Earlier this season, Kelly Clarkson had to sit out The Voice Battle Rounds due to illness (with Kelsea Ballerini temporarily filling in). And this week, it looked like Kelly’s fellow coach Nick Jonas — who was finally enjoying his first on-set Live Playoffs, after his first Voice season pivoted to remote filming last year due to coronavirus concerns — would also be forced to miss out, just one week before the Season 20 finale. On Sunday, TMZ broke the news that Nick had been injured and transported via ambulance to the hospital while filming a “super-secret” new show Saturday night, leaving his future on The Voice (and his hosting gig at this coming weekend’s Billboard Music Awards) in doubt.
Thankfully, by the time The Voice top nine competed on Monday night, Nick was back in his red chair, albeit not sitting as comfortably as usual. “Before we get started tonight, Nick, how are you feeling?” concerned host Carson Daly asked him at the top of the show.
“I'm feeling OK. I've been better, but I'm doing all right,” an uncharacteristically low-energy Nick answered, gingerly cradling his torso. “Cracked rib from a spill on a bike, and a few other bumps and bruises. But I just want to go ahead and say that, in case I'm not as physically enthusiastic as I usually am. Blake, please don't make me laugh as much, because it hurts to laugh.”
“You're just trying to get sympathy votes on the show,” quipped Blake Shelton, who’d previously jokingly accused Kelly of calling in sick just to get out of having to make some difficult Battle Rounds decisions.
“Yeah, the big elaborate plan,” Nick sassed back sarcastically, managing to still have a sense of humor. And he managed to still be enthusiastic, even giving his star contestant Dana Monique a standing ovation later on in the episode. Carson noted that Dana must have been especially stupendous “when Nick Jonas is on his feet, because it hurts him to get on his feet! It’s pain, but we appreciate it.”
It's a gladdening development that Nick’s bike accident wasn’t as sidelining as America’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell’s last year and he was able to return to the set, because Dana wasn’t the only semifinalist who delivered a hurts-so-good performance, and it would have been a shame for Nick to miss out. Monday’s nine contestants each sang twice: once solo, and once in trio performances celebrating the ‘70s that were surprisingly enjoyable, reminiscent of the corny-but-cute step-touch group numbers from American Idol’s heyday. Cam Anthony, Kenzie Wheeler, and Corey Ward did a “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” that was very Brady Three; Victor Solomon, Pia Renee, and Dana Monique donned earth-toned leisure suits (and in Victor’s case, an Afro wig!) for a Soul Train-worthy rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star”; and Rachel Mac, Jordan Matthew Young, and Gihanna Zoë were California dreamin’ on a harmony-honeyed cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”
But of course, it is the individual performances that will really drive the votes, determining which five contestants will move on to next week’s finale. So let’s assess, enjoy, and predict:
Victor Solomon (Team Legend), “I Can Only Imagine”
Victor grew up performing only Christian music, but he has mostly done sexy secular fare during his run on The Voice. This week he returned to his roots, which was probably smart, since religious performances historically garner votes. (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 come to mind.) I did miss the swaggy balladeer of past weeks, but as Victor descended that staircase from heaven in his angelic white suit, then soared with that spectacular big finish, it did seem like a winning performance of the MercyMe crossover hit. “If you ever sing at church, please tell me the location. That was so beautiful,” gushed Kelly. “You took me right back to church,” said pastor's kid Nick. And Victor’s proud coach John Legend said, “I love that you've shown so much versatility throughout this competition. And now people are seeing the full core of who you are as an artist and as a person. I don't know if you want to be a minister, but you have it in you. ... It's very, very good that we get to have you on this show, ministering to the country. It's beautiful.”
Jordan Matthew Young (Team Blake), “Rose Colored Glasses”
This was alt-roots-rocker Jordan’s most straight-up country performance of the entire season, and again, this was probably a shrewd strategy. It was very old-school Opry, full of heart, as he warmly and simply crooned John Conlee’s 1978 classic while accompanied by a fiddler, cellist, and upright pianist. The tasteful number drew raves from the coaches. “That was a perfect song. … I love the fact that you're a little bit rock ‘n’ roll and a little bit country,” said Kelly, seemingly loosely quoting Donny & Marie. Said Blake, echoing the sentiment I made last week that this season, featuring the best batch of semifinalists in years, is ending way too soon: “This is a crucial moment for everybody on the show this week. It's so weird to hear Carson say ‘semifinals’ already; it seems like we're just starting when you nail a performance like that.”
Pia Renee (Team Legend), “Turn Your Lights Down Low”
Pia also went back to her roots by doing some reggae, and while she was a dynamite diva as usual, strutting out in her Prince-protégé couture and owning the stage, I’m not sure if this mellow Marley song was the right pick for such a “crucial moment.” Only during the toasting segment at the end did she really bring the fire. I do think Pia can still make it to the finals, but John had to save her last week, so she should probably start rehearsing a much more crowd-pleasing Instant Save song now. That being said, the coaches were impressed. “You look like a star already. Even how you started, I was like, ‘She's already there.’ … What you did with the rap was amazing,” said Kelly. “It's like watching an awards show performance,” said Nick. Even Carson offered his rare commentary, saying, “You’ve got the Lauryn Hill vibe I love. It's so natural for you. It's a great fit when you're in this zone. If I went to a concert and saw you perform that, I would be thrilled to see you again and again.” And a “smiling ear-to-ear” John said, “I see you in your full glory, your full power, doing everything you love to do onstage. I love the outfit, the hair. But the way you delivered that song, you communicated in such a perfect way. You were sexy, fiery, everything you needed to be.”
