The Voice is pretty heartbreaking. After weeks of getting to know a contestant, just in an instant, like that, eight are sent home. It's OK to cry if you're hurt - Gwen Stefani did. On Wednesday night (Nov. 12), the first live results show for The Voice season seven aired, leaving two shocking eliminations and this reviewer lamenting the team structure.
It's becoming more and more obvious that Pharrell Willams and Adam Levine's teams are the ones to beat this year. Despite their best efforts, Stefani and Blake Shelton just couldn't form as solid of a pack of five as their fellow coaches.
The result of the team structure is simply that the best 12 singers/performers on this season of The Voice simply did not make it from the top 20 to the top 12. And it led to some shocking eliminations. While so-so performers such as Ryan Sill and DaNica Shirey get to move on in the competition, powerhouses that had winning potential such as Elyjuh Rene and Taylor Phelan were sent packing.
So, let's mourn the loss together and relive how the top 12 of The Voice came to be...
From the very first few notes of Team Blake's song, the '80s anthem "Life in a Northern Town," it was fairly clear who the favorites on Shelton's team were. The ethereal The Dream Academy song was perfectly fitting for the cool tones of Reagan James and Jessie Pitts, the first of whom got the first fan vote on the team and the latter of whom got Shelton's personal save.
The real wild card was then going to be between Shelton's three country singers: Craig Wayne Boyd, Taylor Brashears and James David Carter. Brashears, unfortunately, had her worst performance of the season on Monday night (Nov. 10) with The Dixie Chicks' "Long Time Gone," so it was fairly clear she was a goner. And, in most people's books, Boyd and Carter are fairly interchangeable with a 50/50 blend of country and rock in both of their voices and performance styles. In the end, Boyd's gritty take on the classic rock track "Some Kind of Wonderful" won out.
In the end, it was hard to see the more classically rooted country artists Brashears and Carter go, especially considering the fact that they had been so strong in the past - but Shelton doesn't have three The Voice trophies for nothing. In choosing Pitts to remain on his team over Brashears especially (who has far more artistry and attitude in her), Shelton is appealing to America and not his own personal taste. It's a smart move - Pitts is a far more versatile artist than the pigeon holed Brashears and Carter, and she may need The Voice to succeed while the other two will be just fine.
Team Pharrell should be the strongest team, right? He's the superhero producer behind "Blurred Lines," "Happy" and Miley Cyrus's Bangerz, so why could his team not crack their joint song? Their take on Sam Smith's "Money on My Mind" (which is the fourth track of his this week, by the way) was full of flubbed high notes and missed beats, and woo boy, was that oddly painful.
The elimination rounds for Team Pharrell were similarly painful. Besides Jean Kelley, all four of Pharrell's performers were in mint condition on Tuesday night (Nov. 11). Luke Wade made everyone a little too swoon-y with his "Let's Get it On," Sugar Joans nailed the crap out of "I Say A Little Prayer," Elyjuh Rene was flexible and strong on "Latch" and DaNica Shirey shined through the simplicity on "Help Me." So, what to do? At least one strong contestant was going to go home.
And it was Rene. Obviously, Kelley was a goner with her overdramatic and bordering on cheesy "Piano in the Dark." But Rene was the first shocking elimination of the night. He was a Pharrell favorite, a crowd favorite, with a beautiful story and a stunning voice to match. And it's not like he had a bad performance by any means... it's just that he didn't get the votes. It's the curse of being on the best team on The Voice... your level of competition is just so much higher.
All that being said, it feels like Pharrell made the right choice by saving Joans; he praised her so much on Tuesday that it would be weird if he hadn't saved her. In the end, though, it feels like America made the wrong choice in voting up Shirey so much. Yes, she has a beautiful voice, and yes, her daughter is adorable... but she seems to be missing something from the performance element. Maybe she's more captivating in the audience than on TV or something... but she lacks the punch of Rene... so maybe she still needs this competition. Rene will be fine on his own.
The biggest mixed bag on this season of The Voice is clearly Team Gwen. What do you do with a reggae singer, a pop chick and dude, an indie guy and a diva? Give 'em Vance Joy's "Riptide," I guess. The resulting performance was solid enough, though all the movements felt, like, really, really rehearsed and calculated. You don't just act all cool before sitting down on multi-level staircases. ::eye roll::
Listen, it was always going to be Taylor John Williams and Anita Antoinette on Team Gwen who would get the public vote. After stunning performances of "Stuck in the Middle with You" and "All About That Bass" (respectively), they were just miles and miles ahead of Ryan Sill, Ricky Manning and Bryana Salaz. So, it should have been no surprise when Williams and Antoinette were the ones passing through on the public vote. End of paragraph.
The wild card, or save, from Gwen Stefani was going to be more of a shocker. Salaz absolutely butchered her performance of 5 Seconds of Summer's "Amnesia." It's not a song that was supposed to be hard to sing, but boy, did she manage to make it sound strained beyond belief. Manning and Sills, then, are fairly evenly matched. They're both male tenors with pop leanings who can sort of transcend. Neither are particularly good nor bad, nor more importantly, are they particularly exciting. It's a shame that one of them gets to stick around while Elyjuh Rene has to go home. He's far more talented than both of them combined.
Whatever. In the end, Ryan Sills gets to move on to the top 12.
Like Team Gwen, Team Adam Levine is a pretty mixed bag. There's the rocker in Matt McAndrew, the soul/gospel guy Damien, the indie pop guy Taylor Phelan, the diva Mia Pfirrman and the singer-songwriter type Chris Jamison. A good genre choice for their collaborative song would have been Nico & Vinz's "Am I Wrong," which they really sold. Their collaborative vocals sounded a little too much like a high school choir, but there was no great and natural way to blend these wildly different voices.
The differences in Team Adam also made making a prediction on who would reach the top 12 totally and completely unpredictable. Like, how do you even compare these guys? It's all just a matter of taste. Like Team Pharrell, besides Pfirrman's cringeworthy and nasally performance of Lana Del Rey's "Young & Beautiful," everyone was solid.
America frickin' loves McAndrew. His cover of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" went to No. 1 on the iTunes Rock Charts, for goodness' sakes. So, he was an easy in, with his mop top and smile and singsong performance. There ya go. Damien was also a star on Monday night, with a soulful and heartfelt performance of "I'm Not The Only One" by Sam Smith. Every word he sang was dripped in truth and gospel, and it was truly gripping.
Once again, the difficulty came in the save. The real choice here was Chris Jamison, who nailed Ed Sheeran's "Don't" and the consistent Taylor Phelan, who gave a rousing performance of "Cool Kids." Neither were truly able to show off the full breadth of their talent during the live performance, so it just really came down to who Levine preferred - these guys were fairly evenly matched. In the end, despite his consistency and solid performances, it was the second shock of the night when Phelan was sent home over Jamison, though the show ended before we could really process it all.