On Tuesday, Blake Shelton was declared the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine, but he may soon be feeling like the Stupidest Coach Alive, when his longtime Voice rival (and People’s Sexiest Man of 2013) Adam Levine wins this Voice season with ex-Team Blake country contestant Adam Cunningham. “As happy as that makes me for you, it makes me feel really stupid, because you were on my team,” Blake told Adam C. on Tuesday, when Cunningham kicked off the Team Adam episode of the Voice Season 13 Playoffs with a heartfelt cover of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me.” Perhaps Blake should have had a little more faith in Adam C.
Adam L.’s fellow coach Miley Cyrus might also be kicking herself with her fancy star-spangled boots in a few weeks’ time, because her former contestant Addison Agen also has a fantastic chance of making it to the finale. “Dang, Addison is probably gonna win this, and Adam’s gonna really shove it in my face,” Miley mused after she heard Addison’s gorgeous take on John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” How interesting it is that Team Adam’s two strongest singers this season — the only two singers who received standing ovations Tuesday night — are Steals. Levine really does know how to play the game.
Here’s my recap of all six Playoffs performances from Tuesday:
Looking all beardy and Stapleton-y and serving Grizzly Adams/Marlboro Man realness, Cunningham crooned “Have a Little Faith in Me” with a ton of Southern-rock soul and true grit. Miley summed it up nicely with her side comment, “My mom is going to be loving him!” Adam C. is indeed the kind of rugged, Wakefieldian Everyman who’ll easily charm every housewife in the South and Midwest.
“You blessed my spirit with that. I felt your energy,” said Jennifer Hudson. “There’s no easier and quicker way to my heart than someone who makes Blake Shelton feel stupid,” quipped a gloating Levine. Adam the L shouldn’t get too cocky just yet, but Blake definitely should be worried. Cunningham may not be as outgoing and wacky as Team Blake’s Hee-Haw-ready Red Marlow, but this is the country dude who has my Season 13 vote.
Last week, Whitney simpered some treacly Train ballad and almost had to take a train back home. Wrong. Song. Choice. But thankfully, Adam picked her as his Comeback Contestant, and he must have been reading my Knockout Rounds recap from last week (hi, Adam!), because he clearly heeded my advice and gave her a much more suitable Sheryl Crow song. While a couple of the coaches thought Whitney sounded labored during the very tricky low verses of “If It Makes You Happy” (“To have a cool rocker guitar chick would be awesome … but I feel like the complete first half of the song was a struggle,” griped Blake), I enjoyed her sleepy/sexy rasp and general guitar-slinging badassedness, and everyone agreed she sounded great when she powerfully belted the chorus.
“I think the hardest part of that song was what you were doing perfectly, which was the soaring big note there. That’s almost impossible to do. That’s really, really hard. So you showed me a lot of strength and a lot of things that I didn’t know about you vocally. I’m really, really happy,” said Adam.
Emily was assigned the Adele version of the Cure’s “Lovesong,” which was a triple-challenge: Adele is one of the best singers of her generation (or any generation); the Cure are the BEST BAND OF ALL TIME (this is fact); and Candice Glover created one of the BEST AMERICAN IDOL MOMENTS EVER when she did this arrangement in 2013. (Sorry for the all-caps, but this is serious business here.) Emily created another challenge for herself when she expressed her desire to conjure a cinematic “Bond-theme” vibe during her performance. Emily may have Bassey-level pipes, but none of her stuffy performances this season have exhibited that Shirley swagger.
Emily sounded, as Blake put it, “so professional and ready and poised.” She always does. But something was missing. Her vocals were on point, of course — she’s technically the finest singer of Season 13 — and Jennifer even called this “a flawless performance,” but perfection can be boring. There was no passion here. Keep in mind, Robert Smith wrote “Lovesong” as a wedding present for his wife. But Emily just sounded like a wedding singer to me.
Adam was feeling the love, however. “This is such a huge step in the right direction for you, because it’s making people understand even more the human side, the soulful side of you,” he told Emily. “I think this is a great progression for you.”
I know I’m going to sound like Goldilocks here, but while Emily was too perfect, teenage Anthony was too raw. (Ironically, he performed an Ed Sheeran ballad titled “Perfect.” It wasn’t.) Neither were “just right.” Anthony’s vocal lines trailed off unsatisfyingly, he seemed disconnected from the loved-up lyrics, and his stage presence was lacking. He had this vacant, vaguely terrified look throughout, like Cindy Brady on a kiddie quiz show.
“I still detect a lot of nerves. I know that you’re 18, and that’s probably what it boils down to. But I hope you know that you are supertalented,” Blake said kindly. Adam, who’s always had a soft spot for Anthony similar to Jennifer’s fondness for teen Team J.Hud hopeful Shi’Ann Jones, still seemed confident in his young charge. “It’s not a matter of if you’ll be ready, it’s a matter of when,” he asserted. “You have a tremendous voice with tremendous potential. I see a lot of improvement, and I am 100 percent proud of you, man.” I just hoped Adam wouldn’t make the same mistake with Anthony that Jennifer made Monday with Shi’Ann. This show needs for ready-for-prime-time players.
Jon’s “Blame It on the Boogie” Knockout Rounds performance last week was montaged and kept off YouTube, which didn’t bode well for his chances. What I could see of it, however, was pure corporate-party-band cheese with a side of extra cheese, topped with more cheese. I was not a fan. But it turns out we can indeed blame it on the boogie, because when Jon dropped his Jacksons-esque dancing-machine shtick this week and simply, sentimentally crooned Adele’s bittersweet “When We Were Young,” he was so much more believable, relatable, and likable. Without all of his distracting party tricks, I finally was able to notice Jon’s impressive vocal range. The man can saaaang. Finally, he connected.
“Your voice, it seriously is like a laser; it just cuts through everything. … You’re more than ready for this,” marveled Blake. “You’re so multitalented. You didn’t dance today, and I loved that. You sang from your heart,” said Adam.
Closing the show wearing milkmaid braids and exuding rosy-cheeked, country-girl charm, Addison may have looked her age (16), but she performed the Bonnie Raitt version of “Angel From Montgomery” with incredible maturity, somehow combining the poise and grace of Emily Luther with the youthful fragility of Anthony Alexander. This wasn’t Addison’s best vocal, but her warm tone and ethereal stage presence were still a magical enough combination for Adam to call her a “unicorn” — a label he once gave Team Adam champ Jordan Smith, mind you.
“You have so much character in your voice that would normally have to come from somebody who’s been doing this for 20 years and smoking cigarettes every day and drinking whiskey, and luckily for you, you got to skip all that horrifying stuff,” said Blake. “You’re just born with this understanding of how to convey a lyric. If you don’t move forward into the Lives, I’m gonna have somebody cut Adam’s brakes.”
Thankfully, Adam didn’t need to worry about driving home from the Voice set, as he did pick Addison to move forward to the live shows, along with Adam Cunningham and Jon Mero. Jon looked utterly shocked, but I wasn’t. Though I’d been rooting for Whitney, in the end I agreed with all of Adam’s decisions tonight.
Come back Wednesday, when Team Miley’s contestants compete, and then we will finally have our top 12.