The Voice 9 – Live Blog and Recap – The Live Playoffs, Night 2 (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!
It’s Night 2 of the Live Playoffs, and that means Team Blake and Team Pharrell will perform! But like last night, each coach will bring back one eliminated artist from the Battles or Knockouts as a Wildcard!
There were some stellar performances on last night’s Live Playoffs Premiere, but I think it was largely a disappointing episode due to some weird song choices. That’s why I’m looking forward to tonight’s show, since some of my favorite artists are featured here tonight, and a lot of the song choices are better. But which artists will advance to the Top 12? And is the winner among tonight’s performers? Let’s do this!
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!
Let’s get this show on the road!
-Published this a little early. So while we wait for the show to start, let’s go over the song spoilers for tonight…
(Click on the title to download the song on iTunes)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON
Barrett Baber, “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice
Emily Ann Roberts, “In The Garden” (Gospel Song)
Zach Seabaugh, “Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy
Morgan Frazier, “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder
Ivonne Acero, “One of Us” by Joan Osbourne
Nadjah Nicole, “Upside Down” by Diana Ross
Okay, scratch what I said about most of tonight’s song choices being better than last night’s. Onto Team Pharrell…
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS
Darius Scott, “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West
Madi Davis, “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac
Riley Biederer, “Should’ve Been Us” by Tori Kelly
Evan McKeel, “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder
Mark Hood, “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber
Celeste Betton, “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood
Okay, scratch what I just said about scratching what I previously said about the song choices tonight vs. last night. The Team Pharrell picks are uniformly good, in my opinion. Like, shockingly so. I’m totally ready for this.
-Carson introduces the coaches, aaaaand we’re off to the races!
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: DARIUS SCOTT opens the show!
-Darius will be singing “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West,a nd he’s developed his own arrangement. Pharrell feels Darius has something very special to offer, noting his artistry. Darius mentions that his father planted the seeds for his artistic pursuits by building him a studio in their house when he was younger. Now THAT’s a committed father. I love this song choice, even though I’m not sure how it’s going to play out for him, considering the divisiveness of Kanye West and his music.
-Darius has sung better than this before, but there’s no denying that he’s a hell of an artist. This is a terrific arrangement, feeling contemporary but also slightly jazzy as well. I was impressed, but I think part of the problem, vocally, is that it doesn’t give Darius much to work with. He hits some really cool runs towards the end, but I think he’s a better singer than that. Darius shouldn’t need to rely on runs like that. That said, the crowd is going absolutely bonkers for this, and Pharrell is beaming after the performance. So maybe this will hit for Darius.
-Gwen thought the performance was crazy, and says she doesn’t think she could have come up with any of that. Adam thinks everyone has a sour note here and there, but Darius somehow avoids the same pitfalls as everyone else. Blake admits he doesn’t know “Love Lockdown”, but he doesn’t care. “Whatever version that is, it’s the one I’m going to buy tonight.” Blake tells Darius that he’s the guy on Team Pharrell that they all have to worry about. Pharrell loved the arrangement and the tasteful creative liberties he took. He then stands up and implores everyone else to get on their feet as well. “I really think that everybody should be voting you through tonight, because this guy totally deserves to go through,” he states. Well, that’s certainly one way to subtly bus the rest of your team.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: IVONNE ACERO is up next!
-Ivonne wants to make her mom proud, and she loves the song choice of “One of Us” by Joan Osbourne, since this is exactly the type of music she wants to sing. For his part, Blake is impressed at how Ivonne has grown, since the shy Ivonne is slowly melting away, and leaving a more confident, mature performer. Blake declares that Ivonne could be one to watch in this competition. And I agree, even though I don’t particularly like this song choice for her.
-I…am actually surprised by how much I loved this. Ivonne is so much more confident and powerful with her vocals, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the growth she’s shown. I’m so glad she came back this season, because the difference is night and day. She made this song sound current and relevant and all those nice adjectives. And, once again, Ivonne’s dad is in tears. I love this family.
