Reality TV

The Voice 9 – Live Blog and Recap – The Live Playoffs, Night 1 (VIDEO)

Welcome to the live blog and recap for The Voice 9, “The Live Playoffs, Night 1”! Coaches Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams have assembled their teams, and they’re now ready to let America have all the power as The Voice goes LIVE!

Team Adam and Team Gwen perform tonight, but the show comes with a pretty big twist, as each coach has the opportunity to bring back one eliminated artist from the Battles or Knockouts as a Wildcard! Yes, the Top 20 is now the Top 24! So that means HALF of each team will be eliminated in this round! Which artists will advance to the Top 12? Is the winner among tonight’s performers? The live playoffs are here! Get hyped!

Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!

The Voice 9 - Live Blog and Recap - The Live Playoffs, Night 1 (VIDEO)

Credit: NBC

Let’s get this show on the road!

RECAP

-So we open with Carson Daly asking Adam about why this is the right season to introduce the Playoffs Wildcard twist, and Adam talks about the considerable talent on each team this year. However, they don’t actually reveal who the wildcards are yet. Onto the first artist…

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: BLAINE MITCHELL opens the show!

-Blaine will be singing “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS, as Adam’s obsession with Michael Hutchence rages on. But Blaine does have an emotional connection to the song, since he recently got married, and feels this way about his wife. He’s still stunned that he has Adam Levine for a coach, offering him advice on his singing and performing. My mind would be blown too, but I’d want to avoid being put into the Michael Hutchence box too early in the competition.

-This is…okay, I guess. I think this song was too big for Blaine. He hasn’t gotten to the point where his vocals and stage presence are at even levels, so he ends up having to sacrifice one aspect for the other. His voice suffers when he’s distracted by playing to the crowd. But his presence suffers when he digs into the vocal, seeming lost in his own world. To his credit though, he hits the notes. And he does have a damn fine tone. But this just didn’t do it for me.

-Blake hates to give Adam credit, but he feels Adam is the perfect coach for Blaine, making him a more contemporary rocker and removing the redneck side of him. Pharrell thought it was a great song choice, and praises Blaine’s performance. Gwen loves how free Blaine is with his body language, noting that no one can teach you a skill like that. Adam, whose hair has thankfully grown back, says Blaine is exactly where he needs to be. This was decent, but I don’t think he has a shot at Top 12 unless he’s one of those Ryan Sill types who’s suspiciously popular.

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: REGINA LOVE is up next!

-Gwen has given Regina “Hello” by Adele, which…I don’t know, that almost seems TOO current, no? Hell, Adele hasn’t even performed it stateside yet, has she? On the other hand, the song is so new, it might not be sunk into the public consciousness yet, so there won’t be any feeling of “Wait, this is too different from the original. I don’t like it” overshadowing the performance. On the other hand, trying to live up to Adele is a tall order. Should be interesting to hear what Regina does with it. Oh, the rehearsal. This was basically two minutes of watching Regina and Gwen pat each other on the back, which is perfectly sweet and adorable and heartwarming and uplifting and all, but is boring as sin.

-I so wanted to love this. But no. This was just an absolute mess. Regina is SUCH a better singer than this, and while this WAS the song Regina wanted, I think Gwen should have been smart enough to nix the idea, because this was a terrible fit for her voice. She struggled practically the entire time, and I think she recognized it, as she fought back tears during the closing notes of the song. Or maybe it was just the emotion of the song. Either way, this just didn’t work.

-Adam tells Regina she did “an amazing job”, while Pharrell praises her for the drama of her performance, noting how she acts out every line. Gwen, meanwhile, is thrilled to be on this journey with Regina, saying she’s learning so much from her, and that she’s so beautiful and real. I don’t disagree, although I’m not entirely sure this was enough for her to get through.

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: KEITH SEMPLE is up next!

