The Voice Recap: Even Country Girls Break the Rules

“I think I’m literally numb from the shock of Shelby picking Adam.”

Fret not Blake Shelton, you are not alone. In fact, I’d almost guarantee 12 million viewers of The Voice are pinching themselves in the same spirit of “What the hay-ull?!” disbelief.

Tonight, a stunningly talented teenage girl with dreams of conquering Nashville made a decision as controversial as one of my 4-year-old twins choosing Brussels sprouts (AKA The Dinnertime Meltdown Inducer) over a sleeve full of Oreo cookies.

The kid picked Adam Levine — not Twangy McCharmingston — and pretty much every preconceived notion about NBC’s reality competition fled the scene like a Law & Order: SVU suspect hearing Olivia Benson say “Stop! NYPD!”

What next? Gwen showing up in one of Adam’s hand-me-down t-shirts (which were already hand-me-downs when he paid $700 for ’em)? Carson Daly leaving somebody’s high-five hanging? A recent winner of this show releasing new music and having anybody mention it during the telecast?

OK, OK… as a Sawyer Fredericks fan, I can only hope that last-mentioned obstacle actually gets cleared — but I am not holding my breath, either. #FreeTessanne #VoiceSaveJoshKaufman

Anyway, before I fall too far down the Cave of Complaint, let me get to the business of ranking the final set of eight Battle Rounds-bound vocalists who made it past the Blind Auditions:

8. Summer Schappell, “Strawberry Wine” (Team Gwen) | I know Gwen and Pharrell have this goofy dream about snagging country contestants all their own, but Summer’s difficulty in infusing any kind of energy or emotion into her verses makes me think their button-pushes were more a matter of “Why not?” than “Oh hell yeah!”

7. Blaine Mitchell, “Drops of Jupiter” (Team Blake) | Without going back for the DVR replay, I’m not sure I can recall any details of Blaine’s audition — other than the fact that he wore a maroon dress shirt and had shaggy hair. As Lucille Bluth said during her trip to Klimpy’s, “This does not bode well.”

6. Dustin Christensen, “Downtown Train” (Team Blake) | Have the coaches ever fought less enthusiastically for a four-chair turn? Which isn’t to say Dustin’s growling tone was unappealing — but he definitely needs coaching on infusing his vocals with texture and dynamics.

5. Dustin Monk, “Bright Lights” (Team Adam) | I loved all the barber-cape-whipping in Dustin’s pre-performance package, but he’ll need to get more breath control on his borderline-gaspy runs if he really expects to give up his day job at the barber shop.

4. Sydney Rhame, “Photograph” (Team Pharrell) | Sydney’s full, rounded tone was a surprise bursting from her noticeably nervous teenage frame, but the fact that Voice producers saved her til the very final Blind Audition of Season 9 gives me some optimism that — with a little help from Pharrell — she could bloom into a confident contender.

3. Chase Kerby, “The Scientist” (Team Gwen) | Chase’s voice isn’t exactly muscular — there were moments where you could hear the strain as he reached for one of Chris Martin’s high notes — but I actually found the wispiness really pleasing to the ear. Let’s be honest: Not all singers — male or female — need to ring the bell in the vocal strongman game. And the brokenness in Chase’s delivery was a perfect match for the tale of heartbreak he was telling, no?

2. Amy Vachal, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Team Pharrell) | There was an effortless beauty to Amy’s audition — in the way she made little tweaks to the classic melody, through her starry-eyed connection to the lyrics, by virtue of her decision to avoid the reality-competition trap of making everything (or anything) about pure bombast. I’ll need to see a few more performances before I join Blake in crowning Amy a future superstar, but her future on the show looks quite bright indeed.

1. Shelby Brown, “Stars” (Team Adam) | Every major-label exec in America will be kicking him- or herself come Tuesday morning, when some well-meaning relative forwards them a YouTube video of this Alabama teen’s ridiculously powerful audition, along with a note saying, “She was singing in her local bowling alley up until a couple months ago!” The kid can pierce through the TV screen with an aching glory note — and then just as quickly knock you over with a velvety whisper. Am I a little terrified Adam will stifle Shelby’s talent with “interesting” song choices (see Amanda Brown and Amber Carrington) or crush her dreams before she gets to the live voting rounds (see Nicole Nelson, Toia Jones)? Oh, surely. But she ought to make it well past Thanksgiving on raw vocal chops alone.

On that note, I turn the mic over to you. What did you think of Night 5 (aka the final night) of The Voice Season 9 Blind Auditions? Vote for your favorites in our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!