The Voice Recap: The Comeback Kid(s)

Tamar Davis. Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC
The Voice
The Voice
Episode Title
The Live Playoffs, Night 1
Editor’s Rating

Welcome to the Lives! Teams Christina and Blake are up first. The theme of tonight’s episode is “terrible song choices.” I wish people would consult with me more, but no one ever does.

The big news from Paxton Ingram is that when he was home, he got in a fender bender, and the cop recognized him from The Voice, and so they took a selfie together. Also, the cop is a big fan of Voice house drummer, Nate Morton. Truly, this is the show of America. Paxton sings “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Calvin Harris & Disciples. Maybe not that deep, I would say? One problem is that this song is boring. Still, everyone agrees that Paxton is tremendously good at performing, which makes sense because it is his job. “That was some entertainment right there!” says Christina. “I feel like you had your moment just now,” muses stoned Pharrell. Blake praises both Paxton’s command of the stage and his signature “head whip.” To be fair, both his presence and his head whip are really something special.

For a change of pace, we then move on to the latest addition to Team Christina, handsome robot Ryan Quinn. In rehearsal, his rendition of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” is missing many human traits, such as soul and feelings, but then Christina tells him to be vulnerable and he says he was cheated on, and then everything is much better. He just needed to let it out, I guess. To complete his transformation, Christina has him take off his glasses, like the romcom heroine he was born to be. Suddenly, he has feelings. He has tenderness. He has all four judges on their feet. “You’re a hater if you don’t give it up,” observes Pharrell. I am not a hater. I will give it up.

Katie Basden is singing “Georgia Rain” by Trisha Yearwood, because it is “about going back to your hometown and reminiscing.” This is true, especially if the main thing you reminisce about in your hometown is the rain. Her voice is beautiful, as though she is already a country star. “It feels like you’re already a big country star,” says Adam, confirming my working thesis. “I like to stand onstage and inspire people to just be the better version of themselves,” Katie explains. Also, I like her feather-cape.

Country firecracker Kata Hay is “looking to prove herself with an iconic anthem,” so she’s doing “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman.” Christina wants her to tone down the vibrato, which turns out to be challenging because Kata reveals that she is also a five-time international yodeling champion. Classic Kata. It is not clear exactly what original value Kata is adding to the song, but it is very loud and very sassy. “That poor gas pedal is just jammed at this point, ’cause you just went from zero to ten,” Pharrell reflects. “That was like an exorcism,” agrees Adam, in what I think is praise.

A twist! Nick Hagelin was eliminated for his questionable all-falsetto performance in the knockouts, but Christina thinks he is “a cool guy” so she’s elected him to return to The Voice as her one “comeback artist” of the season. He’s singing “Stay” by Rihanna, which Christina says is “a perfect choice, because this time you want to stay.” In the words of Rihanna, not really sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it was heartfelt. On the other hand, it was pitchy and kind of thin. I am going to be honest with you: I don’t really get Nick Hagelin, but Christina says he is amazing, and America says he is currently ranking on iTunes, so maybe I am missing something. In America’s defense, the studio version is totally better.

Then “passionate R&B singer” and recent Team Blake-steal Joe Maye sings “Long Train Runnin’” by the Doobie Brothers, and Blake says that America is going to fall in love with him. I am not sure I am in love with him, but I will concede he is extremely good and, as a bonus, does a lot of interesting stuff with his knees. Christina, who is wrapped in fur, says his zippy performance was “so much fun!” and Blake suggests he’s got the raw materials of a winner.

Next it is time for honey-voiced Adam Wakefield, who has been spending his time home in Nashville beatboxing. Also, I think he got a new hat. Anyway, Adam is singing the classic Willie Nelson and Ray Charles duet, “Seven Spanish Angels,” an excellent choice that showcases both his storytelling and his soul. “There’s really only been three singers in country music that have whatever that thing is that you have,” raves Blake, who is once again excited about the future of country music. Me too, kind of!

Tamar Davis outdid herself last week, so I went into this performance pretty confident, but friends, I am worried: While Tamar Davis is generally spectacular and best friends with noted American playwright Tyler Perry, tonight is not her night. She’s not even ranking on iTunes! She does “Rise Up” by Andra Day, and it is … not her best. She misses some notes, our Tamar. Some long notes. I am going to go out on a limb and disagree with Blake Shelton here: This is not even close to her best performance. I really hope she rises up anyway.

Country sweetheart Mary Sarah is singing “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” by Lynn Anderson, because she used to sing it with her grandmother. While she’s done her own extra-special arrangement of it, the whole thing feels too low for her, a feeling that is confirmed every time she gets to a rare and glorious high note. She spends the whole number slinking around the stage like a sexy cupcake; obviously, Blake loves it. Christina says she had “some nice notes there.” I am going to say something radical: I think Mary Sarah would be better off with a different coach.

For his inaugural live offering, light of my life Bryan Bautista will be singing “PILLOWTALK” by ZAYN. Frankly, rehearsal is a little rough, but Christina isn’t worried because he always nails it. And oh, how he nails it! “That was like the greatest thing I’ve ever seen,” says Adam, accurately. “You came out here and you murdered that song.” “You have what it takes to win, bro,” agrees Pharrell, suddenly conscious. And he does, is the thing!

Blake’s comeback artist is Justin Whisnant, who is reentering the competition with a version of Travis Tritt’s “Here’s a Quarter (to Call Someone Who Cares).” Blake works with him on his diction because “there’s a lot of city people, and they need to be able to understand what you’re saying.” As a city person, I think he does a great job. I like Justin Whisnant! I also think that he is not going to win The Voice.

Oh, Alisan Porter, what are you doing on this show? It is just mean to everyone else at this point. She is doing Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby,” which gives her a chance to “show off her rock side.” (Would you like to see the viral video of her singing it at karaoke in 2005? Okay!) Obviously, she is great, because she is always great. Pharrell and Adam don’t even bother to stand for her, because there is nothing surprising about her greatness anymore. It is a given, like breathing, or the weather. Other people are competing; Alisan Porter is giving a concert. “I said it a million years ago when you came on the show, that’s the winner,” says Adam. Tell me something I don’t know.

And so we’re off! Are you participating in this our democratic process? Who are you voting for, and how many times?