NBC’s “The Voice” finally broke free from its prerecorded rounds and moved forward with the first night of live playoffs from the remaining 20 performers. It was an emotional night for each artist as they tried to prove to America for the first time that they’ve got what it takes to go all the way to the finale.
To kick things off in Season 10, Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera sent six members of their teams to the stage to sing their hearts out for a potential spot in the top 12. Sadly for the artists who have already made it forward, both coaches were allowed to bring in one artist of their choice who was previously eliminated in Season 10. For Teams Blake and Xtina, that meant Justin Whisnant and Nick Hagelin, respectively.
To help make sure no fan gets left in the dark before the very first night of live voting from the public, below is a rundown of how each artist performed to help you decide who belongs in the top 12 of 2016 and who does not.
Paxton Ingram, Team Blake
“How Deep Is Your Love” by Calvin Harris & Disciples
This artist has seen success with ballads on the competition in the past, so he decided to go with what he’s strong with in order to secure a position in the top 12. With some one-on-one coaching from Shelton, he took the cover and rubbed his particular brand of fun and attitude on it to open the night with a strong showing from the country crooner’s remaining six artists. What really made Ingram’s showing stand out from the others of the evening was, without a doubt, his stellar dance moves and ability to command the entirety of the stage with ease. If you're looking for the best entertainer of the night, this guy wins.
Ryan Quinn, Team Xtina
“I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith
After she chose to steal him during the knockout rounds, Quinn got some mentoring from Aguilera for the very first time. Her advice was for him to use his already incredible vocal range and try to connect with the emotion of his song. Luckily, he said he had been cheated on before, which is what the Sam Smith number is about, so she didn’t have too much difficulty getting him to get the sadness of it. In fact, coach Pharrell Williams even went as far as to call it “tender.” Add in the fact that she convinced him to perform without his glasses for the first time and you’ve got a pretty strong, albeit stripped down, showcase from the new member of Team Xtina.
Katie Basden, Team Blake
“Georgia Rain” by Trisha Yearwood
Although Ingram gave Team Blake a great start, Basden’s country-leaning style was a lot more in his wheelhouse. As a result, Basden took the stage feeling more comfortable than her two predecessors thanks to the alone time she had with her coach. Her work onstage was nearly flawless, channeling Trisha Yearwood like she was born to do it. However, being forced to follow one performer who went really big with stage presence and another who did so on emotion, it sort of left Basden’s technically proficient song feeling lacking. However, she was by no means in obvious danger of going home.
Kata Hay, Team Xtina
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
Hay revealed Monday that she’s a five-time yodeling champion. That didn’t have much to do with her performance for the night, but it sure was interesting. When it came to her actual time onstage, the artist showed that, while she considers herself a country singer, her strength is in soul music. It’s a rare artist who, in these early live rounds, takes it upon him or herself to really make a cover their own. Hay did that with the Aretha Franklin song by using her attitude and strength to almost give it, as her coach noted, a bit of a Janis Joplin sound. This really made her performance among the most unique of the evening. Additionally, if you thought the highly technical vocals would cause her stage presence to suffer, you’d be very, very wrong.
Nick Hagelin, Team Xtina
“Stay” by Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko
The point of the live performances is for the artists to sing with very limited band backing so as to show off their voice. However, that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be boring. Sadly, that was the case with this returning artist, who sang his song well just like everyone else, but lacked any kind of factor that would make him stand out from the rest of the pack. However, despite being one of the more lackluster singers of the evening, he clearly didn’t take his return to “The Voice” stage as a coach save for granted, and managed to win over a small portion of the live crowd.
Joe Maye, Team Blake
“Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers
Shelton stole this artist in the earlier rounds, making this Maye's first run on the country singer’s team. He came out strong with a song that allowed him to show more versatility than any other artist of the night. He showed that he’s capable of high notes, raspy rock runs, low notes and powerful emotional covers. However, what’s more important is that he managed to prove he can turn to all those things on a dime. Not only was he a decidedly good steal for Team Blake, he proved that he’s got the strategy of song choice to make him one of the more formidable opponents in the Season 10 competition.
Adam Wakefield, Team Blake
“Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles
No male vocalist on “The Voice” Season 10 is perhaps more of a straight-up country singer than Wakefield. In his first showing on the live stage, he did his best to appeal to fans of the genre with the older stripped down song choice. Wakefield is a working performer when he’s not on “The Voice” and he had a bit of trouble shaking the bad habits that some lesser-quality Nashville venues have taught him. However, with help from his coach, he managed to shake most of them and give a strong showing during the live playoffs. Having said that, there were a lot of artists who didn’t need to shake off any bad habits.
Tamar Davis, Team Xtina
“Rise Up” by Andra Day
While Davis was the one who took the stage, sang the song and deserves most of the credit, it was her coach who shined this round having worked very hard to produce the perfect cover for her. Davis took the direction like a professional and it translated to one of the more soulful and impactful songs of the night. The challenge forced her to exercise some vocal agility and she not only hit every note but managed to add her own spin to it as well. Perhaps the best icing on the cake was her high-pitched vocal run that closed out the song to thunderous applause from the audience. Definitely an artist to watch in Season 10.
Mary Sarah, Team Blake
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
Sarah made it clear that this song had a personal resonance with her as it was her grandmother’s favorite song. The classic-country singer worked hard in rehearsal with Blake Shelton and when the time came for her to take the “Voice” stage, her performance was something that wasn’t quite country, wasn’t quite pop, but was definitely something all her own. The song choice and style was definitely interesting, but it’s a risky move to try to get America to vote you through to the next round based on pure curiosity to know what you’ll do next. However, it’s worked for artists in the past, making Sarah one of the more intriguing performers of Season 10. In addition, as Shelton notes, she’s got a pretty big Twitter following, so it’s possible she was simply playing the long game with the confidence of a performer who knows she has what it takes.
Brian Bautista, Team Xtina
“Pillowtalk” by Zayn Malik
After not turning any chairs in Season 9, this singer is now back in the top 20 and the impact of that finally set in during his live performance. However, it manifested itself in some jitters onstage. Fortunately, he had his coach there to help him find a way through it. By the time he took the stage, he sounded like a new performer. While he wasn’t as impressive as some of the other singers of the evening, he pulled it together in a moment that was indicative of a true competitor. While some artists have the natural talent to be formidable in the competition, others have to work for it. Bautista has what it takes to go all the way, as long as he’s got his coach there to help guide him, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, the ladies in the crowd love him.
Justin Whisnant, Team Blake
“Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” by Travis Tritt
Shelton only lost Whisnant because he put him in the battle rounds against Mary Sarah, who is one of the most formidable competitors on the show. As a result, when Shelton learned he could bring someone back, he immediately thought of this country crooner. Born with a natural performance style that Shelton says is completely indicative of Oklahoma, Whisnant took the stage and proved that he was there to ensure he didn’t get sent home again. He took some liberties with the cover he chose, but it ended up working in his favor to show that he’s a unique performer the show was otherwise lacking.
Alisan Porter, Team Xtina
“Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin
This artist has a special relationship to this song as a friend previously recorded her singing it and posted it to YouTube, giving her the confidence to attempt an audition for “The Voice.” Unlike most of the other members of Aguilera’s team, Porter took very little coaching before taking the stage with more confidence than ever. Anyone who chooses a Janis Joplin song knows that it’s more of an occasion to show off one’s stage presence and attitude than vocals. However, it was entertaining enough for her to feel confident about her chances of singing again in the top 12.