Halle Tomlinson the voice

The Voice Recap: Wide Open Races

We’re four episodes in to The Voice‘s eleventh season, and there’s still no obvious favorite being prematurely foisted on us by producers like an unwelcome Christmas display popping up at the mall in late September. (Oh, Macy’s, I really didn’t need to explain to my kids today that it’ll be another three months before they see their Power Rangers action-figure collection fully completed.)

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to paint my face blue and start making like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, shouting enthusiastically about the FREEEEEEDOM of not having The Voice‘s latest incarnation become a coronation march before the Battle Rounds have even commenced.

But with fewer four-chair turns, a decided scaling back in relentless hype/sob-story exploitation and a coaching panel that gets more excited about artists finding the right team rather than their own team, I can’t help but get a little excited that NBC’s three-time Emmy winner for outstanding reality competition series seems to be on the brink of its most suspenseful season ever.

Imagine, for a moment, a Top 12 comprised of diverse, likable artists, any one of whom has the potential (and enough momentum) to earn the show’s confetti shower sometime in December? To lift a line from the Blackout Allstars, I’d like it like that. Sure, there are plenty of weeks – and plenty of potential manipulations — that could occur between now and the live shows, but for now I’ll hang on to my optimistism.

With that in mind, let’s rank the 10 singers from Tuesday’s Blinds in order of least- to most-promising (bearing in mind I’ll be back overnight to update this recap with more detailed performance reviews).

10. Josh Gallagher, “Stay a Little Longer” (Team Blake) | An hour after the episode ended, and I can’t recall a single detail — good or bad — about this audition, not without referring to my notes. I think dude had a beard? (Don’t quote me on that.)

9. Khaliya Kimberlie, “Dibs” (Team Miley) | Strikingly pretty teen who lives on an Indian reservation willed her way through the glory notes of her country jam — and earned my respect in the process. Still, there was an unformed quality to her tone that made me wish she’d waited three or four years before bringing her instrument to a national stage.

8. Simone Gundy, “I (Who Have Nothing)” (Team Adam) | There’s no denying Simone’s got talent – hmmm… maybe she should’ve tried out for NBC’s summer talent show? — but her rushed phrasing and hinky glory note on “window paaaaane” prevented her cover from coming anywhere near prior renditions of the Shirley Bassey classic that’ve made their way to singing competitions over the past decade. Adam and Miley fought pretty passionately over Simone, but she’ll need to be astonishing in the Battles to make me understand why.

7. Austin Allsup, “Wild Horses” (Team Blake) | I appreciated Austin’s quiet-storm take on the opening verse and the Eddie Vedder vibrato in his tone. Still, the one-chair turn could’ve thrown in a few lightning bolts or claps of thunder — vocally speaking — if he’d wanted to establish himself as a must-advance proposition in the Battles.

6. Michael Sanchez, “Use Me” (Team Alicia) | Another one-chair turn — and a late one at that — and I’m not quite sure why. Sure, Michael could’ve/should’ve tempered his soulful growl with some more tender tones, but he stayed right in the pocket of the song’s tricky tempo and never really hit a bad note in the process. If that’s not enough to spur a wrestling match between two or more coaches, I’m not sure what is.

5. Aaron Gibson, “Losing My Religion” (Team Miley) | Raise your hand if Aaron’s gorgeously gruff spin on an ERM classic gave you shades of American Idol‘s Phillip Phillips. I loved how Aaron brought out the mournful quality of the lyrics, and the way his artistry percolated to the surface even in the midst of the bright lights and high pressure of the production.

4. Darby Walker, “Stand By Me” (Team Miley) | I’m not sure if Darby intended to so deliberately channel Florence Welch with her highly stylized take on a Ben E. King chestnut, but I’ll admit I was momentarily taken aback by the similarities. On her own merits, though, Darby’s ehtereal upper register and husky wall of lower notes were undeniable.

