With the Top 20 in place for season 10, the Live Playoffs began on The Voice tonight, with the artists singing for America’s vote for the first time.
“Now it’s time for them to be the artists they’ve dreamed of being,” said coach Christina Aguilera before the round began. Aguilera and fellow coaches Pharrell, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton each gets to bring back one eliminated artist as their “coaches comeback” pick. Additionally, Team Christina and Team Blake delivered tonight’s live performances.
First up was Paxton Ingram from Team Blake. The former professional backup dancer has performed a couple ballads this season, so tonight he decided to shake things up with something a little more up-tempo, singing “How Deep Is Your Love.” He effortlessly commanded the stage, which doesn’t come as a surprise given his background in dance. Ingram is undoubtedly one of the more interesting artists on Team Blake this season. It was a very strong start to the Live Playoffs. “I feel like you had your moment just now,” Pharrell said, adding that the performance seemed like a true reflection of him as an artist. “It looked like you were genuinely having the time of your life,” Levine said.
Team Christina’s Ryan Quinn followed next. Aguilera stole Quinn from Levine during the Knockouts. He sang “I’m Not The Only One” by Sam Smith. Quinn has had some of the sharpest technical skills throughout the season, but tonight he also brought a lot to his performance on the emotional front, connecting with the words he was singing and captivating viewers with his presence. The ending was particularly memorable. All four coaches gave him a standing ovation. “You elevated to a level that I always knew you could elevate to,” Levine told Quinn, praising Aguilera’s coaching. “That was so beautiful,” Aguilera said.
Katie Basden, who Shelton stole from Levine back in the Battle Round, performed next, singing “Georgia Rain.” During her rehearsal, Shelton told Basden she has a very well rounded country voice, comparing her to Carrie Underwood. Her final performance was solid on a vocal level, but it wasn’t memorable enough for this stage of the competition. Basden has yet to really set herself apart in the competition, and she still needs to find what makes her special. “You’re a great storyteller,” Pharrell said.
Team Christina’s Kata Hay sang Aretha Franklin’s “A Natural Woman.” “You Janis Joplin-ed that,” Aguilera said in rehearsal. Hay definitely roughed up the song, adding some growl and showcasing a lot of control over the low notes. It was her personal best performance to date and proved that Hay is a lot more than just a country artist. She’s versatile, and it’s very evident that Aguilera’s coaching has been good for her. “My mind is still spinning. It’s crazy what you just did,” Pharrell said, explaining that Hay really had her finger on the pulse of the audience and knew exactly when to turn things up a notch.
“The talent was so amazing this season that we let our artists bring back someone,” Carson Daly explained. As an added twist, the coaches could bring back anyone. The artist did not have to necessarily be from their own team. Aguilera chose Nick Hagelin as her comeback artist, saying that she regretted not turning for him during the Blind Auditions. He fittingly chose to sing “Stay” by Rihanna, and in his rehearsal, he struggled with some of the high notes, but Aguilera coached him, encouraging him to soften up the falsetto as much as possible and really take his time with the delivery. It’s a difficult song, but Hagelin did well, taking some liberties with the melody. The high note was gorgeous. He probably could have showcased his falsetto even more, because it was very distinct. “Nick, you deserve to be on this show,” Pharrell, who was Hagelin’s initial coach, said. “You’re getting better all the time,” Levine added. “I’m so happy you’re back,” Aguilera said.
Next up was Joe Maye. Shelton stole Maye from Aguilera during the Knockouts. He sang “Long Train Runnin,” and Shelton compared him to Bruno Mars. It was a great song choice, and Maye really set himself apart, working the stage with the same effortless charm as Ingram showed earlier in the night. He said he really wanted the performance to build, and that’s exactly what he did. Aguilera said it was his personal best performance and that it recaptured the magic of the moment when he sang with her in the Blind Auditions. “That blew me away,” Shelton said.
Team Blake’s Adam Wakefield followed, and he revealed his beatboxing skills in his rehearsal. Those didn’t come into play in his performance of “Seven Spanish Angels” though. It was another strong song choice, allowing Wakefield to get very soulful with his singing and tell a story. “You are my favorite right now in the competition,” Levine said, adding that it’s impossible to explain exactly what it is that makes Wakefield so magnetic.
Tamar Davis from Team Christina performed next, singing “Rise Up” by Andra Day. She gave a captivating and dynamic performance, taking Aguilera’s advice to really pay attention to the rhythm. Davis showcased incredible range and a whole lot of power. Team Christina is looking very strong this season. “You have this presence about you that just makes me smile,” Shelton said, calling it her best performance so far in the competition.
Team Blake’s classic country singer Mary Sarah was up next, singing “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. “I’ve messed with it a little bit,” Sarah told Shelton in her rehearsal, saying that she hoped to bring a bit of a contemporary spin to the classic. She had strong creative instincts, and the changes she made allowed her to really stand out in the Live Playoffs. “You’re definitely one of the fan favorites on the show — at least on my team,” Shelton said.
Bryan Bautista from Team Christina opted to sing “Pillowtalk” by Zayn, and he got a little too in his head in his rehearsal, but Aguilera pushed him to really be confident and sexy in his singing. She had him lower the key so that he had more room to move around instead of straining too much. In his performance, Bautista found his confidence again, proving to be a strong rhythmic singer. The key change was definitely the right choice. He made the song his own, and it was a very memorable performance. He got standing ovations from all four coaches.
Shelton then announced his comeback artist: Justin Whisnant. Whisnant was original on Team Blake, but he was beaten by Mary Sarah in the Battle Round. Now, he’s back where he belongs on Team Blake. Tonight, he sang “Here’s A Quarter.” As Shelton said in the rehearsal, Whisnant’s voice is rough around the edges, which adds something interesting to his singing. It just wasn’t quite the comeback performance that Hagelin’s was. But it was a solid country performance that can definitely be expected from a member of Team Blake. “I love that you have this great pitch,” Shelton said.
Team Christina’s Alisan Porter closed out the night, singing “Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin. Porter has been on a roll with the emotional performance, and tonight was no exception. It was a powerful and vocally impressive performance that showcased her range and control. Aguilera jumped to her feet before Porter was even done. Porter closed out tonight’s live performances on a high note.
Team Adam and Team Pharrell take the stage tomorrow. Who got your vote tonight?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.