On Monday, The Voice went live for the first time of Season 22, as the top 16 competed for America’s votes. Of course, anything can happen on live television. And sadly, it did, when the “GOAT” of the competition, Team Camila’s Kate Kalvach — the standout contestant that Blake Shelton tried to woo with an actual live goat — was sabotaged by a technical error that might have ruined her chances of making it to the top 13, let alone to the finals.
Kate was all set to have a big moment with the Shania Twain crowd-pleaser “You’re Still the One,” but from the instant she opened her mouth and an uncharacteristically less-than-perfect vocal came out, it was obvious that something wasn’t right. She started frantically shaking her head, gesturing to the stage wings, and fiddling with her earpiece before yanking it out entirely. She looked understandably frustrated, and while she was a consummate professional, soldiering on, her struggle was real, and she never fully recovered. By almost any other vocalist’s standards it was still a solid performance, but it was hardly up to par with Kate’s previous stellar efforts, and that was a shame.
Host Carson Daly attempted to reassure Kate that this hadn’t been a total career-derailing disaster, telling her, “I know you had a little trouble with your in-ears there. You sounded incredible despite that fact. You're a total pro. You didn't even stop — you just kept going! And you sounded better as the song went on.”
“Yeah, my voice was not in my ear,” Kate shrugged, maintaining a brave face. “That threw me off in the beginning, but… cool.”
“That's happened to me so many times. That's crazy — I couldn't tell,” Gwen Stefani said sympathetically.
“For anybody at home who doesn't know, her voice not being in her ears means she's relying on the echoey chamber of the room,” Kate’s coach, Camila Cabello, explained to the laypeople voting at home. “That’s really hard to do, and Kate, you handled that like a total pro. Your voice is magical and angelic.”
I don’t think all is lost for Kate; she is indeed a magical singer, and even if she lands in the bottom four and has to sing for the Instant Save on Tuesday’s live results show, she has a strong chance of prevailing — as long as she doesn’t suffer any more technical issues. But Monday’s live top 16 show was highly competitive, so this week’s results could go any which way. Let’s assess the other 15 performances of the night, and then make some predictions…
Omar José Cardona, “Living on a Prayer”
John Legend stated for the record that he thinks Omar is the odds-on favorite to win this season, but I’m not so sure. While slotting Omar first might have been a way to orchestrate an “electrifying start” to the show, as Carson put it, it also put him in the disadvantaged “death spot.” And while ‘80s rock does tend to connect with The Voice’s Middle American Gen X/Boomer voting base, I don’t think Omar is “such a rock star” like Camila claimed. This performance totally lacked edge (not that Bon Jovi’s so edgy to begin with, but you get what I mean), and on top of that, his vocals weren’t as pristine and polished as they usually are. His throat sounded tight, and his voice wobbled a lot. Was it nerves? Too much adrenaline? It certainly couldn’t have been easy for him to open this season’s first live show. But John doubled down on his earlier statement, gushing: “Dear God, Omar, your voice is out of this world. There are so few people on the planet that can sing like you can. Your range is incredible, your energy is incredible, and you put soul into everything that you do. There's so much passion and musicality and soul, and then this voice that almost no one on the planet can match. It's crazy, man.” I will say, if Omar has to sing for the Instant Save Tuesday, he’ll probably bring the energy needed to win by a landslide.
Kim Cruse, “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”
Kim did not come to play! Normally I’d put Aretha Franklin on the list of artists that all singing show contestants should avoid. But as Blake told Kim, “When I saw you were doing Aretha, I was like, ‘Oh my God, there's only one person this season that has any business doing Aretha Franklin.’ That's you. Unbelievable!” Yes, the “Velvet Powerhouse” made it all look so easy — her last name is fitting, because she cruised through this — and even her own coach admitted, “I just sit back and enjoy it, because I don't have to oh do any work.” But Kim also had the grit and edge that the equally professionally Omar lacked. I feel Kim could cruise all the way to the finale, if she keeps delivering dynamite performances like this one.
Sasha Hurtado, “Tiny Dancer”
Sasha has been “tossed around like a hot potato” this season — having started on Team Camila before being stolen in the Battle Rounds by Gwen and finally saved by John during the Knockout Rounds — but both Gwen and John thought the “lucky” Sasha had benefited from getting to work with three superstar coaches during this short period of time. “I feel like this is the first time I've really seen you command the stage. I could see this confidence in you,” Gwen asserted. “I think Gwen is right: You learned different things from each of us. … You walked around that stage with the confidence that showed that you belong here.” I agree that Sasha didn’t seemed rattled by her bumpy Voicejourney, and she gave a solid performance of this Elton John classic, aside for some messy diction issues at the beginning. But I don’t think viewers got to seeher confidence, because so much of her performance was shown through wide-angle camera shots. We barely got to see her emotive face until the end, and with a sentimental song like this, that’s what was needed to command voters’ attention. She was ready for her closeup — but she literally didn’t get one.
