The Voice Live Playoffs Recap: Which of the Top 20 Contestants Sounded Like They Were Headed for the Top 13?

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For weeks, Carson Daly has told us that the Battle starts now, the Knockout starts now, etc. But c’mon, we all know that the real fight to win Season 17 of The Voice actually began with Monday’s Live Playoffs, after which seven — count ’em, seven — singers would be sent home. Who sounded like they might be among the unlucky contestants not advancing to the Top 13? Let’s review the performances below, then you can play armchair coach in the polls that follow.

TEAM BLAKE

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsRicky Duran, “Small Town” (Grade: C) | “Every time Ricky gets on that stage, I know Ricky’s gonna kill it,” Blake told us before his performance. But his John Mellencamp cover seemed sorta… eh, uninspired. Ricky sang it well, and he worked the stage as comfortably as if it was his backyard. Yet it was kinda a yawn. It didn’t allow Ricky to show off his Ricky-ness, practically at all. Afterwards, Blake said that he wanted America to vote his contestant through because he was, basically, reliable and nice. Again, yawn. Ricky deserved (and could have done) better.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsCali Wilson, “Toxic” (Grade: B-) | Pre-performance, Blake suggested that Cali was just beginning to come into her own as an artist. On stage, she backed up that notion with a Britney Spears cover that was a little all over the map, yes, but at least interesting. There were pitch issues, and half the time, I wasn’t sure WTH she was going for, but at least I was never bored. Messy and weird and… well, hey, at least interesting. As John put it, “It was really different.” Good? Mm… debatable. But different? Definitely.

Gracee Shriver, “American Honey” (Grade: C) | Ahead of Gracee’s performance, Blake seemed excited to help choose songs for her that would show off her unique (goaty) tone. I wasn’t sure that he would be so excited after this. Gracee has talent, for sure. But her Lady Antebellum cover fell as flat as roadkill run down three times over. Kelly gave her credit afterwards for not being thrown by a glitch that caused her to give up her guitar. Her coach wanted us to be wowed by how far she’d come from a rehearsal we hadn’t seen. Mmkay.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsKat Hammock, “God Only Knows” (Grade: B) | Prior to taking the stage, Kat, we were told by Blake, just might be the deadliest contestant on the show. Once she hit the mic, she did so with an ethereal rendition of the Beach Boys’ classic that would have fit in nicely on a Lana Del Rey album. It was kinda fantastically bizarre, almost spooky. I wasn’t even sure that it was always in pitch. Yet I loved it. If I’ve been suckered again into being wowed by one of those hippy-dippy fairy girls that gets eliminated sooner than later, I am gonna be so pissed, you will hear about it for the rest of the season! Just sayin’!

Ricky Braddy, “Roll With It” (Grade: C) | Before Ricky took to the stage, Blake suggested that his live-wire quality made him a force to be reckoned with. When he stepped into the spotlight, he did so with confidence to spare. And his voice never faltered on his Steve Winwood cover. He still strikes me as being as artificial as the coaches’ compliments about contestants’ wardrobes, but I couldn’t fault him on vocals. This was really good karaoke. Afterwards, Blake offered “congratulations on a great performance,” but I couldn’t help but notice that he’d saved his strongest pleas for votes for Kat.

TEAM GWEN

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsRose Short, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” (Grade: B-) | “Everybody is scared of Rose,” Gwen said before she took the stage. Mind you, everybody also freaking loves Rose. When she stepped behind the mic… s—. I wanted to be crazy about it. I’m bonkers for Rose. Everybody loves her, I might have mentioned. But it started off breathy and less powerful than I thought would keep her safe. It was by no means bad. But it wasn’t the slam dunk that we all know she’s capable of. She went for broke, free-styling later in the song… however, eh. I was worried. Kickass singer, lame-ass song selection. Maybe I’m wrong, though. (It happens — a lot!) Kelly freaked out over Rose’s performance. Gwen was prattling on about how different this performance was from rehearsal when Carson Daly basically cut her off. Perhaps he sensed that she wasn’t getting to a point. (It also happens.)

Kyndal Inskeep, “10,000 Hours” (Grade: C) | Gwen said before Kyndal took to the stage that she had a style to her voice. But behind the mic, she proved that she had more than style, she had a quality to her vocal that made you feel like she was talking — well, singing — right to you. That quality made you lean in and listen closer. Or at least it did me, up to the point where poor Kyndal ran afoul of the kind of pitch problems that would get a baseball player benched. So close to great… she just didn’t quite get there. Afterwards, Gwen marveled that no one sounded like Kyndal… except maybe her coach.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsJoana Martinez, “You Can’t Stop the Girl” (Grade: B+) | “The technical side of her voice is crazy,” Gwen said of Joana before she took her turn behind the mic. And that seemed true during her Bebe Rexha cover, sure. But arguably more importantly, Joana reminded us that there’s enough power in her voice to urge — no, insist — that we get off our asses, out of our seats, and engage with her performance. (Of note, all four coaches did give her a standing O.) Gwen’s comments afterwards mainly focused on how grownup and sparkly Joana looked, which made me feel at least a little better about how inane my observations might have been were. Thanks, Gwen.

Myracle Holloway, “Get Here” (Grade: B-) | Myracle, her coach told us pre-showtime, was her team member who was best able to tap into her emotions. And from the get-go, despite apparent problems with her earpiece, she sounded strong. Trouble was, as she went on, it began to feel like she was trying too hard. Myracle has chops, that’s undeniable. And her coach called her performance “extraordinarily beautiful.” But I had a funny feeling Myracle was gonna be singing for the Instant Save tomorrow.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsJake HaldenVang, “Turning Tables” (Grade: C) | Gwen suggested before Jake’s performance that he could be someone that we didn’t see coming. I guess if we hadn’t tuned in before Monday? Anyway, on stage, Jake started off with a bit of a pitch problem that I wanted to forgive as a kinda thank-you for having the nerve to rock up an Adele song. But this wasn’t great — it was more the equivalent of a dude striking a match over and over and over again, and having it never quite catch fire. He’s toast Tuesday.

