Night 2 of “The Voice” live playoffs on Tuesday brought us a dozen more performances. This time Adam Levine’s and Pharrell Williams’ teams took the stage. Some singers did better than others — and it wasn’t always the ones you’d expect. In many cases, the surprising stumbles came down to misguided song choices, vocalists trying to push beyond their capabilities and throwing their limitations into sharp relief.
Oh, well. The deep cuts that will come on Wednesday night — when only half of these singers will be saved by the audience and their coaches — will, presumably, separate the stellar from the just so-so.
Here’s how Tuesday’s performances went down:
Daniel Passino (Team Pharrell): Williams chose Passino, formerly of Team Christina, as his “comeback artist” because, he said, after the pop-aspiring opera-trained singer had been sent home by Alisan Porter in the knockout rounds, Williams “felt like he deserved another shot.” Passino displayed passion and commitment with his performance of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” Levine declared that he was “impressed.” Blake Shelton said Passino had put himself “right back in the mix.” Christina Aguilera called the performance “naked,” “vulnerable” and “right on point.” Williams told Passino he had just written his future, whatever that means.
Emily Keener (Team Pharrell): This Ohio 17-year-old, whom her coach called an “old soul” who is “intelligent beyond her Earth years,” showed off her retro vibe with Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years,” accompanying herself for much of the performance on the piano. Levine said Keener had made him feel everything he “wanted to feel” from a favorite song. Aguilera paid tribute to Keener’s clarity and simplicity, saying the young singer was “proof that you don’t have to over-embellish anything to be recognized as great.” Williams enthused that Keener had taken people on a trip through time back to “a ‘70s coffee shop in downtown New York or San Francisco” and called her an “amazing unicorn of a singer.”
Moushumi (Team Pharrell): Moushumi has become a big hit in the Indian community, she has shared, but Williams was right to worry that her “airy” vocal quality and low-key song choice, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” which he said didn’t have much “topography,” would fail to impress. The performance lacked power and urgency, and didn’t seem to build toward anything. The coaches muttered about Moushumi’s “impact” and complimented the band. Faint praise.
Lacy Mandigo (Team Pharrell): This 19-year-old rocker has been on three teams so far: Aguilera’s, Shelton’s and now Williams’. She gave a somewhat underheated, overly pretty take on Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.” Shelton called Mandigo a “cute little girl” who turned into a “monster” when she sang. Aguilera told Mandigo that she had “rocked it.” And Williams called her a “’90s baby that behaves like an ‘80s baby,” which was an amusing way to put whatever it was he was trying to say.
Owen Danoff (Team Adam): Danoff’s assigned story line is of a shy, unassuming guy gaining confidence and “blossoming,” as his coach put it, into himself and perhaps a star. His sweet take on Family of the Year’s “Hero” was definitely one of the evening’s best performances — simple, honest and pure. Shelton said the singer-songwriter had made the song seem as if it were his own. Williams admired Danoff’s “unique tone.” Levine, echoed Shelton’s compliment, telling Danoff that making a song his own was what made him a “great singer,” and that no one currently on the show accomplished that as well as he did.
Shalyah Fearing (Team Levine): Fearing, who did time on both Aguilera’s and Williams’ teams before landing on Levine’s, brought all four coaches to their feet with her passionate take on Beyonce’s “Listen.” It was not a perfect performance — despite Daly gushing that it had been “like watching an Olympic ice skater … stick every landing,” but then again, she’s only 16. Shelton said the teen had gone from “just floating along” to becoming “the freaking front-runner.” Aguilera marveled that Fearing was “so young to have those pipes.” Williams encouraged everyone “from the saints to the secular” to vote for Fearing. And Levine enthused that everyone in the room had felt like Fearing was “telling us the truth,” calling the performance “incredible.”
Nate Butler (Team Adam): Summoned from home as Levine’s comeback artist after having been dismissed by him during the knockouts, Butler did a nice job with Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile.” The coaches agreed that the performance was “smooth and silky,” as Shelton put it. The country coach told Butler that the “element of surprise” — all the tricks he had in his bag — were “money” for him. Levine called Butler’s talent “boundless” and predicted he would stick around awhile.
Caity Peters (Team Pharrell): Singing an Adele song is always a risky move on “The Voice,” or maybe anywhere, as Williams noted, but that didn’t stop Peters from taking on the pop ultra-star’s “I’ll Be Waiting.” Aguilera admired Peters’ “energy” and mod look. Williams said Peters had “released” her “spirit,” and made the song her own.
Caroline Burns (Team Adam): Super-duper-cute 16-year-old Burns, who told us her friends have all been demanding to know if Levine “smells good,” but, frustratingly, didn’t tell us the answer, did well with Kodaline’s “All I Want.” Shelton said she was one of his faves of the season and that, as a “tiny little girl” who “blows your face off” when she sings, she reminded him of Season 4 winner Danielle Bradbury. “Talent just pours out of you,” he told Burns. Williams said Burns had reached a “different level” with the performance. Levine said she’d been “fantastic” but that he expected even more from her in the future.
Brian Nhira (Team Adam): Nhira took on arguably too big a challenge with Sia’s “Alive.” While he sang with conviction and his usual nearly palpable positivity, he didn’t quite manage to hit every note. Still, Aguilera said she “loved it.” Williams said Nhira had sung notes so high they sounded like “a bagpipe.” Levine complimented his team member on his “refreshing” confidence and told him he’d never “have to sing a harder song” than he just had.
Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell): That this lovely and lovable Nebraska preschool teacher was given the final spot in the lineup indicates that someone had confidence that she would nail Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” but she ultimately proved no match for the song. Shelton said she exuded a “combination of frustration and desperation” when she performed. Williams said she was a “super colorful” singer who stole our hearts and begged fans to vote her through.
We’ll find out who has run away with the audiences’ hearts soon enough. Viewers will choose two singers from each team to put through to the next round, and then each coach will be able to save one additional singer to round out the top 12.