Parijita Bastola, “I’ll Never Love Again”
If there is one Team Legend contestant who has a chance of winning Season 22, it’s not Omar – it’s this 17-year-old phenomenon. A star was born tonight, as Parijita flawlessly belted an Oscar-worthy rendition of Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born heartbreak theme (with plenty of camera closeups to showcase the fire and focus in her eyes), and she absolutely earned the first four-way coach standing ovation of the night. Even Carson called this performance “absolutely stunning.” A “bewildered” Camila described this tour de force as “masterful” and “amazing,” and proud coach John raved, “During rehearsal we talked about evoking that cry, that emotion, that heartbreak. Oh my God, that was so emotionally beautiful and honest. It just pulled everyone's heartstrings. You set a spell on all of us, and it was so beautiful.”
Kiqué, “As It Was”
When I heard that this 19-year-old “diamond in the rough” was covering a sprightly, bouncy Harry Styles hit, I figured it would not pack a punch — especially after Team Legend’s parade of power-singers. But after witnessing how Kiqué so completely transformed OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” during the Knockouts, I should have never doubted the kid. This week, his spooky, slowed-down, Sam Smith-reminiscent remake was equally cool and creative and compelling — and I’d never heard this “quirky kid” sing quite like this. “You're doing these really interesting covers of songs that are really huge and popular, and you're making them your own. You're adding so much of your own personality and your own style to them. And you're beautifully vocally executing your plan. You keep impressing me every time,” said John. “You see and know your voice so well. You know what you can make out of a song that's not even yours. You have so much confidence, but in such a cool, humble, awesome star way. I'm so into you,” gushed Gwen. Kiqué is definitely one of Season 22’s most unique contestants — a possible dark horse, and actually not so “rough” after all.
Kevin Hawkins, “Skate”
Showman Kevin served the sort of flamboyance that Omar aimed for and missed on this disco/soul Silk Sonic banger — and that shiny suit was something Harry Styles would wear! However, I worry that America won’t connect with Kevin’s retro/Vegas style. But Kevin’s former coach Blake loved seeing Kevin’s “entertainer side” and called him “the one that got away,” and Kevin’s current coach and fellow fashionista Gwen was entertained as well, exclaiming, “It's incredible to see you blossom onstage. I thought you were incredible. You're doing it all. You can dance, you can sing, you can perform. You have it.”
Alyssa Witrado, “Angels Like You”
Alyssa is definitely the weakest singer on Team Gwen (the fact that she even made it to the Live Playoffs was a surprise), but Gwen, Alyssa’s self-described “mother,” has always had a soft spot for this 19-year-old — maybe because Alyssa tried out with No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” Anyway, while Alyssa handled this mighty Miley Cyrus rock ballad pretty admirably, it was a far from perfect vocal, and it was sort of a backhanded compliment that Gwen herself expressed surprise that Alyssa was actually “so in tune!” And Camila, also a big Alyssa fan, admitted that she’d wished Alyssa had “gotten lost a little more in the emotion of the song.” I think this undercooked contestant should have waited a season or two to audition, and this is probably the end of the road for Alyssa.
Justin Aaron, “Here and Now”
Justin’s Luther Vandross cover was tasteful and elegant, but so, so old-fashioned. It was very American Idol Season 2, and very safe — though, of course, that vibe might appeal to The Voice’s ever-graying audience. And I couldn’t fault Justin’s vocal — and neither could the coaches, who gave him a standing ovation. “That's Luther Vandross, if you kids don't know. You sang Luther with such skill — it was really beautifully done,” said John. “Oh my gosh… I've been waiting for this moment. It's beyond. It was beyond my dream. Wow,” Gwen declared, beaming proudly.
Morgan Myles, “Let Him Fly”
This earnest evangelical Patty Griffin barnstormer was theperfect song choice for country-rocker Morgan, who Camila described as a “fusion of country, pop, singer-songwriter, somebody who has carved out a lane by being a truth-teller.” What a quietly smoldering and sexy performance! Morgan was completely connected, and so was everyone watching her. I was getting Crystal Bowersox vibes from her. “That was just so freakin’ good. You sounded incredible. Your pitch was perfect. It was just a great performance. You look like a star standing there,” Blake marveled. “Morgan! I’m so proud of you! … I feel like you with your guitar up there, you sing songs that tell a story, and we can't notbelieve you. And I thought that was really, really beautiful, as always,” said Camila.
