It’s Live Playoff night at the Grammys, er, I mean season 7 of The Voice, and we are in for a mega helping of performance brilliance as coach Adam Levine and Maroon 5 take the stage to perform their current hit from V, their album which recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. Joining Adam on the playbill are all of his and Blake Shelton’s competing artists. We’ll review who they are and what they will be going through in a moment.
Wednesday night will be equally as incendiary as Gwen and Pharrell’s competitors perform and coach Gwen Stefani takes her turn on the dais to deliver a live performance of “Baby Don’t Lie,” her first solo single since her album Sweet Escape, which debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200. Dang.
Familiarity Breeds Increased Enjoyment (of Porn?)
Have you ever watched a band perform a new song for the first time on some talk show and thought, “What’s the big deal about that song? Meh.” You think to yourself, “That was nothing special.” But the more you hear the song on the radio, the more you love it, and the more you can’t get it out of your head. It almost becomes a completely different song to you. This happens to me all the time. So with an eye to increasing your enjoyment of the live Maroon 5 experience tonight, her’s a preview of “Animals.”
Warning: this video stops just a hair shy of soft porn, so if that turns you off and your affinity for Maroon 5 isn’t that great, you might want to skip this. I’m pretty sure Adam won’t be nearly quite as au naturel on stage for us tonight, so have no fear.
By the way, if you are at all concerned for the longevity of Adam’s freshly-minted marriage, the woman in the video turns out to actually be his new bride, Behati Prinsloo. Otherwise, I’d have to say Adam Levine is the stupidest most foolish guy alive to perform like that while the ink is still wet on his vows to someone else. Gah!
Songster Roll Call
Tonight, for the very first time these 10 competitors will perform live for over 14 million, viewers, after which America will vote for who they want to see move on to the live Top 12 performances on November 17. These guys and gals have been through the Blind Auditions, the Battles, the Knockouts and made it almost to the home stretch. This round is a frightening one because the competition gets closer and more difficult to call, and only three performers per team will survive: America will vote two artists forward, then each coach will choose a third to advance.
I was hoping we’d have some fresh slideshows for you, ones that show who the remaining teams consist of, but since we don’t … and because a picture is worth a thousand words, I give you these:
Team Adam: Chris Jamison, Damien, Matt McAndrew, Mia Pfirrman, and Taylor Phelan.
Team Blake: Craig Wayne Boyd, James David Carter, Jessie Pitts, Reagan James and Taylor Brashears.
Chatting Up the Coaches and Maroon 5 Performs
What a performance by Maroon 5! And we’re back to conversing with the coaches to fill the time until the stage and our first performer are ready. When asked by Carson Daly what he advises his team about performing live, Blake says, “We don’t talk about ‘live’ shows, we talk about singing.” Adam seconds this. Personally, I’d freak out if people kept bringing up the fact that 14 million people would be watching me. Gwen says it feels a lot different to be doing a show live. I’m with you, Gwen.
Taylor Brashears Performs “Long Time Gone”
Taylor’s performance is decent, fun and self-assured, but not nearly as dynamic as her previous performances. The coaches compliment her and her thigh tattoo — which Gwen is impressed by — and her confidence on the stage. When asked for his thoughts on his protege’s performance, Blake talks about her fiery personality and the “ornery side of you that comes out in your voice.”
Taylor impresses me as a voice to be reckoned with; I just hope she gets another chance to perform live for us all next week. It will depend on the song choices and quality of her competitors’ performances.
Chris Jamison Performs “Don’t”
After a brief Sprint Skybox acknowledgement of Maroon 5, Carson gives a plug for Adam’s upcoming tour and then we get back to our next contestant.
Adam thinks all the women are going to flip after Chris performs this song in his buttery tones. The coaches acknowledge the intricacies of getting all those words out of his mouth while continuing to breathe. Gwen mentions how impressed she was with his performance presence and his physicality as he performed. She says people don’t realize how difficult it is to move from this side to that and from the middle to the side while scatting and then carrying long notes.
Jessie Pitts Performs “Holding Out for a Hero”
Blake says Jessie’s a box full of Lucky Charms, all marshmallows. He’s impressed with her range and wants America to love her as much as he does. Well, you already know she’s one of my favorites. What will be interesting to see is how the coaches and America react to her spin on this old classic. Sometimes these unique interpretations of someone else’s song can go very wrong. Sometimes they are amazing. Which will it be this time?
Pharrell says Jessie finds the sweetest spot of every song and makes it even sweeter. Gwen thought she’d be disgustingly jealous that Jessie wasn’t on her team but instead she’s just super happy … and she loves the skirt choice. Adam says this was Jessie’s best performance to date on The Voice. I’m not sure I agree with Adam. I loved “The Story” from her Blind Audition the most, but whatever it takes to move this songstress forward is fine by me, people, because I just love to hear her sing.
Blake calls her completely original. He eloquently describes how Jessie takes the intimacy of her song to the stage in a way that is nearly impossible for anyone else.
James David Carter Performs “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House”
James David loves Garth Brooks and chooses one of his idol’s staples. He says he’s been getting a lot of marriage proposals now that he’s all over the television, and Blake says he’s got a little crush on the performer and it looks a tiny bit awkward for a moment. Garth is the king of of the country pop yodel, so to perform with such a high standard by your side is risky. James doesn’t have quite the magical pipes that Brooks does, but he’s pretty good. We’ll just have to see how America thinks he did in comparison to all the others.