-Pharrell loves how kind Ivonne is, and he loves that she’s here, adding that she definitely made her mom proud tonight. Gwen was most impressed by Ivonne’s confidence, noting that it’s a contrast with her personality. She adds that she was really drawn in by Ivonne’s voice, which she calls beautiful. Adam hates giving praise to Blake, but he admits that Blake has done amazing work with her (Blake, shouting: “I LOVE YOU, IVONNE!!”). He calls her phenomenal. Blake, meanwhile, states that while Ivonne is still shy in her personality, she’s not a shy performer anymore, and the change has been amazing. I agree, and I really hope she goes far. She’s just so likable and talented and cute, like another Caroline Pennell.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: MORGAN FRAZIER is up next!
-For stealing her and saving her life in the competition, Morgan gifts Morgan a copy of the CD she made when she was nine. She then recounts how she and Blake were once signed by the same man. Her record deal didn’t pan out, but she takes inspiration from Blake, who kept his nose to the grindstone, and ended up making his dream come true. Morgan will be singing “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder, which Blake feels will show her versatility, since Morgan is once again flipping the script on a male artist’s song. This could be great or it could be a mess. I’m leaning closer towards great, because I genuinely like Morgan.
-Wow, I’m impressed. The arrangement makes it sound like a Lady Antebellum song. Seriously, if you didn’t know this song before, you could be forgiven for thinking it was always a country ballad. In addition, her tone is just so pure, so that even in the shaky moments, there’s a certain clarity to the sound of her voice. She’s great at conveying the message of the song as well. I’m just stunned by how much I liked this.
-Blake can’t stop shouting out for Morgan (“Yes! YES!”), and he gives her a standing ovation. Pharrell understands, after a performance like that, just why Blake saved her. Gwen is stunned by the power of Morgan’s voice, and adds that she’s beautiful and has the voice to match. Blake just gushes for his artist, saying Morgan is already “like a country standard” in the way she works the stage and builds the moments in the song. Blake outright says that if people don’t vote her through to the Top 12, then they must be full of hate, because there’s no other explanation. I don’t know about that, but it would be a travesty to lose her, which is why I don’t think we will. If it comes down to it, I think Blake would put her through as his coaches’ pick.
-We follow it up with an exclusive sneak peek at The Hunger Games: The Phenomenon, a special presentation that goes behind-the-scenes of The Hunger Games franchise. It will only be airing on the NBC Universal cable networks (such as Syfy, Oxygen, E!, Bravo, and USA, to name a few, although not NBC itself). It airs this Thursday, so…yeah. That’s certainly a thing that’s happening.
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: EVAN MCKEEL is up next!
-Evan will be singing “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder, with Pharrell talking about how great it was when he performed this at the Blind Auditions. Evan admits that this song has meant a lot to him, ever since he watched Stevie Wonder perform it on Saturday Night Live in 83. It sounds great so far, although Evan worries he’s going to succumb to the emotion of the song. Pharrell encourages this, however, saying that while the show is called The Voice, it’s more about the feeling. Pharrell is loaded with such cool little nuggets of wisdom. I wish he were my life coach.
-I thought this was great, although I’m not sure it’s as magical as the time he did it for his Blind Auditions. Still, this is an outstanding vocal, by any measure. I’m really not surprised that tonight’s group of artists are blowing away last night’s, but I am kind of surprised it’s happening this early into the show. We’re only a quarter of the way through the night, and yet we already have several contenders for the Top 12. And Evan is chief among them, in my opinion.
-Gwen loved the vocal, although she feels Evan’s stage movements are a little too theatrical and thought-out. She wants him to work on his “honesty”, whatever that means. Blake agrees with Gwen on the stage presence, but feels it was more important for Evan to prove what a great singer he is, which Blake feels he did. Pharrell read the body language as Evan being genuine, admitting that while it looked kind of awkward at times, you don’t always look cool when you tell someone you love them. That’s a terrific point actually. Pharrell is so on-point tonight.
-Back from break, and SAWYER FREDERICKS is here! He’s stoked to be back, and he’s excited to premiere his new single, “Take It All”, on the results show tomorrow night. It’s part of a four-song EP he’s releasing tomorrow. No full album?
