History was made on the hit NBC reality series “The Voice” on Monday night as an astounding 20 live performances and eight eliminations were packed into the two-hour live show. Coaches Alicia Keys, Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus and Adam Levine each saw their entire team for Season 11 perform for viewers who were voting in real time. The two contestants on each team receiving the most votes on social media during the episode automatically advanced into the top 12 for next Monday. That left each coach scrambling with the painful decision of saving just one more and sending the others home.
Due to the election taking over NBC on Tuesday evening, this is the most condensed version of the live playoffs we have seen in the history of the series. In past seasons, artists from only two teams would perform in a single episode and the coaches would have at least one entire day to think about their decisions. With less time for the coaches to contemplate their decision as well as no input from iTunes sales to sway their minds, this new format could have drastically changed some of the results. Here is a brief summary of how Monday’s exciting episode transpired, along with my own opinion of the results.
TEAM ALICIA KEYS:
Opening the first live episode of the season was soul singer Christian Cuevas, who gave a stirring performance of “Yesterday,” accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar. It was the perfect song choice to pull at the heart strings of voters at home. Up next was blues singer Kylie Rothfield, who gave her edgiest and most fun performance of the season with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Third to perform was frontrunner We` McDonald who once again delivered with her rendition of “Home” but wasn’t quite as flawless as she’s been in previous performances. The unique folk-rocker Josh Halverson put his own spin on 1960’s pop hit, “Cupid,” in what I felt was one of the best performances of the night. And rounding out the team was Sa’Rayah, who once again proved she cannot be underestimated in this competition with a rafter-shaking performance of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
After the votes were tallied, Cuevas and McDonald were announced as the top two, advancing to next week. Keys, who was clearly struggling to make a decision, chose Sa’Rayah to continue, crushing the hopes of Halverson and Rothfield. While I can’t argue that Sa’Rayah deserved to be saved after her powerful performance, I was totally shocked and disappointed to see the season come to an end for Halverson, who I considered a legitimate contender for the title.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON:
Dana Harper kicked things off for her team with a smooth, R&B style performance of “Maneater.” Although it showed off all of the registers of her voice, it probably wasn’t the best song choice. Austin Allsup was up next with a gritty, upbeat performance of “I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” that he absolutely knocked out of the park. Then Jason Warrior took to the stage, pouring absolutely everything he had into a somewhat odd arrangement of “One Dance” that left me loving his performance, but hating the song. Sundance Head didn’t buckle under pressure, singing “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and proving he is consistently one of the best vocalists this season. Wrapping it up for Team Blake was Courtney Harrell, with “It Must Have Been Love” – a performance that just didn’t seem to come together vocally for her.
Following the live vote, it was no surprise that Head and Allsup were selected to move on. Shelton then saved Harrell, which certainly wasn’t a shock. But because I felt she gave the worst performance on his team, it stung a bit to see Harper and especially Warrior say goodbye.
TEAM MILEY CYRUS:
Kicking things off for this team was funky diva Sophia Urista with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” The always energetic performer delivered once again, proving that she is a dynamo on stage, and yes, she is sexy! Following her was indie artist Darby Walker, who gave one of the oddest performances I think I’ve seen on this series with “Those Were the Days.” It was certainly memorable but I’m still undecided on whether or not I actually enjoyed it. Aaron Gibson was up next with “Round Here.” He is a very consistent performer, and he once again delivered, but on a night filled with big performances, nothing about his stood out. Indie artist Belle Jewel began her song “Runaway” with a haunting intro before segueing into the more recognizable up-tempo version of the song. It would have been nice to hear her sing the entire song with the stripped back, jazzy flare. Finally, Ali Caldwell finished things up for Team Miley with a powerhouse performance of “Times Have Changed,” perhaps her best performance thus far in the season.
When the votes came in it was no surprise to see Gibson and Caldwell take the top two spots. What was left to choose from were three of the season’s most unique performers, but who has the best chance to win? While I would have personally chosen Urista to advance, Cyrus predictably chose her “mini-me” in Walker to move forward in the competition, sending the others packing.
TEAM ADAM LEVINE:
For the last half hour, kicking things off for the three-time winning coach was Brendan Fletcher. The husky-voiced rocker sang “To Love Somebody,” and although it won’t likely make the highlight reel of Season 11, his voice is so unique it makes everything he sings enjoyable, even if it’s not exciting. Up next was R&B singer Simone Gundy with “Diamonds,” which was a good performance but not exciting enough to make an impact compared to other big-voiced singers earlier in the night. Josh Gallagher was the next to hit the stage; the country artist gave an emotional performance of “Colder Weather,” showing a more vulnerable side to the singer than we’ve seen before. Teenage crooner Riley Elmore gave a fun performance of “Luck Be a Lady,” but it did feel like I was watching his high school musical more than a singer on the brink of stardom. And then Billy Gilman took the stage. After waiting nearly two hours to perform, Gilman stepped out to sing “Crying” and absolutely slayed the Roy Orbison classic.
After one final round of audience votes, it was declared that Gilman and Gallagher would be moving forward, leaving Levine with the final save of the evening. With only seconds to make a decision, he decided on Fletcher, ending the competition for both Gundy and Elmore. And with that decision, Adam quite possibly has the strongest team remaining – something I thought I’d never say while I watched him appear to be getting crushed in the blind auditions earlier this season.