-Keith talks about having been in a boyband back home in Ireland several years back. He even had a No. 2 hit AND a gold record on his wall. On the one hand, I commend him for being far more upfront about his past than some other previous contestants have been. On the other hand, I worry this might backfire on him with voters who feel like they’ve been misled by his story. I mean, it’s kind of a silly concern to have about a talent show that doesn’t pretend, nor ever has pretended, that they were dealing with undiscovered talent. Keith does bring up a good point when he learns his song this week will be “To Be With You” by Mr. Big, noting that he doesn’t want to become known as the 80s Soft Rock Guy. But Adam says it’s about finding your vein. I can appreciate Adam’s opinion, but I think Keith is right on the money to be concerned about these samey song choices. I think this pick has the potential to really hurt him.

-This was a pretty vocal, but he’s sung far better than this. But even if it were the vocal of the century, this song/performance bored me to tears. Keith is a lovely human being, I’m sure. But that just didn’t feel like a Top 12-worthy performance, to me. Then again, plenty of people have gotten through on less in the past. I really like Keith, and I would give him another chance.

-Blake name drops Cole Vosbury, recalling that they did this song several years back, and he has the same concern now that he had then, which is that the background singers sing the chorus rather than the performer. That’s a damn good point, actually. Blake, however, says he doesn’t worry as much about this issue for Keith. Gwen was just as positive about the performance, praising Keith’s falsetto and how his voice never cracks. Adam, meanwhile, thinks Keith has had the most consistent run, showing people who he is and what he wants to do as an artist (but…he didn’t want to do this! What the hell, Adam?).

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: SHELBY BROWN is up next!

-Shelby talks about how attendance for her performances back home have skyrocketed since the show, although her friends and family really wanted her to get stolen by Blake. Adam has given her “You’re No Good” by Linda Rondstadt, and…yeah, I’m just not feeling these song choices from Adam tonight. It matches her voice, but it’s just so expected and unimaginative. In fact, this is almost the kind of song Blake would have given her, I’d imagine. Either way, we get a sweet moment in rehearsal when Shelby thanks Adam for being more interested in her talent than in what genre of music she sings.

-Shelby sings it well, delivering the best vocal of the night so far. But it’s still well below the high bar she set for herself with past performances. I don’t know if it’s the live show nerves, the iffy song choices or what. But no one has really captivated tonight, and that’s disappointing, considering the insane amount of talent on display this season. After the performance, Carson congratulates Shelby on performing even better than the rehearsal.

-Blake says Shelby’s voice is like Trisha Yearwood and Carrie Underwood put together, a note that leads to a minor squabble with Adam. Pharrell calls this one of Shelby’s best performances yet. Adam, meanwhile, absolutely adores Shelby, and tells her she crushed it tonight. He once again points out that Shelby is 17-years-old, and reiterates how special Shelby is. He closes by thanking her for making his job so easy. So yeah, I would imagine if America doesn’t put her through, Adam will. If nothing else, it gives him the chance to have a country artist to combat Blake. Of course, I’ve long been of the mind that the country artists who win don’t win because they’re country artists. They win because country fans are just voting for Blake. But I suppose we’ll find out soon enough, if Shelby makes it to the Top 12 despite being Team Adam.

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: KORIN BUKOWSKI is up next!

-Korin will be singing “Adia” by Sarah McLachlan, as the song choices just continue to circle the drain. However, the rehearsal video is at least cute, as Gwen brings in her team of styles to give Korin a makeover. Granted, I didn’t think she needed one, and this makeover has the net effect of stripping away some of that quirky individuality that made Korin so appealing in the first place, but I still found this adorable mostly for how thrown she is by all of it. She compares this to getting her appendix out, and notes how much she dislikes change. On that note, is Gwen ever going to let her wear her glasses again?

-I love Korin’s voice, but she’s a bit out of her depth with this song, as she strains to hit the high notes. That said, her voice gets stronger and more confident as the song rolls on. And, for as much as I might complain, Korin does look stunning. All in all, I’d argue it’s strong enough for a Top 12 berth. She’s certainly unique enough to deserve a spot, in my opinion.