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: MADI DAVIS is up next!
-Madi will be singing “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac, and Pharrell loves Madi’s artistry, saying she’s ready to make an album right now. However, Madi is feeling some of the pressure, since her mother — a former military veteran — loves this song. Pharrell suggests adding bongos, and the change in the song is subtle but great. I love these types of mentor-student relationships. Case in point, Madi tells Pharrel she feels like he’s one of the only people who gets her as a musician. Adorable.
-Madi is the best of the night so far, and I don’t think it’s even close. This was emotional, and the vocal itself was impeccably controlled. She could also read the passion on her face, as she seemed to be fighting back tears by the end of the performance. I just had chills all the way through, and that’s only happened a few times on this show. I’d be shocked if she went home after this. Afterwards, Carson asks Madi if she needs a tissue as she composes herself. In the audience, her father is just as emotional. Madi NEEDS to go through! We, as a society, need to make this happen.
-Adam wants to know if Madi’s tears are happy or sad. They’re happy, which he approves, since he hates sad tears. Suddenly, he realizes he’s running out time already, and simply tells Madi she did a great job. Blake calls this a breakout moment for Madi, which is reflected in Pharrell’s gushing praise, as he reminds everyone that Madi is only sixteen-years-old, a fact I had somehow forgotten. Man, I’m just so impressed by this girl. I know whose single I’m buying on iTunes tonight.
-Back from break with Pharrell revealing his comeback artist, saying that after the battle between Mark Hood and Celeste Betton ended the way it did, he knew exactly who he wanted to bring back. Pharrell states she inspired him, and so he’s bringing back CELESTE BETTON as his wildcard!
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: CELESTE BETTON is back!
-Celeste talks about how excited she was to get the call about Pharrell picking her as his wildcard. She’ll be singing “Something In the Water” by Carrie Underwood, and this could be a real moment if she commits to it like I believe she will. Regardless, it’s clear Celeste and Pharrell are vibing in this coach/artist pairing, almost as if he’s found a kindred spirit, of sorts. I wouldn’t be surprised if this pairing produced some fine moments, provided Celeste advances and gets to continue on in the competition. She does run into some trouble during the rehearsal related to managing her breath control, but Pharrell seems to have confidence in her. And I do too.
-This was a really solid performance. That said, I feel it fell a bit short of being a true moment due to some strange pitch issues, and the band doing its damndest to drown her out. However, there’s no doubting that Celeste has an amazing voice, and she would be a fine addition to Team Pharrell for the Top 12. I’m actually really happy she’s back, since I think she deserved this chance. Carson loved it, saying he loves these last chance performances because it prompts people to come out and sing like they never want to leave. That’s a good point, Carson.
-Gwen says she’s in tears (granted, we can’t really see any), as she talks about how inspiring and beautiful Celeste is, and how emotional her faith is, noting that she saw Celeste pray before the performance and was moved by it. Pharrell never wants Celeste to leave, and believes the audience is feeling the same way. I would probably consider giving her a shot, honestly. I think she has a lot more to offer in this competition.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: ZACH SEABAUGH is up next!
-Zach will be singing “Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy, and it’s…well, it’s okay in the rehearsals. Blake tells Zach that if he’s too laid back, the song will drag him around. He encourages Zach to walk around the stage, interact with the girls, and make them feel like he’s singing this song to them. Zach then relates an amusing story about how a radio station was having a contest where the prize was a homecoming date with him. Sure enough, not only do girls call, their MOTHERS start calling in as well! Blake notes that, at 17, Zach is still figuring out who he is, but it’s clear he has something.
-I like Zach, but this was more an entertainment spectacle than a great vocal, what with the hip-gyrating and the spoken word pause in the middle. He also worked the stage like a real pro, in addition to keeping his voice from losing its power over the course of all his gyrating and moving. And hey, the crowd is going nuts for him too! So who knows? He might get through anyway. He already kind of looks like Ryan Sill, so it wouldn’t shock me if America put him through like he were. I just wasn’t feeling the vocal though.
