The Voice Season 19 just went live this week, and already the season — which was truncated due to a COVID-related late start — is nearly over, with the finale taking place in two weeks’ time. While the series has been rightly criticized in the past for its Live Playoffs bloodbaths, in which four or five contestants have gone home on a single night, on Tuesday’s top 17 results show, a whopping eight contestants went home.
Yes, The Voice did also abruptly whittle the top 17 down to a top nine last May, also for coronavirus-related reasons — the pandemic hit in the middle of Season 18, threw everything off, and forced both the contestants and coaches to work from home. But that season was a weak one, regardless of whether the contestants were on a soundstage or in their WiFi-challenged living rooms. However, Season 19 is the strongest Voice season in recent memory, in terms of sheer talent — so, with the series kinda-sorta back to normal production, Season 19 certainly could have benefited from a more leisurely paced and protracted Playoffs round.
Anyway, here’s how it all worked Tuesday: Team quotas (another rightly criticized element of The Voice) were still in play this week, with the top-voted contestant from each team immediately advancing, each coach then saving a contestant, and each team’s remaining highest vote-getter then singing for the Instant Save.
On Team Kelly, R&B/gospel diva DeSz won America’s vote — a bit of a surprise, considering that Kelly Clarkson had two singers from the popular country genre, Madeline Consoer and Tanner Gomes, but maybe those two split Monday’s public vote. An additional surprise was that Kelly, who usually loves to go up against rival coach Blake Shelton with a country singer (and has won the show twice doing just that), saved goth-pop chanteuse Cami Clune instead. But in this very twangy season, Kelly explained that she strategically wanted to pick “someone who there is not a lane for right now on this show, music-wise.” Whatever the reason, surprising or not, I was thrilled with Kelly’s decision. But I was not surprised (or thrilled) when Tanner, a generic bro-country dude, earned more votes over the technically superior Madeline.
Teen prodigy Carter Rubin was America’s pick for Team Gwen (again, not a surprise), but Gwen Stefani, who also seems to relish the idea of competing against Team Blake with a country artist, decided to go with Ben Allen, whom she’d stolen from Blake. I really wish Gwen had followed Kelly’s lead and saved the glamtastic alt goddess Payge Turner, who — like Cami — totally occupied her own lane all season. At least Gwen didn’t save the mediocre Joseph Soul, which had been my fear, but when Gwen weakly explained, “Hey, I’m just playing a game,” I really don’t think she’d thought her strategy through. Surely Ben cannot win over the other country singers of Season 19. That’s a losing game.
Speaking of Team Blake, and country singers, America saved raspy-voiced troubadour Ian Flanigan, and Blake saved slightly less raspy troubadour Jim Ranger. These were both sound decisions, but the fact that ready-for-prime-time artists like Taryn Papa and Sid Kingsley went home, while amateur-hour county fair family act Worth the Wait advanced to the Instant Save singoff, was a travesty. America definitely got that vote wrong.
And finally, on Team Legend, it came down to America’s pick, opera singer John Holiday; John Legend’s pick, power-belter Tamara Jade; and yet another country contestant, Bailey Rae, who moved on to the Instant Save round. That meant that John’s hippest and most intriguing contender, the jazzy Chloe Hogan, went home. This too was not a surprise, but it certainly was a bummer. Chloe’s early exit was a perfect argument for why this season’s Playoffs should have been longer than just three weeks.
Going into the Instant Save singoff, I thought Payge might have a real shot, as the only non-country contestant among the four. Her cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” was sultry, elegant, and artsy, if not quite the gauntlet-throwing, octave-hopping Save Me performance she probably needed to deliver at this crucial moment. But Worth the Wait’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” was a pitchy, charisma-free, seemingly unrehearsed mess (the trio clearly unraveled under pressure, and it was painful to witness), while Tanner’s “Pickin’ Wildflowers” was just corny hat-act karaoke. At least Bailey brought some sweet, solid vocals to her confident interpretation of Lee Ann Womack’s “Never Again, Again,” so if voters were going to save one country contestant — which, of course, they did — I’m relieved it was Bailey. (Side note: The show didn’t display its usual chyron with the Instant Save voting percentages, so I wonder if this was some sort of embarrassing landslide.)
So, now we have the top nine. And while four of them are country, interestingly, only two of them, Ian and Jim, are on Team Blake — and none of them are representing the one other coach that has ever led a country singer to Voice victory, Kelly. Will Gwen beat her fiancé with Ben? Will John ultimately prevail with his first-ever country artist? Eh, probably not. But Ben and Bailey could end up in the finale (with Ian and Jim, of course) after next week’s bloodbath — when the top nine become the top four. See you then.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: