The Voice‘s Top 8 contestants brought plenty of emotion to Monday night’s live show – and had the judges feeling it, too.
With competition fierce and three artists set for a tough elimination Tuesday, the remaining singers raised the bar and gave prospective fans a sharper window into what they’d look and sound like as future stars.
Pharrell Williams already said he’ll be buying new music as he paid high compliments to Team Gwen Stefani‘s quirky but charming indie standout, Taylor John Williams, who took Lorde‘s hit “Royals” and reimagined it as more rebellious and true to his trippy vibe.
“The way you come out here, this super-soulful hippie, in my mind – I’m waiting for your record,” Williams said, calling the Portland, Oregon, singer an “old soul.” “I’m a superfan. I usually don’t like when people go away from what something was, but you made it your own. You’re something else.”
Even Blake Shelton was blown away by Williams’s originality. “No matter what you do on this stage, time after time you make every performance your own,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much I respect you for that. You are 150 percent pure artist.”
Similar compliments poured out for Matt McAndrew, another singer-songwriter, who closed out Monday’s show with a powerful and vulnerable turn on Damien Rice’s haunting love song “The Blower’s Daughter.”
Playing his guitar and accompanied by a single cellist, the mop-haired and bespectacled McAndrew was rapt in the lyric’s emotion, singing one chorus in the purest falsetto. The spare, artistic performance sent the coaches to their feet as the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering.
“Love is this crazy thing,” he told McAndrew. “It’s beautiful and blissful and happy and wonderful. And brutal and painful and excruciating at times. When you can embody that as an artist that is the most valuable thing.”
Levine noted in rehearsals that the Louisiana soul singer needed a song “that will crush it.” And Damien, who picked the song himself, made good on that stage note, with his coach later calling it his “best, best, best performance.”
“I would swear you were a machine if you didn’t have as much passion and soul to go along with how perfect that performance was,” Shelton enthused.
Noted Williams: “It’s just so crazy to me how effortlessly you paint the air with those notes. Your false is like, unbelievable.”
With the finale two weeks away, three-time winner Shelton’s lone hope for a fourth victory hinges on a country rocker who stepped away Monday from his recent slate of ballads to have some honky-tonk fun.
Singing the Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” hunky Craig Wayne Boyd played his guitar and was backed by a full band, reminiscent of the club scene where he worked steadily for 11 years but struggled to get noticed.
“I remember the day I played it for nobody in a club,” Boyd said of his tough years before jamming in front of millions and earning plaudits as an emerging star.
“You’ve got it all,” Stefani said, telling Boyd he worked the stage “like a pro.” “I felt like I was at the Country Music Awards,” she added.
Williams, who was on his feet after the song concluded, said Boyd made the 1972 hit sound fresh. “This is your show, bro,” he said. “People love you, and I feel like what they see in you is you are being you. You’ve evolved, and you’re only going to get better and better and better.”
Monday’s two-hour show also saw performances from Nick Jonas, who was joined by the Top 8 artists and a mass choir on his new song “Jealous,” as well as a funky and pyro-fueled duet by Stefani and Williams on her new release, “Spark the Fire.”
The Voice continues Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC with a live results show, where three contestants will be sent home.