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‘The Voice’ Recap: Searching for the Self

Competitors go head-to-head with songs by Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie and the Weeknd

As guest singing coaches on The Voice go, it’s hard to do better than Mariah Carey for sheer, astounding talent and helpful advice. The soulful diva spent the second night of Knockouts repeatedly stressing how important it was for her to hear someone do his or her own thing with a song and, in the end, it was those kinds of singers who would advance to the next round.

Strangely, one of those moments would come when a competitor made the gutsy decision to sing coach Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” Young Abby Cates was given some advice by Clarkson and Carey to emphasize her head voice a little more and so she did, alternating between softer and louder sections before vaulting up to one power note that pinned the coaches’ ears back, still sounding more like herself than someone trying to imitate Clarkson. Her Knockout competitor Claire DeJean sang Shawn Mendes’ deceptively tricky hit “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” and struggled a bit when she had to hit the big notes, but sounded more comfortable when she wasn’t trying to wrestle the tune to the ground. “The only person who can make a mistake here is Kelly,” noted Adam Levine after the performance. Clarkson, who slotted both young women in a similar pop-soul space, chose Cates to move on to the Live rounds.

Earlier in the show, coach Jennifer Hudson pitted two gifted soul singers against one another. Atlanta resident Frank West added some grit and fire to the slinky, debauched sounds of the Weeknd’s “Call Out My Name,” shifting between the gospel-style shouting of Otis Redding and some more tender, technical passages. Competitor Tyshawn Colquitt showed off his apparently endless range on Zayn’s “Pillowtalk,” dancing his way up and down every scale with ease and transitioning to a near operatic falsetto at one point as if to say, “Check this out.” Tough call for Hudson, but she chose West based on his “distinctive, unique sound.”

In the final performance of the night, coach Blake Shelton had a couple of country performers square off with non-country songs. Nashville resident Dave Fenley brought the power of his own narrative as a struggling musician to a rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You,” imbuing the soul-pop hit with some of Bob Seger’s blue-collar toughness. Meanwhile, Kameron Marlowe chose Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” to show a different side of himself and came up with a version that felt even softer than Eric Clapton’s, save for a couple of screamed notes that suggested he hadn’t given much thought to what the song was actually about. No matter, though, because even as Shelton chose Fenley to move on, Levine swooped in with the steal before Marlowe had a chance to even process he’d been beaten.

The Voice Knockouts will continue on NBC at 8:00 p.m. next Monday, November 5th.

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