-Adam loves Korin’s growth, while Blake makes a note of how the last time Gwen cut someone’s hair, they won the show. Good point, although he also rubs it in that he ended up stealing that artist from her. Aww, a lover’s quarrel. Gwen praises Korin for embracing the song and giving it her own twist. I didn’t think this was a blowaway performance, but I’d be genuinely surprised if it isn’t enough to get her into the Top 12.

-Back from break with Gwen revealing her Comeback Artist, noting that she really connected with this artist. Gwen’s wildcard is…ELLIE LAWRENCE! YES!

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: ELLIE LAWRENCE is back!

-Gwen explains to Ellie why she was brought back, with Gwen detailing the connection they share and even noting that Ellie was one of the most downloaded performances from the early rounds (which surprises Ellie to learn). Ellie will be singing “Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King which is a much better song choice for her than “Barracuda” was, since it allows more opportunities to show off the vocals than the Heart song did. Also offers more of a chance to show your personality through the song, which is what Ellie does in rehearsals, taking Gwen’s advice to be more tomboyish with the performance. I think this has the potential to be great.

-This is EASILY my favorite performance of the night so far. Everything from the way Ellie worked the stage to the way she got her dance on during the breakdown in the middle, Ellie just felt like a completely new artist. Like a blue-haired Hayley Williams. Sure, the vocal gets a bit strained towards the end, but I think Ellie has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat her. And by “victory”, I mean “a spot in the Top 12”. How far she gets after that will be entirely up to she and her coach from here on out.

-Adam says it finally feels as though Ellie has found her “thing”. Blake, meanwhile, calls it his favorite performance of the night, prompting Ellie to warn, “Don’t make me pee my pants now!” Pharrell asks Ellie how it feels to be back, and she notes that it’s amazing. He just loves that Ellie had such a great time. Lastly, Gwen states how happy she is to have brought Ellie back. Hell, I’m glad too. Ellie could be a real dark horse contender.

-And we keep things moving with the next Team Gwen artist…

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: JEFFERY AUSTIN is up next!

-Jeffery will be singing “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware, and Gwen loves the song choice (me too!), noting that Jeffery has a bit of a Sam Smith vibe. Jeffery and Gwen then have a pretty frank discussion about the emotion of the song, with Jeffery going into his past and what it’s like to get your heart broken. Of course, this conversation is instantly discarded in favor of hearing Gwen once again declare, “But what I REALLY want to talk about is what you’re thinking about wearing.” Seriously, are all of her rehearsal videos going to be about fashion? I’m already willing to bet the styling is going to make up the sizable majority of Braiden Sunshine’s VT. I get that styling is important, but sheesh…

-While Ellie delivered my favorite performance of the night so far, I think this is the night’s best vocal yet, without question. While Jeffery’s voice cracks in places, it’s still kind of beautiful in its pure, raw emotion. And he DOES bring to mind Sam Smith. I honestly think he’s the American Sam Smith. This was brilliant.

-Adam thinks it was a great performance, and also notes that Jeffery could potentially win this entire performance. He says as long as Jeffery continues “to listen to this wonderful woman” (Gwen), he could go all the way. Pharrell thinks it was the best performance of the night, and says this is Jeffery’s night. “What was THAT?!” Gwen declares, stating that he wasn’t a Voice contestant just now, he was a soulful artist. “I’m so winning right now,” Gwen adds, in a moment of possible hubris. Still, I wholeheartedly expect Jeffery to skate through to the Top 12. And deservedly so.

WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jeffery Austin Stuns With ‘Say You Love Me’ on The Voice 9 Live Playoffs (VIDEO)

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: BRAIDEN SUNSHINE is up next!

-Braiden talks about getting to perform with his favorite band, Blues Traveller, in Las Vegas after the band tweeted him following his performance of their song, “The Mountains Win Again”. To Gwen’s credit, we never see hear bring up styling with Braiden, instead focusing on how he’s going to emotionally connect with the song. Braiden admits that he hasn’t experienced that much, but feels if he just tells a story with the song that can relate to him, the audience will connect with him more. Here’s hoping. But I don’t think “Everything I Own” by Bread will do him any favors though.

