The Voice is usually a bastion of predictability. But that was certainly not the case for last night's live playoffs, which ended in a shocking dismissal for one coach favorite.
With no hints of the curveball to come, the show kicked off with 26-year-old Casi Joy and coach Blake Shelton working through rehearsals of Chris Stapleton's "Parachute." Shelton called the song, from Stapleton's 2015 album Traveller, "a good choice for Casi, because we really need some female power in country music right now." He also compared Joy to singers Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson, "where you think the claws are out, and then they can really come out."
Joy's high-energy, fiery performance certainly showcased the versatility of her voice. Owning the stage in a glimmering midriff top and black skirt, her signature yodel was balanced by guttural growls and impressive runs to fit the upbeat tempo. There were backup gospel singers too, but Joy's powerhouse vocals threatened to drown them out completely.
After a wild round of cheers from the live audience, Adam Levine commented, "Man! Casi, kicking it off, that was awesome. A-plus for you." Shelton concurred. "You bring so much energy to the stage," he said. "And between how accurate your pitch is and being able to be playful with your voice, going back and forth with the yodel, putting your own spin on a Chris Stapleton song. . .it's hard for me to imagine you not moving forward. It truly is."
Fellow Team Blake member Lauren Duski gave an ace performance of Bryan White's 1995 Number One "Someone Else's Star," a rendition that highlighted her nuanced vocals and commanding stage presence. During rehearsal, Shelton shared of the song selection, "I chose [the song because] it blends right into Lauren's zone of the singer-songwriter song."
After Duski's performance, Shelton added, "Being a great country artist is all about coming out and being believable and giving a solid performance. And I will be shocked if you're not voted through."
At the end of the two-hour show, host Carson Daly began the elimination segment of the show by asking Levine who his top two would be from Team Blake. After tipping his hat to Duski, he said, "There's something about [Casi Joy] I can't ignore." When the results of live voting were announced, America selected 15-year-old Aliyah Moulden, along with Duski, to move forward into the top 12. Shelton opted to use his one "save" on blues and soul artist TSoul, eliminating Joy from competition.
Alicia Keys' team, which also performed last night, showed real promise with some country-related acts. Particularly outstanding was 27-year-old Texas folk-rocker, Stephanie Rice, who sang the Police's 1983 classic "Every Breath You Take," opting also to do her own piano arrangements. Cranking up the rasp, Rice's round, upper register notes soared beautifully in contrast and both former coach Gwen Stefani and Keys beamed over her performance. Ultimately, the live voting propelled two other team members, Vanessa Ferguson and Chris Blue, to the top 12. In this case, Keys chose to save Rice.
The Voice live playoffs continue tonight Tuesday, April 18th at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.