Rachel Mac (Team Jonas), “Human”
The old-souled 16-year-old, who has been open about her struggles with serious depression, cracked herself wide open for this vulnerable Christina Perri ballad, leaving it all on the stage. It was thrilling, and exactly what she needed to do to have any shot at staying in the game. “That was such a revelatory performance. … You gave us the full range of emotion today. It was really beautiful and really heartfelt,” said John. “I would never have thought you would have sang that song. I thought it was really cool that you showed a different side of you vocally. It was really smart of you at this point in the competition,” noted Kelly. “I’m so proud of you for digging deep, being vulnerable with us, with the whole country. … To you to open yourself up like you did is so brave. You nailed the vocal performance, and it made the whole thing that much sweeter. I'm very proud of you,” said Nick.
Corey Ward (Team Kelly), “Arcade”
It’s still hard to fathom that Corey didn't make it last season past the Blind Auditions last season, and only made it into this season’s top nine as a wild card. He’s my favorite singer in the top nine, and it pains me to realize that it’s a very long shot that he will make it to the finale, because in any other season he would have been a shoo-in. Every heart-on-sleeve performance of his is magical, bringing to mind Chris Martin (who probably would have loved to mentor Corey on Idol last week), James Arthur, and in the case of this percussive performance, Bastille. “You take us on such a beautiful rollercoaster live; you're like the manly dude, but also very sensitive. That's a real man. It's so nice, and I love it. I just thought the vocal execution was just perfect,” said Kelly. I just hope that Blake’s bold prophecy will come true, as Blake told Corey, “You're really making some headway. … It's a tough place to be competing from, but you're so authentic. And we don't talk about your range enough; your singing is incredible. I think you've got a good shot, you really do. That was incredible.”
Gihanna Zoë (Team Kelly), “Reflection”
This was a very old-fashioned, American Idol Season 1 performance for the 17-year-old, right down to the pageant gown. It wasn’t quite the showstopper I expected it to be, or that Kelly likely hoped it would be, as Gihanna, whom Kelly has described as the “biggest voice on the show,” was surprisingly shaky at the start. But a classic moment like this (heh) could resonate with older voters. “You are an absolute star. I think that this was a real moment for you in the show, and this had to be. Next week is the finale, and so each one of these performances has to be the very best that each artist has to offer — and I think that you really brought it,” said Nick. “You have so much poise, and your voice has so much nuance and beauty when you hit those big notes. It was stunning,” said John. “I don't know if people realize that's an incredibly difficult song to give yourself — and for a huge live performance on national television at that. And you did such a great job,” assured Kelly.
Dana Monique (Team Jonas), “Leave the Door Open”
On a night celebrating the ‘70s, no one was more celebratory that the divalicious, swaggadocious Dana doing Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s retro Silk Sonic slow jam. It’s no wonder that the injured Nick was willing to get out of his chair for this stunner. This was theater! This was everything! And I hope it opened the door to Dana winning. “You've been giving us finale-worthy performances. You deserve an ovation every single time you come out here to perform. You have so much fire, so much ability as a vocalist. There is nothing you cannot do vocally. It's fun that we get the chance to experience Dana Monique every week,” raved John. “After last week's performance I didn't think it could be topped, but you just did it. A star is born tonight,” proclaimed Nick.
Cam Anthony (Team Blake), “It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”
While I would love to see either Dana or Corey in the winner’s circle next week, it very well could be Cam — the contestant that Blake boldly predicted could be the “first superstar” The Voice has ever launched — and I wouldn’t be mad at all if that happened. I think Cam solidified his superstar status with this performance’s stunning a cappella intro alone, but it just got better from there — the phrasing, the elegance, the showmanship. This kid’s got it all. Blake may be right. “It's such an iconic song, such a test for a good vocalist if they can nail this song. And you keep doing these iconic songs and just knocking them out of the park,” John marveled. “To stand up here on a stage without any instrument, anything backing you up, anything to hide behind, just you and your voice on NBC live national television, that takes a lot of nerve, man. And that was beautiful. I am going to double down: This guy is a superstar. He is 19 years old, America. This young man is going to go far, very far in this business,” said Blake.
Kenzie Wheeler (Team Kelly), “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
Yet another teenager born in the wrong decade, 17-year-old Kenzie went old-school with this beloved George Jones five-hanky classic and absolutely delivered. Clearly he learned a lot from Season 20 Mega-Mentor Snoop Dogg, because he nailed that extended spoken segment. Normally I wouldn’t recommend that a contestant on any singing show devote so much time to talking his way through a song, but that was the moment when Kenzie’s charisma really came through, as evidenced by the audience’s delighted reaction. “You've got one of those wonderfully classic voices. The whole setup was so enjoyable,” said Nick. “You're literally one of my favorite country singers that ever existed. I love your tone so much. To kill George Jones like that, and the ultimate song at that, what an incredible, incredible job,” said Kelly.
So now, it is prediction time. On Tuesday’s live results show, team quotas will still be in place, annoyingly, thus ensuring that every coach will be represented in next week’s finale (and ensuring that some deserving contestants will be cut). The top vote-getter from each team will automatically advance, and then five remaining contestants will sing for the Instant Save. I think it’ll be Team Blake’s Cam Anthony, Team Kelly’s Kenzie Wheeler, and Team Legend’s Victor Solomon — all of whom secured the public vote last week — in the top four, but I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the contestant that Nick saved last week, Dana Monique, will be the singer representing Team Jonas. As for the fifth wild card contestant, that might be an opportunity for dark horse Corey to squeak through again, but he’ll have a tough time outsinging Pia or Gihanna, so he better start practicing now. See you then.
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