We're now in the home stretch: The Voice playoffs. On a Tuesday. And they're not live yet. And you're not voting yet, either. So this isn't what you're used to when you hear the word "playoffs" on this show, but it's happening. How could we kick off the playoffs with only an hour-long show, you ask? Well, let's find out.
Carson explains that now each of the artists will choose their own songs, starting with Team Blake. All five members will perform and then Blake will have to kick two of them off the show. We definitely wouldn't want to be in Blake's position tonight!
Audra McLaughlin starts the night with Martina McBride's "Broken Wing." Before she performs, we see her rehearsal with Blake; he advises her to ease off on the falsetto but also admits that he's basically "nitpicking." We're going to do the same for a second; Holly Tucker performed this same song during the Season 4 live shows, and Audra is a strong singer but doesn't have the same power in her voice that Holly did, nor does she have the same stage presence. That's not to say that she does poorly - she especially finishes strong - but it's hard not to compare her to the version that came before.
Usher (thankfully not wearing that ridiculous hat) calls the performance "effortless." Shakira praises Audra's effort. Adam quips, "Because I hate Blake so much, it's hard to say positive things to his teammates." Seriously though, he wants to see more performance from Audra. The ultimate decision on Audra's fate, though, rests with Blake, who tells her that "You realize what this moment is. You swung for the fence; I really respect that." Then he declares that he needs a drink.
Next up is Ryan Whyte Maloney, whose battle we just saw last night. Ryan's chosen "Second Chance" by Shinedown, which we approve of. Blake thinks it's a tough song and admits "I'm a little bit worried about him." He advises him to get rest and be cautious because not everyone is taking the risk that Ryan is. (Which brings us to a thought: this phase must be interesting for Blake, knowing what all his artists are doing and technically having to coach them against each other.)
Ryan definitely brings the rock element to the show, and he holds out some pretty impressive notes; if there's one criticism we have of his performance, it's the fact that since he's playing the guitar as well, he's stuck behind a microphone stand, which is one of our pet peeves. But other than that, we're really starting to like this guy.
Usher compares Ryan's ability to hold out notes to Adam's (which catches Adam by surprise) and says Ryan is "definitely moving in the right direction." Shakira thinks Ryan is one of this season's "biggest surprises." Adam, still flustered by Usher, quips that he wants a "bro-vorce" before getting serious. "It seems like Ryan has the most incredible professional moments combined with still some rough edges," he says. Blake agrees, declaring this performance Ryan's best so far. Could Ryan pull out a surprise win on a team that's once again predominantly country? Meanwhile, Blake quips that Ryan is what Adam would sound like "if he was a man." Yeowch.
The middle spot in line belongs to the artist Blake stole at the end of yesterday's episode, Madilyn Paige. She opts for "Clarity" by Zedd featuring Foxes, and that's a really tall order, because everybody knows Season 4 runner-up Michelle Chamuel owned that song when she performed it - and Michelle had performing experience that we know Madilyn lacks. And honestly, that shows here. Her performance isn't bad, but she doesn't get the lyrics out with as much conviction as Michelle did, and she fails to enunciate completely in a few spots. She's got a lot of work to do, but then again, she's 16.
Carson goes first to Madilyn's former coach, who calls it a "good job" and we're a little surprised that he doesn't mention Michelle. Shakira calls out some "pocket issues" but is ultimately satisfied. Adam says what we'd say here: "You've got to let it go." He explains that she's trying too hard to be perfect and there's so much stillness because she's trying to be perfect. And as for Blake, "I couldn't be more confident and proud that I used my steal on you," but afterward he also admits he doesn't think that's the best she could do.
Next up is Jake Worthington, who's made such a name for himself since coming back to the show after his first failed audition. He's country through and through, so it's no surprise that he picks Jake Owen's "Anywhere With You." Blake wants to see more presence from him, and he sort of gets it. It's a solid country performance, and we know Blake really prides himself on moving country talent forward, so maybe he's in with a chance here, even as Jake is honest with Usher about the fact that he wasn't perfect. Adam appreciates Jake's candor and suggests that he was "jacked up on Mountain Dew." References to Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby follow. Blake seems to think he's got to choose between Jake and Audra, and that'll be a tough decision.
If you're doing the math, we're now down to Sisaundra Lewis, who we feel pretty comfortable saying Blake will not get rid of. He seems to love her and the producers must, too, as they keep placing her in featured spots during the broadcasts. Sisaundra has chosen Billy Joel's "New York State Of Mind," also known as the track that Bryan Keith was unjustly eliminated on after he sung the heck out of it. Is anyone really surprised that Sisaundra takes this song to crazy levels? She's sort of like this season's Jacquie Lee in that sense - that she's known for her power. And judging by the crowd reaction, there's no way she's going home, making the competition tighter for everyone else.
After Usher and Adam wonder how Sisaundra landed on Team Blake, and after all the coaches praise her thoroughly (with a little minor constructive criticism from Adam), it's time to see which two artists have to pack their bags and which three will stay on board. After Jake gives the best speech ever given by a Voice contestant ever, Jlake selects Sisaundra (obviously), Audra, and Jake. Not necessarily how we would've played it, but pretty much how we expected Blake to, and now we know who he's bringing to the live portion of the playoffs.
The Voice playoffs continue Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. If you missed it this morning, check out our fresh interview with Carson Daly.