangement though, and Blake hears some breathing issues. While Mary sells it with her command of the stage, at times the notes aren’t as powerful as you’d expect. Christina says it was “super solid” with some nice notes at the end. Adam says he got on board once she hit her higher register. Blake says there’s no question that she’s hillbilly to the bone and people love her takes on classic country songs.
After wowing last week with his best performance to date, Team Christina’s Bryan Bautista dials up Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” for the Live Playoffs. It’s right in his soul wheelhouse, but he’s having issues with the higher notes. But after stumbling during rehearsals, he’s on his game during the performance. Pharrell says he had no idea that Bryan had that in him and he has what it takes to win it all. Adam says tonight he was completely blown away. Christina says she immediately wants to hear the performance again.
Team Blake’s comeback artist is Justin Whisnant, an artist he knew was solid but got caught in a bad battle. He calls back Whisnant, who sings Travis Tritt’s “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares).” Much like fellow comeback artist, the performance is solid, but it’s not necessarily the type of track that has the ear-catching moments that some of the other singers have had. Pharrell says he sings with so much passion and feeling. Blake says he took some liberties and he loves what he did and feels Travis Tritt will too.
Team Christina’s Alisan Porter gets the prime spot closing the show. The frontrunner picks Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” for her performance. Porter says “Cry Baby” has been a song that’s gotten her a lot of attention and she feels it’s time to pull it out. She’s got the vocal power, she’s got the screams and her energy seemed to take things to a different level. Adam once again proclaims Alisan the winner. Christina says the performance was insane and her accuracy was phenomenal.
Going into the night, Adam Wakefield and Mary Sarah appeared to be Team Blake’s best bets for the finale. But a strong effort from Katie Basden and a rewarding risk by Joe Maye has both artists in the conversation to advance. Meanwhile, as Joe’s risk paid off, Mary’s revision of the Lynn Anderson classic may have allowed her to fall into danger of not advancing. If it’s based on this week’s performances, Katie or Joe would advance over Mary, but if the overall body of work counts, Mary could continue over someone who truly shined this week. There’s no doubt that the Joe/Katie/Mary decision will be one of the toughest ones a coach has to make.
Team Blake Advancing: Adam Wakefield, Joe Maye
Team Blake Saving: Katie Basden
As for Team Christina, Alisan Porter has been the frontrunner for much of the season, with Tamar Davis, Bryan Bautista and Kata Hay giving the coach a powerhouse group of singers to choose from. New addition Ryan Quinn also had a winning night with his performance, but is it enough to help him advance? Porter appears to be a lock, while Bautista’s stellar and more accessible moment may have pushed him past Tamar Davis for the night, but hopefully Tamar will be rewarded for taking on such a difficult song.
Team Christina Advancing: Alisan Porter, Bryan Bautista
Team Christina Saving: Tamar Davis
Come back Tuesday at 8PM ET/PT on NBC for the second night of The Voice Live Playoffs as the Team Pharrell and Adam singers will get their chance to advance.