-Braiden is a good singer, and he’s WAY better than this song choice. I also kind of hate that Gwen refuses to allow any of the bespectacled contestants to actually wear their glasses. Part of what people loved about Braiden was his curly-haired, four-eyed look, because it hid the versatility of his voice. His vocal power was an unexpected surprise because he didn’t have the conventional look. But now she’s got his hair all straightened out, and he’s struggling to see where he’s going, which is apparent from the performance itself. Gwen just really dropped the ball with Braiden tonight, who did what he could with the vocal, but who suffered from an arrangement that was pitched too low, for a song he never should have been singing in the first place.

-Braiden is functionally blind after the performance, with Adam waving until the kid notices. Adam loves Braiden, but gets somewhat critical in that he doesn’t feel that what Braiden was going for really came through in the performance. But he still feels Braiden will be around forever. The other judges agree, with Gwen giving it up for Braiden’s commitment, and pointing out how cute the guy is. But how far will cute get you? Sawyer Fredericks was cute, but his coach let him pick songs, and gave him good song choices when he didn’t. Not so much here.

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: AMY VACHAL is up next!

-Amy tells Adam about how much she’s dreamed about picking Adam’s brain on music, recalling how she stole her brother’s Maroon 5 CD at age 13, and listened to it on repeat endlessly. Adam is still shocked that Amy was ever available to steal, since she’s someone he’s wanted on his team since the start. She’ll be singing the Amy Winehouse version of “The Way You Look Tonight”, and it’s a perfect fit for her voice. This is the one performance that I got excited about just from hearing the rehearsals.

-Amy knocks this outta the ballpark, in my opinion. Is it exciting? No. But the vocal is impeccable. What I love about Amy is that she has such confidence in her voice that she doesn’t need to perform unnecessary vocal gymnastics to communicate the emotion of a song. Sure, she has some ad-libs, here and there, but they feel like natural extensions of the song, and not pointless runs glued onto the end of a song. Not that anyone tonight necessarily did that, but it’s been a sign of artists in seasons past. Not so much for Amy here, who has perfect control. I loved this, from front-to-back.

-Blake PLEADS with Amy to do a Christmas album, and I never knew how much I wanted this until he suggested it. Pharrell calls Amy’s performance “effortless,” and says he’s sad to have lost her. However, he feels she could win this competition, and even goes over his critique time to tell her how great she is. Adam says that was not The Voice just now, it was watching an artist performing on the stage. “You did the best job you could possibly do,” Adam declares, before noting how proud he is. Hell, I’d be proud too.

WATCH AND DISCUSS: Amy Vachal Is Old School Cool With ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ on The Voice 9 Live Playoffs (VIDEO)

TEAM GWEN STEFANI: VIKTOR KIRALY is up next!

-Gwen asks Viktor to speak in Hungarian for her, and so he tells her he loves her in his native tongue. It’s far less sexy than you’d think, but plenty of languages have inconsequential phrases that sound sexier than the actual passion phrases. Maybe it’d be sexier if he asked for peanut butter? Anyway, Viktor has been on talk shows back home in Hungary, as the support in his home country is through the roof, even though the only way they can watch, presumably, is by using a VPN. Unless some Hungarian network airs The Voice U.S., which I wouldn’t entirely rule out, honestly. Viktor will be singing “All Around the World” by Lisa Stansfeld, with Gwen noting that it’s the perfect choice, considering Viktor’s story. Um, sure?

-I love the vocal to pieces, although the arrangement sounds kind of dated to me. But I’d be absolutely stunned if he doesn’t sail through to the Top 12. He has every single one of the tools a person could need to be a star. The looks, the stage presence, the voice, and that effortless charisma that just makes people point at you and say, “I have no idea who that guy is, but I know he’s somebody.” I don’t know if Viktor will win this show, but he seems like a sure bet to go really far.