TEAM KELLY

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsShane Q, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (Grade: C) | Ahead of Shane’s performance, Kelly reminded us that she thought that he could sing anything. But could he sing it well? Hmm. If I’m not mistaken, Shane bungled the first line of his classic cover, then tried to make us forget it with an initially breathy take on the song. From there, he got louder and louder but had all the momentum of a parked car. “You’re gonna be around for a while,” Blake told Shane afterwards. I hated to admit, I hoped not. Zzz.

Hello Sunday, “Hello” (Grade: B-) | “They’re my powerhouse duo,” Kelly said of the tween pals before they stepped into the spotlight. But, as much as I’ve come to adore them, their power seemed… minimal Monday. They sounded pitchy, at times sharp, and just not nearly as polished as they had up to this point. I also seriously missed the killer harmonies that had been part and parcel of their previous performances. Afterwards, Kelly’s comments focused more on the kids’ energy and boldness than on the actual quality of their vocals here.

Damali, “You Say” (Grade: D) | Kelly called Damali her team’s dark horse before the contestant took her turn behind the mic. Definitely, I didn’t imagine she stood a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing past Tuesday before her performance Monday. When she took to the stage… yeah, I’m afraid she only reinforced that opinion. There’s some oomph to her voice, yeah, but she doesn’t entirely seem to know how to control that oomph. I couldn’t wait for her performance to be over. In the aftermath, Kelly said that Damali needed to believe more in herself. I doubted that tomorrow’s elimination was gonna do wonders for her self-esteem.

Max Boyle, “Falling Slowly” (Grade: B+) | “I call Max Superman, ’cause I got me a superhero,” Kelly told us before Max took to the stage. And when he got his turn at the mic, yeah! Finally, a home-run performance! Well, mostly. There was a bit of a wobble to Max’s Once cover, but the overwhelming impression that it left was 1,000-percent present and emotionally bare. At times, it was so raw that it bordered on unpretty. But overall, this was stunning. No wonder he got all four coaches giving him a standing ovation.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsJake Hoot, “You Lie” (Grade: B) | Pre-performance, Kelly called Jake one of the most powerful country singers who’s ever been on the show. At the time, I’d thought, “C’mon, Kelly, exaggerate much?” Then, Jake stepped into the spotlight and… yeah, OK, I thought the same thing. Jake was really good — especially when he opened wide his voice on his Reba McEntire cover and let loose — but he was just really good, not best-ever good. Afterwards, Kelly remarked that not every male singer could do what Jake just had. “I think you nailed it.”

TEAM LEGEND

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsKhalea Lynee, “Love Like This” (Grade: B) | “She has a honey tone — she’s one of the singers to beat,” John said of this mother of two. And not only did she look as confident as all get-out on stage, her voice was as solid as a brick wall. That said, it didn’t seem like the kind of number that was gonna make people go “OMG!” and cast their vote for Khalea. So in that regard, I feared that it was a misfire. “You make everything look so easy and sound so easy,” John told her afterwards. For her sake, I hoped “everything” would include advancing to the Top 13.

Alex Guthrie, “If I Ain’t Got You” (Grade: A-) | Alex, you’ll recall, was stolen from Team Kelly in the Knockouts — with good reason. His performance had been an “Oh hey, I’m here, and I’m awesome!” moment. Here, yep, he was still awesome. His performance took a minute to really spark, but when it did, the soulfulness of his vocal was pretty damn irresistible. This wasn’t even the best showcase for his vocal, but his former coach said that it made her certain he was finale-bound. John was so delighted by Alex’s showing that he re-welcomed him to Team Legend.

the-voice-recap-will-breman-damali-top-20-live-playoffsMarybeth Byrd, “Love Me Like You Do” (Grade: A) | John said ahead of Marybeth’s turn on stage that he hoped to unlock the best of her in the Lives. As far as I could hear, he’d come pretty damn close. I didn’t love this quite as much as I did Marybeth’s Blind Audition to “Angel From Montgomery,” but it was a) still pretty spectacular, b) the best of the night (at least at that point) and c) for sure seemed beyond good enough to put her through to the Top 13.

Will Breman, “Style” (Grade: B) | Will’s “energy on stage is contagious,” John said of his contestant who has Asperberger’s. Right he was. Moreover, Will is pretty slick with the way that he reinvents familiar songs, like this Taylor Swift hit. I wouldn’t mind if Will brought a smidgen more polish to his vocals, but there’s no denying that the electricity he generates sweeps you into whatever he’s performing. That’s money in the bank — and for sure a ticket to the Top 13. “You just won The Voice!” Kelly declared. And it almost didn’t sound like hyperbole.

Katie Kadan, “Always Remember Us This Way” (Grade: A+) | Katie, her coach said before her turn on stage, is one of the most distinct contestants on the show. And that might’ve been putting it mildly! I was especially excited to hear Katie tone it down and perform an emotional ballad. As I hoped she would, she freakin’ slayed! Her Lady Gaga cover allowed her to spotlight the feeling that can at times get overwhelmed by the sheer power of her voice. Awe. Some.

So, which singer do you think is the safest following their performance Monday? And which one do you think is in the greatest danger of being eliminated? Vote in the polls below, then back up your vote in the comments.