In praising Baldwin's Melanie Martinez last night on “The Voice,” the first night of its “playoffs,” Blake Shelton summed up what makes the show so much better than its “singing competition” competitors.
“You're just not that interested in fitting in,” Shelton told Martinez, after she offered an interesting twist on Ray Charles' “Hit the Road, Jack.” “You just want to be Melanie.”
And “The Voice” just wants to be “The Voice.” Never mind if it isn't exactly on trend, they just follow the music. What other show would kick off with a huge version of Boston's 1977 hit “Peace of Mind”? What other show would feature a coach dressed like Prince in “Purple Rain,” as Ceelo Green was last night? Exactly.
We'll find out Thursday night whether “The Voice” voters value individualism as much as the show does when the results are announced, taking the field from 20 to 12. (You can vote until 10 a.m. today for last night's contestants.) The show was a mix of risk-taking artistry and solid performances. As is usually the case, there were no clunkers, though some were definitely better than others.
Here's how Team Adam and Team Blake fared:
Amanda Brown was simply amazing.
The former Adele back-up singer took on the incredibly difficult “Dream On” from Aerosmith and hit it out of the park with a mix of fiery passion and cool control. She was so good there's really no reason she shouldn't have a recording deal right now. However, her path to winning “The Voice” will depend on a couple of things – whether she can seem more approachable and what songs she chooses.
Baldwin's Melanie Martinez was another clear leader of the night, with her unusual twist on Ray Charles' “Hit the Road, Jack” that showed off her unique voice and her winning personality. She started off a bit shaky, but her delivery more than made up for it.
“I was totally mesmerized by that whole performance,” her coach Adam Levine said, noting she had issues at the beginning. “All I was thinking about is that this is an amazing performance and I'm so proud of you.”
Joselyn Rivera is very likable, but she struggled on “Give Your Heart a Break,” trying to move and sing without getting winded – something the teenager can certainly learn through training and practice. Loren Allred was also likable, though maybe a bit too laid back on Lisa Stansfield's “All Around the World.” And Bryan Keith showed off some nice finesse in his upper register during “Iris,” but his lower register was a little wobbly. However, because Levine won't want to move into the finals without one guy on his team, Keith will probably get the edge.
VOTERS SAVE: Amanda, Melanie (Actually: Amanda, Bryan)
ADAM SAVE: Bryan (Actually: Melanie)
ELIMINATED: Joselyn, Loren
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Bryan, Loren
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Joselyn, Loren
The blond-mohawked Michaela Paige stood out as much as her hairstyle, with a cool twist on Neon Trees' “Everybody Talks.” Her rich voice turned the rocker into more of a girl group anthem that sounded fun and original.
Terry McDermott could use a little bit of both, even though his classic rock voice is certainly more superior. He easily handled the strenuous “Don't Stop Believin'” with style and strength, though he did it a little too, um, faithfully.
Julio Cesar Castillo is, unfortunately, in the wrong competition, I think. His version of “El Rey” was great and his voice is truly powerful, much stronger than when he oddly took on Justin Bieber. But in a popularity contest in America, singing en Espanol isn't going to work too well. If Shelton made his save choice on artistry, he'd go with Castillo, but he likes to win, meaning he'll go with Liz Davis, who was good, if lackluster, on “Independence Day” or Cassadee Pope, who couldn't quite make Avril Lavigne's “My Happy Ending” any different from the original. Pope was an early front-runner and certainly has a spark, but Shelton will likely keep country alive by going with Davis.
VOTERS SAVE: Michaela, Terry (Actually: Terry, Cassadee)
BLAKE SAVE: Liz (Actually: Michaela)
ELIMINATED: Cassadee, Julio
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Liz, Cassadee
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Liz, Julio