-Adam regrets letting Viktor go, and it’s the expected shower of praise (all deserved, in my opinion). Blake goes out on a limb and says that Team Gwen is whipping the hell out of Team Adam, which is kind of a terrible thing to say to Adam’s team, even if it’s mostly true. He also keeps this critique going too long, to where it almost borders on annoying, to me. Gwen thought the vocal was crazy, and while it wasn’t my favorite Viktor performance, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with her on that one.

WATCH AND DISCUSS: Viktor Kiraly Goes ‘All Around the World’ On The Voice 9 Live Playoffs (VIDEO)

-So now Adam reveals his Comeback Artist, noting how hard it was to make his choice, since he loves his team. His Wildcard pick is…CHANCE PENA!

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: CHANCE PENA is back!

-Adam sees something in Chance, I suppose, although I think it was a HUGE mistake not to bring back Andi & Alex. That said, I do think Chance has something, although what, I don’t know just yet. Sure, his stage presence could probably use some work, but not a whole lot of people come to this show as complete packages anyway. They need to be molded into it through weeks of growth. At the risk of using an unintended pun, I don’t blame Adam for giving him that chance, even if there were other acts I would have put through in his place. He’ll be singing “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars, which sounds like a pretty tall order.

-This was a solid performance, although unspectacular. Part of me feels as though Chance getting through to the Top 12, if it happens, will be largely due to his status as a wildcard, and his late placement in the performance order. He’s got a great voice and tons of potential, but I think there are better artists on Team Adam who I’d put through before him. But hey, it’s not up to me. (Well, it’s not up to JUST me. America has a vote too!)

-My TV shorted out on the judges’ comments, because I’m a putz who accidentally stepped on the power strip. My bad.

TEAM ADAM LEVINE: JORDAN SMITH closes the show!

-Adam talks about the amazing amount of views Jordan’s blind audition received, and Jordan loves that people are connecting with his story. He talks about all the support he’s gotten from his hometown, while Adam states that Jordan’s karaoke days are over, since there’s nothing karaoke about him. Adam adds that Jordan has something that’s simply impossible to explain. During his rehearsal of “Halo” by Beyonce, we even see Adam fight back tears, saying that this is the closest he’s ever come to shedding tears on this show. You know, maybe I was too early in proclaiming Jeffery Austin the American Sam Smith, since Jordan’s mission statement as an artist here is to be an emotional, passionate singer. And when you add that mission statement to his voice, Sam Smith is largely what you end up with, I think.

-This is OUTSTANDING! Easily the best performance of the night, and one of the best vocals of the entire competition. Jordan is just otherworldly, receiving a standing ovation from all four coaches. And you know what? The dude DESERVED it. The crowd just goes absolutely bonkers at the end, hardly allowing the coaches to talk in praise of him. Hell, I’d be at a loss for words too. This guy deserves to win the entire show.

-Pharrell feels God has signed Jordan’s voice. Gwen adds, “All I can think of is God as well! It’s crazy!” Adam says thirty seconds isn’t enough to go into how great Jordan is, noting that the crowd cheered for him before he even started performing. He states it’s unlike anything he’s ever experienced in his life, and he’s proud to be a part of it. Adam genuinely looks like he’s bursting to just spend the next 10 minutes telling Jordan how amazing he is, but he gets cut off as we’re seconds away from 10pm. Carson signs off the show, and I guess we can say this live show ended on a high note with Jordan.

WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jordan Smith Takes on Beyonce With ‘Halo’ on The Voice 9 Live Playoffs (VIDEO)

-And that’s a wrap! For me, I think I’d put Keith, Jordan and Amy through for Team Adam, and Jeffery, Viktor and Ellie for Team Gwen. But what did you think of tonight’s show? Which three artists from each team will advance to the Top 12? Sound off in the comments!

Thanks for hanging out and reading tonight!

GOODNIGHT!

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