The Voice has fetishized extreme youth for the past few seasons — two of its most recent champion, Brynn Cartelli and Chevel Shepherd, were still in high school when they won — but Tuesday’s Blind Auditions episode was surprisingly bookended by stupendous, standout performances by grown-up women, both of whom infused their performances with the raw passion and ferocity that can only come from life experience.
Gwen Stefani, a woman who has certainly tapped into her own heartbreak — from No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” and “Sunday Morning,” which were inspired by her split with boyfriend/bandmate Tony Kanal, to “Ex-Girlfriend” and “Used to Love You,” two of many songs about her ex-husband Gavin Rossdale — particularly connected with 44-year-old Myracle Holloway.
The Mary J. Blige-like torch singer, recovering addict, and domestic violence survivor actually seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout her riveting rendition of Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man,” and Gwen totally felt Myracle’s pain. “You're using your pain in your voice to tell the story. I get that. I mean, every single song that I've ever written, almost, until I met Blake, was about heartache and pain,” Gwen noted.
Gwen’s Blake Shelton-inspired songs so far have been lovey-dovey, googly-eyed sweet escapes like “Make Me Like You” and “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.” But she and her offscreen boyfriend/onscreen rival coach having been duking it out a lot this season over the most covetable contestants. If they keep it up, there may some Blake-heartache songs in Gwen’s future.
“Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me!” Blake mock-hollered at Gwen when she tried to steal Myracle away from him.
Honestly, it would have been a miracle if Myracle has joined Team Blake; Gwen and Myracle were clearly a perfect match. And, of course, so are Gwen and Blake. It’s pretty obvious that these lovebird coaches are playing up their rivalry for the sake of cute TV (and to compensate for the absence of Blake’s former Voice sparring partner, Adam Levine). And maybe their bickering, fake or not, is a sign that they truly are compatible — after all, they seem to have identical musical tastes! Regardless, it was revealed this week that Gwen won’t be back for Season 18 (Nick Jonas will be taking her place), so their lovers’ quarrels won’t go on forever.
These were the other successful auditions of Tuesday night:
Ricky Braddy, 36: “The Story”
Another experienced, seasoned contestant with a fascinating story to tell, Ricky may be familiar to longtime American Idol viewers. Back in Season 8, he was an early top 36 favorite, but the gospel singer didn’t go as far as expected. (It was a season dominated by talent like Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta, so it’s understandable how he got lost in the shuffle, but still — Ricky was damn good.) Ricky was in the closet then, but what a different a decade and a switch to another network can make! The church-raised Southerner only very recently came out, and he even brought his boyfriend to his Voice audition. Ricky said the entire experience gave him an “incredible, freeing feeling,” and that freedom and exuberance came through loud and clear when he hit his money note mid-song.
Who turned? Gwen, Blake, and John Legend.
Result: Team Blake — only after Gwen and Blake squabbled some more, naturally.
Damali, 16: “Ocean Eyes”
Of course, there had to be some youth on this episode. But Damali didn’t have the spunk or ethereal ghostliness of fellow teen singer Billie Eilish, who originated this minimal-but-majestic ballad in a Highland Park bedroom. Damali sang “Ocean Eyes” like a pageant song, and I was unmoved.
Who turned? Kelly Clarkson, but only at the very last minute. Kelly claimed this was a sneaky move to trick the other coaches into not hitting their buttons (not that they were going to anyway), but I just suspect Damali’s flat performance just made Kelly indecisive.
Result: Team Kelly.
Steve Knill, 37: “Up to the Mountain”
Once again, age and experience prevailed. Steve’s plaintive, passionate performance floored me… even when he showed off, it didn’t bother me like such vocal acrobatics usually would, because his falsetto was everything. Kelly agreed with me. “Normally I'd be like, ‘Take a little out,’ just because it was so much — but it was so beautiful,” she raved. Kelly predicted Steve would be a dark horse, and she probably wasn’t wrong. I got total Josh Kaufman vibes from him.
Who turned? Only Kelly, shockingly.
Result: Team Kelly. This was for the best anyway, since Steve actually performed Kelly’s arrangement of the classic Patty Griffin folk ballad.
Destiny Rayner, 23: “Make You Feel My Love”
This young woman had potential. Unlike Steve, who went for broke, she reined it in ii admirable, but I think she was a little too subdued. But John, who won last season with the jazzy Maelyn Jarmon, was intrigued by Destiny’s subtlety. “You didn't try to shoot for the moon,” he told her. “You just stayed in a certain pocket as a vocalist. I really enjoyed listening to it. You invited us in. You made us feel like you had a real point of view on the song, which we've heard many times. It was a really special rendition.”
Who turned?: John, Gwen.
Result: Team Legend. Gwen’s traipsing around in her (admittedly awesome) bedazzled outfit in an attempt to impress Destiny wasn’t quite as convincing a sales pitch as John’s eloquent words.
Khalea Lynne, 36: “Best Part”
After Myracle, the episode wrapped with another miraculous performance, by this equally soulful single mom. Her masterfully controlled vocal, velvety tone, and class-act stage presence had her earning rave comparisons to Anita Baker and Whitney Houston. Kelly and John seemed especially stunned by the flawless performance. “Your tone is so beautiful. Every choice you made was spot-on. You have so much passion, but you also have discipline,” John told her.
Who turned?: All four coaches.
Result: Team Legend. (Blake tried to claim he had some knowledge of the Anita Baker catalog, but when he rather hilariously said his favorite track on Rapture was “number three,” he must’ve realized he didn’t stand a chance — especially after John serenaded her.) “I truly believe you have a chance to win this show,” John told Khalea. I think he may be right. The “VEGOT” winner may soon add another fist-shaped trophy to his mantel.
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