Monday night saw a two-hour marathon of music as the live playoffs of The Voice Season 15 got underway, with all 24 contestants taking the stage for a full performance. Shoes were thrown and high notes were hit as a 13-year-old phenom capped the show once again, but the field will now be cut in half as fans and the coaches cast their votes.
Blake Shelton’s team kicked the night off, with early stand outs including Nashville’s Natasia Greycloud and her gospel-inflected cover of Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman.” Using everything from a sensual growl to a feather-light falsetto, Greycloud went all in on an intricate section of spoken word rap — a wordy, rhythm-less risk in the live setting — pulling it off with confidence.
Standouts from coach Kelly Clarkson’s team included 16-year-old country singer Chevel Shepherd, whose crystal-clear rendition of the Judds’ “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” felt like a logical next step after singing the Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” in previous rounds. With a pure-country warble in her voice and tons of heart, the moment of innocence earned a standing ovation from all four coaches.
Over on Adam Levine’s team, it was New Jersey native Radha who seemed to make the strongest impression, owning the power-ballad lane with “Dusk Till Dawn” (originally performed by Zayn and Sia). Starting off slow and controlled, she broke into a hard-charging howl at the first opportunity and never looked back, adding a diva’s sense of stage presence to her time for good measure.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s MaKenzie Thomas earned a rare double-shoe toss for her delivery of Whitney Houston’s “I Believe In You and Me” from coach Jennifer Hudson — a sign of respect which has become Hudson’s calling card this season. The rangy song was a technical triumph, both delicate and determined, with Thomas’ controlled vocals often rising right through the rafters.
It was young Kennedy Holmes who finished the show off, though, looking and sounding like the gold standard of the competition so far. Seen at the top of this post, Holmes’ cover of the Beyoncé’s “Halo” further demonstrated that she’s in a class of her own. At only 13 years old, her voice is deceivingly powerful, ready to be flipped on at a moment’s notice. She used that ability to strong effect on “Halo,” but also showcased her songbird dynamics with a few well-placed vocal flourishes.
Country performers also made their presence known on this first night of Live Playoffs, with Alabama’s Kirk Jay winning the crowd with Diamond Rio’s “One More Day.” Jay’s sensitive delivery was full of heart and put his unique voice on display. Plus, starting the song just off the stage set him apart from the crowd.
Kameron Marlowe of Team Adam Levine took a different approach, suiting up with an acoustic guitar and wide-brimmed hat to transport viewers to a county-line bar in his native North Carolina. Dropping into Rodney Crowell’s bleary-eyed anthem “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” (made famous by Waylon Jennings), Marlow let his throaty drawl roll one word into the next, playing into the song’s swaggering backbeat.
But it was Nashville’s Dave Fenley kicking the night off for Shelton’s team, easing the coaches and viewers at home into a lovelorn rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.” Staying mostly true to the original while filling in some of the gaps with the warm texture of his own voice and then launching into a gritty big finish, Fenley made up for his disadvantage as the first performer by showcasing raw emotion on a country classic.
Some of those singers are likely to go home tonight (November 13th), with the field of 24 being cut in half as live playoffs continue. Fan voting (which is now closed) will determine the top two contestants from each team, and they will move forward along with one coaches’ choice from each squad. New for this year, the two remaining singers from Kelsea Ballerini’s Comeback Stage will also perform live, with the winner being inserted back into the competition’s final spot. The drama begins at 8/7c on NBC.