‘The Voice’ Recap: Season 5 Live Playoffs, Night 1

We’ve reached the last part of Season 5 of The Voice where the Top 20 now perform for your approval. Only 12 will make it through to next week. Tonight, it’s Team Adam and Team Blake who are first to face America.

After a show-opening performance by Flo Rida and Christina Aguilera, we get to the serious business of these ten folks fighting for eight spots in the next round. Carson explains that the iTunes multiplier is now 5, down from 10 previously, before introducing Team Blake’s Shelbie Z. She’s gotten married now (congratulations, Shelbie!) and she’ll be singing Reba McEntire’s hit “Fancy,” originally recorded by Bobbie Gentry. But did Blake really have to tell Shelbie that Reba watches the show? No pressure!

Based on this performance, Shelbie is a major threat for Team Blake. She’s in a perfect position, as a pure country artist on Blake’s team. And she has a certain attitude-slash-stage presence that serves her well. All those folks who may have made fun of her weight past or present should just eat a microphone, because regardless of her size, Shelbie’s a talented, engaging and powerful singer.

Time for coach commentary. Christina starts talking about something Shelbie didn’t say anything about before complimenting her rendition. Shiny Cee Lo Green appreciates her charisma and creativity. And Adam, who looks like he’s got an important business meeting after this, echoes the praise. Blake chuckles at another Carson dig about his lack of a wardrobe change, before telling his artist “you would think you’re already established.”

But Carson’s got one more zinger up his sleeve.

Carson: What do you do, cut lumber when you’re done here?

Next up is Team Adam’s James Wolpert, who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after a knockout round performance that he wasn’t happy with. Adam has assigned him Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which has a long history amongst many artists, including several members of Team Adam – both Season 1’s Javier Colon and Season 2’s Tony Lucca have performed it (although not on the show). Adam does his best to bolster James’ confidence in rehearsal, before sending him out to redeem himself.

It’s easy to hear in this what everyone’s been raving about in regard to James. The dude has a voice that’s ridiculously smooth, and he enunciates, which is something that is vastly underappreciated these days. Maybe he doesn’t have the most unique voice in the competition, but it’s one of the most consistent, even factoring in last week’s misstep. And let’s shut the door on that while we’re here, because with this, he rebounds nicely.

James earns praise from Blake, his performance gets called a “safe haven” by Christina, Cee Lo comments on the irony of his appearance compared to his talent, and an incredibly pleased Adam is happy to see the guy bounce back. As are we, Adam, as are we.

Unfortunately, the absence of Christina Milian has not led to the disappearance of the Sprint Skybox. Instead, poor Carson has to run up there. Thankfully, Carson’s a pretty funny dude on his own merits, and he’s got that sardonic delivery that makes some of the ridiculous tweets actually amusing. If he’s going to be doing this from now on, we’ll give it a pass, though if he doesn’t want to pull double duty, we hear Terry McDermott is around.

Number three on our list tonight is former Team Adam, current Team Blake artist Nic Hawk, whose wardrobe is almost as eyebrow-raising as Cee Lo’s this evening. Blake gave him Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the controversial hit of the summer, which Robin actually performed on the Voice stage when it first dropped. Nic doesn’t have the swagger of Robin Thicke (and the jacket doesn’t help), but you have to give him credit for being able to even get all the words out coherently. Unfortunately, his version is missing some pop; it doesn’t really show us what he can do vocally, since there’s more rapping than singing involved.

“There was some singing in there, right?” Christina asks, though she’s not entirely familiar with the song, because she didn’t know T.I. was involved in it. Still, she had fun with the performance. Cee Lo compliments Nic’s natural rhythm before name-dropping Pharrell. Adam gets ribbed for letting Nic go (is he going to be this season’s Sasha Allen?) before pointing out that Nic just replaced four people (“minus the boobs”). Blake agrees with Adam’s sentiment.

Blake: I can’t think of another element, besides boobs, that you could’ve thrown into that performance.

Following Nic is Team Blake’s Ray Boudreaux, who picks up one of Blake’s favorite songs, “Home” by Marc Broussard. It’s a choice that Ray feels comfortable with, and that shows from the first note on stage. The track is a slow burn, and Ray plays that exactly as he should, letting the energy build without overdoing it. If there’s anything working against him, it’s that there’s not a Big Moment in this one, but that’s not his fault. He’s just consistent throughout, and that’s all you can ask for.

Christina loves the rendition, saying “you brought a realness that I haven’t seen…before today” and that it’s her favorite performance of his. Cee Lo appreciates the grit in Ray’s voice. Adam points out that the original artist is a friend of his, and he thinks that Marc would be proud of Ray’s take on his song. Then there’s Blake, who’s excited about Ray bringing his local musical style and sound to the national audience.

