by Lyn Jensen
Three last battles, and then season 12 of The Voice moves to the next bracket–the knockout rounds. Team Blake is set, but Team Alicia, Team Adam, and Team Gwen each need one more battle. We know Adam is the only coach/judge left who can steal from another team, so we know only one singer is advancing from his pairing, and his steal will come on the last battle of the night.
1. Team Alicia, Lilli Passero vs. Lauren Judd: Alicia assigns her final two female vocalists “Every Little Bit Hurts,” a song she’s recorded herself. Passero, a struggling Hollywood actress and singer with obvious potential, is one of the favorites of this season. Judd is a thin-voiced teenager, with a character voice that might make her a better match for Team Gwen. I detect a few off-notes in both singers’ performances, but Gwen, Adam, and Blake are unanimous–Lilly is the more experienced singer, and the more mesmerizing singer. Alicia declares the winner is Lilli Passero. Adam agrees, Lilli can win the season.
Since it’s not the last battle, we know Adam’s steal isn’t going to happen. Goodbye, Lauren Judd.
2. Team Adam, Taylor Alexander vs. Jesse Larson: Adam, what were you thinking? We’re about to see the most bizarre pairing of the season (so far). Alexander is this season’s only genuine country male vocalist–an alt-country vocalist, but country just the same. Larson is a rockin’ bluesy singer-guitarist similar to Adam’s very popular Season 10 rocker, Laith Al-Saadi. Adam admits the pairing makes no sense but “they’re both such oddballs,” it just might work. He assigns them “Shameless,” a song associated with both Garth Brooks and Billy Joel. I’m beginning to wonder if he picked the song and then picked a pairing to go with it. The problem here isn’t the simply the difference in styles–it’s that Larson’s definitely the stronger, more powerful vocalist, and against Alexander’s coffeehouse type, it’s like a heavyweight vs. a middleweight. After the performance, Blake says he’s impressed with Taylor–but considering Blake passed on Taylor to begin with, you’ve got to wonder if he wasn’t all that impressed. Gwen likes Jesse, and Alicia is non-committal–except she does admit Jesse’s one of the strongest singers in the competition. Adam keeps Jesse Larson.
Since the other three teams are full, this season’s only male country vocalist, Taylor Alexander, says goodbye. I’m beginning to think that to be a country singer on Team Adam is to disappear.
3. The last battle–Team Gwen, Brandon Royal vs. Davina Leone: We know that one of these vocalists is going to Team Adam. We finally get to see and hear more than a soundbyte of You Tube star Leone–she was previously seen only in a brief montage. Gwen assigns them the Weeknd’s “In the Night,” explaining she wants them to sing something modern, something pop. Celebrity guest adviser Celine Dion really gets into this one, critiquing not just the singing, but the choreography. She particularly gets after Leone to be less shy. After the performance, Blake spends so much time gushing over Royal, the other judges make wisecracks about it. Gwen declares Brandon Royal the winner. She admits afterward she didn’t want Blake to get him. (I’m guessing she didn’t want Adam to get him, either–and if she let him go to Team Adam, he just might end up on Team Blake.)
Adam moves Davina Leone to his team, giving him three female vocalists to five male vocalists.
Next week the knockout rounds begin, with tournament-like brackets that will force the judges to cut their teams in half again, plus whomever they steal. Here’s how the teams stand now:
Team Adam: Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West and Johnny Hayes, teen idol type Mark Isaiah, R&B vocalists Malik Davage and Autumn Turner, You Tube star Davina Leone, and pop vocalist Hannah Erye.
Team Blake: You Tube star TSoul, country singers Andrea Thomas, Casi Joy, and Lauren Duski, Alicia Keys fans Caroline Skye and Felicia “Keys” Temple, Southern Gothic Enid Ortiz and bluesy young Aliyah Moulden.
Team Alicia: R&B vocalists Chris Blue and Vanessa Ferguson, along with boy R&B vocalist Quizz Swanigan, female pop vocalists Lilli Passero and Anatalia Villaranda, country singer Ashley Levin, country-flavored Dawson Coyle, and Jack Cassidy of the Cassidy family.
Team Gwen: R&B vocalists JChosen and Brandon Royal, country-flavored Hunter Plake, rockers Johnny Gates and Troy Ramey, country female vocalist Brennley Brown, and quirky female vocalists Stephanie Rice and Aaliyah Rose.