Did somebody order a buzzkill? Although The Voice’s sudden-death Playoffs are ordinarily a time of high excitement on the show, since Season 13’s were taped rather than being aired live, we wouldn’t get to vote for our favorite contestant(s) until the contenders were whittled down to the Top 12; the decisions before then would rest entirely in the hands (ears?) of the coaches. Where, I ask you, is the fun in that? At least we could be distracted from our annoyance during Monday’s Night 1 by Team Blake and Team JHud’s performances, several of which were so bad, we wouldn’t have voted for them, anyway. Which ones? Read on…
Davon Fleming, “I Am Changing” — Grade: A (advanced) | Listening to Davon rehearse his coach’s Dreamgirls showstopper, I thought, “If he sings it half as beautifully on stage, he’s gonna be as golden as JHud’s Oscar.” And, at the start of his performance, it sounded like he was gonna nail it. By the time he was done, though, he hadn’t just nailed it, he’d killed, slayed, demolished, owned it. That last note — holy crap!
Hannah Mrozak, “Learn to Let Go” — Grade: D (eliminated) | In rehearsal, Hannah seemed to struggle, like she was shouting rather than singing. On stage, same thing. She spat out the Kesha song with great feeling but sounded disastrous. Was her performance emotional? Sure. We’ve heard every time she’s been on how deeply affected she’s been by her brother’s suicide. But a vocal can’t just be emotional, it also has to, you know, sound good. This didn’t.
Lucas Holliday, “The Beautiful Ones” — Grade: D (eliminated) | WTH? JHud brought back Lucas to stick him with a number as impossible as this one from Purple Rain? “Shortest comeback ever,” I thought before he went on stage. And, as he began, I thought it again. Sorry — Prince is incomparable on this song, and Lucas is no Prince. He hit a note here and there, but ugh. I felt bad for the guy, like he’d been set up to fail.
Shi’Ann Jones, “Tattooed Heart” — Grade: B- (advanced) | As the teen started her performance, nerves seemed to tighten their grip on her. But, if she stumbled, she found her vocal footing again by the chorus. She couldn’t quite hit those dog-whistle Mariah high notes that she went for, and that run in the middle was a bit of a train wreck. However, she still managed to demonstrate that, somewhere in her, there’s a powerhouse. She’s just a powerhouse who needs more training. (See also: Anthony Alexander.)
Chris Weaver, “California Soul” — Grade: B+ (eliminated) | Jennifer told us during rehearsal that she was confident that this song would get Chris the equivalent of another four-chair turn. I wasn’t so sure. (Maybe I just didn’t like the song?) On stage, the sometime drag queen lived up to his freight-train-vocal reputation, but I didn’t think the song really let him live up to his potential — it was like he was an express train being asked to chug along like a mere choo-choo. That’s not on him, that’s on his coach… who then turned around and cut him!
Noah Mac, “In the Air Tonight” — Grade: B (advanced) | Miley’s teenage dream was just good enough here to make me wonder what Hunter Plake would have done with the Phil Collins oldie — props to Noah for doing his own arrangement. But it just wasn’t that different or interesting. A solid-enough though hardly soul-shaking performance. Lucky for Noah, he turned the charisma up to 11, and the camera loves him as much as JHud’s rival coach does.
Red Marlow, “Chiseled in Stone” — Grade: B (advanced) | There was an intimacy to Red’s rendition of this understated Vern Gosdin heart-tugger that gave it a lovely “Gather ’round the campfire, let me tell you a story” feel. It wasn’t a shoe-throwing, bring-the-house-down showstopper kind of performance, just a solid singer doing what he does, and very well.
Chloe Kohanski, “Time After Time” — Grade: C- (advanced) | Hmm… in rehearsal, it sounded like Chloe was gonna have the same problem with this song that most anybody would — making it sound like anything but a karaoke cover of Cyndi Lauper. On stage, it seemed like the song wasn’t half as intense and left-of-center as the artist that Chloe wants to be. This wasn’t horrific but fell pretty flat, serving mainly as a reminder that it takes more than sparkly eyeshadow to make a singer shine in the spotlight.
Natalie Stovall, “Callin’ Baton Rouge” — Grade: B+ (eliminated) | Given a second chance — and not sabotaged like Jennifer did Lucas — Blake’s comeback kid showed up with enough personality for three contestants, twang… er, sang like a dream and fiddled so fantastically that she left me with a powerful hankering for moonshine. Yes, she hit one dud note toward the end when she was playing and singing at the same time, but overall, spot on. I’d definitely have kept her over Chloe.
Esera Tuaolo, “How Do I Live?” — Grade: F (eliminated) | As soon as Esera started singing, I was transported… straight to karaoke night on a cruise ship. His was the kind of performance that you’d try to convince your drunk friend that they really didn’t want to get up on that stage and give, but when they ignored you and got up there, anyway, you’d cheer ’em on even as, in your head, you’re thinking, “Oh dear. How much longer can this song possibly go on?” It was that bad.
Mitchell Lee, “Heaven” — Grade: D (eliminated) | On paper, this seemed like a good match of singer and song. But it wasn’t sounding that hot in rehearsal. And, when Mitchell took his turn on stage, it actually sounded worse. I actually don’t remember a night of The Voice that was this full of lousy performances. And let’s be real — you know you really screwed up when the best JHud can say about what you did was that this might not have been her “absolute favorite performance” of yours.
Keisha Renee, “Love Can Build a Bridge” — Grade: A (advanced) | In rehearsal, Keisha offered some reassurance that — whew — we’d at least be ending the night on a high note. In the moment of truth, she infused the Judds hit with the kind of warmth that you feel when you come down the road to your folks’ home and see that they’ve left the porch light on for you. And, when she got to really let her vocals soar, they had to have risen all the way to heaven. Divine.
So, thoughts? Could you believe JHud kept Shi’Ann over Chris? Was it just me, or did these performances overall… suck? Vote below for your favorite — in other words, Davon, Noah or Keisha — then hit the comments.