A big nasty wrecking ball swung smack into Team Miley on Tuesday’s Voice top 11 results show, when two of Miley Cyrus’s contestants, Aaron Gibson and Darby Walker, were up for elimination — the day before Miley’s 24th birthday, yet.
“Thanks, America. Greatest birthday eve ever, putting my team in the bottom two. Wack!” Miley joked at first.
But then Miley got serious. And she got inspirational. Tears were shed. Nuggets of Smiler wisdom, way more moving than any of the lyrics from “The Climb,” were dispensed. And Miley showed that, perhaps more than any other coach in Voice history, she genuinely cares.
“Life isn’t easy and doesn’t care about birthdays, and this is the way it is…. To me, winning is living my truth, being who I am, and being happy. And as long as you’re those things, don’t worry about it,” she proclaimed, as audience erupted in applause.
Later, Miley told her mini-me protégé Darby, as both ladies’ eyes watered: “I really do want people to be themselves. Thank you for always being yourself, because that’s the most important thing.” She also sweetly told Aaron, whose ego was probably taking a beating after landing in the bottom two for a second consecutive week: “I just want to take this opportunity to tell you — not just me as a coach, but these other talented coaches that we respect so much — we thought you had one of the best performances of the night last night.” More applause ensued.
So, which contestant avoided elimination and will stick around to celebrate Miley’s birthday this week?
Darby attempted to stay in the game by simply warbling the Ellie Goulding version of Elton John’s “Your Song” in a stately emerald green gown and Veronica Lake waves — a drastic departure from Monday’s kooky, crimped-haired, rainbow-bright “You Don’t Own Me” spectacle. This last-minute 180 was ironic, after Miley’s big pep talk about “being yourself” — because I think Darby’s dilemma all season was she never seemed 100 percent authentic. Viewers were still waiting for the real Darby to please stand up. Was the real Darby Walker the cutesy girl in the floral grandma vest from the Blind Auditions, or the Flaming Lippy hippie in the neon fun-fur coat, or the more elegant and conservative Darby that we saw tonight? And was that Florence Welch impersonation really her natrual, God-given voice? Darby kept America guessing. And in the end, unfortunately, I think she just left America confused.
Then Aaron gave it another go and tried to buck the odds, rasping his way through George Ezra’s “Budapest.” While the jaunty acoustic ditty suited Aaron’s gruff, folksy style, it was a bit peppier than the hangdog-faced singer’s mopey Father John Misty and NIN covers, which may have alienated some viewers in the past.
So this was a smart song choice, and it dramatically slanted the Twitter votes in Aaron’s favor — a whopping 73 percent to Darby’s embarrassing 27, which just might be a Voice Instant Save landslide record.
Sadly, I have a feeling this won’t be Miley’s only tearful results night of Season 11. Despite Aaron’s 73 percent victory this Tuesday, his chances of making it to the finale are slim to none at this point. The fact that he could have a respectable iTunes chart showing this week at #39 with “Hurt” — many notches above more obvious frontrunners like Christian Cuevas (#114) and Josh Gallagher (#79), and almost tied with golden child Wé McDonald (#34) — and still fail to secure enough popular votes doesn’t bode very well for his future on this show. And even Team Miley’s star player, Ali Caldwell, faltered this week: She was the one contestant to not even crack the iTunes top 200. (Wow, what a difference a week — and a song choice, in this case the hokey “9 to 5” — can make. Ali’s magnificent Leonard Cohen cover was the standout performance of last week.)
However, if Miley gets knocked out of the competition before the finale, she clearly has the right attitude, and her heart is in the right place. “Your job as a coach is to avoid this moment at all costs, but it is also to give these young artists something they can take away and use,” she told Darby and Aaron this Tuesday. “And you can’t always use your falsetto, honey, you can’t always use the low notes — but you can always smile at someone and make their day. I hope you always do that.”
Consider me a card-carrying Smiler after this bittersweet yet unexpectedly feelgood episode. See you next week.