Blake Shelton wasted no time in putting his two country-leaning team members on The Voice up against each other in the October 24th knockout rounds, as contestants Josh Gallagher and Sundance Head squared off to earn a spot in the live competition. With Tim McGraw and Faith Hill serving as advisors for the episode, it was front-loaded with country performances.
Though contestants Head and Gallagher have varying approaches and style, Shelton reasoned the two would likely end up in the same commercial marketplace as of today. “They’re the two most likely to be heard on country radio,” he said. “I think it would be in either one of them’s benefit to have that lane wide open going into the live [episodes].”
Head chose to perform “The Climb,” which was originally recorded by coach Miley Cyrus, converting it from its original sweeping power ballad arrangement to a mostly acoustic number at Hill’s suggestion.
“I always thought this was a great country song for a male,” noted McGraw during the advisory sessions.
The song also fit neatly with Head’s narrative: a father of three who’s been chasing his musical dreams for years, including a short stint on American Idol nearly a decade ago. He chose the song because it “expresses the will to keep going even though the world’s pushing you back.” Incidentally, Head is the son of singer Roy Head, whose “Treat Her Right” was a Number Two hit in 1965.
Gallagher opted for Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria,” originally recorded in 1973 by B.W. Stevenson and turned into a 1997 country Number One for Brooks & Dunn. McGraw, Hill and Shelton seemed concerned about the daunting falsetto parts in the chorus, warning Gallagher that he’d need to nail those or he’d be in trouble.
“Josh has chosen the mother of country songs but definitely has that new sound that fits in in today’s country music,” said Shelton, noting his team members’ stylistic approaches. “Sundance leans a little bit soul with his country.”
Gallagher was up first, keeping his interpretation of “My Maria” close to Brooks & Dunn’s original, handling himself admirably if not perfectly during those tricky chorus sections. In the final chorus, he dropped down to his regular voice to add in a series of more confident high notes.
Head fared even better with “The Climb,” getting assistance from some gospel-tinged backing harmonies to complement the intimacy of his acoustic guitar-driven performance. He finished big, drawing out the last set of chords with sustained high notes that won applause from the audience.
That was enough for Shelton, who chose Head to stay on his team, despite saying Gallagher was “definitely a guy that fits in what is popular in country music.” Head’s performance, said Shelton, was “more solid.”
That’s not the end of the road for Gallagher, however, as he was stolen by coach Adam Levine, who expressed his desire to beat Shelton’s team with a country singer. The next round of The Voice knockouts airs tonight, October 25th, at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.