Two weeks ago, scores of Voice viewers thought coach Pharrell Williams made a questionable choice when he shockingly decided to keep Elyjuh René over the highly praised Ricky Manning in the knockout rounds.
But on the second night of the live playoffs on Tuesday, the seeming wisdom of Williams’s selection shone through when the California-based singer, 18, delivered an emotional rendition of “Latch” that had all four coaches on their feet.
“I can’t believe what I just saw,” gushed Adam Levine, whose team performed the previous night alongside Blake Shelton‘s five remaining artists. “Precisely perfect, soulful … Pharrell has one of the strongest teams, and you just became the front-runner on one of the strongest teams.”
“Just when you were swaying, that was enough for me,” declared coach Gwen Stefani, whose team also performed Tuesday. “The way that you can just walk on the stage so smoothly, and then be singing like that at the same time is really mind-blowing.”
A visibly pumped-up Williams, who himself performed at the top of the show, showered praise on the young singer like a proud papa.
“Keep it up, kiddo,” he said. “Your voice is amazing.”
Another standout of the evening? Sugar Joans, who joined Team Pharrell after he stole her from Team Gwen in the knockouts.
Following in the footsteps of her father (a musician who collaborated with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Janet Jackson), the earthy, modern soul singer commanded the stage with her purple hair, white dress and powerhouse vocals on the Aretha Franklin classic, “I Say a Little Prayer.”
“That was like, ‘Whoa. You just had your moment,’ ” said former coach Stefani. “I feel like that was the perfect choice for you.”
“That was the best performance of the night,” added Shelton. “Your vibrato comes from no-man’s-land. Such a unique song you had – love it, I adore it.”
“That was church. You took us to church,” added Levine. “You’re so talented and you just don’t expect it. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but that’s why it’s the coolest thing.”
Anita Antoinette of Team Gwen also got the crowd fired up with her reggae-infused version of the smash hit “All About That Bass.” The Jamaican native failed to turn any chairs while auditioning for the third season of the show, admitting to a significant case of stage fright. Yet the 25-year-old got control of her nerves – and then some – to endearingly deliver on the self-love anthem.
“It’s hard to believe you’re someone who ever had stage fright,” said Shelton. “You completely owned that moment.”
“She’s risen to the occasion,” declared Williams. “With all that yellow on, you must be lighting Jamaica up right now.”
Texas-based Luke Wade of Team Pharrell also impressed with his version of “Let’s Get It On” – which Shelton thought might have prompted some in the audience to do just that – while small-town stay-at-home mom DaNica Shirey also earned accolades for successfully tackling the challenging Joni Mitchell hit “Help Me,” with coach Williams’s help.
Texas teen Bryana Salaz of Team Gwen shed some tears at the end of her well-received rendition of “Amnesia,” which she said reminded her of the challenges she faced with the nomadic lifestyle associated with her father’s military career, as well as the significance of the Veterans Day holiday.
“I feel like we actually saw her get better in the performance,” Shelton said. “With each second that went by you had more strength. That’s what we like to see on The Voice, a change and growth in people, and that’s happening for you.”
The Voice‘s live results show will air on Wednesday (8 p.m. E.T.) on NBC, when the 20 contestants are whittled down to just 12.
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