Matt McAndrew Performs “God Only Knows”
Adam says “God Only Knows” is an amazing, but sophisticated and simple, song. This is the first time a Beach Boys song has ever been performed on The Voice. Matt says this song and other Beach Boys tunes were introduced to him by his mother when he was a child. Adam and he connect because that’s where Adam found his great love for music, by listening to it in his home as a child. It’s the same for me. My dad was the music lover in our family and all of his favorites have molded my own musical tastes. Was it like that for you as well?
Of the performance, Blake says it was perfect. Gwen was almost in tears when he went out on one of the strong notes because it was completely unexpected. Each coach acknowledges what a huge risk it was to do this song, but they don’t say why. It has to be because of the simplicity of the vocals. The danger with a simple song is in its potential failure to truly demonstrate the full range of skill and ability a performer possesses. Matt, it has to be said, did figure out a way to highlight the goods in his performance. What’s more, he managed to do it while shaking the hands of swooning female audience members without missing a beat.
Reagan James Performs “Try”
As the youngest performer in the Playoffs, Reagan has something to prove, and she does it effortlessly. She chose this song because Gwen once told her not to try to be older than she is. This song talks about taking off all the make-up and big girl shoes and simply being yourself. It’s perfect for her. Blake says she’s one of the most important artists they’ve ever had on The Voice. Her performance is pretty amazing. I wish we could have listened to her perform another three or four songs.
Taylor Phelan Performs “Cool Kids”
Each coach talks about how awesome Taylor was from the moment they first saw him perform months ago, but I’m wondering if that’s code for, “We really didn’t see you do anything new this time,” because that’s how I feel about this performance.
Granted, this is not as mainstream of a song as some of the other choices. It would be interesting to see, over time, if those who improve the most are more likely to win than those artists who came in strong and stayed at the same level. Something to ponder. Or not.
Mia Pfirrman Performs “Young and Beautiful”
Adam advises Mia not to embellish too much. They practice and she shows him how she wants to Mia-fy the song and he loves it.
This is a naked performance. There’s barely any instrumental accompaniment. As a result, we get to hear her highs, lows and every single flaw. I don’t love this performance, but I will listen to it again before casting my votes for tonight.
Damien Performs “I’m Not the Only One”
“You say I’m crazy” — that’s one of the lines of this song that Damien sings. Well, what’ crazy tonight is how fantastic this performance is. Pharrell talks about how Damien moves from his lower register (chest voice) to his higher register (head voice) so easily that it’s like he has an elevator carrying him along rather than the set of stairs most vocalists have to climb. Gwen says everyone responds to him and she mentions how the crowd went crazy for him. Adam gives a fantastic impression of how Pharrell reacts when he really likes a performance. It’s pretty funny. Blake describes Damien’s voice as soft and smooth with power and range and compliments him on the song choice. If Damien doesn’t move forward, it’s because the voting machine is broken.
Craig Wayne Boyd Performs “Some Kind of Wonderful”
The pimp spot (the key final performance location) is characteristically chosen according to who The Voice fairies (the magic people who produce the show) think will give the most powerful performance of the evening. That’s a lot of pressure, but Craig Wayne is one of those artists who can handle it. As I write, I can hear his side of the “Wave on Wave” duet in my head. Notice that Craig’s competitor for that duet was James David Carter. In that round, James David beat out Craig Wayne, but does James David Carter have the pimp spot tonight? No, he does not. Craig Wayne has the pimp spot. Let’s see if he gives a performance worthy of this spot.
Well, well, well. Pharrell advises the singer to stay on his path because it’s a good and strong one. Gwen reports having gotten flustered when he sang to her, which is a testament, she says, to Craig’s powerful performance. Holy cats, Craig, I think you just made Gwen Stefani blush! Well, we all would as well if we had that much testosterone advancing upon us in a pair of tight black jeans and cowboy boots.
Blake calls it, when it’s his time to speak to Craig Wayne. He says this was the performance of the night. He continues with these accolades: “That was so much power and muscle in your vocals and your stage presence … You are beating the odds and I think America tonight is going holy crap!” Well, he was on fire tonight, but I thought he was better in his performance of “Can’t You See” last week.
A Ranking Snapshot
So that sums it up for the night. As Craig Wayne Boyd runs off stage (probably toward that beautiful baby boy of his) Carson reveals a snapshot of the evening’s rankings at that very moment.
Team Adam: Matt McAndrew and Chris Jamison come in first and second with Damien and Taylor Phelan in third and fourth, and Mia Pfirrman in last.
Team Blake: Reagan James and James David Carter come in first and second with Jessie Pitts third, Craig Wayne Boyd fourth and Taylor Brashears in last. Taylor being last is an unfortunate result of her song choice because she could sing the pants off Reagan in a heartbeat, people.
Who’s Up Next?
The remaining performers will sweat it out live during tomorrow night’s two-hour episode, and remember, Gwen Stefani will be performing her single, “Baby Don’t Lie” as well. And just in case you haven’t memorized who’s on which of the remaining teams, this will jog your memory:
Team Gwen: Anita Antoinette, Bryana Salaz, Ricky Manning, Ryan Sill and Taylor John Williams.
Team Pharrell: DaNica Shirey, Elyjuh Rene, Jean Kelley, Luke Wade and Sugar Joans.
Results of the Live Playoffs will air on Wednesday, November 12.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays (and Wednesday for this week only) at 8pm on NBC.
(Images courtesy of NBC)