As The Voice started its Season 23 Battles Monday, it replaced the traditional Save with the Playoff Pass. What is it? You can watch Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper and Niall Horan explain above. But in short, it’s a reward for an especially excellent performance that allows a coach to sit out a member of their team during the Knockouts and advance them directly to the Playoffs.
On the surface, this sounds great, right? If I’m a contestant, I’m like, “Whoo hoo! One less chance to be eliminated!” If you think about it, though, should singers be excited to get the Playoff Pass? If they have any faith in their abilities, and their coach’s ear, they wouldn’t be scared of the Knockouts. And by skipping that round, they’ll get less airtime and thus, less of an opportunity to impress and win over the audience — not exactly an advantage.
Drop your thoughts on this new twist in the comments. But first, let’s review some Battles, shall we?
Team Blake: Tasha Jessen (Grade: B) defeated EJ Michels (Grade: A-) on “Tracks of My Tears” — EJ stolen by Niall | These standouts from the Blinds started off their duet fine but just fine. Then, in the last third of the Smokey Robinson classic, it was like a switch got flipped, and they both just kind of exploded vocally. It was at that point that it became obvious that Tasha couldn’t match EJ’s intensity. He let loose a throaty roar that I never saw (heard?) coming and was clearly the more dynamic performer; at points, Tasha almost faded into the background, his presence was so large.
Team Chance: Jamar Langley (Grade: A) defeated Mariah Kalia (Grade: A) on “Gravity” | Holy smoke, even in rehearsal, this pairing sounded dynamite. As their coach noted, they were “equally fire.” On stage, holy smoke again! Jamar was letting rip stunningly tricky and emotional runs and demonstrating a fantastic control of the nuances of his voice. And Mariah… OMG! She gave me Etta James vibes, showed off pretty freaking amazing range and totally came out of her shell in the spotlight. Can’t believe (a) they let her walk and (b) that that was the same John Mayer song at which I’d always shrugged.
Team Niall: Gina Miles (Grade: A) defeated Kala Banham (Grade: A-) on “Skinny Love” — Kala saved by Kelly | Before these two had even sung a note, I assumed Kala had the win in the bag; I really liked soft-spoken Gina’s Blind, but her nerves seemed likely to hold her back. In the moment of truth, however, she was the contestant who stood out to me. Her and Kala’s rendition of Birdy’s rendition of Bon Iver’s song was gorgeous, and so was Kala’s voice. Being older, she also has more experience. But not only did Gina conquer her nerves, she teed up a startling reminder of how unusual and compelling her vocals are. Simply put, the kid’s special. (And yes, I know I’m giving out A’s like they’re certificates of participation, but c’mon, when a singer’s good, a singer’s good!)
Team Kelly: Cait Martin (Grade: A-) defeated Allie Keck (Grade: B+) on “It Must Have Been Love” | Hoping to cut down traffic in her team’s “incredible range” lane — what?!? — Kelly assigned the four-chair turn and her rockin’ opponent a modernized version of Roxette’s golden oldie. At first, Allie seemed to have the edge; her deep, throaty vocal was heaven on the verse. But as the arrangement got bigger and bigger, Cait felt more like she was ginormously singing to us whereas Allie kinda seemed like she was yelling at us. Chance went so far as to tell Cait that she’d made the end of the song “her moment.” Agreed.
Team Blake: Walker Wilson (Grade: B-) defeated Kason Lester (Grade: C) on “Here Without You” | In what they declared “The Battle of the Big Hair,” the one-chair turns did their best to rock 3 Doors Down. But while Kason gave the impression that we were watching the lead singer of a cover band — so… much… gesticulating — Walker radiated an authenticity that, combined with his sharper, grittier tone, made him the easy pick for the win.
Team Chance: Sorelle (Grade: A-) defeated Manasseh Samone (Grade: A) on “Someone Like You” — Manasseh Playoff Pass’d to the Playoffs | Given that comeback kid Manasseh can sing with the forcefulness of a volcano erupting, I figured Sorelle didn’t have a shot of advancing from this Battle. But both acts shone on their Adele cover, with Manasseh’s ginormous vocal pretty evenly matched by the prettiness and precision of Sorelle’s airtight harmonies. The trio was, dare I say, almost Girl Named Tom-level good.
What’s your take on the Playoff Pass — good for the contestants… or not so much? Also, who really impressed you Monday? Vote in the polls below, then comment away.
Cait, Manasseh, Gina and Kala were my standouts from tonight!
Although I wished either Mariah or Allie were stolen, they will be missed
Strategically, I could see the Playoff Pass benefitting a “novelty act” – somebody who makes a strong first impression, but might have diminishing returns with repeated performances.
But ultimately, that’s not really the contestant you’d want to be winning the show in the end.
If you view the show as a survival game, it’s an interesting tactical twist, but if you want it to be a straight-up talent competition, it’s counterproductive.
I can’t wait till we just move to the live rounds. It’s so annoying when they tease what’s coming removing all suspense.
