The Voice coach Kelly Clarkson is the undisputed queen of covers. She obviously came to fame interpreting other artists’ songs on another singing competition, American Idol, and more recently her viral “Kellyoke” segments have become the high points of her daytime chat show. It seems there is no tune, no matter how iconic or ubiquitous, that Kelly can’t make her own, from Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” to Erasure’s “Always” and Yazoo’s “Only You,” to even “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by first-wave U.K. punk legends the Clash. But on Monday’s Voice episode, Kelly revealed to her team adviser, Latin superstar Luis Fonsi, that his signature hit is the one song that she believes is untouchable.
“I just realized something,” Kelly told Luis during the pretaped Battle Rounds rehearsals. “You have the one song in history I'm afraid to cover, ‘Despacito.’ … And I have practiced so hard, because I love singing in Spanish, or in just different languages.”
“Yeah, it is a lot of lyrics. It's wordy for me!” Luis admitted with a chuckle.
“And it's like the biggest song of all time. I’m kind of like, ‘You know what? I'm going to leave that alone,’” Kelly said humbly.
I am sure that loyal The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Voice viewers — and seemingly Luis himself, who exclaimed, “Aw, come on, you have to cover it now!” when he learned of Kelly’s “Despacito” anxiety — have faith that Kelly could totally slay Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s smash, if she ever decided to give it a go. Maybe one day, with Luis's encouragement, she’ll add it to her “Kellyoke” playlist; we’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, we will also have to wait until the Knockout Rounds, which commence April 19, to see Kelly on The Voice full-time again. Last week, it was announced that Kelly had fallen ill and had therefore enlisted one of her former team advisers, Kelsea Ballerini, to fill her red chair during this season’s actual Battle Rounds performances. Kelsea returned as a substitute coach this Monday, and while Kelly was once again dearly missed, her team was in good hands, with Kelsea consulting Kelly via text message every step of the way. Monday’s episode ended with two Team Kelly members awesomely interpreting Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” — a song that Kelly performed during a “Kellyoke” segment earlier this year — and they did such a dreamy job that Kelsea joked, “This is why Kelly didn’t show up today!” But in the end, with Kelly’s remote guidance, Kelsea made the right call.
Below are the Battles from Monday’s show:
TEAM BLAKE: Cam Anthony vs. Emma Caroline, “10,000 Hours”
Cam and Emma are very different singers — Cam is an R&B belter with gospel roots; Emma is a winsome country ingenue — so Dan + Shay’s crossover pop hit seemed like a good middle-ground choice for them. Dan + Shay even served as Blake Shelton’s Battle mentors and generously claimed that Cam and Emma’s rendition was better than their original! Well, maybe they were half-right. There really was no middle ground here: Emma showcased a pretty, lilting tone, but Cam was absolutely dominated this Battle. While he is six years younger than Emma, his experience as a former child prodigy (he started singing at age 4 and once performed on Ellen and at the White House) made him a natural for TV. Cam was expressive and in his element, playing to the cameras and virtual audience as well as to his duet partner. Emma, conversely, froze up and held back. “It’s frustrating to know that you’re that great of a singer, and I don’t know if you know if you’re that great of a singer, because of your body language,” Blake told Emma before understandably choosing Cam, who he said was “born to do that.” That’s why it was so surprising when, as Emma was taking her post-defeat walk of shame down the stage’s front steps, Blake used his one Save of the season on her. “I want to scare some stage presence into you!” he said, explaining his jolting, last-minute decision to hit his button. But I have a feeling Emma will be even more scared when she has to compete against the other coaches’ saved contestants in the next round’s daunting Four-Way Knockout.
WINNER: Cam Anthony / SAVED: Emma Caroline moves on to the Four-Way Knockout
TEAM KELLY: Halley Greg vs. Gihanna Zoë, “Thinking Out Loud”
This Battle was depicted as another slam-dunk, but I don’t think the coaches gave enough credit to underdog Halley. At best, they backhandedly complimented Halley with adjectives like “quirky” and “interesting,” along with their frequent mentions that her voice wasn’t as big or technically flawless as her opponent’s. But Halley did break out a Minnie Riperton-esque dog-whistle-decibel note out of nowhere, and that alone impressed me. Yes, Gihanna was the stronger singer overall (although coach Nick Jonas was being a bit hyperbolic when her compared her to Beyoncé — twice!), but I appreciated the sweetness, warmth, and “imperfections” of Halley’s voice. This was one Battle I wouldn’t have minded resulting in a Save, but after Kelsea texted Kelly, she followed her boss's orders to pick Gihanna and let Halley go. As it turned out, Kelsea needed to save that Save for later anyway.
