NBC’s “The Voice” Season 9 continues to be one of the most competitive runs of the hit competition show thus far. With only 11 artists remaining, the coveted top 10 slot is so close that most of them can just taste it.
Coaches Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine had to help each of their remaining three performers (two for Williams) bring their absolute best now that America has its toughest voting rounds of all time thanks to this season’s remarkable crop of talent.
This week was particularly special to each artist as their respective families joined them in the rehearsal stage in order to help celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. To help make sure that no single artist gets lost in the shuffle while the voting is still open, below is a rundown of how each performer did in the top 11 performance episode:
Shelby Brown, Team Adam
“You And I” by Lady Gaga
This young artist opened the night by taking on a rendition of a pop song by trying to rub her country-leaning style on it. Unfortunately, in order to make it her own, the song lost a great deal of the pep that makes it work in its pop rendition. As a result, the night opener felt like a well executed, albeit a little bit boring, performance. However, it was one of the stronger vocal performances of the evening. If Brown had picked a song with more opportunity to show off her runs and less of her sing-talk country, she’d be a force to be reckoned with in the Season 9 competition.
Evan McKeel, Team Pharrell
“Smile” by Nat King Cole
Coach Pharrell Williams wanted to ensure that nothing but this artist’s voice shined through during his third live performance. As a result, he started the song with no musical accompaniment and continued in this way for a while before he was eventually joined by the band and his own guitar. His performance was beautiful and managed to show what kind of artist he would be outside the competition were he to be voted through to the later rounds and given all the opportunities that come with being a finalist. Although he was a powerful performer prior to this episode, he certainly carved a place out for himself that a lot of the other artists are still looking to find.
Barrett Baber, Team Blake
“Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker
This artist impressed even his coach with this bold song selection. While Shelton can do amazing things with a country-leaning singer, this artist proved to need very little help when it came to arranging a dynamite performance. As Stefani noted, he not only arranged a wonderful song and executed it perfectly. He has an innate ability to keep the whole audience in the palm of his hand and manipulate them into loving every note. If you’re only paying attention to this season’s country artists, Baber is by far the person to beat.
Korin Bukowski, Team Gwen
“Only Hope” By Mandy Moore
After nearly getting eliminated in last week’s elimination, Bukowski knew that whatever she did in her live save performance was exactly the kind of magic she needed to capture again in order to avoid the bottom two this week too. With the help of coach Stefani and her father, she worked hard to let the audience into her heart and showcase her emotion rather than try and pretend to be a pop star. The result was a beautiful performance that was reminiscent of a Disney princess navigating a complex melody about tragedy. When she hit her last note, a noticeable silence fell over the room after hearing this young artist sing a song with that much emotion and identity. Although it’s ultimately up to America, it would be surprising to not see her in the top 11.
Amy Vachal, Team Adam
“Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
Vachal had success last week taking a popular song and rubbing her own classical vocals to it. This time she took on the Taylor Swift hit and absolutely knocked it out of the park. Just like her rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” it was a unique, folksy and peppy performance that is likely to be one of the most unique covers on one’s iPod. However, it’s very difficult for an artist on “The Voice” to get away with the same trick more than once. If she sticks around to make the top 10, odds are good her struggle will be to innovate in the later rounds. However, with the help of coach Adam Levine, that might not be the most difficult hurdle to overcome. After all, her covers have been so on point thus far that it’s hard to imagine getting bored with more.
Zach Seabaugh, Team Blake
“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” by Thompson Square
Seabaugh took on another country song for his third time on “The Voice” live stage, in a performance that played more to the camera than the live audience. As a result, it felt a little slow to start as the people he was singing for weren’t really into it until he came out of his grand stage tunnel. However, the song ended up being a well-executed rendition of the country song that clearly got a lot of the young ladies in the crowd very excited. Even Stefani noted that the song choice felt a bit like cheating just to pander to the women. However, looks and pandering to the girls will only get him so far. Seabaugh is another artist that’s having trouble standing out in a positive way as the later rounds continue. Still, he isn’t without a great deal of talent and managed to pull off a worthwhile country song in the top 11.
Madi Davis, Team Pharrell
“Love Is Blindness” by U2
After having one of the best performances of the night last week, this young singing prodigy slowed things way down with her haunting rendition of the U2 hit. While she showcased a lot of emotion and navigated the song’s highs and lows with professional efficiency, it got beyond her vocal range at some parts and caused her to sound like she was shouting. She didn’t do a bad job with it though. In fact, Williams was inspired to go hug her live on stage after it was over, but it wasn’t her strongest song choice of Season 9. However, it was still more than enough to make her a front runner this week. Despite it being worse than last week, Davis is still one to beat. Shelton even referred to hers as the best of the night (thus far).
Braiden Sunshine, Team Gwen
“True” by Spandau Ballet
At 15-years-old, Sunshine is the youngest performer on Season 9. However, he hasn’t let that stop him from tackling songs that are way beyond his years. That was the case for the top 11 performances as he took on the classic 80s love song like a pro. The young musical prodigy managed to croon with the best of them as he started to come alive on stage for the first time. While he’s clearly having the most fun every time he steps in front of the microphone, it took the help of Gwen Stefani to finally give him the confidence to feel like the rockstar he is up on that stage. While he’s less impressive than the artists that have already discovered themselves -- it would be a lie to say that watching Sunshine’s journey week to week hasn’t been one of the most entertaining aspects of Season 9.
Jordan Smith, Team Adam
“Who You Are” by Jessie J
As last week’s eliminated contestant, Mark Hood, will attest, Jordan Smith is by far the person to beat in the entire competition to date. He took the stage as early as his blind audition willing to shed a little piece of himself on stage with every song. This week was no different as he tackled the song with an eye toward positive body image. He confessed during rehearsal that he’s had problems with accepting who he is and being accepted by others. That emotion carried through to his live performance as he once again delivered the most powerful showing of the night. As much as it would be nice to have a criticism for the performer this week, he even managed to showcase new facets of his vocal personality that will surely take him to great places with the help of his coach in the later rounds.
Emily Ann Roberts, Team Blake
“Why Not Me” by The Judds
This artist took the stage with the country song and her guitar alone. Although she had minimal backing from the band, the performance didn’t feel like it was lacking. She took the melody and made it her very own, clearly having a great time while up on stage. However, it wasn’t necessarily the most innovative performance for her, especially compared to some of her competition thus far. While the song was good, it didn’t have anything in it that managed to jump out as one that absolutely needs to be advanced to the next round.
Jeffery Austin, Team Gwen
“Dancing On My Own” by Robyn
Austin has been a fan-favorite in the competition thanks to his natural singing ability and stage presence. These masterful talents propelled him to having one of the top performances of the night once again. He took the emotionally wrought Robyn song and added a bit of his Kings of Leon vocals to make it a cover worth remembering. It’s not surprising that Austin was saved as the final performance of the night as he tends to leave a very good taste in audience’s mouths after showing off his natural showmanship on “The Voice.” At this point, his only real competition might be Jordan Smith. He even managed to move his coach to tears.