The Voice: Night 2 of the Live Playoffs

Pharrell performs on The Voice Live Playoffs

I’m only about 85 per cent sure that Tuesday’s two-hour Live Playoffs started off with Pharrell on a giant tree stump and/or rainforest singing “Hunter.” It doesn’t sound feasible but there it was. For all his calmness and zen, Pharrell was (and generally is) a great showman when on stage. That smile is just so damn adorable! But I do miss the four-judge collaborations of past seasons.

With Team Blake and Team Levine out of the way (which did not stop Adam from heaping praise on every person who walked across the stage on Tuesday night), it was alllll about the rookie coaches ferrying their kids into the promised land of catering to the voting public while exuding whatever charm and good-looks they possess. And that brings us to the first of the night (and all who came after)…

Team Gwen

Ryan Sill – “I Lived” (OneRepublic) – Boyband smile with a Jay Leno chin (not in a mean way, just in a way that I noticed it this week), Ryan kicked the night off with an electric performance that the audience connected with. Blake implied that there was a particular object of Ryan’s eye contact on another team in the crowd. Showmance? Showmance?! NBC, show me the SHOWMANCE!
Bryana Salaz – “Amnesia” (5 Seconds of Summer) – She’s cute and talented but my ambivalence grew as the camera got closer and closer to Bryana’s face in her first verse. She’s slightly reminiscent of a 2003 Lucy Hale on American Juniors but Bryanna has less charisma and, for lack of a better word, spunk.
Anita Antoinette – “All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor) – Reggae-fied major radio hit + island girl = total shoo in for next week. It started off a little hesitant and breathy, but Anita leaned in, made it her own, grooooved down (seriously, she got low in some major heels) and won the crowd over without breaking a sweat. She also got the best offer of the night: Adam’s “Can I just hang out with you? I love you. I love you.” YES. (Her answer and mine.)
Ricky Manning – “Lay Me Down” (Sam Smith) – He bit off more than he could chew with this Sam Smith ditty. Say ciao to Ricky, everyone.
Taylor John Williams – “Stuck in the Middle with You” (Stealer’s Wheel) – Taylor went with a grittier, dark version of the classic song, which I loved, even though Gwen wanted him to use the performance showcase his lighter side (with smiles!) It was bluesy and given the prime final position in the show: a clear indicator that The Voice producers want you to PAY ATTENTION TO THIS ONE AND VOTE FOR HIM. Taylor wasn’t as flashy as some of the other competitors but after 20 performances over two nights, this is the only performance that compelled me to open iTunes  and actually buy. That has to say something. (It says I’m a sucker. I know.)

Team Pharrell

Jean Kelley – “Piano in the Dark” (Brenda Russell) – It was really dramatic but a little unstable in pitch, which means Wednesday will be the last opportunity for someone on this damn show to reference Gene Kelly. And I’m not holding my breath there.
Elyjuh Rene – “Latch” (Sam Smith) – The judges/coaches loved his performance. Standing ovation loved. Dubbed “precisely perfect” and ”the frontrunner” by Adam LOVED. After all the lavish praise and verbal genuflecting, I remained fairly unmoved. (I may be a monster.)
Luke Wade – “Let’s Get It On” (Marvin Gaye) – Pharrell is SO good at this gig. In addition to coaching his talent, his producer mojo kicks in during rehearsal and by giving notes to the musicians, Pharrell sets up his artist for major success. This performance is the textbook case study for it. Luke was given the perfect song to show off his talents, appeal to a widespread audience and the added boost of confidence from Pharrell’s nurturing. Send this man into next week’s finals and let’s be done with it. “#Lukeified”
DaNica Shirey – “Help Me” (Joni Mitchell) – She was awesome. I was worried that voting America may not be won over by the song, but I’ve decided to have faith that the country as a whole loves Joni (even though Gwen used the performance to tell “everyone under 20” to “check out Joni Mitchell” so now I feel old. And then Blake Shelton admitted he’d never heard the song before. When did my 31 years make me ancient?!). DaNica, however, was captivating in her showmanship and unwavering in talent. I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t clinch a spot in the next round.
Sugar Jones – “I Say A Little Prayer” (Dionne Warwick) – HER REAL NAME IS SOPHIA LOUISE PEZULO (sp?). I just cannot handle this one – and her now purple hair – anymore. Love the song; her performance was solid even though she detoured into early Barbra Streisand diva-land. In short, I’m so so SO over Sugar Jones. But the American people are definitely going to vote her in via iTunes purchases. That’s a safe bet.

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays (and Wednesday this week) at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and CTV Two.