‘The Voice’ Season 14 goes live with whirlwind, historic top 24 Playoffs

Lyndsey Parker

It was a breathless lightning round on The Voice Monday, as the Season 14 Playoffs went live with a whopping two dozen performances and real-time (East Coast) voting  —something the show had never done before. My poor typing fingers ache arthritically from trying to keep up with it all.

So, here’s yet another new twist this season: The entire top 24 performed Monday, and one artist from each team, as voted by America, instantly advanced. On Tuesday and on a bonus Wednesday episode, the remaining 20 contestants will perform again. And on Wednesday, the other four overall top vote-getters, plus four contestants picked by each of the coaches, will round out the top 12.

GOT ALL THAT? By then, my digits will probably fall right off. Obviously, there’s a lot to cover tonight, so let’s get it started.

TEAM KELLY

Alexa Capelli, “It Hurt So Bad”
The teen prodigy sang this Susan Tedeschi tune with a ton of ‘tude and Elvis-style lip-curling, and she didn’t miss a note. This fun, fearless performance was a high-energy start to the night.

Kaleb Lee, “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”
Kaleb was a masterful storyteller on this Patty Loveless weeper. I never really saw him as a contender before, but this seemed like a game-changing performance.

Tish Haynes Keys, “Nothing Left for You”
This dramatic Sam Smith ballad played to all of Tish’s divalicious strengths, while effectively eliminating her corporate-band shtickiness. For the first time, she came across as cool and current.

Brynn Cartelli, “Unstoppable”
We all knew this 14-year-old prodigy could sing, but she displayed a previously unseen artistry doing Sia’s empowerment anthem. I wish she had stayed at her keyboard, but she was still world-class. She truly does seem unstoppable.

Dylan Hartigan, “Come Pick Me Up”
I used to think Dylan was a background boy-band type, but thanks to his elevated taste level — doing Ray LaMontagne last week, and now a lesser-known Ryan Adams tune — he’s gone up in my eyes. This wasn’t as good as Paul McDonald’s version on American Idol Season 10, but it was very nice.

D.R. King, “Home”
The King brought so much fire and sass to this rock ‘n’ soul remake of Marc Broussard’s barnstormer. He just has — to semi-borrow a phrase from another singing show —the X-factor.

After America’s vote, Brynn unsurprisingly advanced to the top 12. The remaining five will give it another go Wednesday.

TEAM ADAM

Drew Cole, “Man in the Mirror”
I expected this coffeehouse rocker to mix it up and make Michael Jackson’s ballad his own. But his version was very Hot AC, corny, and drippy, and not all that creative. This was not a thriller.

Mia Boostrom, “Baby, I Love You”
Mia could’ve brought a little more sex appeal and loosey-gooseness to this loved-up Aretha classic, but her low range and growl were still impressive. I didn’t love this, but I liked it.

Jackie Verna, “Tim McGraw”
Jackie’s winsome, gossamer-like take on Taylor Swift’s schoolgirl-crush ballad was lovely. She doesn’t have the strongest voice on Team Adam, but I would instantly recognize her voice on the radio, and that counts for a lot.

Rayshun LaMarr, “Overjoyed”
There’s nothing modern or cool about Rayshun, but his sense of joy and silky tone were undeniable. Still, this was a little too American Idol Season 2 for my taste.

Sharane Calister, “Never Enough”
Sharane made a brilliant play for votes with this Greatest Showman showstopper. The tune was practically made in a lab to be a singing show staple! And Sharane set the bar high for all reality competitors to come with this note-perfect tour de force.

Reid Umstattd, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
U2 covers are always tricky on The Voice — the strategy even felled Hunter Plake last year — because there’s only one Bono. But Reid’s countrified, twangy take really worked, and it more than made up for his unfair montage treatment in last week’s Knockouts.

In a slight surprise, America fast-tracked Sharane to the top 12. Team Adam’s other hopefuls perform for votes again Wednesday.

TEAM BLAKE

Austin Giorgio, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”
This charismatic kid stuck with the smooth-crooner vibe that’s been working for him, so I couldn’t find fault with this performance. But if Austin makes it to the top 12, I’d love to see him take something more modern and put his own spin on it.

Pryor Baird, “I Was Wrong”
This Chris Stapleton song was a bit too on-the-nose choice for this growly bar-band dude, but he performed it with Adam Wakefield-level passion and panache. Pryor might get as far this season as Adam did in Season 10.

Kyla Jade, “How Great Thou Art”
Hymns always garner votes, so Kyla did not come to play this week. But this triumphant performance was truly a religious experience. She almost literally — and definitely figuratively — took The Voice to church.

Gary Edwards, “Finesse”
Gary could have stood out with a rare modern song choice this evening, but his Bruno cover was not dripping in finesse. It was hokey wedding-band-lite. Not even a verse from Cardi B could have saved this performance or made it relevant.

Spensha Baker, “I Still Believe in You”
This Vince Gill cover was so heartfelt and earnest, yet so polished — the perfect balance of raw passion and ACMs-worthy professionalism. I’ll never stop believing in Spensha. But if she doesn’t make the top 12, I may stop believing in The Voice.

Wilkes, “Brother”
Wilkes is, to quote his coach, BAD. ASS. He just oozes Kings of Leon cool (seriously, he looks like the long-lost Followill brother, no pun intended), and he made this NEEDTOBREATHE tune his own with his rangy rasp and true grit.

America’s top vote went to Kyla, of course. The rest of Team Blake will compete again Tuesday.

TEAM ALICIA

Johnny Bliss, “América, América”
The Latin pop singer was smart to differentiate himself with Nino Bravo’s Spanish-language classic, but this was a shaky vocal, especially at the beginning. It wasn’t exactly blissful.

Kelsea Johnson, “You Know I’m No Good”
Kelsea didn’t exhibit Amy Winehouse’s beehived-bad-girl attitude or sense of danger, but she did bring her own personality and style. This was theater. And I know it was very good.

Terrence Cunningham, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”
Whoa. Terrence covered Prince — and a Prince song that his coach has covered in the past, yet! He too did not come to play. He gave a perfect purple piano performance, all wailing falsetto and groovy vibes. If he had an old-school Voice voting number, I’d call it every week.

Jackie Foster, “Never Tear Us Apart”
The wannabe alt-rocker at least gave a believably rockin’ performance this week. It wasn’t as good as Cade Foehner and Bishop Briggs’s version on American Idol, but it was good, and the knee-drop was a dramatic flourish.

Christiana Danielle, “Hey Ya”
Finally! Some creativity! This is how you “make a song your own,” people! Christiana turned Outkast’s party-starter into a haunting, Erykah Badu-like torch song, and she had a moment. What’s cooler than being cool? THIS PERFORMANCE.

Britton Buchanan, “Some Kind of Wonderful”
This song didn’t give Britton the chance to showcase his range, but it did showcase his sex appeal. (Sorry, Dylan Hartigan, but Britton is the heartthrob of Season 14.) It may have been a merely competent, not-wonderful performance, but it played to Britton’s fanbase.

America then voted for Britton — yes, over Christiana and Terrence. Oh well. Christiana, Terrence, and rest of Team Alicia will perform again Tuesday. See you then.

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