The first live results show of The Voice Season 20 took place Tuesday… and while I never thought I’d be typing this after such an overall lackluster season, somehow, against all odds, the show ended up with one of its strongest top nine in all of its 10 years on the air.
My only real gripe about Tuesday’s result is that just as Season 20 is actually getting good, after weeks of excruciatingly dragged-out Blinds, Battles, Knockouts, and totally unnecessary “Road to the Lives” clip shows, it will all be over in just two weeks. This week, the top 17 slimmed down to a top nine, next week the top nine will become the top five, and then it’ll be finale time. If there was ever a season that made a case for more Live Playoffs episodes, like back in the series’ glory days, it’s this one.
Team quotas were still in place this Tuesday, with one contestant per team voted through by America, one contestant per team saved by their respective coaches, and then each team’s remaining highest vote-getter singing for the Instant Save. These controversial quotas usually skew it so that a few worthy contenders on stacked teams get cut too soon, and I will admit that I would have liked to see Team Blake’s Anna Grace (who gave her finest performance of the season on Monday) and Team Legend’s Ryleigh Modig move forward. But in the end, America got it right, and the coaches got it right, ensuring that all the montage-worthy fodder contestants exited the competition and the genuinely best singers sailed through to the all-too-brief semifinals.
Team Blake’s result was the least surprising, with Cam Anthony — the soul-pop wunderkind that Blake Shelton boldly (and somewhat shadily, but perhaps not incorrectly) predicted could be “the first superstar” to be launched by The Voice in all 20 seasons — being the first to advance. Blake then saved country-rocker Jordan Matthew Young, as I’d predicted, with Blake’s old Nashville pal getting a shot at the Instant Save and Anna automatically going home.
Nick Jonas had the weakest team; it turned out having an extra contestant, Four-Way Knockout survivor Devan Blake Jones, wasn’t such an advantage after all. But it all worked out on Tuesday, with America voting through plaintive folk songbird Rachel Mac, and Nick, who’s had a track record of questionable decisions all season, actually doing the right thing and saving dynamite diva Dana Monique. (I’d predicted that this would be Team Jonas’s top two, albeit with the order flipped.) Andrew Marshall and Devan were deservedly eliminated (on Monday, they were arguably the two weakest performers not just on Team Jonas, but of the entire top 17), and José Figueroa Jr. got a temporary reprieve.
John Legend and Kelly Clarkson had the most competitive teams of the season, but they too got the best possible outcome given the aforementioned quota-restricted circumstances. Team Legend was respectably represented by America’s pick, R&B showman Victor Solomon, and John’s pick, passionate powerhouse Pia Renee. (Again, I expected the reverse order here, with Pia securing the most votes, but I couldn’t complain with the end result.) Indie-pop ingenue Ryleigh moved on to the Instant Save round, and soul belter Zania Alaké, who’d had a strong season but unfortunately choked Monday when it mattered most, went home.
And finally, it was no surprise that Kenzie Wheeler was Team Kelly’s top vote-getter. As the only straight-up country singer in the top 17, he was destined sail through on genre alone, but he earned his top nine spot with a polished performance. Kelly then saved Gihanna Zoë, the “the biggest voice on the show right now,” but luckily my Team Kelly pick, emotive indie-rock balladeer Corey Ward, still had a chance at redemption. That meant that another once-promising belter who’d faltered Monday, Zae Romeo, got the ax.
And then, after the Instant Save sing-off, America got it right again! Instant Save winner Corey’s James Arthur-esque “Lose You to Love Me” was on a whole other level than Pete’s pleasant but unremarkable “Speechless,” Ryleigh’s somewhat unfocused “It Will Rain,” or José’s corny corporate-band version of “Superstition.” (José sure can sing, but I never got a clear idea of what sort of artist he is, and apparently neither did Voice voters.) Corey seemed like he really wanted this — like he was really in it to win it, as American Idol’s Randy Jackson used to say — and this was a textbook definition of a perfect “save me” performance.
Kelly, who hadn’t seen Corey’s rehearsal, was as “floored” in the moment as the viewers at home, marveling, “I’ve covered that song, and everything you do, I feel like you do 100 percent better than me! You’re an incredible vocalist. Please, America, did you just hear the pain and the purity and just the tone? It was incredible. You are exactly what this show is about. You have a golden voice that moves everyone.” America apparently heard exactly what Kelly heard in the room.
And so, there you have it. It may be too little, too late, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that the next two weeks of The Voice are going to be fantastic… unless the powers-that-be at NBC/Burnett Productions read this, realize that they actually have a great season on their hands, and decide to tack on a few more episodes. But assuming that won’t happen, I’m certainly going to savor what’s left of Season 20.
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