Courtney Harrell

The Voice Recap: Don't Dream It's Over

Anyone know if the Vegas casinos are taking wagers on who’ll win Season 11 of The Voice?

The smart money, of course, is on a finale showdown between teen sensation Wé McDonald and onetime child country star Billy Gilman, but that just means there are juicy odds to be found on dark-horse contenders like Courtney Harrell and Christian Cuevas, both of whom set off vocal explosions during Night 2 of the Knockout Rounds.

Granted, former backup singer Courtney doesn’t have the “she’s only 17!” energy that’s like catnip to exec producer Mark Burnett and his team. And Christian’s raggedy amateur edges lack the jaw-dropping technical polish Billy’s displayed in all three rounds. But don’t discount the dreams of contestants with chops big enough to cause blunt-force trauma with a single glory note.

For all of its pre-ordained Cassadee Pope- and Sawyer Fredericks-style wins, let’s remember that The Voice has given us its share of surprise champs, too. And isn’t the show long overdue for an upset in the vein of Craig Wayne Boyd or Jermaine Paul?

With that in mind, allow me to rank tonight’s Knockout showdowns from least- to most-promising winner — bearing in mind I’ll be back overnight to update this URL with more detailed performance reviews.

3. Team Adam: Billy Gilman – “Fight Song” defeats Ponciano Seoane — “I See Fire” | The night’s most lopsided Knockout found poor Ponciano getting the “it’s an honor just to be nominated (as sacrificial lamb) treatment. Billy, meanwhile, reimagined the hokiest/catchiest hit of the decade as a percussive, country-soul hymnal that would’ve been perfect strapped to a bottle rocket and launched into the middle of the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks spectacular. Which is to say Billy’s performance was completely impressive, but perhaps lacking the intimate beauty of Rachel Platten’s original.

2. Team Alicia: Christian Cuevas — “Superstar” defeats Belle Jewel – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (Belle stolen by Miley) | Christian, perhaps more than any of Season 11’s hyped contestants, really needs a coach’s help to improve his occasionally wobbly technique. Because if dude can somehow soak up said intel and improve his intonation by, say, 15 percent, his underniable likability, scratchy vocal tone and sense of emotional abandon could carry him deep into the season. In this round, Christian was the clear choice over Belle, who delivered a pleasing but oddly subdued effort on a very cool song choice. I just wish her Blind and Battle hadn’t gotten the dreaded montage treatment – unfairly placing her at the bottom rung of Live Playoffs participants in terms of Season 11 screentime.

1. Team Blake: Courtney Harrell – “River Deep, Mountain High” defeats Bindi Liebowitz — “Son of a Preacher Man” | Admittedly, Courtney didn’t do much to modernize her Tina Turner cover, but I was mighty impressed by the way she piled dramatic flourish on top of dramatic flourish; the way she twisted the melody heavenward on the final “if I lost you, would I cry”; the way she never seemed to find the ceiling of her upper register. If Blake doesn’t imprison Courtney in a jail of classic R&B diva ditties — and pushes her to be more consistent about using her ferocious, on-stage physicality, then Courtney’s a genuine finale threat. Courtney’s exacting execution and ambitious note choices made Bindi’s task nearly impossible, especially when her pitch began to suffer in the final third of a cover that was otherwise slinky, seductive and deliciously, deliberately behind the beat.

Individual Rankings Based on Knockout Round Performances
4. Belle Jewel
3. Billy Gilman
2. Christian Cuevas
1. Courtney Harrell

What did you think of Night 2 of The Voice Season 11 Knockouts? Who did you like best? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!