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'The Voice' Season 9 Recap, Review: Live Playoffs Continue, Gwake Gets Moment on Screen

by Carolyn Menyes   Nov 16, 2015 22:58 PM EST

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Kevin Simm on winning The Voice: 'It brought me back from the dead after Liberty X'

The Voice brought out its established top 12 on Monday night (Nov. 15) after a total massacre elimination last week, these 12 performances should have been turned up a notch, but what we got instead was the same sort of uneven crop we had with last week's performances. Guess we'll have to wait another few weeks for more fat to be trimmed.

How did it play out? Check out our performer-by-performer lineup below.

Braiden Sunshine, "Renegade": At his very core, Braiden Sunshine is a rocker kid; he's been in a band since he was 9 years old, for goodness' sake and his favorite band is Blues Traveler. So, when Coach Gwen asked him what sort of record he would make tomorrow, he answered with classic rock (AC/DC), so she dished him this Styx track. While this looks very, very awkward on paper, Braiden was actually comfortable with this, unlike his performance last week. Sure, he's still not allowed to wear his glasses onstage or his curly hair, but he was confident and vocally solid here. His vocals did get a bit lost in the instrumentation, but this kid is clearly an audience favorite. SO, he'll be safe regardless.

Amy Vachal, "Hotline Bling": As we learned last week with Regina Love's cover of "Hello," tackling a massive modern hit can be a risky play on The Voice, but for Team Adam's Amy Vachal, this twist on Drake's "Hotline Bling" is exactly what she needed to do. As Blake called out, this was the classiest cover of a song about a bootycall that has ever been done. She twisted the song in to her own cool, Brooklyn jazz style and it helped her to stand out. Amy was a coach save by Adam, and she needs high sales and a high profile moment to make it to the third round of the live playoffs, and this is a serious contender for just that. (Oh, and can we just talk about that Gwake moment totally overshadowing Amy?!)

Mark Hood, "Against All Odds": Mark Hood's so-so performance of Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" last week almost doomed him to go home, until he was saved by Coach Pharrell... So, how do you combat a bad song choice? With a bad song choice! I mean, Phil Collins is a talented man but he's not necessarily the coolest guy on the block and this total musical 180 from last week only muddles who Mark is as an artist - I really have no idea who his fans are supposed to be. So, in addition to this sort of awkward choice, the performance followed by being only so-so yet again. Mark really struggled to get through to the high notes in the chorus. This guy already is not one of America's favorites, and this will not help matters.

Emily Ann Roberts, "Blame It On Your Heart": I thought last week's Emily Ann Roberts performance of "In The Garden" was really underwhelming, but despite not getting the votes to save, America disagreed by making this song one of the most-purchased on iTunes of The Voice bunch. But, this week, with Patty Loveless' "Blame It On Your Heart," we got a taste of her true talents. And, Emily Ann Roberts actually has a beautiful, simple and classic country tone. Though Blake believes that she works in moden country, there's actually something very old school about her here. This was quite captivating.

Korin Bukowski, "Titanium": Sia is one of the hardest singers out there to replicate or cover, so taking on her massive David Guetta collaboration "Titanium" is quite the task. Instead of really trying for those massive high notes, Korin Bukowski and her coach Gwen rearranged this song to play to her strengths. What happened was something less dynamic than the original (and thus less powerful) but good enough. The weirdest thing about Korin is how destined Gwen seems to be to turn her into mini-Gwen. She's chopped off her hair and dyed it platinum blonde! The only plus is this week, Korin could at least see - she wore her glasses.

Barrett Baber, "Right Here Waiting": This rock ballad seemed like a bit of an odd choice for Barrett Baber, and after he excelled last week with "Drive Your Truck," I'm not sure why they decided to ditch his genre of choice for this Richard Marx single. He worked the stage a bit like the cornball he is, and while I wasn't 100 percent in love with this song choice, Barrett did with it what he could, working the emotions of it without being too '80s crazy like Keith Semple or something. But, let's be real, Barrett is a bit of a fan favorite, so he should be OK, especially considering that tonight had some bigger missteps.

Madi Davis, "Who Will Save Your Soul": Madi Davis was an easy pass through for Team Pharrell in to the top 12, with her emotional Fleetwood Mac cover last week. Now, she decided to show off her funk side by giving a little twist to Jewel's "Who Will Save Your Soul." The arrangement didn't totally work for me; it seemed more in line with who Pharrell is as a musician than who Madi is. The talk-singing came off as a little awkward instead of super chill and cool. I think another tender acoustic performance would have played better here. It would have been far more predictable, too, but it would have been a safe slide in to week three. This felt risky.

Jeffery Austin, "Let It Go": I've said this before and I will say it again... Jeffery Austin is just the sort of performer who naturally does well on The Voice, and his performance tonight of James Bay's "Let It Go" showed why. He didn't do anything too crazy here, but he executed this emotional midtempo ballad flawlessly, allowing the notes to hang and vibrate as the song called for. What worked best about this, other than the tender care that was taken with it, is that while Jeffery and Gwen didn't mess with the arrangement of this song at all, his vocal is different enough from Bay's that he still sounded unique enough to get those iTunes downloads.

Shelby Brown, "In Color": Jamey Johnson's "In Color" is a song packed with vulnerability and love, and Coach Adam felt like it was time for Shelby Brown to have a moment, so he offered this track up to her. In her rehearsal, Shelby broke down - the competition is getting to her - and that reflected just ever so much in her live performance; she seemed a little unsure of herself. But, when she fell into the moment, which happened every now and then, she did quite well. She actually revealed a little bit of a Carrie Underwood texture to her voice, and that can only work well for her. Was this pitch perfect? Absolutely not. And Shelby did lose the band for a second. But, country does well on this show, and she's got the chops for this. So, even with the missteps, she has the potential to recover just fine.

Evan McKeel, "This Is It": Evan McKeel may have been posed for big moments with his twice-done performance of "Overjoyed" but he's actually really easy to forget about in the world of The Voice. In his rehearsal, he said that he has no desire to go back to performing at weddings and buffets, but you know who gets performed at those dreadful affairs all the time? Kenny Loggins. Wow. What a lame song choice from Pharrell. Evan did with this what he could, delivering a vocal that was solid but nothing too sparkly. His wardrobe outfit of a crazy dorky sweater didn't help things, either. I'd love to hear Evan do something modern or something along the lines of what he wants to record, unless he'd stick it with these dated numbers.

Jordan Smith, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness": Jordan Smith is the golden boy of The Voice's ninth season, but you can't have him go last every week... so this week he goes second to last. He moved away from the dramatic pop ballads for this gospel hymn, and the meaning to the song brought him to tears during rehearsals. His live performance opened up a cappella, and it's hard to imagine many singers on this show starting this way. It was pure, gripping and pitch perfect. Eventually, he started to accompany himself just on the piano, allowing the melody and his vocals to carry the performance home. This was the simplest performance of the night, but the most captivating. Jordan is a shoe-in for the finale.

Zach Seabaugh, "My Love": Apparently Zach Seabaugh is not the coolest kid in his high school, which is hard to believe because girl fans of The Voice love this 17-year-old crooner. He took on "MY Love," and right off the bat it's clear this isn't going to be the high energy offering he gave us last night - some of these notes were just plain ol' flat. When he wasn't flubbing notes, however, his tone was really strong and deep, which makes for a 100 percent country fried performance. Zach won over legions of fans last week, so even though this was less than perfect he will be a-OK.

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