The Voice Recap: Chair-y Pickers

blaine long the voice

The chair turns are over
The chair turns are done
Joan Jett is a’comin’
Ms. Cyrus, have fun!

Apologies to Florence + The Machine — and what I just did to the lyrics of their megahit “Dog Days Are Over” — but I’m legitimately reeling from the realization that The Voice‘s Season 11 Blind Auditions are in the books. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that the sun was still shining at 8pm and we were all worrying whether Miley was going to take a wrecking ball to the House That Still Allows Javier Colon to Sleep on a Blow-Up Mattress in the Den?

Miley, as it turns out, may have dire taste in fashion, but her sharp ear, unabashed enthusiasm, sense of humor and specific ideas for struggling arists have made her something approaching a revelation on a show where female coaches have never quite reached the levels of popularity achieved by original flavors Blake and Adam.

Miley’s fellow neophyte Alicia Keys, however, may have the strongest team of all heading into next week’s Battle Rounds. (Tuesday’s pre-veep debate installment is a “Best of the Blinds” clip show, in case you were wondering. Hrmmm… couldn’t NBC have used the hour to showcase all the singers who got stuck with the dreaded montage treatment over the last three weeks?!)

While you seethe over that injustice, let’s rank tonight’s nine Battles-bound singers from least to most promising.

9. Natasha Bure, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Team Adam) | It’s never a good sign when your own coach notes that you had a “little bit of a nervous breakdown” (vocally speaking) after his too-early turn. But even when she sang in tune, the daughter of Full House/The View star Candace Cameron-Bure tied so many knots in the the melody of this Elvis Presley classic that the end result was tatamount to torture.

8. Ponciano Seoane, “Home” (Team Adam) | His hickory-smoked tone was reminiscent of American Idol champ Phillip Phillips – but without the keen attention to the emotional spirit of P2’s breakout hit, nor to any sense of vocal accuracy. If Ponciano ends up surviving the Battle Rounds, then Adam did a damn poor job of pairing off his artists.

7. Johnny Rez, “Iris” (Team Adam) | Like your breakfast three weeks ago last Tuesday, this ho-hum, slightly behind the beat cover was perfectly OK, but ultimately doomed to be flushed from our collective memory banks by half-past now.

6. Kylie Rothfield, “Wherever I Go” (Team Alicia) | Kylie’s full, rich tone and bluesy inclinations were undeniably appealing — and as I write this sentence, I’m struck by the thought that perhaps I ranked her too low in this episode’s pecking order. Still, her cover robbed OneRepublic’s jam of any sense of urgency, making me wonder if she’s cut out for a competition in which big, bold statements are often the key to survival.

5. Whitney & Shannon, “Landslide” (Team Adam Alicia) | Texas sisters who hadn’t performed together in over a year made a fine first impression via their lilting harmonies and delicate phrasing. But I expected a little more emotional snap, crackle and pop from a four-chair turn than I got from this audition, and I wonder if the novelty of being Season 11’s sole duo created more excitement from the coaches’ panel than Whitney & Shannon actually earned.

4. Maye Thomas,”Roses” (Team Miley) | I’d accuse Adam of stealing directly from my brain the observation that Maye’s vocals were “different, but good” — except for the fact that he taped the Season 11 Blinds months ago, and I only heard Maye for the first time on Monday night. True, there were a handful of hinky notes, but Maye managed to imbue her performance with enough grit and personality that — with Miley on her side — I’m thinking she could be a longshot worth watching.

3. Courtney Harrell, James Bay’s “Let It Go” (Team Blake) | I liked the honesty — without any hokey plea for sympathy — from this experienced songwriter who put her own singing career on hold to raise the son with whom she became pregnant at 17. And while there was a hint of rustiness on a couple of runs, there was also scintillating promise in Courtney’s slow-burn, exquisitely timed take on a James Bay ballad that Jeffrey Austin nailed back in Season 9. I kinda wish Courtney had cast her lot with Alicia, but then again, it’s not as though Blake’s only prior wins came with country artists.

2. Josette Diaz, “Love Yourself” (Team Miley) | If there was a hint of tremulousness in Josette’s glory notes, let’s not forget that, as the final artist to advance in Season 11, she probably knew there was only one, maybe two coaches at most who still had the ability to hit their buttons by the time she took the stage. Her tone was so clear and bright, though, that I wondered if she’d emerged from a spring at the top of some pristine mountain range, and yet she also displayed a nifty rhythmic sensibility that brought her Ivory Girl vocals into a more modern milieu. Underestimate her at your own risk, Voice-a-loonies!

1. Blaine Long, “Have a Little Faith in Me” (Team Blake) | As a foster dad myself, I’ll admit I took an immediate liking to Blaine after he revealed he and his wife had adopted two kids who got off to a hardscrabble start at life. That said, an artist cannot live by backstory alone, and the cornfield-in-winter sparseness with which Blaine delivered his Blind Audition was a thing of true beauty. The jam-session quality of the opening verse gave way to a soulful, plaintive authenticity as Blaine dug deeper into the ditty, and if Blake places Blaine at the intersection of blues, soul and country, he should still be in the Season 11 mix well past Thanksgiving.

What did you think of the final night of Season 11 Blinds? How does this year compare to prior installments? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

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