Before we get to the next round of The Voice, let’s reflect on what the first week of the Live Playoffs brought. First of all, we saw the return of four performers that were arguably let go too early as part of the new Voice “come back” twist. And while some of those vocalists seized the moment, none of the four were able to upset the apple cart and earn a spot in the Top 12. But that’s understandable as half of the remaining competitors went home.
The biggest shocker of those eliminated was Viktor Kiraly, who stumbled a bit when he decided to rework the Lisa Stansfield favorite “All Around the World.” It was still a fine version, but didn’t connect as much as some of his previous performances and the risk ultimate cost him. However, there was a coach “save” in play and it’s telling that Gwen advanced Korin Bukowski, who also stumbled a bit, over Viktor.
Team Gwen’s other two performers who advanced were Jeffery Austin, who simply shone above others on Team Gwen, and baby-faced vocalist Braiden Sunshine. Joining Viktor on the bench were booming gospel vocalist Regina Love (be careful taking on Adele) and “come back” performer Ellie Lawrence, who has nothing to hang her head about after giving her most energetic performance to date.
On the other three teams, the choices were a little more clear and in line with what was expected. Barrett Baber has proved himself so far as the most polished and ready performer on Team Blake and did nothing to really dampen that notion, while Zach Seabaugh had his breakout moment in the Live Playoffs, making him an easy save for America. That left Blake to choose between his four female vocalists for the save, and Emily Ann Roberts edges out “come back” vocalist Nadjah Nicole, Ivonne Acero and Morgan Frazier.
There was never any doubt that Jordan Smith and Shelby Brown would be moving on for Team Adam, and Amy Vachal was a well deserved “save.” It’s a shame to see rockers Keith Semple and Blaine Mitchell go, but the talent is too rich on this team. Meanwhile, teen “come back” artist Chance Pena was a welcome return, but needed something extraordinary to have a chance on this team.
As for Team Pharrell, the biggest question mark here was who got voted through. America moved forward Madi Davis and Evan McKeel, leaving standout Mark Hood to sweat it out a bit before Pharrell used his save. “Come back” artist Celeste Betton made it close, while Darius Scott and Riley Biederer saw their run come to a conclusion.
So … with 12 vocalists left, who has the best odds of winning it all? Let’s go to the rankings:
12. Braiden Sunshine (Team Gwen) – Momma bear Gwen is so proud of Braiden and protective of the quiet young teen. In some respects, America has fallen for Braiden much like Gwen has. But at some point, the stronger vocalists will prove out. Braiden definitely has a bright future and might have been unstoppable with a few extra years of a seasoning. But it feels as though his run is about to come to an end as the competition gets tougher.
11. Emily Ann Roberts (Team Blake) – Beautiful voice, beautiful girl and she’s with the right coach that has the pull to propel her career in country music even if her Voice run ends. But of the acts on Team Blake, Barrett and Zach appear to be the more dynamic performers in terms of stage presence and song selection. That puts Emily Ann in danger of advancing much further.
10. Korin Bukowski (Team Gwen) – Korin appeared to be one of the strongest performers on Team Gwen, but a stumble in the Live Playoffs put her in danger of being eliminated. It took a coach save for her to advance and while she has a great voice, the nerves still occasionally show and she’s not fully grasped the command of the stage that some of her competitors have. A confident Korin has a shot, but she needs to be in her comfort zone, which she wasn’t during her performance of “Adia.”
9. Evan McKeel (Team Pharrell) – He’s got the charisma. He’s got the stage presence and he’s been very wise in his song selections to date. But there’s a bit of an “it factor” missing that some of the other performers seem to have. He’ll need a performance that really captures the imagination of America’s voters in order to complete his run to the top.
8. Zach Seabaugh (Team Blake) – He’s got the look and as we saw last week, he’s got the moves. This teen heartthrob could easily sway the votes of the young female voting audience watching The Voice and he’s got a pretty well rounded voice for being so young. But Zach really needed last week’s breakout moment to get him into the Top 12. Can he continually bring that consistency in the coming weeks? He’ll need it to win it all.
7. Amy Vachal (Team Adam) – Amy definitely has a sound and knows who she is as an artist. But what has made her great so far has also pigeonholed her a bit. There’s no denying her talent and that she would be a coffeehouse favorite. But in order to win it all, she may have to step outside of her comfort zone and that may not be the wisest idea. There’s some interesting decisions coming concerning song selection that will ultimately make or break her run.
6. Jeffery Austin (Team Gwen) – He truly came out of nowhere, showing great emotional feel and soul with his Live Playoffs performance. But with fellow soulful artists Jordan Smith and Mark Hood still in the competition, does he have the “it factor” needed to leap over either. Ultimately, he’ll need to do something that really wows to go any higher than this.
5. Madi Davis (Team Pharrell) – Madi has continually gotten better and better with each round and even earned a bit of an upset win over Amy Vachal earlier. She has the singer-songwriter vibe down, but does she have the pipes to rock it out a little bit? If she does, she may have that moment that puts her over the top.
4. Barrett Baber (Team Blake) – Never underestimate the power of the country audience on The Voice. Barrett is a natural born performer and is ready for country stardom now and that is definitely not lost on the country-loving crowd that will turn out to vote. But unlike most years, the top country performer may not be on Team Blake. Still, we bet Barrett combined with Blake’s mentoring will result in a Finals Week performance.
3. Mark Hood (Team Pharrell) – He’s crazy talented and has personality to spare. He’s also got the vocal chops to win the whole thing. But song selection and having the ability to suss out when to let it all go and when to reign it in for more reserved moments will determine his fate. While Pharrell is known for his producing talents, in past years we’ve seen front runners tripped up by odd song arrangements. It will take Hood and Pharrell working together and determining whether a big leap off the source material is smart or detrimental to his finals run.
2. Shelby Brown (Team Adam) – How good is Adam’s team this year? Shelby has amazing vocal chops, a certain amount of sass and the confidence needed to win it all. The only thing that will stand in her way is perhaps some loyalty of country-voting fans to Team Blake’s Barrett Baber and Adam leading her into an out-of-the-box choice that is risky enough to work but ultimately doesn’t. Plus, it’s felt like the momentum has been behind Shelby’s fellow Team Adam vocalist Jordan Smith since week one.
1. Jordan Smith (Team Adam) – Since his Blind Audition, Jordan Smith has been a favorite on the show and it feels as though he’s following the front-runner path that Sawyer Fredericks had last year. But we’re not ready to crown Jordan just yet, even though he tops this list. As we’ve seen over the years, the seeming front runners can have a moment that trips them up and the bar has been set so high so far that a “solid performance” may be viewed as a misstep. With acts like Mark Hood and Barrett Baber who exude such stage presence along with their vocals, it’s possible that they could surpass Jordan with an all-around standout performance.
The Voice Top 12 will kick off at 8PM ET/PT on NBC Monday night. Be sure to tune in, and let us know who you think will win in the Comments section below.
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