WINNER: Gihanna Zoë
TEAM LEGEND: Durell Anthony vs. Zania Alaké, “Emotion”
This song choice was inspired by the Bee Gees’ recent fantastic documentary (in which Nick makes a cameo) and by John Legend’s wife Chrissy Teigen’s fondness for the Destiny’s Child remake of this Gibbs-penned ballad. It was the perfect fit for both contestants’ butter-smooth voices, and their slow-jam duet was like something straight out of the 1978 Soul Train Awards. Vocally this was a fairly even match and just an all-around excellent performance; I prefer Battles that feel less like, well, actual battles and more like professional duets. But Zania was the more charismatic and compelling entertainer here. John said they were both “wonderful” and specifically praised Durell’s falsetto, but he ultimately picked Zania because he was impressed by how much she “stepped up” and “really delivered” after taking direction from her team adviser for the week, the “Vocal Bible” herself, Brandy.
WINNER: Zania Alaké
TEAM BLAKE: Keegan Ferrell vs. Jordan Matthew Young, “Calling All Angels”
Thirty-four-year-old roots-rocker Jordan has a lot of grit and gravel in his voice (Dan + Shay paid him a major compliment by comparing him to the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson), while 21-year-old Keegan is a silky pop crooner — so this Train power ballad really seemed to favor Jordan. And that’s exactly how it played out onstage. Keegan did his best, but he was clearly out of his element, approaching the song tentatively, and he seemed set up to fail. That being said, while “Calling All Angels” was a good showcase for Jordan’s robust bellow, which Blake rapturously described as “weathered” and “warm,” it could be argued that Keegan, a bedroom-pop producer, is more relevant to the current marketplace than a bar-band journeyman like Jordan. And that’s an argument that pop star Nick was willing to make, when he used his one Steal of the season on Keegan. I’m still not sure if Keegan has the stage presence to go far in this competition, but I think he deserves the chance to show what he can really do, so he’s on the right team for now. (Side note: Keegan did have the option to join Team Kelly originally, but he thought Blake could take him to the "next level." Oops.)
WINNER: Jordan Matthew Young / STOLEN: Keegan Ferrell moves to Team Jonas
TEAM JONAS: Lindsay Joan vs. Zae Romeo, “Rewrite the Stars”
Zae was a four-chair turn in the Blind Auditions, and he therefore seemingly had the advantage. But Lindsay is a theater veteran who has performed in Kinky Boots, so a Battle featuring a Greatest Showman tune and two mentors (coach Nick and team adviser Darren Criss) with acting experience could have easily skewed in her favor instead. This Battle ended up being close competition, all down to a matter of taste; of course Lindsay’s style was more traditionally Broadway than that of maverick stylist Zae, and eventually Nick “went with his gut” and chose the latter contestant, which was hardly a shock. But if this Battle had aired as part of You’re the One that I Want, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, The Glee Project, or Legally Blonde: The Musical – The Search for Elle Woods, the outcome could have been quite different.
WINNER: Zae Romeo
TEAM LEGEND: Ciana Pelekai vs. Denisha Dalton, “You Broke Me First”
More like “You Montaged Me First,” amirite? This season’s Battle Rounds had managed to avoid any montages so far, but that luck ran out for poor Ciana and Denisha, whose entire Battles experience was reduced to less than a minute of airtime on Monday. It was a messy-sounding minute, with the two women practically shouting over each other, so maybe this brutal edit was warranted. From what I could glean, John was right to pick Ciana, and I do recall enjoying her fresh, fun Blind Audition of “Dance Monkey.” But Denisha’s “Pillowtalk” audition had also been excellent, so I do wonder what went wrong here. Oh well. We’ll see if Ciana gets more screentime next time.
WINNER: Ciana Pelekai
TEAM KELLY: Corey Ward vs. Savanna Woods, “Dreams”
The Stevie Nicks-penned classic was definitely in earth girl Savanna’s wheelhouse; she even said she grew up singing Fleetwood Mac with her former band. But the song worked wonderfully with Corey’s rasp too, and these two shared the sort of burn-up-the-TV-screen chemistry that Kelly said usually takes years to build. “I don’t have any notes. I’m not going to ruin what just happened. I’m going to stay out of your way,” she delightedly gasped during rehearsal. Corey and Savanna’s instant connection translated to the main stage, with a vocal blend and natural ease that left Kelsea in awe. (Kelsea once covered “Dreams” with Halsey and knows how difficult it can be to make such an “iconic” song one’s own.) Kelsea was leaning toward Savanna, but the three regular coaches were rooting for Corey. Of course, this was ultimately Kelly’s call, and after an intense text-message exchange with Kelly, Kelsea revealed that the winner of this Battle was Corey… and the recipient of Team Kelly’s Save was Savanna! “Kelly knew this was going to be hard one, and she was down for the Save,” Kelsea explained — implying that she’d at least had some say in this outcome. Well, whoever made the decision to save Savanna, it was the right decision. Savanna didn’t deserve to have her Voice dreams crushed.
WINNER: Corey Ward / SAVED: Savanna Woods moves on to the Four-Way Knockout
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