The Voice

Chris Blue, Casi Joy, Hunter Plake steal the show on The Voice

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If you’re a Voice fan and weren’t excited about Season 12, you should be after Monday night’s episode.

How about those performances by Chris Blue and Casi Joy? Can’t you picture them in the Season 12 finale?

And how about that wonderful version of “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Hunter Plake?

I just peeked at iTunes. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one impressed.

Here’s a recap of Monday’s opening night of the knockout rounds.

PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT

Team Gwen

Hunter Plake versus Johnny Gates: Hunter is the guy who never sang onstage outside a church setting until The Voice. He was stolen by Gwen after losing a battle round match he deserved to win with Team Alicia. Johnny is the former lead singer for Runaway Saints who turned three chairs in the blinds. His battle round performance of “I Drove All Night” with Sammie Zonana was one of the best performing of the battle round on iTunes.

The knockout: Hunter opens with “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. Not one of my favorite songs. But hold it. Hunter has slowed it down. Wow, I really like his version. Actually, I like it better than the original. Dang. Really impressive version of the song. Hunter is quickly becoming one of the pleasant surprises of Season 12. Johnny Gates up next. He’s decided to sing Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons,” a much better song choice at first blush. Not loving Johnny’s mumbled opening though. Johnny shows of the power in his voice on a number of big notes, but I’m not a big fan of that cover of the song.

The verdict: Gwen advances Hunter. Johnny isn’t stolen, so he’s eliminated.Some talented male rockers are falling by the wayside tonight.

 

THE COACH GOT IT WRONG

Team Adam

Josh West versus Johnny Hayes: Adam pairs up his two rockers. I’m not surprised by that. Josh turned four chairs in the blinds, then advanced in a battle round match that was montaged. Johnny is the singer who failed to make the show in Season 11, but returned and turned two chairs in Season 12. He was quite impressive in his battle round win over Julien Martinez.

The knockout: Johnny starts off with “Statesboro Blues” by The Allman Brothers Band. Nice bluesy, rock performance. Dang, Johnny is singing the heck out of the song and adding some nice frills. Then comes a big ending. Excellent job. Josh sings “Carry On My Wayward Song” and it sounds as though he’s accompanied by an entire choir for the opening. Anyway, he shows great range, tons of charisma and a big ending, but seemed to lose control of the vocal in a couple of spots.

The verdict: Adam decided to advance Josh, and most of the other coaches seemed to concur. Hmm, did they listen to Johnny? Anyway, I would have chosen differently. Johnny isn’t stolen, so he’s eliminated.

 

A STEAL? REALLY?

Team Alicia

Quizz Swanigan versus Chris Blue: An interesting matchup. Quizz is the youngest singer on the show. So far, the coaches have been more impressed than I have. chris is a decade older and one of the top R&B talents on the show; you might recall that he performed with his brothers as The Blues Brothers.

The knockout: Chris opens with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Chris finds his groove from the opening note, delivering a great vocal and showing off some impressive dance moves. Dang, this guy is good. He’s delivering one blistering vocal. That was superb. If Alicia let’s him go, she’s nuts. Quizz will sing “Chains” by Nick Jonas. Quizz is pouring heart and soul into this performance and showing off great stage presence for his age. The youngster’s got lots of potential. Again, though, I wasn’t all that impressed by the vocal.

The verdict: Alicia wisely advances Chris. And, hold it, Quizz is advancing too. Gwen decides to use her one and only steal on Quizz. Really? That means Gwen has all three youngsters who were under 15 when they auditioned on her team. Jeez.

 

A STRATEGIC MOVE

Team Alicia

Lilli Passero versus Ashley Levin: Ashley turned three chairs in the blinds and picked Team Blake; then got a do-over when three coaches tried to steal her in the battle round and opted for Team Alicia. She sings country with a big dash of soul. Lilli is the actress-singer trying to make it in L.A. She was especially impressive in her battle round duet of “Every Little Bit Hurts” with Lauryn Judd.

The knockout: Ashley goes first and will sing “Fancy.” Interesting song choice. The opening was a bit muddled, but Ashley found her stride by the time she hit the chorus and showed off her powerful vocals with a dash of sass. But that might not be enough against a more experienced singer like Lilli. She’s singing “Tears Dry on Their Own” by Amy Winehouse. Yep, her vocal and her performance comes off as slightly more polished and self-assured.

The verdict: Alicia awards the win to Ashley. A bit of a surprise. But perhaps a wise strategic move. A country-soul singer is far more likely to catch fire on The Voice than a female singer who prefers vintage music. Just remember, Alicia, to stress the country in Ashley’s soul. Lilli is advancing too. Both Adam and Blake try to steal her; she picks Team Adam.

 

THE COACH GOT IT RIGHT

Team Blake

Felicia Temple versus Casi Joy: Blake stole Felicia from Team Alicia. She’s the full-time nurse who lost a battle round match to Quizz Swanigan that should have gone her way. Yikes, she gets a tough draw here. She’s going about four-chair turn recipient Casi, a country singer who was also very, very impressive in the battle round.

The knockout: Casi opens with “My Church.” Like that she’s playing guitar. Casi’s ready for prime time — a polished performer with a great voice and enough of an edge to stand out. That was excellent. Felicia is singing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” She turns in a fine, somewhat emotional performance. She picked the song because it reminded her of her grandmother. But I’m not sure that’s the song to deliver the knockout punch she needed in this matchup.

The verdict: Blake advances Casi. Look, she was going to win this unless she tripped over the mic stand and forgot all her words. Felicia’s hopes rested in a steal that didn’t come, so she’s eliminated.

 

A TOSS-UP

Team Adam

Autumn Turner versus Hanna Eyre: Hanna is the teen who teaches piano to about a dozen students. Just 15 when she auditioned, she turned three chairs, then won a montaged battle round match. Autumn is the former figure skater who turned four chairs in the blinds. Adam picked her up from Team Alicia after she lost to Vanessa Ferguson in the battle round.

The knockout: Autumn will go first, singing the way-too-often-done “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. I like the playfulness she’s showing on tage. And there’s no doubting she has a powerful voice. Wish she would have displayed it on a less predictable song choice though. Hanna will sing “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. Her inexperience shows. There are moments when she seems so, so emotional; others when she seems focused on the technical aspects of the performance and seems to lose that emotional connection. There were also moments when her vocal sounded absolutely sublime.

The verdict: Adam advances Hanna. Can’t argue with that decision. She’s shown lots of potential. With a more original song choice, that knockout could have easily gone the other way for Autumn, who is eliminated.

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