Eight days ago, Voice viewers only had one important voting matter to consider: which of the top 20 semifinalists would advance to the top 12 Live Playoffs. The following day, however, another, obviously much more important vote took place. And now, a little singing competition seems… well, kind of silly in the big scheme of things. So Voice producers took this into account on Tuesday’s live results show, with new star coach Alicia Keys setting an appropriately somber tone with her live performance.
Alicia started off singing her latest single a cappella, but then dramatically stopped and explained, “That’s my new song, ‘Blended Family,’ that I was supposed to sing tonight. But due to the current climate, there’s only one song I can sing, called ‘Holy War.’”
Then, simply accompanied by Adam Levine on acoustic guitar, Alicia plaintively sang: “If war is holy and sex is obscene/We’ve got it twisted in this lucid dream/Baptized in boundaries, schooled in sin/Divided by difference, sexuality, and skin/Oh, so we can hate each other and fear each other…Oh, maybe we should love somebody/Oh, maybe we could care a little more/So maybe we should love somebody/Instead of polishing the bombs of holy war.”
“That was a nice treat,” host Carson Daly remarked sweetly, speaking for much — if not all — of America.
Team Adam’s group performance also had a political slant, as they covered Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 counterculture anthem “For What It’s Worth.” Team Miley’s song choice, “There’ll Always Be Music” by Miley Cyrus’s godmother Dolly Parton, was subtler, but its message — with lines like “Man’s burdens are made lighter with a song” and “There’ll still be music in that promised land” — was a much-needed reminder of the healing and unifying powers of music. Maybe a show like The Voice isn’t so silly after all.
Still, there was another vote this week, so eventually, Carson got down to the business at hand and announced the bottom two contestants. They were, as I had predicted and/or feared, Team Alicia’s Sa’Rayah and Team Miley’s Aaron Gibson. Ironically, these two singers gave the standout Battle Rounds performance of Season 11, “I’ll Take Care of You,” but this week they were both felled by risky song choices: Sa’Rayah’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” a cheesy, dated rock song that she never seemed quite comfortable with, and Aaron’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” a Father John Misty indie-folk tune right in Aaron’s wheelhouse but unfamiliar to most mainstream viewers. Both contestants ended up dead last in this week’s iTunes ranking, with Aaron stalling at #156 and Sa’Rayah not even cracking the top 200.
When it came to sing their Save Me songs, both artists chose more wisely. Sa’Rayah went with Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” from 1972’s Young, Gifted & Black, a sassy superstar number that better showcased her dynamite rock ‘n’ soul strengths, crazy range, and general onstage fearlessness. Aaron, meanwhile, vulnerably crooned “Lego House” by longtime Voice favorite Ed Sheeran. If Sa’Rayah and Aaron had performed these songs on Monday’s top 12 show, both of them might have been safe.
It seemed like this would have been a close call, but it wasn’t; at least in this case, the vote was not split. Aaron prevailed with a 70 percent lead, and Sa’Rayah went home. But she left the set with a smile, ending the episode on a positive note.
“You’ve been more than gracious with your time. I feel the love every time you’re in the room,” Sa’Rayah told Alicia. I want to thank you for seriously teaching me to just be myself. That’s something I’ll take well past the show. I really want you to know that means a lot to me, so thank you.” Alicia then told Sa’Rayah, “I am so blessed to have you in my presence and to have worked together this way.”
Tune in next Monday, when the top 11 perform, and the voting lines open anew.