Monday on The Voice, viewers at home chose songs for the top 11 contestants. And while some of the selections made more sense than others, this format allowed Team Adam’s Rayshun LaMarr to share a special moment with one of his biggest fans: Parkland shooting survivor Noa Golan, who confessed that seeing his exuberant Voice performances had helped her heal.
“I feel like the tragedy at my school happened, and nobody could know what I went through. Just listening to the music made me feel something. … That’s how I found you. You went through something so horrible and traumatic, and here you are, living your life,” Noa told Rayshun during an emotional pre-show video-conference conversation. (Rayshun nearly died, and temporarily lost his voice, due to a recent battle with lymphoma.) “You have the biggest smile I have ever seen!”
“Listen, when I was going through cancer and chemotherapy in the hospital, I’m thankful that we have music as something that can heal both of us,” Rayshun told Noa — who exclaimed, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening!” when he said he was just as inspired by her own survival story.
Last week, Rayshun sang a brash David Guetta club banger, and he almost went home. This week, he tried a little tenderness, singing some old-school Otis Redding for Noa and other members of the “Rayshun Nation,” and he staged a thrilling comeback: churchy, triumphant, and full of joy. All four coaches were on their feet before the performance was even over — which Rayshun’s coach, Adam Levine, claimed was a Voice first.
Rayshun may not be crowned the champion of Season 14, but after this episode, he’s already won, because he demonstrated the power of music to inspire and unite. I’m sure Noa was extremely proud.
These were Monday’s other performances:
Pryor Baird, “Night Moves” (Team Blake)
This Bob Seger classic allowed Pryor to showcase his pleasingly gravelly voice, but it also forced him to finally pull back and chill out — instead of relying on his usual tactic of breathlessly barreling out of the gate. This was the much-welcome “softer side of Pryor,” and it was a confident, professional performance. My only gripe is it was too copycat: Pryor might as well have been fronting a cover band called the Midnight Riders or Hollywood Nights.
Sharane Calister, “Hero” (Team Adam)
Apparently Sharane’s fans want to see her in full-on Mariah mode, and Sharane has certainly proven in the past that she has the massive pipes for the job. But she seemed to be holding back for much of this performance, and she went for it at the very end, her voice showed signs of wear and tear, which was likely the reason for her earlier hesitation. This also wasn’t very current; it didn’t just feel The Voice Season 1, it felt very American Idol Season 1.
Kaleb Lee, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” (Team Kelly)
Pryor showed off his softer side; Kaleb in turn showcased his fun side on this bluesy Travis Tritt romp. (It’s like the two traded places, Freaky Monday-style!) I didn’t think the hangdog Kaleb could pull this off, and I still think his stock-in-trade is Stapletonian storytelling songs, but it was cool seeing him let loose. And this sure was a helluva lot more fun than last week’s ho-hum “Amazed.”
Jackie Foster, “Love Reign O’er Me” (Team Alicia)
“This is showing me America likes to see me as a big, powerful rock singer!” exclaimed Jackie when she learned that her fans, the “Jack Pack,” wanted her to do the Who’s epic Quadrophenia closer. I’ve never seen Jackie as a “rock singer” at all, and this theater-scholastic performance didn’t convince me. But Roger Daltrey ain’t easy to emulate, and aside from her screechy ending, Jackie mostly nailed it. Her performance didn’t make me want to push a scooter off a cliff; I’ll give her that.
Jackie Verna, “Strawberry Wine” (Team Adam)
Last week, Adam forced poor Jackie to have an ill-advised “Avril Lavigne moment.” Clearly her fans know her better than her coach does. Deana Carter’s nostalgic reflection on lost love was the perfect fit for Jackie’s pure, plaintive vibrato and soulful approach. No more pop-punk for this girl, OK? Jackie is not a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll; she is a classic country girl, through and through.
Kyla Jade, “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You Been Gone” (Team Blake)
Kyla’s fans gave her quite the challenge with this Aretha workout, but Kyla definitely didn’t let her fan base down. She gave them The Kyla Show — sassing, sashaying, and slaying in a glitzy golden gown and big ’70s hair. I don’t know if Kyla can win The Voice, but she needs to be added to that Neon Dreams revue in Vegas. This dynamite diva could be the toast of the Strip.
Christiana Danielle, “Umbrella” (Team Alicia)
Christina’s strategy has been about radically remaking soul/pop songs, and Jay-Z himself gave the chanteuse permission to transform Rihanna’s top 40 hit into a jazzy, scatty ballad. While I loved this, I think she unfortunately took too many liberties with the melody. This was the most compelling and risky performance of the night, and it sure wasn’t copycat, so I hope her daring pays off. But I’m worried this isn’t something fans will want to buy on iTunes.
Brynn Cartelli, “You and I” (Team Kelly)
Brynn has the most commercial potential of anyone in the top 11, and is one of the most versatile, and she has a bit of twang in her voice, so this Lady Gaga country/pop/rock smash seemed like a smart choice. However, onstage Brynn lacked that Gaga grit, and swagger, and some of her notes trailed off. I think she focused too much on the performance aspect, which compromised her breath control. However, Brynn is only 15, and that’s something she can learn. The raw talent is already there.
Britton Buchanan, “Perfect” (Team Alicia)
Sorry, ladies. The heartthrob of Season 14 is off the market. Hopefully that won’t affect his votes! Britton revealed that he is dating ex-Team Alicia contestant Livia Faith, and he dedicated this doo-woppy Ed Sheeran love ballad to her, singing from his heart with a purity and sultriness I’d never witnessed from him before. This was swoon-worthy. Livia is a lucky girl.
Spensha Baker, “Better Man” (Team Blake)
Crooning Little Big Town’s Taylor Swift-penned, CMA Awards-winning Song of the Year, Spensha seemed like she was onstage at the CMAs herself. She was pure class, pure magic, and so authentically emotional and connected, I wondered who the two-timing bastard was that inspired her performance. Whoever he is, he must be kicking himself now. Spensha is amazing.
So now, it is prediction time. I think the bottom two will be Christiana (because of her potentially polarizing, too-drastic remake) and Sharane (who failed to break the top 200 last week) — with Sharane going home. Rayshun, however, will avoid the bottom two this week. Tune in Tuesday and find out if I’m right.
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