This is what it's all about, Voice
fans. The Blind Auditions, the Battle Rounds and the Knockouts have all led up to the live shows, where America decides who goes home and who stays. Season 12 has promised to bring some surprises with this round, include a change for four contestants to return to the competition, referred as the "Coaches' Comeback."
Team Blake and Team Alicia are up first, while Team Adam and Team Gwen watch their competition from the audience. In The Voice live shows, it's all about energy and song choice for the people. There's a screen separating us from these singers, so the emotion has to resonate through the crowd to the viewers watching from home.
The members of Team Blake and Team Alicia will be cut in half during the first round, so let's see what happens!
Casi Joy ("Parachute")
First up for the Live Playoffs is Casi Joy, who describes the tornado that just hit her hometown of Smithville. She performed to raise money to help rebuild the damage inflicted on her community. Casi chooses a Chris Stapleton song partly because he's her fiance's favorite singer.
Being the first live performer is always an unbelievable amount of pressure, but Casi rises to the occasion in her command of the stage. Adam praises her and mocks the audience for their lack of ability to clap along in tempo. Casi has a strong voice, but she just doesn't stand out like some of the rest of the singers. That yodel is a blast when she doesn't overuse it though.
Felicia Temple ("Defying Gravity")
Blake chooses Felicia Temple as his Comeback Artist, and she chooses "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. Felicia got engages during her hiatus from the show, so she's definitely defying gravity and flying on cloud nine when we catch up with her.
Remember that whole thing I mentioned about song choice? I thought Felicia had learned her lesson with her undertaking of Celine Dion's legendary hit, but she sets the song choice bar even higher with a Broadway song. She does an amazing job, but some songs are difficult to translate outside of the energy that vibrates on a Broadway stage.
Aaliyah Rose ("Brass in Pocket")
Blake stole YouTube singer Aaliyah from Team Gwen, and the young pop singer fits right in under Blake's caretaker wing. Aaliyah takes on an '80s classic by The Pretenders, inspired by a trip to the gym he took with Gwen.
This song is a fresh spin on the bubble gum pop songs that Aaliyah has tended to lean toward throughout the competition so far. "Brass in Pocket" is a fun song, and this young, adorable singer owns her interpretation of it. I sense just a tiny twinge of jealousy.
TSoul ("Knock on Wood")
During the break leading up the the live shows, TSoul's hometown provides him with a Lifetime Achievement award. Blake recognizes music's current trend of injecting vintage sounds into modern rhythms, and TSoul excels at that vibe.
TSoul has my vote for that killer purple suit alone, and it doesn't hurt that he's having an phenomenal time on that stage. He's an experienced performer, so his ability to work a crowd falls in his favor during this round. The audience goes absolutely wild for him, and Adam continues to be jealous of TSoul's spot on Blake's team.
Aliyah Moulden ("Mercy")
The two teen pop artists on Blake's team both happen to have the same name, and this Aliyah has been with him from the beginning. In this round, she chooses a song that is much better suited to her mature and singing style. Duffy's soulful pop song perfectly suits Aliyah's energy and power. She might be the most confident teenage girl I've ever seen on a stage. Blake's description of her as a "firecracker" nails the vibe surrounding that performance.
Lauren Duski ("Someone Else's Star")
Surprise! Lauren informs us all that she's besties with season 4 winner Danielle Bradbery. Lauren and Blake discuss their mutual adoration for the young country singer, and Blake chooses a Bryan White ballad for her to perform. In the most nuanced, graceful performance of the live show so far, Lauren perches on a stool in an elegant gown to belt out the majority of the ballad.
Adam remarks on the steadiness of her breath at the beginning of the song, indicative of the level of comfort she has on stage. Bake echoes Adam's compliments, while making the second dig of the night about his hair, and tells Lauren that she's about to see a tidal wave of support from the country music world because of that performance.
Chris Blue ("Love on the Brain")
Continuing the trend of modern music blended with a vintage style, Chris Blue takes on Rihanna's latest single. Most impressively, Chris keeps the original key that Rihanna sings the song in, and his falsetto is just incomparable. The range of Chris' voice is incredible, and he effortlessly showcases the lack of limits his voice has in this performance. Not to mention, this guy has charisma for days.
Mark my words, this guy could be on his way to winning this entire competition. His sound is utterly unique in every way. Carson says it all when he observes that Gwen looks like she was looking at magic while he performed.
Anatalia Villaranda ("Stand By Me")
In a style we haven't seen yet from this young artist, Anatalia takes on a well-known classic that's been covered by countless performers. Because this song has been taken on by so many other artists, Anatalia really has to bring something special to it. She doesn't disappoint, creating an urgency and soul in the emotion of the song that only a young, fresh, energetic singer can bring to the table. Anatalia is the second singer of the night to be called a firecracker by her coach, so we have another ongoing theme with these teen female artists and the spark they're bringing to the competition.
Jack Cassidy ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me")
The soulful singer with the famous family is Alicia's Comeback Artist, and he's back with a juggernaut of a song to prove that he should remain in the competition. The advice that Alicia gives Jack regarding his nerves combined with a near elimination must have lit a fire inside because he owns this Elton John classic. The coaches also see the difference in Jack's power and passion, praising him for leaving it all on the stage this time.
Vanessa Ferguson ("Lean On")
This incredibly diverse artist gave a competition-winning performance during the Knockouts, so a high bar is already set for her first go-around in the live shows. Alicia chooses a more modern, upbeat song for Vanessa to tackle this time around, and Vanessa immediately sets the tone when she steps onto the stage in a red power suit and her signature hat. Vanessa splits her time between playing the piano and working the stage, causing Adam to stand up for the first time of the night. Adam tells her that she's amazing and ready, and Alicia gushes over her authenticity. This girl is on fire.
Ashley Levin ("I Can't Stand the Rain")
The country and soul singer is assigned the perfect song to blend the two genres together. You can tell how excited Alicia is about this arrangement because she's belting out the song when Ashley walks into rehearsals. Alicia stole Ashley from Blake, and the experience with both coaches is going to be one that benefits this contestant because she gets the best of both worlds she wants to be a part of. Ashley gives a flawless performance, but while technically perfect, nothing stands out about it in comparison to some of the other members on Alicia's team.
Stephanie Rice ("Every Breath You Take")
When Alicia asks Stephanie how her home life has been, Stephanie reveals that her brother created a Facebook post once she returned home that functioned as a call to action for support of his sister. Stephanie has created the arrangement for this legendary ballad by The Police, and the result is luminous and haunting. The natural rasp and grit in her voice balances out those tender moments, and she performs the song entirely from her seat at her piano.
Gwen showers Stephanie with compliments, telling her that she's been thinking of Stephanie nonstop since the Knockouts, even writing to her on Instagram. This girl is one to watch.
Carson brings out Team Blake to reveal the two artists who are safe from elimination as a result of the live voting. Adam recommends Lauren and Casi for Blake's top two safe artists.
America Saves: Lauren Duski and Aliyah Moulden
Blake chooses to save TSoul
It's time to reveal the fate of Team Alicia as Carson walks them back out on the stage. Carson asks Gwen to choose her favorites, but she's not much help.
America Saves: Chris Blue and Vanessa Ferguson
Alicia chooses to save Stephanie Rice
That's it for the first live show of season 12, and we've officially cut Team Blake and Team Alicia in half!
What did you think of the performances? Do you think the coaches made the right saves? Who did you vote for? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)