When we last left The Voice, Team Gwen’s Kyndal Inskeep had won her Battle Round against James Violet, but coach Gwen Stefani had attempted to save James, while John Legend had attempted to steal. Whatever would James decide??? On Tuesday, that mini-cliffhanger was resolved when James — despite the fact that Gwen had set aside her one Save for him, and as a result had inadvertently let another great singer, Kiara Brown, slip away — ultimately defected to Team Legend. “I am so horrified,” Gwen lamented. “Nothing that I had planned out for today went as I planned. I can't believe I lost James. We had such a good thing going.”
Yes, Gwen was disappointed, but it was later in the evening, during her Battle between team members Jessie Lawrence and Rose Short, that she was reduced to tears. Everyone was reduced to tears, actually. Gwen was crying. Kelly Clarkson was crying. Rose was crying the instant she was introduced to guest mentor will.i.am, and she cried again when coach John Legend praised her performance. Jessie and Rose may have been singing the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” but many people on the show were feeling their tear ducts Tuesday night.
Both Jessie and Rose have harrowing backstories (Jessie spent his childhood in foster care; Rose, a 34-year-old former corrections officer, grapples with insecurities about her looks, weight, and age), so their emotions were heightened during rehearsals. This was especially true for Rose, whose eyes quickly welled up again after will.i.am told her, “When I saw you, I was like, ‘Wow, she powerful. She command attention.’ You may think you fighting something, but somebody else looking at you like, I need that in my life.’”
And so, the story arc was clearly set up for the blossoming Rose’s teary-eyed triumph. Her happy post-performance tears brought tears to Kelly’s eyes, which, in turn, brought tears to viewers' eyes. One fan tweeted: "When Kelly cries, we all cry,” while other fans were just generally verklempt, like one person who tweeted: "Everyone on #TheVoice is crying so of course I'm crying. #stopthat."
But there was no need to shed sad tears for Jessie just yet. This was a very evenly matched Battle, with both contestants bringing the power-vocals and swag, and so Gwen of course used that one remaining Save — the one rejected by James — on Jessie. When Gwen’s offscreen boyfriend/onscreen rival Blake Shelton hit his button to steal Jessie, Gwen freaked out so wildly, I thought she was going to start crying tears of rage, but it was all good: It turned out Blake had only done this to demonstrate his support for Jessie. “I'm not gonna make a pitch to you because [Gwen’s] the coach for you, but I wanted to show you how much respect I have for you and how much you deserve to be on this show, dude,” he explained. And his thoughtful gesture had everyone sobbing all over again.
Aw. Blake’s a real keeper. And so is Jessie, apparently, because he stayed on Team Gwen. But not everyone could stay, of course. These were the other two, only slight less emotional Battles of Tuesday’s A Very Special Episode of The Voice:
Team Blake: Cory Jackson vs. Zach Bridges, "Should've Been a Cowboy"
Last season, Blake dominated with his country contestants, so he kind of screwed himself over — as Kelly was all too eager to point out — by setting up this “battle of the beards” between two very commercial country singers. Kelly was also right to note that these guys should be a duo. (“I wish there was a ‘duo button’!” she said. Not a bad idea, actually. Certainly a better idea than last season’s Cross-Battles and Comeback Stage.) It was a shame that Kelly didn’t have any Steals left in play, because she was so excited during this performance that I bet under different circumstances, she would’ve stolen whichever contestant Blake didn’t pick. I thought Cory had the prettier and more interesting tone (his falsetto was lovely), but Zach showcased the kind of marketable, “recordable” baritone that always does well on this show — and the kind of voice Blake always favors. So, Cory was sent home… but if The Voice doesn’t work out for Zach, maybe Cory and Zach can form a duo after this season is over.
Team Legend: Marybeth Byrd vs. Dane & Stephanie, “Burning House”
Dane, a trans man, struggled during rehearsals — not just with his confidence, but with his voice, which is still changing as he takes hormones. “I'm scared to crack at that note,” he admitted. This was a unique physical challenge never seen before on The Voice, but John and guest mentor Usher encouraged Dane to push his vocals into his largely untested upper range. (“There is a giant monster inside of Dane,” Usher attested.) And it was inspirational to see how much Dane progressed and improved by the time he finally stepped onto the main stage. His harmonies with both Stephanie and country-folk singer Marybeth were gorgeous, or, in Kelly’s words, “magical.” Where was the “trio button” when the show needed it? In all seriousness, though, Marybeth was the solo standout here, more ready for prime time. Blake even predicted that Marybeth will make the finale. Again, it really was too bad that Kelly had already used her Steal; she confessed that she would’ve recruited the twins for her team if she’d had the chance.
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