'The Voice' Recap: Pharrell Shows Off Inventive Song Choices in His First Playoffs
After veteran coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton showed them how it's done on Monday, The Voice's season-seven playoffs continued on Tuesday. The round has teams trimmed down from five to three: two picked by America, and one more saved by each coach, and also introduced the new Voice app, which allows viewers at home to begin voting before the end of the episode.
After Pharrell Williams performed a precise, female-equipped "Hunter," he and Gwen Stefani ushered their singers on stage for their first live performances -- and live critiques -- of the season. Warning: Williams is a master at song selection, equally refreshing classic tracks and current chart-toppers for those ready to jump out of "karaoke zone."
Ryan Sill put his sweet tone on the rugged OneRepublic track "I Lived," and after a few lessons in stage presence from Stefani, he hit the ground running with high spirits and big notes. Though Levine said he still has a way to go to perform a bit bigger, Williams noted his progress thus far.
Bryana Salaz sang 5 Seconds of Summer's "Amnesia," in honor of her military father who was in the audience for the Veterans Day episode. Shelton said of reaching a big note, "I think we just saw her get better in that performance, you just grew before our eyes." Levine and Williams applauded the synergy between Salaz and Stefani.
Anita Antoinette sang Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" with a twist of reggae and a ton of fun onstage. "She has risen to the occasion," said Williams, who with Levine said they appreciated her Jamaican flavor on the chart-topper. (Remember, this series' coaches seems to really favor reggae, but it's not a gimmick for Anita just yet.)
Ricky Manning went for Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down" -- Levine called him most improved of the season so far, and Shelton was impressed by his calm and controlled grasp on the song, especially after a tweaked falsetto. Williams highlighted his visible hunger for the win, as well as his notable runs.
Taylor John Williams put a "swampy" spin on Stealers Wheel's "Stuck In The Middle With You," strumming along at half-time with a relatively lighthearted take (and even a few smiles!). Levine praised the artistic, inventive choice and his genre versatility.
Jean Kelley took on Brenda Russell's "Piano in the Dark" with her bit of lyrical drama, in which Stefani admitted she occasionally got lost: "Sometimes, I didn't believe it, that's all." Levine backed up his fellow coach, asking for more of a balance so the vocals aren't compromised. What's most important to Williams? "As long as you had fun."
Elyjuh Rene went for genre-jumping rendition of "Latch" by Disclosure and Smith, which left all the judges speechless. "That was the most precisely perfect, soulful, amazing thing," said Levine, calling him a Team Pharrell frontrunner, while Shelton applauded his ability to navigate melodies.
Luke Wade effortlessly opted for Marvin Gaye's "Let’s Get It On," complete with a big ending. "It's hard to get out of karaoke zone on this one, and you did your thing, all of the phrasing was different," noted Levine, and Shelton loved how much fun he was having.
DaNica Shirey covered Joni Mitchell's "Help Me," another song choice Stefani lauded on Williams' part. Levine said they "turned Joni Mitchell into Chaka Khan," and though Shelton admitted he had never heard the song before, he called the performance "a clinic for singers."
Sugar Joans growled on Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer," with purple hair and petal-filled styling that pleased Stefani, and took Levine to church. Shelton loved her vibrato and called it the best performance of the night, "in my opnion anyway, and it's the only one that matters!"
By the end of the episode, the first-ever Voice app voting showed that Stefani's Antoinette and Salaz, as well as Williams' Wade and Rene, were in the lead and most likely to stay safe during Wednesday's elimination.
The Voice playoffs continue Wednesday with the results. What did you think of tonight's performances? Sound off in the comments below!
This article originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.