NBC’s “The Voice” Season 9 kicked off its first night of live playoff performances Tuesday night with the remaining five performers of each team vying for a spot in the next round. In addition, this season allowed each of the judges to bring back a previously dismissed contestant to try again as a comeback artist.
This week, coaches Pharrell Williams and Blake Shelton took a break with their respective teams while Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine’s singers took the stage to convince the viewers that they belong on “The Voice” stage as the live rounds began and the voting turned to viewers for the first time. With each team getting cut in half during Wednesday’s upcoming results show, the odds have never been more stacked against each artist as they entered the real crux of the competition. Luckily, the night of performances had a bit of extra flavor as the coaches brought back previously eliminated artists Ellie Lawrence and Chance Peña.
To help make sure fans can make an informed voting decisions, below is a rundown of each performance from Night 1 of the live playoffs:
Blaine Mitchell, Team Adam
“Never Tear Us Apart” by NXS
This former country singer flexed his rocker chops going into the first round of the live playoffs thanks to his great song choice and encouragement from coach Adam Levine. The Maroon 5 singer told him to try and add a little dramatic flare to his performance, and Mitchell took things to the next level. His movement and crowd work were top notch, but it may have cost him a little bit of vocal control. The song sounded uneven in parts but certainly delivered the catchy tune that these early rounds demand.
Regina Love, Team Gwen
“Hello” by Adele
Love has spent most of her time in the competition thus far relying on her booming voice and incredible soul. She clearly wanted to pull out all the stops in her first live performance, but it may have been a bit much for her. Without a doubt, she was excited to take on the fresh Adele hit. However, given how new the track is, there really wasn’t room for reinvention or improvement just yet. Still, it was by no means bad and felt like more than enough to captivate the audience into moving her to the next round.
Keith Semple, Team Adam
“Be With You” by Mr. Big
Adam’s Irish rock star took the stage for his first live performance of the season singing nothing short of a rock anthem. Although he was a little worried that the song would typecast him as a soul ballad guy, his coach reassured him that there’s a way to make the song his own. Fortunately for the reluctant contestant, he found it. What’s jarring about the popular song is that its very famous chorus is traditionally sung by the background singers, not the lead. As Blake Shelton pointed out, the talented Semple found a way to fill those gaps with improvised riffs that showcased his true experience as an artist.
Shelby Brown, Team Adam
“You’re No Good” by Wilson Phillips
This artist started out performing in her home town’s bowling alley. However, once she packed the house, she had to move to “The Voice” stage. She let loose in her first live performance, feeling comfortable behind the microphone and crowd already. She took on the song with the appropriate amount of attitude and quickly showed herself to be one of the better stage performers of the season. As her coach, Adam Levine, pointed out, at 17 years old she’s only got room to improve as the competition goes on.
Korin Bukowski, Twam Gwen
“Adia” by Sarah McLachlan
The live playoffs were a transformative experience for Bukowski, literally. Before she took the stage, her coach opted to bring in her personal stylist team to give her a stage-ready look. The team did its magic and the strong performer took the stage and was better for it. Unfortunately, the song took her voice to ranges that ended up getting drowned out by the music at times. She didn’t have a bad night, but she will likely go in a different direction for her song choice next week.
Ellie Lawrence, Team Gwen (Comeback Artist)
“Ex's & Oh’s” by Elle King
Lawrence appeared to take the stage with the mentality of having nothing to lose. The previously eliminated contestant was brought back by her coach this season and she didn’t waste the opportunity. She definitely sang the most fun song of the night and it translated to one of the more surprising events of the night. On sheer entertainment value, she won by and large for the night.
Jeffery Austin, Team Gwen
“Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware
While the performances so far had been either fun, or impressive by comparison, Austin was one of the few who demonstrated an ability to win it all. Coach Pharrell Williams called it his favorite of the night. He took on the song with a professional level of vocal control and stage presence indicative of decades in the business. At the moment, he’s the contestant to beat now that his coach used him to declare that she is “so winning right now.”
Braiden Sunshine, Team Gwen
“Everything I Own” by Red
Already this young contestant has had the ride of his life on “The Voice” thanks to a song he sang during the earlier rounds of the show by his favorite band, Blues Traveler. The members invited him to Las Vegas to perform with them ahead of the live playoffs. After the excitement, Stefani wanted to take his style in another direction. Not only did she give him a trademark makeover too, but she offered him the opportunity to take on a highly emotional song and tackle it despite his young age. He came out and tackled the daunting task, but the coaches weren’t loving it. Both Adam and Blake noted that he wasn’t quite performing at his top level that they’d seen so far. However, he was clearly on the right track in terms of reinventing himself for the later rounds, the only question is whether it’s too little too late.
Amy Vachal, Team Adam
“The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra
In a night full of people trying desperately to innovate, it was refreshing to hear Vachal’s smoky voice take on this classic hit. Backed by a minimalist band, she commanded the stage to a completely silent room that was just seemed like it was just marveling at her presence and voice. As Shelton pointed out, her home should be with crooning vocals because delivering more of that kind of performance could very well carry this unique artist very far in her career.
Viktor Király, Team Gwen
“All Around The World” by Lisa Stansfield
This Hungarian artist threw his hat into the ring of performers that opted for fun in the first live rounds. He was hitting high notes that could have made Adam Levine blush (though he didn't) and demonstrated his ability to dance and get the crowd excited. He’s reached a level of entertainment value that will clearly be enough for the voters to want him around a bit longer. If he continues to innovate and evolve, there’s no reason not to think he could go far in Season 9.
Chance Peña, Team Adam (Comeback Artist)
“Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars
Like the previous comeback artist of Season 9, the artist took the stage ready to pull out all the stops and earn the opportunity that his coach gave him. Peña took the stage to sing the soulful song and used his unique and haunting vocals to make it come alive. While it may not have been the best performance of the night, it was certainly the most unique. Right now, without him, the show has no one to fill that specific style -- which might just be enough to keep him around for a long time in the early rounds.
Jordan Smith, Team Adam
“Halo” by Beyoncé
This singer from a coal-mining town captivated audiences with his viral YouTube clip. In the live performances, he’s back and showing that he’s anything but a one-trick pony. He took on the soulful hit and managed to make it his very own by packing the right amount of emotion and vocal range to make his coach spend the entire performance clutching his heart with pride. While his singing may not be the most technically proficient, Smith clearly has the audience on his side. His performance closed out the night on a high note, literally.