The Playoffs Premiere
The battle rounds are over. Time for playoffs! Who will go on to the live shows, and who will go home? Here is everything you need to know about tonight's episode of The Voice.
Host Carson Daly is here to explain, and it is really simple: the five members of each team will perform a song of their choosing, and afterwards the team's coach will pick three singers to move on to the live rounds. No duet partners to share the burden, no steals by another coach. Lay an egg onstage and you're heading home. Perhaps the show's theme music should be Queen's "Under Pressure."
Tonight, all five members of Team Blake will take their turns in the barrel.
Team Blake is a little bit country.
There are two country singers, actually, and one of them kicks off the show. Audra McLaughlin has impressed everyone with unshowy but transcendent performances ever since she got all four chairs to turn in the blinds with her performance of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery." Tonight, in her continuing mission to bring back old-school country music, she's singing Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing." As Usher says, Audra has a strong voice, but she has to show some finesse. And she does just that, giving a slow and sultry take on the song, which has the entire audience waving their arms in the air and cheering her on. It's a pretty high bar for the rest of the team to clear.
The other country singer is Jake Worthington, the Texas teenager whose personality has made him a favorite of all the coaches. He's singing Jake Owen's "Anywhere with You" in honor of his longtime girlfriend - "the only girl who's ever treated me like a skinny guy" in the words of the husky young man. Despite Jake's big personality, confidence is something of an issue for him, and Blake encourages him to show more "presence" when he sings. Jake takes the stage and starts off big, strutting around. Still, his nerves are showing.
After the performance, Usher asks how he thinks he did. "I was a little shaky at some points and towards the end I got a little off pitch, so with that being said I think I did pretty good." The crowd loves it, which takes Jake aback. He was serious! Usher tells him, "If you don't believe it, no one will." In other words, own it! But even with a strong performance, will Blake want to take two country singers to the live rounds? Even he admits he doesn't know.
Blake's team is also a little bit rock 'n' roll.
Ryan Whyte Maloney takes the stage to sing Shinedown's "Second Chance." It's a personal song for the 33-year-old former garbage man, who has endured career disappointments and a divorce that keeps him from seeing his young children very often. He first heard this song when he was contemplating chucking everything to join the army. So he has some very strong motivation to do well here. Still, Blake is worried. It's a tough song and a big risk at a moment in the competition when a singer might want to play more to his strengths.
Ryan takes the stage with his guitar slung around his neck and proceeds to rip through the song, hitting and holding some very big notes. Usher is so impressed he compares Ryan to Adam Levine, who is so flattered he decides he'd rather have a bromance with the R&B singer, telling Blake Shelton "I want a brovorce." The coaches in general like Ryan's performance, but did Ryan break off more than he could chew?
Youth versus experience.
The youngest contestant left is Madilyn Paige, the 16 year old from Provo, Utah with a big voice at war with her nerves. As Blake said when he stole her in the last battle round, "I believe in you as an artist, now we've just got to make a performer out of you." She will be singing Zedd's "Clarity," another tough song for a young singer. But Madilyn has an inner determination and focus that she has tapped into before. Can she tap into it again?
Madilyn takes the stage with the ends of her long blonde hair dyed pink, perhaps in homage to departed Team Blake member Ria Eaton. As good as her voice is, it seems her nerves might have defeated her this time. The coaches are underwhelmed but positive nonetheless, encouraging Madilyn to let go when she gets on the stage. Like Jake Worthington, she needs to own it. Even Madilyn afterwards seems aware that she might not have done well enough.
The final singer of the night is Sisaundra Lewis, the oldest singer in the competition, a 40ish woman who has toured with Celine Dion and has been working as a vocalist on and off for decades. After taking some time to be a stay-at-home mom, she's on The Voice to show her kids that you can still chase your dreams at any age. Picking her up was a coup for Blake in the blind auditions.
Sisaundra is singing Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." It's a song that allows her to show off all the tricks she has in her bag, but Blake encourages her to not do that. Give a solid performance, stick with what got you this far, don't oversing. It's good advice, and Sisaundra's performance blows everyone away. Afterwards the other coaches can do nothing but pick their jaws up off the floor. "You see my face, right?" Usher tells Carson when the host asks him for feedback. It's a lovefest. Blake says he still has a tough choice to make, but can anyone doubt that Sisaundra is a lock?
Then it's time for Blake to make his choices. The five members of his team line up on stage like defendants awaiting a verdict. Blake makes his first two picks, and to no one's surprise, he takes the evening's two strongest performers, Sisaundra and Audra, who both look relieved and emotional.
Then it's time for the final pick. Carson gives Ryan, Madilyn and Jake a chance to say a few words to Blake before he pronounces the sentence... er, makes his decision. The music builds as the crowd yells its choices and Blake mumbles, "I hate every freakin' second of this." He chooses Jake, a bit of a surprise. Two country singers in the live rounds? Well, he is a country boy.
During a break, Blake tells Adam, Shakira and Usher they do not want to do what he is having to do right now. Next week, they will all get their turns when the playoffs continue.