Reality Check

'The Voice' Recap: Team Gwen and Team Adam Kick Off Live Playoffs

Blind Auditions on "The Voice"
Trae Patton/NBC

Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine during a "Blind Auditions" episode of "The Voice." 

Tonight was the first of the live shows for season nine of The Voice, and artists from Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine’s teams competed for America’s votes. As Carson Daly reminded, this season, all four coaches will be able to bring back a “comeback artist” -- someone who was previously eliminated in the competition whom the coaches think deserve a shot at competing in the live playoffs.

First up was Blaine Mitchell from Team Adam. He sang “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS. “He’s got that powerful, haunting voice,” Levine said, remarking that it was a great song choice for Mitchell. He gave a great performance and really made the song sound like his own. Pharrell Williams said he almost felt like Mitchell had written the song himself because of how well he mastered it.

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Next, Regina Love from Team Gwen made a very smart move by capitalizing on the recent popularity of Adele’s “Hello.” It’s a hard song to sing, as most Adele songs are. She handled it well though, showing incredible control and also capturing the intense emotion of the song. It was a dramatic performance, as Pharrell noted, but Adele demands drama.

She took on the challenge of the song and did an exceptional job.

Team Adam’s Irish rocker Keith Semple was up next and chose to sing “To Be With You” by Mr. Big. It was a strong performance that definitely highlighted his strengths, but Semple lacks versatility. Still, it can’t be denied that he handles those high notes quite well. 

Shelby Brown performed next, singing “You’re No Good.” Brown could be Team Adam’s secret weapon this season. She gives consistently powerful performances and is one of the more versatile artists on his team. Brown has what it takes to win it all.

Team Gwen’s Korin Bukowski sang “Adia,” and it wasn’t a very exciting performance. She’s still struggling to let her own personality come through in her performances, which is likely due to her nerves. She definitely has strong vocals, but a lot of it gets buried by her nerves.

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Next, Stefani announced her comeback artist: Ellie Lawrence. Stefani felt like she has just been holding back and hasn’t had a chance to really show her fullest potential. She chose to sing “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King, and Stefani pushed her to be as outgoing as her hair is. She finally brought her personality to her performance and proved that she really earned her spot as Stefani’s comeback artist.

Jeffery Austin from Team Gwen sang next, choosing “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware. He had strong vocals and stage presence and showed a lot of growth. Pharrell called it the best performance of the night. He really connected with the emotions of the song, and it made the dynamics of the performance strong. “You could really win this whole thing,” Levine said.

Braiden Sunshine performed next, singing “Everything I Own” by Bread, and even though he sounded good, it just wasn’t a very distinct performance of the night. Levine acknowledged that he could have done more. It was a fine performance, but it wasn’t stellar, most likely because it was a strange song choice.

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In one of the riskier song choices of the night, Amy Vachal decided to sing “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra. It ended up being perfect for her tone and range. Vachal gave her personal best performance of the competition. “Please do a Christmas album someday,” Blake Shelton said, saying she has the perfect crooner voice for it.

Stefani chose “All Around The World” by Lisa Stansfield for Viktor Kiraly. It was one of the night’s more original performances, and Kiraly really showed off a new level to his talent. After Kiraly’s performance, Shelton remarked that Team Gwen was winning out over Team Adam, but it’s no surprise that he would side with her over him.

After Kiraly, Levine announced his comeback artist: Chance Pena. He sang “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars. Just as Lawrence did, Pena redeemed himself after being eliminated in the Knockouts and made it clear that Levine made the right choice in bringing him back to the competition. He showed a lot of improvement and really pushed himself for America’s votes.

Jordan Smith, who could also be one of Team Adam’s secret weapons this season, sang “Halo” by Beyonce. It was an incredibly ambitious song choice, and Levine helped him create an arrangement that would really make it his own song. The final performance was stunning and closed out the night on a high note -- literally. He got a standing ovation from all four coaches, who were blown away by the performance to the point where they could barely speak about it. It was easily the best performance of the night.

What did you think of tonight’s performances and the new comeback artist aspect? Tomorrow, Team Pharrell and Team Blake compete.

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