As expected, this week’s cut on “The Voice” was deep and painful. Even as the four dramatically talented Season 9 finalists – Team Adam’s Jordan Smith, Team Blake’s Emily Ann Roberts and Barrett Baber, and ultimately, Team Gwen’s Jeffery Austin -- claimed their spots, we bid goodbye to five more entirely worthy singers: first Team Gwen’s Braiden Sunshine and Team Adam’s Shelby Brown and Amy Vachal, and eventually, Team Pharrell’s Madi Davis and Team Blake’s Zach Seabaugh as well.
None of the losses came easy, but the loss of Davis, for me, at least, hit hardest. As her coach, Pharrell Williams, managed to point out, as he fumbled for words (a small girl from Kentucky?), Davis is just 16 years old and ridiculously musically gifted – not only as a vocalist, but also as a creative talent who arranges her own songs. Her performances brought unexpected joys, melodic moments like gorgeous birdsongs floating across a morning. Seriously, she was fab.
But after Season 3 “Voice” winner Cassadee Pope and the inimitable Dolly Parton had performed and the voting results (reflecting the most votes cast in “Voice” history, we were informed), only Smith, Roberts and Baber were safe, and Davis, Austin and Seabaugh were compelled to compete for the last remaining spot.
Seabaugh, that strikingly handsome 17-year-old high school football player, turned in a solid in spots and shaky in others in his rendition of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” a song that was, let’s face it, just a little old for him lyrically. He looked terrified, but Blake Shelton reassured him that he was “a star,” with “stage presence” and an impressive work ethic. The country coach implored America to vote for his last vulnerable team member, calling Seabaugh a “traditional country singer” who ought to be heard “on country radio.” That very endorsement by Shelton has worked for other “Voice” country singers before, but this time it felt a bit like a Hail Mary pass.
Davis, meanwhile, displayed the tenderness of her years perhaps for the first time all season, singing Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” a song that didn’t allow her to fully showcase her talents. Perhaps grasping that her “Voice” journey may in fact have been over sooner than she had dreamed, she struggled to smile through tears. Williams tried to comfort her, assuring the talented teen that America loved her and that he had a feeling it was a “Madi Davis night tonight,” whatever that meant.
But if the other two left the door to the finals open for him, Austin came in ready to bash it down and barrel across the threshold anyhow – giving everything he had to a vocally and emotionally intense “Make It Rain,” a song by fellow redhead Ed Sheeran. Both his own coach, Gwen Stefani, and rival coach Adam Levine, who didn’t have a horse in the instant-save race, rose to applaud, and Levine pointed at Austin and pumped up the audience. Stefani called the choice for the final finals seat “obvious,” saying that Austin was an “unbelievable” singer who had “opened his heart up to America” and who was “such a pleasure to listen to and watch.”
“If he doesn’t get voted through right now, it is a crime,” Stefani declared.
Still, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of several of the singers who left “The Voice” stage this week. What a season.