We’re down to single elimination in season 12 of The Voice, and every note, melody and creative decision counts toward either a save or a send-off. America has spoken, and Troy Ramey is the first contestant to be sent home since the competition moved from team-specific to solo-based results. Adam has referred to the four-chair-turner as one of the best voices of the competitions, yet both Gwen and the rest of America chose to watch him walk away.

Troy has a unique style, which motivates his desire to rearrange well-known songs to suit his style and voice, but since the beginning he has clashed with his coach over these changes. Did Gwen’s coaching help him make it this far in the competition, or did her frequent rejection of his artistic decisions hinder his performance and ultimately cost him a spot in the finale?

Back during the Knockout round, Gwen openly admitted that she was often uncomfortable with rearrangements of well-known hit songs. After Gwen stole Hunter Plake from Team Alicia in the Battle Rounds, the new pair collaborated to prepare Hunter for his own Knockout song choice. After Hunter debuted his own arrangement of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is” during rehearsals, Gwen expressed skepticism over any situation where a popular song is rewritten. Hunter pushed through anyway and proceeded to move on to the next round, earning praises from the other coaches for his innovative songwriting skills.

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In the same round of the competition,Troy Ramey chose to create his own haunting version of Sia’s “Chandelier”, but Gwen was concerned that the song wouldn’t be recognizable if he altered the melody too much. Troy compromised by making some changes to his rendition and squeaked through to the next round, but a trend with Gwen’s coaching tactics was becoming apparent. Some of the most fascinating singers to watch on The Voice come from a background of songwriting and musicianship, which is a craft that should be fostered rather than hindered by their coaches.

Stephanie Rice is an unstoppable force with her ability to create her own music through familiar songs, and she was let go from Team Gwen only to be picked up by another coach who understands and nurtures that talent. Alicia has encouraged Stephanie’s artistry in a fresh way that has enhanced her vocals and her ability to connect with an audience.

Gwen’s tendency to stifle creative liberties reached a point where it could no longer go unnoticed during the first full round of the Live Shows when the top 12 performed. Shania Twain mentored each contestant as they rehearsed an assigned song to perform live, and Gwen doubled down on her dislike for artistic rewrites with two out of her three remaining team members, even moving one to tears. 

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Tasked with tackling a legendary, classic hit by Linda Ronstadt, Brennley took a stab at modernizing the song to make it her own and create some movement within the notes to showcase her vocal ability. After Brennley expressed her love for “Long, Long Time,” mentioning she would love to cover the song for a future album, Gwen became critical of Brennley’s interpretations. 

Gwen insisted on the importance of maintaining the original integrity of the song, but Shania reminded Brennley that she should always remain true to herself. The young teen teared up and she took in the feedback, insisting that she would never compromise a song in order to create moments simply to show off. Isn’t the point of winning the show to be able to evolve and grow into a singing career where each artist can create their own music? In the meantime, these contestants might as well be able to at least share their creativity by making already well-known songs their own. 

Brennley had nothing to worry about with America’s vote, due to her spunky youth, likability and connection with Blake Shelton, arguably the most popular coach on the show. However, Troy Ramey’s unique vibe and laid-back alternative style made him difficult to squeeze into a niche that will secure guaranteed votes, so he had to rely on pure ability as an artist in order to keep moving forward. In response to Gwen’s prompting during their rehearsals, Shania worked with Troy to ensure that the chorus of “Free Fallin'” remained intact and recognizable. Although Shania seemed pleased at Troy’s ability to make each song his own, regardless of the original artist, Gwen vehemently disagreed, critiquing him for repeatedly rearranging his assigned songs.

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The exact motivation behind Gwen’s coaching strategy is unclear. There’s logic in her desire to guarantee a song is recognizable enough to attract fans of the original artist in addition to those who love the contestant himself. But in reality, this show is called The Voice, and shouldn’t the coaches be putting forth their best effort to encourage the creative voices of their singers rather than stifling them? Whatever the lesson is here, let’s hope the rest of Team Gwen has learned it, and in the meantime I’ll be waiting in line to buy Troy Ramey’s future album.

What do you think? Is Gwen making mistakes with her contestants? Do you think Troy Ramey deserved to go home?

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(Image courtesy of NBC)