Tuesday, on the most jaw-dropping results show of The Voice Season 11 so far — and in the season’s first double elimination — Blake Shelton, the most successful coach in the series’ history, lost two of his three contestants in one brutal swoop.
But that wasn’t biggest shocker of the show’s top 10 elimination night; after all, Blake still has Sundance Head, whose “Me and Jesus” went to #1 on iTunes this week, so he still has a shot of bringing home a fifth fist-shaped trophy this season.
It also wasn’t a surprise that Team Blake’s Courtney Harrell — who stalled this week at #156 with a dreadful, dated Cher cover, and never really found her footing or convincingly established her artistry this season — went home Tuesday.
No, the real surprise of the night — speaking of Voice history! — was that Season 11’s long-faced, long-suffering underdog, Team Miley troubadour Aaron Gibson, became the first Voice contestant ever to win the Instant Save three times.
The fact that Aaron survived over Austin Allsup — a commercial, charismatic Team Blake country singer who’d never been up for elimination before, and looks a bit like Craig Wayne Boyd’s hunky younger brother — made this result all the more astounding. Yes, I had predicted that Austin (or Josh Gallagher) might end up in the bottom three this week alongside Courtney and Aaron, but I’d always assumed that Austin would prevail in an Instant Save landslide if that were the case.
So, when it came time for the “Save Me” performances, Courtney actually delivered her best effort in weeks, with a tasteful, thankfully in-tune version of Rascal Flatts’ “God Bless the Broken Road.” But it was obvious that she was already on the road home, since she never quite gained the momentum or fanbase she needed to be a true contender. Austin, however, seemed to have a legitimate chance with his classic country performance, “Tennessee Whiskey” — his rough, earnest voice as sweet as strawberry wine, as warm as a glass of brandy.
You know, if Austin had performed this gritty, yearning ballad on Monday, instead of John Waite’s sappy easy-listening ‘80s hit “Missing You,” he probably would have charted higher than #42 this week and would have been safe. I always admired Austin’s willingness to take risks on this show, unlike other contestants (coughJoshGallaghercough), but sometimes it’s just best to give the people what they want.
However, it seems that the people, or at least East Coast people with active Twitter accounts, wanted Aaron, not Austin, to stick around another week. It has continually baffled me that no one ever seems to vote for Aaron on Mondays, or download Aaron’s studio recordings on iTunes — yet his fans always come out in droves to save him on Tuesdays.
I thought Aaron’s “Save Me” cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” while well-chosen and definitely in his wheelhouse, needed more fire, more personality, more anger — it needed to be more of a fight song, basically. But apparently the scrappy singer-songwriter still had enough fight left in him, even after three discouraging weeks. More power to him. The guy’s a survivor. He has earned his spot in the top eight, and at this rate, he might even make the top six.
And more power to Austin and Courtney, who both made classy exits. It was particularly touching when Austin told Blake, “From 11 years ago, when I first met you, you are still the same guy. You are still as cool right now as you were back then. I appreciate you turning your chair for me and giving me this opportunity to get up on this stage for all these great people every night. Thank you.” Blake returned the sweet sentiment with: “Austin, one of my great feathers in my cap this season is the fact that I’m the only person that turned their chair around for you. And now we’re almost to the end of this thing, and you are still standing. You just proved why you made it this far into the competition. You are a great country singer, and not like anybody else out there.”
And thus, an emotional Voice night came to an end. But let’s wrap this recap on a happy note, by rewatching Miley Cyrus’s amazing Tuesday performance of “Jolene” with her amazing godmother Dolly Parton and the equally amazing Pentatonix (along with replays of the viral-video versions that Miley, Dolly, and Pentatonix have recorded in the past). Why? Because this was one of the best musical moments of this entire Voice season. To loosely quote the song’s lyrics, no one can compete with you, “Jolene.”