One thing I always liked about The Knockout rounds is that the contestants choose their own songs. So it will be interesting once the playoffs actually begin to see how the pass recipients fare.
100% agree with you. They kill the suspense. So now I tape it and fast forward the beginning or when needed throughout the show. I seriously question the production team with yet another faux pas.
Cait, Gina, Manasseh, and Kala were def the standouts of the night
I did think thou that Allie and Mariah deserved a steal
Mariah and Manasseh were best of night.
= Mariah is gone.
= Manasseh needed the Pass to survive.
My preferences were:
= Talia over EJ –she won & he was saved
= Mariah over Jamar–she lost & he won
= Kala over Gina–K lost but saved, G won
= Cait over Allie–C won, A lost
= Kason over Walker–K lost, W won
= Manasseh over Sorelle; S “won”, M pass
Let me start with Kason Lester before I forget. Did anyone else notice that he totally blanked Blake upon leaving the stage. I rewound a few times to watch it over. He doesn’t take criticism, albeit productive criticism which he would benefit from, very well. His reaction to Blake in rehearsals when given good pointers.
I loved the battles tonight. Loved the show. Had everything. Thought the song choices were so good. I am totally digging Chance’s vibe and dry wit. And very impressed with his musical ear.
You can all dish about Niall, but I grew up in Ireland, been there lol.
The interaction between the coaches tonight was so much fun. Great fit.
Definitely Chance will take Blake’s great advice and invest in Mariah. Love her voice.
Did I miss it? Where’s the ranking of the blinds?
Mariah going home is a travesty. Pure and simple. I thought she was incredible. I hope to see her on AI in a few years.
Gina was a revelation. EJ and Cait won their battles in the last moments. Manasseh and Sorelle was a great battle, and they sounded wonderful together, but I’m not convinced that they sound equally good separately.
Man, these were the first Battles in a long time where I feel like almost all of the duets were evenly matched more or less. Usually I have a clear favorite after each battle, but this episode had me more on the fence than I expected which is nice to see and I think shows more intentional battle pairings and song choices by the producers/coaches.
The playoff pass I’m still on the fence about. On one hand, like you said, skipping a knockout means one less performance for you to gain airtime and build up your fan base, but this could be offset by the fact that by not having to worry about the knockouts, you can go right into preparing for the playoffs immediately after your battle. I would imagine having more time to prepare for the playoff performance is a huge advantage that would likely result in a stronger/more memorable performance which could offset whatever loss in fanbase you may have suffered by skipping a round. I will miss not being to able which songs those contestants would have chosen for their knockouts, that’s always my favorite part of that round since it’s contestant’s choice.
Mariah and Manasseh were best of night.
= Mariah lost and is gone.
= Manasseh lost but survived via Playoff Pass.
Mariah has a guaranteed record deal with Chance! And fast tracking to the live playoffs isn’t survival, it’s winning.
I was thinking that something in her personal life must have been the reason for her not being stolen. Her performance was absolutely stunning. I don’t understand her leaving at all.
I preferred Tasha over EJ; Mariah over Jamar; Kala over Gina; Cait over Allie; Kason over Walker; Manasseh over Sorelle. Tragic that Mariah is gone.
Gina and EJ were my two favorites from last night. Both have voices that I just can’t forget. I love rock music so I am always glad when a “rocker” manages to get a chair turn. However, I was very disappointed with the “rockers” performances. Neither Walker nor Kasen were good and in fact, even though it’s not an option, I wouldn’t have chosen either of them because they both sucked. LOL
This was probably the best overall Battles round I’ve seen – everyone was pretty closely matched and really good, with the exception of Kason and Walker. I didn’t care for Walker’s attitude at all and he had too much whine in his singing voice, especially for a rock song. Kason was so-so, though, and should’ve at least won that Battle, I thought. The Playoff Pass could be detrimental as it limits the amount of times and variety of songs a singer can perform and display their ability.
The Playoff Pass is a bad idea. I think some voters/fans may resent them for not having to compete like the rest. It’s like you are so great we don’t need to hear anymore. If they are so great, why not pick them as the winner of the battle? I think Chance did this for Manessah because it was her second time to the Voice. Also, I am against “groups” competing; soon it could turn into a “battle of the bands”. It’s “The Voice” not “The Voices”.
I generally agree on groups, but it might be because I’m not that into harmonies–although I did think Girl Named Tom was exceptionally good.
Sigh…after 23 seasons, can’t they hire a sound engineer who gets that the show is ‘The VOICE’— not ‘The Piano,’ not ‘The Band.’ Could barely hear Sorelle and Manasseh with the piano so much louder than both. This isn’t the first time. It’s a regular inexcusable occurance on this show.
Agreed, band overshadowed the singers.
Agree with most of the posters that these were impressively matched singers. I also dislike the groups. Seems like a stunt, and like comparing apples and oranges.
Am I the only one that felt icky racial twinges over EJ’s picking Niall? Chance is a stand-out coach and has impressed me more than any other guest coach the past four seasons with his musical creativity and ability to showcase each person’s talent. Why wouldn’t you go with the coach that turned for you from day one??