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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Florence+TheMachineRules!!! :) #MariahSlays says:

    SHELBY BROWN YASSS!!! THAT WAS MY FAVORITE PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON THUS FAR!!! 😍😍😍 I also checked out some of her earlier stuff, and just WOW!!! SHE IS A FRONTRUNNER!!! Also liked Amy and Sydney!!! 😍😍😍

  2. Jobless says:

    Syndney at #4? That’s crazy.

  3. LADY_in_MD says:

    Now that all the teams are set I think Gwen or Adam will win they both have really strong teams
    Tonight I liked Shelby and Amy I was shocked Shelby picked Adam!

    • Adake says:

      I know Michael bashes Adam every chance he gets (as predictable as an alarm clock) but Adam fights harder for a contestant he wants than any of the other coaches. That’s why only he is able to pull away a few of the top country talent to join his team instead of Blake. I think he really wants to beat Blake with a country contestant but time will tell. Adam’s and Pharrell’s teams have really good talent this year. Now let’s see what they do with it. With the country vote always sending someone to the finals, Adam better hold on to Shelby if she proves to be as good as she started.

  4. HTGR says:

    I’ll go with the girl from New Hampshire who sadly didn’t get sent through (this time), Shelby Brown, Sydney Rhame, Amy Vachal.

  5. Rowan says:

    i LOVED sydney’s version of photograph. seeing her entire family lose it made me cry. it was genuinely so sweet. her voice is great and reminds me a bit of ella henderson. shelby was also incredible! can you believe they’re both 16?! incredible! i was so impressed by the both of them.

  6. Shelby is incredibly talented and Amy is just exquisite. Those two were worth the two hours by themselves.

  7. kevstar says:

    Not excited about any of these songs. I ll be watching My Memorable Year on DWTS. See ya for the Battle Rounds.

  8. Andres says:

    Holy crapola
    The hype of the Shelby girl is well warranted. I liked when she sang “up on heaven’s bolivard” and her voice got gritty. She is certainly one to watch.
    Also shout out to Amy and Dustin Monk I thought did pretty good.
    Let’s get rid of the that summer girl. No me gusta

  9. Ginger Snap says:

    I’m underwhelmed this year. Everyone sounds so vanilla.

  10. Ana Andrade says:

    Michael, your review get an A+ for mentioning Olivia Benson. 😂 👌👍 Law & Order SVU is my 2nd favorite show, right after The Voice. Do you watch both? If so, you’re the only other person I know that does.

    As for tonight performances, Sydney was my favorite. Shelby was pretty good too and it’ll be interesting to see what Adam does with her.

  11. Russ says:

    I am worried about Shelby being with Adam. Would have loved Blake, but could live with Gwen and Pharrell. The reason, she is country with some rock. Blake would get that and make great song choices. The other two would let her run with it. Adam though, I just keep having Amber Carrington flash backs and the awful song choices he made for her. Please Adam no Adelle for Shelby. I also can see Blake saving a steal for Shelby if Adam lets her go in the battles or the elimination rounds.

    • Kelly says:

      Funny, I remember really liking Adam’s song choices for Amber. I remember Stay and Sad being gorgeous, and really liked her country take on Skid Row, too! Stars, that she sang tonight, is one he gave Amanda before it became popular, which makes me think he and Shelby might do really well together. We’l see!

    • madlibjen says:

      Not always so much with the song choices and Pharrell. Though he did pretty well last season, I’m still trying to forget that hideous DaNica version of Creep with the strange calypso beat.

      • Florence+TheMachineRules!!! :) #MariahSlays says:

        DaNica at least sang her face of. But yeah I agree, she should’ve picked something obscure like jesse wares say you love me for a delicate take on it , or teena Marie’s out on a limb and just UNLEASHES both the raw emotion and the power of her voice. MAN, that song choice would have been awesome

  12. Cameron Haney says:

    How can it be fair to the last singers when they the coaches are trying to fill their last spot. Is it really fair when Pharrell is the only coach with one spot to fill. Some of those people would have made it early on, in my opinion.

    • HTGR says:

      Yeah some would’ve made it for sure.

    • Timmah says:

      Yeah, it’s really not fair and there was a lot of talent towards the end that got left out. I’d like to see them adopt that X-Factor rule where they can add people to a full team but they have to cut someone who’s already in. Would add to the drama too.

  13. “As a Sawyer Fredericks fan”? Since when, Michael? Also, I’m surprised you didn’t mention Amanda Brown’s Stars because I thought that was her breakthrough moment, not Dream On. Adam knew that song was perfect for her.