3. Nolan Neal, “Tiny Dancer” (Team Adam) | He may not have turned a single chair in Season 10, but Nolan more than redeemed himself by getting Adam, Blake, Alicia and Miley to all hit their buttons as he wrapped his charcoal-smoked tone around an Elton John ballad, then added a few hair-metal flourishes to boot. Dude is really solid — and fits the profile of contestants who excel when the voting rounds begin.

2. Gabriel Violett, “Treat You Better” (Team Alicia) | Former star of Broadway’s Spring Awakening came thisclose to being too polished with his cover of a Shawn Mendes hit, but there was genuine passion in his sparkly clean delivery — and as much range as we’ve heard on The Voice stage this season.

1. Halle Tomlinson, “New York State of Mind” (Team Alicia) | As Blake (!) noted, Billy Joel’s Hudson River travelogue often gets overbaked. Halle, though, took the tune out of the oven at the perfect moment, putting a slurry stank on the verse that was far beyond the 18-year-old’s tender years. She managed to diplay enough tonal textures in 90 seconds — combined with a professional polish – and could be tough to beat, provided producers never again show footage of her childhood stint on Barney & Friends.

What did you think of Night 4 of The Voice Season 11 Blind Auditions? Vote for your favorite in our poll, then hit the comments to expand on your thoughts!

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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46 Comments
  1. Kaba says:

    Michael Sanchez is disrespectfully low and Gabriel is disrespectfully high.
    Halle and Michael made my night with Michael being my easy fave.
    I think he’s gonna be my guy for the season.

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      Kaba, I thought the exact same thing as I was reading Michael’s comments. Love Michael and barely remember Gabriel. So glad that Alicia turned for Michael–she knows talent when she hears it.

  2. Mge says:

    Halle and Nolan are easily my two favorites of the night. They were both stellar. I would personally move Darby to the bottom of the list with Austin and Khaliye, but I guess that I can see her appeal.

  3. Michael H. says:

    I swapped Darby and Neal, but that top four is all pretty close to each other in my rankings. I’m really excited to see how this season turns out, especially when the coaches are so on board with each other and are ready to help their artists.

  4. Gailer says:

    Am I really supposed to believe Blake remembered X from years ago? And his father? I really want to know what the judges know before the blinds.

    • Well, I do think it’s possible. Blake has demonstrated before that he’s the most likely to recognize returning contestants from previous seasons. And a lot of people in the music business would know Tommy Allsup’s name, not just for his longevity as a performer, but because he famously missed dying in that plane crash.

    • analythinker says:

      You don’t have to. They each have a small screen in their chairs to display the time limit for each coach to speak. I guess it can be used to display other info as well.

  5. Mike says:

    You don’t suppose the Billy Gilman stunt casting was their shot at pushing someone? If so it was a swing and a miss. He was good, but a clear frontrunnner he was not.

  6. I believe it was last week when a Sinatra singer was on that someone commented that Michael Buble’ was the only singer of his age around. I beg to differ! Have you never heard of Josh Groban? Yes, he can sing opera, but he can sing anything. I think you owe him an apology. Buble’ isn’t even close.

  7. Scornbread says:

    Was anyone actually listening??? How is Simone Gundy not at the top of everyone’s list?

    • analythinker says:

      Some of her runs sounded kind of forced to my ears. Most African American singers can nail these runs, but some are definitely better than others.

  8. MaryJean Sledge says:

    Halle was awesome. Loved her voice. She is a pro already great stage presence. Awesome. Definitely my favorite.

  9. A whole lot of average so far this season

  10. I didn’t see the show(stopped watching 8 years ago), but I do know you meant “composed of.” “comprised” is not a synonym for composed, and it doesn’t take a preposition. People use it wanting to sound “educated,” but they mean composed or consisted. of. Can’t believe this show is still on the air and still winning the Emmy. It is soooo yesterday. Isn’t Adam supposed to be on paternity leave?