-Adam feels Zach “has that thing” that allows him to get away with “gyration” onstage despite not having done it before. He calls it his favorite Zach performance yet. Blake, meanwhile, wants to end the Superman comparisons and begin talking about the Elvis comparisons. He had no idea Zach was going to get down like THAT, but he loved it, and says Zach may have just bought himself a ticket to the Top 12. I don’t know about that, but then, like I said, it really wouldn’t surprise me. A young, handsome, non-threatening crooner with a penchant for country music? America is probably gonna be all, “Sign me the hell up!”
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: RILEY BIEDERER is up next!
-Riley looks distractingly like my friend Stephanie. I have nothing to add. In the rehearsal, Riley says she couldn’t believe Pharrell saved her, because while things go well in music for her at first, they ultimately fall through, causing her to stop getting her hopes up. Pharrell tries to instill confidence in her with “Should’ve Have Been Us” by Tori Kelly. He tells her she should be signed right now. More than anything though, he wants her to see in herself what he sees in her, namely that she’s a beautiful, talented girl who deserves to be here. Riley states she loves Pharrell for being such a great coach, and giving her the confidence to really pursue this.
-I didn’t think this was going to approach Tori’s version, but I was surprised by how close this came, honestly. There are some iffy moments towards the end, particularly some raw-throated notes and missed runs, but I thought this was a good performance overall. Riley has real star quality. She just looks right up there. Hell, she sounds right too.
-Gwen misses Riley, and adds that she’s so cute. Her favorite part is when Riley belts the big notes, drawing on the contrast between the big notes and the more restrained verses. Pharrell tells Riley that she’s always had a great voice, but he felt she came out here as a fighter, which he loves. He implores the crowd to “make some noise for this fighter”. Riley’s giddy exuberance is kind of infectious. I have absolutely no idea who I even want to advance on Team Pharrell anymore. It’s a far stronger group of finalists than I gave him credit for having.
-Back from break with Blake revealing his comeback artist, who is someone he’s loved since Day 1. His wildcard artist is…NADJAH NICOLE!
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: NADJAH NICOLE is up next!
-Nadjah is thrilled to be back, but talks about the hardships she went through after being cut from the show. It wasn’t until her blind audition aired that she rediscovered her passion for singing. Not long after, the call came that she would be the Comeback Artist. She’ll be singing “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and Blake loves this song choice for Nadjah, since it will allow her to show off her abilities. Nadjah loves it too, since she wanted nothing more than to be Diana Ross in high school. Nadjah couldn’t thank Blake enough for being her mentor, and it means a lot to him that she says so. I’m really feeling more camaraderie between the coaches and contestants this season than in years past. Is it just me?
-This would be a great song for Nadjah if she were someone who’d already made it. But as a competition song, I don’t really get this, because there’s no way to keep this song from sounding dated. It’s very much a product of its era, and struggles to sound current in any way. It’s a glorified disco track, and Nadjah is a better singer than that, as she proves her. I wish Blake had given Nadjah something she could really sink her teeth into, because I think she could be the rough diamond of this competition.
-Adam really enjoyed the performance, and he’s glad Nadjah is back. Blake is too, saying he’s so happy to see Nadjah fulfill her dream of being Diana Ross. He then makes a joke about hair extensions, noting how quickly her hair grew out from the time they rehearsed the track. I don’t like Nadjah’s chances of getting through, but I thought she did a good job here with what was a less-than-ideal song choice, so I wouldn’t exactly mind if she were a surprise pick.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: EMILY ANN ROBERTS is up next!
-Emily brings her mother to the rehearsal, and finds Blake waiting for her with a birthday cake to celebrate her 17th birthday! It’s a cute moment, although I’m beginning to wonder if we might as well just call this a season of The Voice Kids and have it over with already. Emily will be singing “In the Garden”, a gospel song that her grandfather (whom she never met due to his unfortunate death), loved this song and her mother always used to sing it in church. Blake loves this song choice for Emily, and he also loves that she has a clear idea of who she wants to be as an artist. Well, if nothing else, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of being her mentor.