    So yeah, I much much prefer Amanda’s version, and I compare because the arrangement is EXACTLY the same (I listen to Amanda’s from time to time). But then again, none excites me that much this season, except maybe one or two, although I’m interested to see the battle rounds.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Amanda’s was much more polished and professional sounding, but the problem was back then no one knew that song. The girl who sang last night has a very good voice, but it’s clear she doesn’t have a lot of experience with music. Her phrasing and dynamics were very anti-musical, very similar to my complaints all last season on Sawyer Fredericks.
      I’m with you on this season not being that exciting. I’m all about the homely country girl on Blake’s team who got the 4 chair turn. And to a lesser extent Evan, Jordan and Jeffrey. The one major problem with this season is that the best singers aren’t at all marketable. They’re all desperately in need of a charisma transplant and industrial-level makeovers.

      • akillesheel says:

        I think her name’s Krista? I like the four you mentioned, and Darius and Korin are in my “personal favorites, but not going to win” category.

      • analythinker says:

        Yeah, I get your point about Amanda, but that is also precisely why I thought it was a breakthrough: a song that people barely know, which a good singer can make their own. I know how you feel about Andi & Ally (? the twins), but people are responding to them, and I think it’s because of their song choice. Dido was pretty big, but I don’t hear her songs used in singing competitions (not often, anyway). Same goes to Jewel, etc. So when someone changes the arrangement of well-known but almost forgotten songs AND make it their own, people pay attention to that.

        • Angie_Overrated says:

          Arranging songs is certainly a talent, but I’d rather the people who are good at that pass those arrangements off to others who can better perform them. The twins act is so generic to my ear. I’ve heard those two a million times in different incarnations.

          • analythinker says:

            I understand why you thought that way, but it’s a sea of generic singers this year so I still think they’re better (albeit slightly), but we’ll see ;)

  14. Elisa Roja says:

    Adam does have a way of completely @#$#@ing up artists with SONG choice, though he says he’s “gotten quite good at it” – ughhhhh – whereas Pharell and Blake are more likely to just let the artist do their thing and support it. Which is WHY artists need to know who the — they are already, and they should. I’m ALL about the angelic Poet (Andi and Alex) twins and Shelby – others are good, and even mad talented, but these three are a level above …

  15. Scott says:

    Some solid performances tonight. Shelby is amazing, and may have won the night, but Amy’s voice is perfection. One of my favorite voices this season, can’t wait to see what she does next. Also shout out to Sidney!

  16. Patti says:

    Too bad Shelby went w/Adam. Even if she wins w/him, he won’t help her career. Blake at least takes his winners on tour.

  17. Kim Moores says:

    That Sidney girl is ranked far too low. Ranked her second of the night and I spent most of the time just listening and she was great

  18. Timmah says:

    I doubt any music execs will be kicking themselves over missing out on Shelby. Being able to belt out big glory notes on a talent show doesn’t make you marketable. We’ve seen dozens of these types on this show that went nowhere in the industry.

    • Russ says:

      She is a 16 year old kid who enjoys singing. Her experience is Karaoke. This is probably the first taste of the industry for her. Even on Adam’s team she will get a whole new appreciation for what it is going to take if she wants to progress further in the music business. You have heard a minute and a half of her and already judged her. I look forward to hearing more of her this season and seeing how she grows. Some of you on the boards are way harsher than any music exec. As Blake said earlier this season, he wants someone that can move the heart, not someone that is technically perfect. Some of you should start letting the music move you again before you end up hating all music.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        No one on this board is as harsh as a music exec. And you think a minute and a half is a short time? Most A&R people give you about 2 seconds. Maybe 8 seconds if you’re conventionally attractive.

      • Timmah says:

        I’ve got nothing against her or any of these contestants, I’m just being realistic. If we’ve learned anything from 8 seasons of this show, it’s that it takes a lot more than sounding good singing other people’s hit songs to make it in the industry. None of this will keep me from enjoying the show, but the likelihood is that when it ends we’ll never hear from any of these people again. Just tryin’ to keep it real as the kids say.

  19. Temperance says:

    Shelby just proved herself a very, very smart girl, and increased her changes of winning dramatically. Let’s face it, no one that sings country should just hop on board with Ble… he’s always overloaded with country artists, and quite literally half of them get booted in the first round because they get pitted against each other. On other teams, they get a bit of breathing room, and their usual storytelling skills give them edge when doing crossover songs.

    • Florence+TheMachineRules!!! :) #MariahSlays says:

      Exactly. Also theirs something about shelby that made me feel the lyrics to what she’s singing similar to Tessanne, kimberly, or sawyer.