Eric Who, “Rumor Has It”
Eric hasn’t gotten much airtime this season (his Blind Audition and Knockout were both montaged), but every time he has been onscreen, this drama king has burned the screen right up. Adele is another singer whose songbook I’d advise Voice contestants to avoid in general, but this was “an Adele song like you've never heard before.” This was rock ‘n’ roll theater! This was fire! (Omar, please take notes.) At one point, Eric even had the audacity to shout, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Eric Who Show!” — and I was all in. Eric chewed the scenery, and I ate it up. So did the coaches. “You're showing us all your skills as a performer. I love that you mixed a punk element into the bridge. You're making confident and bold and smart choices, and singing so beautifully too,” said John. “You just light my spirit on fire. You're such an entertainer, I have so much fun watching you. You command the stage. I just feel like you wake everybody up in here,” said Camila. I hope America wakes up and votes for this dynamo. The Eric Who Show hasn’t been on my TV screen enough this season, and I want to see more, more, more.
Devix, “Sex on Fire”
Devix was “providing some much-needed rock 'n' roll,” as former KROQ DJ Carson put it, and he definitely had the natural rock-star swagger to pull off this Kings of Leon arena smash. This was a real-world performance — modern, nothing old-fashioned or made-for-TV about it. John even said Devix had a “should-be-on-the-radio” voice. However, I did agree with John’s critique when he said, “I want you to unleash at another level. I feel like you play it so cool because you're so good. Be a little less cool, and throw yourself out there a little bit — just a little bit.” Camila conceded that this was “good feedback,” but once again stressed that Devix is a “real artist.” I almost feel Devix would be better off fronting a band, but I hope he gets more time to find his own voice on The Voice.
Bryce Leatherwood, “I’m Gonna Be Somebody”
Blake flat-out described Bryce as his “right-down-the-middle authentic country superstar,” and of course he meant that as high praise, but in a season of risk-takers like Kiqué, Eric Who, Morgan Myles, Devix, and Team Blake’s Bodie, I just find Bryce so uninspiring. I am sure America will disagree. Bryce does what he does, and he does it well. And he’s undeniably polished, commercial, and radio-ready, even if he ain’t exactly reinventing the wagon wheel. “On this show, a lot of times there are people who want to be country singers,” Blake said after Bryce finished his by-the-book Travis Tritt cover, “and sometimes there's country people — which is exactly what you are. Everything about you is authentic. You sounded incredible. You're getting through this thing tomorrow; there's no question in my mind.”
Rowan Grace, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”
This 17-year-old recent high school graduate made a smart, sentimental choice with the dearly, recently departed Olivia Newton-John’s Greaseballad — even if her vocal was a bit unsteady and she seemed out of breath during the first verse, which made this performance feel more like an actual high school musical. (Please note, Olivia was a mature and womanly 30-year-old, not 17, when Grease hit theaters.) Rowan pulled it together in the chorus, however, and with that, Blake claimed she “threw [herself] into the front-running of this competition. … My phone is buzzing like crazy right now after you got done singing, because you came out here and you simply delivered a solid performance of a classic song, and that's what this audience loves.” He was right. I don’t think Rowan has what it takes to make it to the finale, but she could be fine for now. If she makes it to the top 13, song choice will be key for her going forward.
Brayden Lape, “Buy Dirt”
Blake was hyping up his “heartthrob of the season” and “16-year-old all-American” before this performance even started, going so far as to declare: “The first time I ever met Taylor Swift she was a teenager with stars in her eyes, and there's a part of [Brayden] that reminds me of how she was back then.” Brayden took a risk of his own by doing a midtempo Jordan Davis song while sitting on a stool the entire time, on a night when so many other showboaters made full use of the spacious stage. But I have to say, he did exude natural star quality. Brayden did a lot without doing very much. “That was incredible. I can't believe how calm and collected and perfect you sound. I'll say this too: To the Voice fans watching this show right now, you can either decide that you want to say as a voter of this show that you discovered this guy right here, or you can wait a couple of years and then start hearing him on the radio and realize you missed your chance to say you discovered him,” proclaimed Blake.
Bodie, “Glimpse of Us”
Well, wait just a minute. Blake should not be so sure that Rowan, Brayden, or Bryce are his frontrunners — because Bodie very well could win this thing. His pimp-spot Joji cover was so fearless, so connected, so passionate, showcasing a whole new vulnerable side of him. He said, “I want to set the bar even higher; I'm ready to walk out on that stage and give it all I got” — and that’s exactly what he did. It was the perfect, gauntlet-throwing way to end the night. “Bodie, wow. I wasn't expecting that kind of song out of you. …You could do literally anything. You're alternative, but you're pop. You’re everything. It was amazing — like, mind blowing,” gasped Gwen. “Oh my God, I'll see you in the finale,” Blake summed up.
So now, it is prediction time. On Tuesday, the top two vote-getters from each team will advance, and I predict they will be Team Legend’s Kim and Parijita, Team Gwen’s Kiqué and Justin, Team Camila’s Morgan and Devix, and Team Blake’s Brayden and Bodie. The coaches will then save another artist, and I predict those will be Omar, Alyssa, Eric, and Bryce. That will leave just one open spot in the next round’s top 13, with the remaining four singers performing for the Instant Save. I hope Kate snags that lucky 13th spot, because she really deserves another chance. But see you Tuesday, when the drama unfolds in real time.
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