  11. Timmah says:

    I thought Austin was really good and I normally don’t like the country guys, but he had an edge to his voice that I liked. At the other end, didn’t care for Darby at all. A little bit of creativity goes a long way with me, but that was an over-affected mess.

  12. Lloyd says:

    Michael, your comment for Nolan is cut off, and there’s nothing for Gabriel.

  13. Mary Sledge says:

    I thought Halle was so wonderful. She made me smile. Awesome talent!!

  14. Terri Martin says:

    I could care less that Khaliya Kimberlie is gay. Why do they have to put this information in the back story. I thought this show was about the “voice” not the sexual preferences of the artist.

    • Timmah says:

      Because people want to know what personal challenges the artists have overcome, and clearly coming out at her age and in her community was one for her.

    • Ktina says:

      I was also thinking that she’s chosen the wrong genre being gay. You don’t make it in country music if you out yourself.

  15. Shirley says:

    I will be glad when the judges get a fresh change of clothes. Tired of seeing those stupid flowers and the head wrap every sin gle week. Geesh! Can’t they change clothes?

    • Shirley, I believe they wear the same clothes throughout the blinds because the footage is not necessarily shown in order. But I also think we’ve seen Adam’s and Blake’s experience showing on this. Adam in his dark suit and tie and white shirt and Blake in his jeans and jean jacket are wearing classic, almost neutral clothes, so seeing them show after show during the blinds isn’t as irksome as the more distinctive things the new coaches are wearing. I remember having the same feeling with some of Christina’s attention-grabbing outfits…being very, very sick of them by the time the blinds were over.

  16. Donna Parker says:

    Halle….a powerful, tender voice thaat is wonderful on the ear!!!!….and very pleasant to look at too. No weird stuff….but I bet she could do that if she wanted!! 😊

    • davmon says:

      Halle seemed to have as much talent as any we have seen this season. Good voice and range. Ability to tweak a song in unexpected ways to make it hers. She was the best of the night and perhaps season so far.

  17. Bob Fox says:

    Austin is My Sleeper so Far…..Much, much better then a 1 Chair Turn…..Bob

  18. Beverly Perry says:

    Halle Tomlinson was the most original vocalist I’ve seen this season so far. I would buy her music…in fact I did!

    • davmon says:

      I like her the best. But Darby may be even more imaginative. Halle might well make a Top 5, whereas Darby, being quirkier like Mia Z, might do well to make the Top 12.

  19. MrMank says:

    5. Who’s ERM?

  20. CAROL OGLE says:

    Halle will go far! She is awesome

  21. Tammy says:

    The best voice so far!!!

  22. Ronnie says:

    Michael, you and Melinda need to reunite and do more Reality check videos. This season of the Voice is in need of both your commentaries.

  23. Ktina says:

    None of them were great and why push through that Florence and the Machine impersonator? Too young and not sure of her own style.

    • Lee says:

      Well, maybe none of them were great like Barbra Streisand great. But I thought there were a lot of distinctive singers and I felt they were great, such as Aaron and Michael.

  24. Patti says:

    I think Halle will do it !! She had Adam turn in about 5 words of the song then Ms Keys turned !! Both with the smiles of a true winner !! I’ve listen to her sing over and over today ! I get a chills and a big smile knowing she will go far ! She has the talent and the ability !! Go for it !! Loved it !!!

  25. Carol Sanders says:

    Halle has great talent awesome stage presence l feel she will go all the way to the top

  26. Lynda Nivak says:

    So glad Halle Tomilson is on Alicia’s team… she will be my pick this season so far!! Beautiful voice and with Alicia’s help all Halle can do is just get closer to perfection!!!!

  27. Marilyn Seay says:

    Vote for Halle Thomlinson, she was magnificent on The Voice.

  28. Patti gage says:

    Bring back Halle Tomlinson !! She’s great !!!