Not that every member of Team Blake and Team Alicia needed a do-over, but Night 2 of The Voice’s Season 14 Live Playoffs nonetheless gave them all a second chance to garner enough (East Coast) votes to advance. Based on the TVLine poll that followed Monday’s jam-packed sing-off, Pryor Baird looked like the likeliest member of Team Blake to join Kyla Jade, Sharane Calister, Britton Buchanan and Brynn Cartelli in the Top 12; Terrence Cunningham, the frontrunner from Team Alicia. If that turns out to be the case when the results are announced Wednesday, I’d wager that Blake’s pick to hold onto would be Spensha Baker (since WILKES isn’t just in the same lane as Pryor, he’s practically riding shotgun), and Alicia’s pick would be Kelsea (who’s enchanted her coach from the start). But enough prognosticating. Let’s take a look/listen at Tuesday’s performances and consider whether any of them were stunning enough to shake up the Top 12.
Spensha Baker, “Smoke Break” — Grade: C+ | The coaches went nuts for Spensha Monday, but I thought she was as shaky as a willow in the wind. What had she done with the confident, controlled country-soul singer whose restraint I’d been so sure would take her further in the contest than Keisha Renee had gotten? Whatever she’d done with that Spensha, she was still MIA on her Carrie Underwood cover Tuesday. She displayed a bit of strength on the chorus but only after a verse that was as wobbly as a Weeble.
WILKES, “Don’t Speak” — Grade: A | If I were Blake, I might keep both Pryor and WILKES (in spite of my aversion to the latter’s caps-locked name), and let the less-consistent Spensha go. Yes, Pryor and WILKES both cruise down the same gravel road, but the former brings to the stage as much polish as the latter does an interest-piquing wildness and unpredictability. (And according to TVLine’s Monday poll, WILKES is 5x more popular than Spensha.) Tuesday, WILKES not only managed to give his rendition of No Doubt’s hit the kind of unsettling intensity that you’d expect if your stalker sang you a love song, he managed to turn accidentally dropping his mic into a mic-drop moment.
Pryor Baird, “9 to 5” — Grade: C | If you’d told me that Pryor’s “I Was Wrong” Monday had been prerecorded, I would have believed you. It was that good. Again on Tuesday, he unleashed his spectacularly rough, sandpaper voice but on just about the last song I would’ve ever imagined him singing. It also turned out to be just about the last song that he should’ve sung. Whereas WILKES made his Gwen Stefani cover his own, Pryor came off like a wrecking ball in a Dolly Parton wig. It was a total mismatch of singer and song and, for my money, Pryor’s first big misstep of the contest.
Austin Giorgio, “Love Yourself” — Grade: D | Oh, Austin. I did so like the idea of an old-school crooner advancing to the Top 12. Alas, he doomed himself by not only refusing to reinterpret the classics (which your comments suggested you would’ve preferred) but also by letting his fancy footwork too often trip up his vocals. Tuesday, he joined the modern age with a Bieber cover but was pitchy, mumbly and — oh, Austin — as free of effervescence as a flat soda. Bye-bye.
Gary Edwards, “America the Beautiful” — Grade: D | It wasn’t Gary’s vocal that had been the problem Monday, it was the way that his performance brought to mind your high-school geometry teacher getting wild on Faculty Karaoke Night. His performance wasn’t even bad — he’s no Chris Blue, but he has moves. It’s just that, unlike Britton Buchanan, he’s yet to find quite the right way to package his adorkability. Tuesday, he went for the patriotic vote but I suspect lost it by turning in a rendition of “America the Beautiful” that was so overwrought and melodramatic, I had to look away. Somewhere, Sam the Eagle had to have been groaning.
Terrence Cunningham, “Ain’t Nobody” — Grade: B+ | “How Come U Don’t Call Me” is no “Kiss” or “When Doves Cry,” but Terrence still deserved a lot of credit for not just doing a Prince song Monday but doing it well. Tuesday, he returned to the stage with a rendition of Chaka Khan’s classic that started off so bare and beautiful, it immediately brought to mind his stunning Blind Audition. When he picked up the tempo, it got a little average, but that beginning, man. Perhaps singing with that fragility should be his go-to. It just works.
Christiana Danielle, “Take Me to Church” — Grade: D | Rewatching Christiana’s “Hey Ya!” from Monday, I didn’t think it was as bad as I initially did. It wasn’t nearly as good as, say, her “Hotline Bling.” But until near the end, it wasn’t intolerable, either. Tuesday, she took on Hozier but — aw, crap — probably shouldn’t have. The arrangement was interesting, but since Christiana only occasionally seemed to hit the notes that she was going for, the overall effect was less likely to take anyone to church than it was make them lose their religion.
Jackie Foster, “Alone” — Grade: C | Strange but true: It never bothers me when I’m listening to Nine Inch Nails or Hole how yelly Trent Reznor and Courtney Love can be; it’s actually part of the appeal. But it bothers me when it seems like Jackie’s more shouting than singing. Maybe because her voice is so gorgeous when she just sings. On her Heart cover Tuesday, Jackie once again resorted to shrieking, and in the interest of legit rather than gentle grading, I’m not going to give her a pass on it just because I want to like her. She can do better.
Kelsea Johnson, “Need You Bad” — Grade: B+ | Kelsea just radiates “stardom” to me. Her “You Know I’m No Good” Monday wasn’t 100 percent, yet if it was on a menu, I’d still order it as a double. For her Tuesday performance, she sauntered around the stage with a confidence and expressiveness that made me like this Jazmine Sullivan song (which I’ll admit I hadn’t heard before) more than I would’ve, had I only heard and not seen it. Her vocal was solid, mind you. But there’s also something to be said for charisma.
Johnny Bliss, “One and Only” — Grade: B- | Fact No. 1: Johnny has a terrific voice; even a casual listen back to his Blind Audition will remind anyone of that. Fact No. 2: Johnny has to maintain control of that terrific voice for it to actually sound, you know, terrific. We heard his potential here and there in his performance of “América, América” Monday, but only his potential. Tuesday, he came closer to realizing that potential, delivering a vocal that was passionate but on which he had a better grip.
So, who did you think stood out from the pack? Vote in the poll below, then hit the comments.