'The Voice': Artists Sing for America's Vote in First of Playoffs

The Voice Live Playoffs Part 1 - H 2015
Courtesy of NBC

The Voice Live Playoffs Part 1 - H 2015

After weeks of improving their technical abilities and finding their points of view as performers with the help of their coaches and celebrity mentors, the artists of The Voice’s eighth season went live for the first time in the playoffs. Now, their fate is in the hands of viewers, who will vote to determine the top 12.

The playoffs launched with a performance by Adam Levine’s Maroon 5. Then, it came time for Blake Shelton’s team to take the stage. First up was one of the strongest artists of the season: Sarah Potenza. Shelton advised her to showcase some versatility instead of going solely for her usual hard-rocker sound. She sang “Free Bird” and played the guitar. It wasn’t her personal-best performance, but the song still showcased the strength and range of her voice. Potenza definitely deserves to be in the top 12.

Caitlin Caporale from Team Pharrell performed next. She chose “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyonce. “Beyonce is definitely huge shoes to fill,” said Caporale — a major understatement. Beyonce's songs are incredibly difficult to sing, but Caporale fortunately has tight technical abilities. She was a hit with the coaches, and it was one of her best performances so far in the competition.

Shelton stole back Hannah Kirby in the knockouts, and she tried to use the playoffs as a chance to prove why she deserves to be in this stage of the competition. She did just that, singing “I Feel the Earth Move.” It was Christina Aguilera’s favorite performance of the night. From her dance moves to her impeccable vocal control, Kirby entertained and was fearless in her approach to the song. Kirby didn’t let the high stakes of the playoffs throw her off her game, and it led to an infectious performance.

Lowell Oakley decided to show a different side of his voice tonight and to incorporate Pharrell’s advice to stop being so "in his head" and try to make choices that aren’t too calculated. Pharrell told him to have fun, instead of just trying to be “fancy.” Oakley sang Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” and a lot of the runs felt a lot more improvisational than his vocals usually do. Oakley got to show off his falsetto for the first time and also truly looked like he was having fun onstage. Always listen to your coaches, artists.

Next, Mia Z sang “Ain’t No Sunshine.” “I wouldn’t give them the high note on this song,” said Pharrell, asking Mia to put aside her signature whistle notes and keep it simple. It was her most understated performance, and it wasn’t her most technically sound, but it was important for Mia Z to show she can do more than just hit the high notes.

Koryn Hawthorne competed next, singing “How Great Thou Art.” Pharrell said he sees a drive in her that reminds him of Beyonce, and that’s quite the vote of confidence. She gave a powerful performance, and Shelton said he thinks she’s a shoo-in for the top 12. Aguilera agreed with Pharrell’s Beyonce comparison. It looks like Hawthorne definitely is headed toward the finish line of the competition.

Dealing with the emotions of his grandfather passing away, Corey Kent White decided to slow things down and show a softer side of his country sound. He sang “Make You Feel My Love,” hoping to prove he could nail a ballad. Even though his more upbeat performances have been stronger, White gave a solid playoffs performance. But it didn’t stand out as much as some of the others, so it might not be quite enough to keep him in the competition.

Brooke Adee sang “Love Me Like You Do,” and she showed off her lower register with the song choice. However, she was so focused on her notes that she didn’t quite show the emotional side of her performance. Aguilera and Pharrell both advised her to loosen up and maybe do some of her own ad-libs in her arrangements.

Meghan Linsey, whom Shelton stole from Pharrell during the battle round, sang “Love Runs Out,” and her version was better than the original recording. As Shelton pointed out, she’s one of the most versatile artists in the competition. Is there anything Linsey can’t sing? Her performance was one of the best of the night, and her spot in the top 12 seems very secure.

Last up, Sawyer Fredericks sang “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne and accompanied himself on the guitar. It was tough to follow Linsey, but Fredericks mostly held his own. He’s one of the youngest artists in the competition, but he’s very watchable, and the coaches seem to think he’ll be around for a while longer in the competition.

For the first time this season, the results are in your hands, America. Team Christina and Team Adam will take the stage for tomorrow’s playoffs. Who’s getting your vote tonight?