It’s three Team Blake artists in a row, as Austin Jenckes is next to step to the microphone. Blake has handed him “She Talks To Angels” by the Black Crowes. At first, the decision to put him after Ray seems a bit odd, as his grit and soul puts him in the same ballpark that Ray just left. However, as the song goes on, Austin gets to flex his vocal muscles a little bit more, especially at the end. Still, we probably wouldn’t have put three artists from the same team and two artists with the same down-to-earth approach together, but maybe that’s just us.

Again, commentary starts with Christina, who is pleased with Austin. Cee Lo thinks he’s got “effortless strength” but then detours to compliment not just the talent, but the coaches and the crew. (Hear that, American Idol? And while we’re at it, did you notice the Law & Order: SVU promo that looks suspiciously like it’s riffing on you?) Adam loves Austin’s song choice, because it’s another one of his favorites, but is confused as to why Austin doesn’t ride motorcycles. Help him out here, Blake!

Blake: It takes a confident man to ride a moped. Who’s going to say anything to him?

Getting us back on topic, Austin’s coach talks about his consistency and his heart, and how he’s not just his coach, he’s also a fan. We’re halfway through the show and there hasn’t been a significant critical comment yet.

Team Adam finally gets to start performing again, with Grey, who’s singing Paramore’s “Still Into You.” That’s because Adam wants to push her into rock and roll territory, like Hayley Williams or No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani. He should be pleased with the results, as Grey delivers another crowd-pleasing performance. Yet in our opinion, it’s not too far off vocally from what we heard her do with Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch My Breath.” That’s not to knock it; we love Grey’s sound. But for us, the ‘rocker chick’ title still belongs to Kat Robichaud.

After the show once again cuts to commercial before an artist can get their critique, rather than at the end of their segment (we can only guess this is designed to keep casual viewers tuned in, but it’s driving us nuts already), Grey finds out that Blake can’t remember who she beat in battle rounds (it was Nic, by the way). Cee Lo likes that Grey is taking ownership of the song. Adam thinks Blake is “rambling like a maniac.”

Now we get to Team Adam-Christina-Adam’s Will Champlin, one of our picks this season. Family man Will is taking on “Secrets” by OneRepublic (it’s too bad that Ryan Tedder isn’t still advising), and he’s taken it one step further by bringing his own arrangement. It’s interesting to see Will behind the piano, and speaking of ownership, his version sounds totally different from the original, while keeping the earnestness that made it so great. Give him bonus points for not just the vocal performance, but also the successful rearrangement. There hasn’t been a new arrangement this good since Season 2’s Chris Cauley mixed up “Grenade.”

Christina laments losing Will for a little too long, before calling his attempt “so beautiful and so touching.” Cee Lo calls it “dynamic” and “definitive.” Adam thinks that Will just gave “the performance of your life.” And apparently no one cares what Blake thinks. Hopefully, Will can stick around this time.

After Will, it’s his teammate Preston Pohl. Firstly, we want to take a moment to pass on our best wishes to Preston’s father, who’s thankfully cancer-free at the moment. Now, Preston is singing “Nothin’ On You,” which also requires a little bit of rapping with the singing. Unlike Nic earlier, Preston injects a little more vocal variety into the rap portions, and his song also has more singing than “Blurred Lines” as well.

Blake is “blown away” by the performance. Christina and Cee Lo also are in favor, while Adam compliments Preston on the uniquity of his voice. “You can’t coach that. You can’t teach that,” he enthuses. “When I hear you sing, I know it’s you.”

The final member of Team Blake to sing is Cole Vosbury, whose beard apparently has its own Twitter parody account, and who brings out Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” If there’s an issue for Cole, it’s that he’s on the same team with Austin Jenckes; the two seem similar to us, and not just because they’re two dudes with great facial hair. They both play guitar, they’ve both got grit in their voices, and they’ve both performed rock songs well tonight. But we’ve heard coaches speak as early as the battle rounds about only carrying one of each type of artist on their teams. How is Cole going to differentiate himself from Austin and vice versa?

Christina’s confused that only Cee Lo turned for Cole in the blind auditions. Cee Lo points out that he’s friends with Rod Stewart, which Adam mocks him for. Adam mocks himself for not turning around for Cole before announcing that “Maggie May” is another of his favorite songs. And lastly, Blake thinks Cole is so good, that he’s good for the show as a whole. He even drops the word “front-runner” in there.

That means it’s Team Adam’s Tessanne Chin closing out the show with her performance of “Many Rivers To Cross.” This is a Jimmy Cliff song, and as we know, Tessanne formerly sang background vocals for Jimmy Cliff, so it’s perfect to represent her and where she’s been thus far. She’s known to us for her power, and we still get that here, but this is also quieter and more ballad-esque than Tessanne’s earlier song choices. Like Judith Hill tackling Michael Jackson last season, this is a moment where an artist’s personal feelings meet their performance. And it captures universal praise from the coaches, sending us out on a high note – although, was there really a down one tonight?

You can vote for Team Adam and Team Blake now through 8 AM PT/11 AM ET tomorrow at NBC.com. Live shows continue tomorrow night at 9 PM ET/PT, with elimination results on a special Thursday night show.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Fanbolt with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.


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