Katie Kadan was the first contestant we saw on The Voice this season, and frankly, everyone has paled in comparison ever since. Just last week, Blake Shelton said incredulously and only half-jokingly, “This is like a set-up deal. No way somebody this good hasn't already made it in the music industry.” This week, in the all-important episode that will determine which four contestants move on to next week’s finale, Katie once again stunned with her performance of "Lady Marmalade" — prompting her own coach, John Legend, to surprisingly remark that she’s actually better than this show.
“We don't deserve you, Katie. … You deserve awards. You deserve more than The Voice. You deserve Grammys,” John told his star contestant. And you know what? He wasn’t wrong.
Only a few past contestants (Cassadee Pope, Melanie Martinez, Danielle Bradbery, Jordan Smith) have enjoyed post-Voice success. And Katie — whose mighty pipes, outsized personality, and fearless performances have earned her comparisons to Grammy-winning Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard — should get at least as far as those alumni have. I’m sure even Team Gwen’s Rose Short would agree: While Rose is the only contestant left in the top eight whose vocals are at all near Katie’s level, during their epic, girl-powered duet of Madonna's "Express Yourself," Rose actually seemed amazed and delighted by her rival/fellow diva’s prowess, hanging back admiringly to witness Katie wail.
On Tuesday, in a bloodbath elimination episode that will slash the top eight to a final four, Katie is very likely to be one of the last women standing. And I, for one, will be stanning. But who else will prevail? Let’s assess the other performances — including three other ‘80s-themed contestant duets.
Kat Hammock (Team Blake), “Somewhere Only We Know”
Kat has been inconsistent on this show due to her vocal limitations, but this was a well-chosen song for the indie ingenue — resulting in her best performance since her Sixpence None the Richer cover in the Knockouts. Still, I felt very little emotion from her; her Keane needed more keening. I’ll chalk it up to an age thing. Perhaps it wasn’t the best sign that Kelly Clarkson praised Kat’s backup dancers first, but eventually Kelly got around to calling Kat “really special.” Meanwhile, Kat’s coach, Blake Shelton, praised his young charge’s “magical gift” and promised to keep mentoring and working with her after the show no matter what.
Marybeth Byrd (Team Legend), “Before He Cheats”
I like Marybeth and I’m glad she survived last week’s near-elimination, but I didn’t think she was all that convincing in crazy-ex-girlfriend mode this week. It just didn’t suit her gentle, serene style; it just felt like she was putting on an act. She also lost steam at the end, throwing away a few lines in the final chorus. However, John liked that she took a risk, marveling, “I almost didn't recognize you. You were like a new artist today. You got into the character so well. I thought it was your best vocal performance since you've been on the show.”
Hello Sunday (Team Kelly), “Don’t You ‘Bout a Thing”
The circus-ring staging was incredibly distracting, though not enough to detract my attention from Hello Sunday’s shaky voices during their near-a cappella intro. The girls sort of found their footing once the band kicked in, and overall this was a fun production, but there were way too many bells and whistles and not nearly enough actually good vocals. However, “proud stepmom” Kelly thought they brought their “A-game.”
Ricky Duran (Team Blake), “Let It Be”
Dedicating the Beatles ballad — a Duran family favorite — to his late parents, Ricky delivered an emotional tour de force. Starting elegantly and calmly at a grand piano, then strutting up to the mic for a couple of journeyman/Springsteenian verses, he finished strong with some bluesy guitar soloing. And he was encircled by 10 choir singers the entire time. If this were next Monday’s episode, this would be the performance that would clinch him the win. But this week, it certainly seemed like enough to get him in the top four. “Finale, here we come!” proclaimed a confident Blake. “The one thing that I asked of you this week in the rehearsals was if there's anything you got left in the gas tank vocally that we haven't seen yet, right now is the time. Dude, you just gave the vocal performance of your life.”
Will Breman (Team Legend), “Locked Out of Heaven”
Will was way out of his comfort zone trying to do the sexy-lothario Bruno Mars shtick, but he is actually at his best and most lovable when he’s awkward, so this surprisingly worked. Rocking a Pepto-pink blazer and Grover-blue hair, Will tapped into the Police-like new wave quirk of the sizzling song and demonstrated the same wild, on-the-brink abandon that made last week’s “My Body” so magnificent to behold. And he brought the festival-fun vibes by hopping into the audience and starting an impromptu pit party. This guy is simply fearless. Host Carson Daly called it “a classic Will performance filled with energy and unpredictability,” and John called it “electric and magnetic.”
Rose Short (Team Gwen), “I Want to Know What Love Is”
Rose astounded with her Beychella-esque interpretation of Blake’s “God’s Country” last week, and this Monday she once again put a gospel-rock spin on an unexpected song choice. What a powerhouse this woman is. Both Gwen and Kelly were both crying by end. Gwen actually might’ve been shedding tears of joy, because for the first time since Season 9’s Jeffery Austin, she has a real chance of getting to the finale now. “I am so in awe of you. I'm so honored to work with you,” Gwen told Rose. “That was moving. That's why [Gwen is] crying. You’re a gift. I don't care what happens on this show — you are so blessed,” said Kelly.
Jake Hoot (Team Kelly), “Desperado”
Jake has been consistent all season, and as the season’s only country singer, he hasn’t has to push himself too much. His performances have been solid, but generic. This Eagles cover, however, showcased an artfulness, elegance, and taste level I had not seen from Jake before. Let’s face it, short of clubbing a baby seal onstage, there wasn’t much he could do stop America from voting for him — but he earned his spot with this performance, which John called “a joy to listen to.”
Ricky Duran & Will Bremen, “Your Love”
I adored this. The viral Outfield hit was a perfect fit for both singers, hitting the sweet spot between Ricky’s workmanlike bar-band vibe and Will’s indie eccentricity. And unlike most of the ‘80s duets tonight, it actually felt modern.
Jake Hoot & Marybeth Byrd, “Up Where We Belong”
Marybeth fared much better during this classy number than she did during her solo. She looked regal, and though I’d assumed her softer personality wouldn’t work for a big Oscar power ballad, it did. She even outsang Jake. But was this enough to compensate for so-so solo? Probably not.
Hello Sunday & Kat Hammock, “We Belong”
“Hello Hammock” handled Pat Benatar better than I expected. Still, Kat was overpowered by the two other girls’ bigger voices. I understand that the producer grouped these contestants because of their closeness in age, but it was still weird to put the girl with the tiniest, lightest, sweetest voice with a duo. This almost felt like the Battle Rounds all over again.
So now, it is prediction time. On Tuesday, the top three will advance instantly to the finale. I predict those three will be Katie, Jake, and Ricky. Then, the bottom two will be eliminated automatically, and the middle three contestants will sing for the Save. I predict those three hopefuls will be Rose, Will, and Kat — with Rose winning (although I’d be happy to see Will snag that spot too). See you then.
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