-This is neck-and-neck with Madi for “Prettiest Vocal of the Night”. Just the lilting tone of her voice is gorgeous, and the power notes are as full and as rich as the vocals of a woman twice her age. If there’s one complaint, it’s that the story and emotion of the song doesn’t really show on her face at all. She just lacks any sort of expression whatsoever, and it’s kind of distracting. That said, I think this might have been an even more flawless vocal than Madi’s. This was pretty much perfect.
-Gwen says Emily is one of her favorites on Blake’s team (before quickly changing gears to praise Emily’s “sparkly” boots), adding that Emily is just so pure. Adam loves to enjoy a moment in its purity and not think about the competition, and that’s what Emily offered. He can’t believe how much talent comes out of this show, and he feels Emily is no exception. Blake, meanwhile, declares that Emily has the voice of an angel. Honestly, I don’t think he’s far off the mark there.
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: MARK HOOD is up next!
-Mark arrives in the studio, already prepared with a ton of ideas on what to do. Chief among them is to play the piano on his version of “What Do U Mean” by Justin Bieber. Pharrell picked this song to show off the different colors to Mark’s voice. Once Mark is done with his first run through, Pharrell says, “It’s not supposed to be that easy!” Mark can’t believe he’s working with Pharrell, and that he’s one step closer to a career in music. He and Pharrell go over how he can “claim the notes” in the song, confidently making the version his own with the addition of notes that aren’t in the original. I really like Mark, so I’m interested to see what he does with this.
-Mark starts out at the piano, and honestly, it should have stayed there. Once the band picks up, it starts to sound like a dated track from the 1980s in a way the original song never has. But if he’d turned it into a smoky ballad, this could have been a moment. That said, I can’t find fault with this vocal. Mark is an AMAZING performer, working the stage like a pro, always remaining in motion. People are either going to love or hate the wave-like high notes at the end, but it seems immaterial right now. All I know is that he’s got Gwen, Pharrell, and the crowd on their feet by the end of it. This is the hottest the crowd has been for anyone tonight.
-Gwen says she’s crying again (still can’t see it) because he’s so good. She tells Mark he’s one of her favorites, and that he can do anything. Adam tells Mark he was amazing, but jokes about the excessive lights. Blake is stunned by Mark’s talent and all the things he’s capable of doing. Pharrell knows everyone at home is standing up for him. He adds that Mark has the right name, since he was “marked” for this life. Mark seems genuinely touched, and I can’t help but root for him like crazy.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BARRETT BABER closes the show!
-Barrett talks about going to a pep rally back home, and discovering, to his surprise, that “Babermania” had taken over. Tonight, he’ll be singing “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice, which has a lot of meaning for Barrett. Blake even relates his own story about losing his brother at 14, which I didn’t know about him. In the rehearsal, Blake makes an excellent point that while Barrett is a great singer, it’s hard to understand him because he doesn’t enunciate. So Blake tells him to “speak English” so they can all appreciate his performances more. And he does…and it works! Can’t wait to hear this in full.
-Barrett delivers one of the best country vocals of the season so far. I thought this was a very rich performance, with Barrett’s powerful tone, and his passion, which allows him to connect to each song he sings. He could be the biggest threat Jordan Smith faces for the win. He’s the gem for Team Blake, in my opinion, and he could go all the way. I could see him as a country music star right now.
-Gwen praises Barrett for giving so much in every performance. Adam agrees, saying that Barrett’s passion has come through. Blake, meanwhile, declares that the only person he’s seen give so much to each performance is Garth Brooks, and he believes Barrett is really that good. I don’t know if I’d call him Garth Brooks yet, but Barrett IS very good.
-And that’s a wrap! I have absolutely no idea whom to put through on Team Blake. I think Barrett and Emily Ann are shoo-ins, but that third spot is very much up for grabs. If it were up to me, I’d put through Ivonne. She’s like a ray of freaking sunshine. As for Team Pharrell, it’s an even harder call to make. Despite being on the Celeste bandwagon earlier, I feel like Madi, Mark and Evan are the way to go. It should an interesting results show tomorrow. Rickey will be here to cover it all, since I’ll be off covering Survivor!
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!