On The Voice Season 21’s live top 13 results show Tuesday, 10 contestants advanced via the public vote, after which the three lowest vote-getters performed for the Instant Save. And the most surprising singer to land in that bottom three was no doubt Team Kelly’s fiery soul stylist Gymani, who had consistently delivered since she turned four chairs with her very first performance.
Back during the Blind Auditions, Gymani made new coach Ariana Grande’s “pov” so completely her own that Ariana actually told her, “That’s your song now. Take it!” And since that major moment, Gymani earned the first standing of the Live Playoffs, John Legend compared her to the almighty Jazmine Sullivan, and Kelly Clarkson even said Gymani’s voice is “why this show exists.”
So, to see this powerhouse at risk of going home this week — before even making the top 10 — was a shocker. Aside from Gymani’s impeccable overall track record, on Monday’s top 13 performance show she went back to her church roots with a commanding performance of Christian artists Travis Greene's “Made a Way,” backed by a gospel choir, and I’d assumed that would be a big hit with conservative viewers. (Religious performances have historically done well on The Voice — think Craig Wayne Boyd’s “The Old Rugged Cross,” Meghan Linsey’s “Amazing Grace,” Paxton Ingram’s “Break Every Chain,” and at least three Jordan Smith performances.)
Gymani’s coach seemed more surprised than anyone by this result. “Not on my best vocal day could I sing as rad as you. You are so incredible. I have no idea how you're in the bottom three. I literally don't. It blows my mind. … I've been doing this for 20 years, and you inspire me and make me want to sing better, and you push me,” Kelly declared, repeatedly begging America to vote Gymani through to next week’s top 11 round.
Gymani would face stiff competition from the other two contestants singing for the Instant Save: Team Ariana’s alt-pop-rock firecracker Ryleigh Plank (my personal favorite contestant of Season 21) and Team Legend’s diva Shadale. But it wasn’t quite as surprising to see either of them up for elimination (even though Team Ariana’s pitchy father/son duo Jim & Sasha Allen really should have been in the bottom three instead). Ryleigh, despite seemingly possessing all the elements of a budding superstar, has always been an underdog and somehow hasn’t connected with viewers — she had to be saved by Ariana last week. Meanwhile, Shadale started off as a frontrunner, but her odd ‘80s rock song this week, Tom Cochran’s “Life Is a Highway,” was clearly her undoing. And clearly Shadale knew it was her udoing, as she looked sullen and defeated before host Carson Daly even finished reading Tuesday’s results.
That being said, any of these talented women had a shot at winning the Save. But Shadale seemed thrown off by the week’s events, and her cover of Faith Hill’s “Breathe” — another strange song choice, especially in this do-or-die moment — started off extremely shakily. I almost assumed she couldn’t hear herself — it was that rough. She did sort of get her groove back by the song’s end, but it was too little, too late. As for Ryleigh, I assumed her vampy, prowly growly, and supremely confident cover of her coach’s own “Dangerous Woman” would galvanize the Arianators to rock the vote, but that apparently was not the case.
When Gymani epically jazz-scatted her way through a fierce and fearless version of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love,” she was the true standout of the night. Even Carson had to remark afterwards, “That was a vibe.” And so, Gymani won the public vote, thus bittersweetly sending Shadale and Ryleigh home.
But even if Gymani had not won the Instant Save this week, she was already a winner at life, when before finding out her fate she cheekily told Kelly, “I feel like you're my best friend. If you want to be, we can be best friends!” To that, Kelly enthusiastically exclaimed without missing a beat, “We are best friends! … It's an incredible thing to be able to call you a friend. You can sing with me any time, any time.”
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