Teen brings surprising authenticity to Sara Bareilles, while a one-chair turn could turn out to be a real dark horse contender for its winning coach — that’s an artist who knows “how to sell a line.”
There was nothing “Shallow” about an incredible take on the Oscar-winning song by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper on the latest round of Blind Auditions for “The Voice.”
And that was just one of several strong performances in the last Tuesday night installment for a while. Next week, “This is Us” returns to claim its spot in the lineup. But in its absence, we got the chance to enjoy some truly challenging song choices, pushing these artists to new heights.
It was also a night of young contestants, with a couple of teenagers taking on the biggest stage of their lives. It’s definitely a test of their maturity vocally, with some finding out they need a little more time to marinate with their artistry, and some finding out they are ready right now.
Tonight, we saw one from each category, with one 17-year-old managing to pour every bit of emotion into a Sara Bareilles track about self-acceptance. It was such a heartfelt and genuine moment, we can’t believe it was almost a one-chair turn.
Elsewhere, there was a one-chair turn that could turn around and really surprise the other coaches. This wasn’t someone in need of a lot of fine-tuning to what they can do, this was someone who knows exactly what they’re about and how to draw an audience in. They could be a real dark horse contender.
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Nick Jonas and Blake Shelton.
And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are, and then see how well they do as the season progresses.
(“If You Really Love Me,” Stevie Wonder – 17, Schwenksville, PA) She took on a big old song, but did so with an unexpected intimacy. She missed a couple of notes and didn’t seem to have the chest strength to really belt out when she was trying to, but has a very nice pocket when she settles into her groove. This appears to be a case of just needing to hone her craft a little more to get a little more strength, control and shine on her talent.
(“Bright Lights,” Gary Clark Jr. – 23, Gallipolis, OH) There was an interesting breathy rasp to Connor’s voice, where it was almost more gravel than voice. It’s certainly compelling and has a way of drawing you in, but this track and his performance stayed almost exclusively in one lane almost the whole way through. But it’s such a cool groove, it was believably bluesy rock-and-roll in a way that feels fresh and exciting.
Result: Team Blake (Blake, Kelly, Nick turn)
(“How to Save a Life,” The Fray – 28, Austin, TX) He stayed in the pocket so long, he almost didn’t get a chair to turn. But when he showed he does have some range underneath that rich timbre in his natural tone, she was in. We were already in, at least when it came to a compelling performance of this one song. She was right to hold out and make sure he at least has glimmers that he can do more. There’s a lot of texture in his voice that’s engaging in a storytelling way, so on the right songs, he can have audiences eating out of his hands.
(“She Used to Be Mine,” Sara Bareilles – 17, Redlands, CA) From the start, we believed every word that Gihanna sang. This is a song that demands your emotional presentation, and Gihanna had no problem with that, even before we could see her performing. That’s a testament to the connection she has with her voice, with her spirit and with her artistry. This is the kind of artist that can create moments. While it wasn’t technically perfect throughout, she is on the cusp of pulling it together and pulling it out.
Results: Team Kelly (Kelly, Nick turn)
(“Say You Won’t Let Go,” James Arthur – 22, Nashville, TN by way of Michigan) Bradley started off very low, which kept him from really reaching high into his head voice. That was either fear or knowing he doesn’t have it, but we kind of suspect he does if he pushes himself. His tone and control everywhere else in his impressive range is so spot on, and the glimpses we did get toward the top were pretty nice. What’s better, is we saw room to grow in what he delivered, which was already filled with so much heart and sincerity.
Results: Team Nick (Kelly, Nick turn)
(“Shallow,” Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – 28, Conway, NC) Deion knows exactly who he is as a vocalist and as an artist. He took a song that for Bradley stayed in its lane, allowing Lady Gaga to soar, and he rearranged it just with a lift here and a run there to make it instantly move you in new ways and get your attention. When you tackle a song so well known, you have to be smart about how you modify it, and Deion did so perfectly. His range is incredible, and his tone is silky smooth, making you want to get up and dance as it slides across your body.
Results: Team Legend (John, Kelly, Nick turn)
COACHES BANTER: MINI-EDITION
- “If I got picked for Team Blake and that was my gift, I’d be pretty devastated.” –Nick (about Blake’s bobbleheads)
- “Who would want this when they could have an empty notebook.” –John (about Nick’s Notes)
- “I didn’t say much. It’s just a testament to how bad you two are at this.” –Blake (after Connor chose him over Kelly and Nick)
- “You get three incredible coaches to choose Nick from.” –Blake (to Deion)
- “I don’t know what rhymes with North Carolina (that I can say on TV).” –John (singing to Deion)
“The Voice” continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.