by Lyn Jensen
We’re starting to see who the front-runners of The Voice are this season, but we’re also beginning to wonder why the judges pair, keep and steal the people they do. Do they really just make their decisions while the cameras roll, or is there some behind-the-scenes strategy in play?
1. Team Adam, Johnny Rez vs. Nolan Neal, which Adam says is a pairing of his two rock ‘n’ rollers, although he also says Johnny’s more a pop singer. He gives them Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” because he says it’s goofy and funny. Which will Adam keep, the youthful Johnny or the more mature and experienced Nolan? After the performance Blake comments it was a very evenly matched battle but he’d go with Johnny. Miley agrees but Alicia says she’d pick Nolan. Adam, saying he’s going to keep who he feels most connected to, picks Nolan. He thinks he’s one of the best singers in the whole competition. Nobody steals Johnny, even though I thought he might have a better chance of attracting votes.
2. Team Miley, Darby Walker vs. Karlee Metzer–two very young indy pop artists. Miley assigns the women a Melanie hit from the seventies, “Brand New Key,” which features super-high singing. Celebrity guest adviser Joan Jett counsels lower harmonies to balance out the highs. After the performance, the other judges suggest Karlee shows more range and versatility, but Miley picks Darby. She says that’s the person she’d love to continue to coach. Blake promptly steals Karlee, saying, “There is some country in there.” Miley says she knew Karlee wasn’t going home. So why’d she let her go to Team Blake? So she can steal her back next round?
3. Team Blake, Josh Gallagher vs. Blaine Long, two more guys from Blake’s big collection of country guys. He assigns them “Stranger in the House.” It’s a Ronnie Milsap song, nothing like a song of the same name by Elvis Costello. Blake says he wants them to not just sing, but put themselves in the position of the song, “this guy who’s been betrayed.” The battle shows Long has a more of a blues-rock voice, while Gallagher’s tone is smokier, more haunting. Miley comments afterward, “We’re not allowed to call ties on this show but it was a tie … but Josh should stay in this competition.” Adam adds he’s got the feeling there’s more to be discovered with Josh. Blake says it breaks his heart but the winner is Josh, “I feel like he pushed himself to the edge.” Nobody steals Blaine.
Montage–how can we keep up with the talent cuts amid the editing cuts? At least we know there are no steals, or NBC would probably show us the entire performance.
Team Blake: Dana Harper vs. Tarra Layne, and Blake keeps Dana.
Team Alicia: Belle Jewel vs. Halle Thomlinson on “Bennie and the Jets,” and Alicia keeps Belle.
Team Adam: Simone Gundy vs. J Soul, and Adam keeps Simone.
4. Team Alicia, Kylie Rothfield vs. Josh Halverson, pitting a Berklee grad against a Texas cowboy. Turns out Kylie was classmates with celebrity guest advisor Charlie Puth–he went to Berklee, too. Alicia says the singers have different styles (he’s raspy, she’s pure) but they both play guitar, and she thinks she’s found the right match for both their styles–the classic “House of the Rising Sun.” Charlie thinks their unison singing is great, with one going low and the other high, and is haunting. Miley describes the resulting performance as, “two separate performances [but] Kylie got to show more range.” Blake and Adam think Halverson’s got a future acting in Westerns. It’s no surprise Alicia keeps Kiley–but Miley steals Josh. He can put off acting in Westerns until the knock-out rounds, at least.
5. Team Blake, Gabe Broussard vs. Christian Fermin, which Blake calls matching up his two young gun power singers. Broussard’s only 15 and has some musical resemblance to Season 8 winner Sawyer Fredericks. It’s the first time we’re seeing Fermin, a Filipino-American from Orange County, who has a voice well suited for smooth contemporary pop with a little urban or hip-hop mixed in. Blake selects “The Reason,” an alt hit from twelve years ago, that would appear to be more suited to Fermin’s pop than Broussard’s Cajun-flavored country. Blake’s apparently impressed by both singers, however, because he tells the other judges, “I literally need help from you guys.” The consensus is for Gabe, with Adam saying, “the age and voice being such an interesting combination.” Blake keeps his teenage country guy. Nobody steals Christian, and when he leaves, he takes some of this season’s diversity with him.
6. Team Miley, SaRayah vs. Aaron Gibson, and SaRayah’s big diva voice blows Gibson’s soft subtle one off the stage. However, Miley keeps Aaron, saying she feels that’s the person she can coach. (Maybe SaRayah makes her feel out of her league.) Blake wants to steal SaRayah and so does Alicia. SaRayah joins Team Alicia, probably breaking Blake’s heart. However, now Alicia has used her steals–and Blake’s still got one.
Adam’s used his steals. Alicia’s used hers, and Miley’s used hers. I think we’re down to the final three battles tonight, and one of the cuts is going to make Team Blake.