Kelly Clarkson took viewers on a rhythmic romp through her current single “Heat” on The Voice Tuesday night, turning up the feel-good temperature for an elimination night that was ultimately defined by controversy.
Singing from a stage made to resemble an urban stoop and cityscape, Clarkson was flanked by a band that included backup vocalists, percussionists and a horn ensemble, dialing up an energetic performance which highlighted the fun and frisky side of her dynamic voice. “Heat” appears on Clarkson’s 2017 album Meaning of Life and ended up being an emotional high point of the evening before things got awkward.
With two contestants slated to leave the show, the bottom three vote-getters would normally be trotted out to deliver one last performance and try to win over viewers at home. This time, 14-year-old Reagan Strange was sick, so only country singer Dave Fenley and soulful R&B artist DeAndre Nico were able to take the stage. Fenley delivered a heartfelt rendition of Lonestar’s “Amazed” and Nico went crisp and clean on John Legend’s “All of Me,” but afterwards coach Adam Levine – who counts both Nico and Strange on his team – used his time to explicitly lobby on behalf of Strange, who was still eligible to move on despite not performing.
Nico looked visibly shocked after Levine’s halting admission that he was actually calling on viewers to support someone else, and when the show came back from commercial break, the results of live fan voting were revealed. Strange had prevailed by a razor-thin margin even though she didn’t sing a single note, and Twitter promptly erupted with outrage over Levine seeming to put his thumb on the scale. There’s no telling if that was actually the case or not, but the move was seen by many as a betrayal, with both Nico and Fenley eliminated from the show. We’ll see how Levine and the show’s producers handle the situation when Season 15 of The Voice returns for the semifinal round next week, airing Monday on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.