The greatest show-woman: Kyla Jade shuts down trolls with empowering ‘Voice’ performance

“I had a guy say, ‘She has a great voice, but I could never look at her in concert!’ on social media,” Voice top 10 finalist Kyla Jade told her coach, Blake Shelton, as she explained her decision to sing the Greatest Showman empowerment anthem “This Is Me” Monday.

“I always go back to baby Kyla, the insecure, self-conscious young girl,” she said. “I never felt pretty, so if I can help another girl to realize that she is amazing, then I’ve done what I need to do.”

During rehearsal, Blake encouraged his 33-year-old team member (a former Jennifer Hudson backup singer used to being on sidelines) to be vulnerable — to the point of tears — proclaiming, “We’re going to see more hurt from Kyla than we have before.” Kyla said, “The challenge for me is to show you who I am without falling completely apart.” But she rose to the challenge, Yes, more tears flowed once she hit the big stage, but even as she choked back sobs, her vocals were never compromised. And she certainly put all haters in their place.

As Kyla pounded her chest, Celine-style, and belted, “I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies,” it was a powerful moment, and it captured what this is supposed to be all about: a contestant’s voice, not his/her looks. (That being said, Kyla did look dynamite with her Donna Summery styling.) All four coaches gave Kyla a standing ovation, and the performance must have hit home for Kelly Clarkson, who’s been trolled online for years over her fluctuating weight, and Alicia Keys, who in recent years has boldly refused to wear makeup. “I don’t know whoever or whatever systemic, institutionalized garbage ever made you feel less than the glory of goddess that you are, but it is not real!” Alicia assured Kyla.

No other Monday Voice performance made the same impact as Kyla’s, but some showmen and show-women were greater than others. Here’s how everyone else fared:

Kaleb Lee, “Boondocks” (Team Kelly)
Kaleb called this swampy, small-town statement song his “secret weapon,” but his generic vocals were often drowned out by the over-amped bluegrass band and backup singers. The chorus seemed too low for him, and his attempts to work the crowd left him winded. He may get voted off and sent back to the boondocks after this.

Jackie Verna, “Love Triangle” (Team Adam)
RaeLynn grated in Season 2, but leave it to classy Jackie to make me actually like a RaeLynn song with her elegant approach. She’s the kind of sophisticated storyteller that makes me listen to the lyrics. She’d probably even get me to listen to “God Made Girls.” I’m concerned that Jackie’s sweet, subtle performance will get “lost in the shuffle,” as Adam Levine warned, but hopefully America was listening.

Rayshun LaMarr, “Grant Green” (Team Adam)
Adam said Rayshun was “born to sing” this “changer of the game,” even though doing an indie/soul/funk tune from Bombay Bicycle Club side project Mr. Jukes was a major risk. But … Adam was right! This song worked so well with Rayshun’s vivacious, old-fashioned performance style. For once, Rayshun seemed hip, not like some wedding singer. I still think the obscure tune may hurt his chances, but at least he’ll go out on a high note.

Spensha Baker, “Red” (Team Blake)
Taylor Swift has penned so many breakup odes she’s become a punchline, but this interpretation was no joke. Spensha’s melancholy performance placed the focus on Taylor’s wistful lyrics. Once again, I wondered if she was singing to a specific ex, because she was so connected. “Your instincts are amazing as a singer,” Adam marveled.

Jackie Foster, “Gravity” (Team Alicia)
I’ve never been convinced that Jackie’s is a “rocker”; to me, her vocals always screamed (literally) “pop.” So, while Jackie said this Sara Bareilles tearjerker was “a song that America would never expect” from her, I thought it made total sense. For the first time, she didn’t seem like a pretender to the rock ‘n’ roll throne. And she didn’t scream — she was understated, polished, and downright lovely. This should be her new wheelhouse.

Britton Buchanan, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (Team Alicia)
Gender-flipped remakes have been rare this season, and Britton had the additional challenge of “taking the ‘80s sheen” off Tina Turner’s megahit. (Side note: It still felt a little ‘80s to me. I was getting John Waite/John Parr vibes.) But there was some true artistry and sex appeal here. I couldn’t believe this was the same kid that sleepwalked through “Some Kind of Wonderful” a few weeks ago. If Britton keeps taking these risks, he could win.

Christiana Danielle, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Team Alicia)
Christiana has a troubling tendency to veer from the original melody , and at a couple of jazzy moments in this Bill Withers interpretation it seemed she was about to go off the rails. But then she got back on track. The result was a languid, sultry performance that showcased her originality (she even scatted!) without alienating voters. And that white glitter eyeliner was so Chloe Kohanski-worthy! Christiana looked and sounded like a star. “It’s like your body is a living, breathing orchestra,” said Kelly.

Pryor Baird, “My Town” (Team Blake)
Pryor seems inexplicably unstoppable this season, whether he’s doing a Branson-style production of “9 to 5” or a soundalike Bob Seger cover. This pandering Montgomery Gentry tune will most likely keep him on the iTunes charts, but I don’t get his appeal. This was just Pryor’s usual clenched-teethed growl-fest (what Blake called “that screamer thing”). I hope country fans cast their votes for the more nuanced Jackie V. or Spensha instead — or even for Kaleb — but that’s probably hoping for too much.

Brynn Cartelli, “Fix You” (Team Kelly)
Monday started with Kyla’s emotional tour de force and ended with this sweet dedication to Brynn’s mother, who’d been dealing with heath issues. Unfortunately, 15-year-old Brynn didn’t quite have Kyla’s diva power, so Coldplay’s massive Britpop ballad swallowed her up. It was a competent performance that made her mom in the audience proud, but it was an anticlimactic finale, and I worry that this former frontrunner’s momentum has slowed.

That being said, Brynn isn’t likely to be in the bottom three Tuesday, and she certainly won’t be one of the two singers who go home. I predict the at-risk contestants will be Rayshun, Christiana, and Jackie V., with the last two going home, but we will see after the morning iTunes numbers are tallied.

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