Spoiler alert: This story contains details from Tuesday’s episode of NBC’s “The Voice.”
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THE VOICE — “Knockout Rounds” Episode 1809 — Pictured: (l-r) Nick Jonas, John Legend — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
In the social-distance era, “The Voice” found a way to go on Monday – from home.
With only host Carson Daly appearing on a soundstage in front of the coaches’ signature spinning chairs, the Top 17 – including Team Nick’s Michael Williams, the winner of the first Four-Way Knockout – performed from around the country in the NBC singing competition’s first remote show.
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The unusual performance adjustment, made in response to coronavirus-related restrictions that prohibit large studio gatherings with cheering fans, wasn’t the only thing that may have given the singers butterflies. Eight of the performers will be eliminated by the end of Tuesday’s results show (8 EDT/PDT).
The coaches contributed to the voices-across-America feel, with Kelly Clarkson providing long-distance commentary from her ranch in Montana, Blake Shelton from his home in Oklahoma and Nick Jonas and John Legend from their homes in Los Angeles.
Despite drastic adjustments to what were originally planned as live studio shows, the program – and the singers – pulled off an impressive and entertaining program. With the help of state-of-the-art cameras and audio equipment shipped to contestants, performances filmed in living rooms and other spaces had a professional music-video vibe.
The coaches, looking relaxed and comfortable, brought some of “The Voice” vibe home, with Clarkson sporting a Team Kelly jacket and a glass of red wine, Jonas sitting in an artsy red chair (with a piece of paper with his name on it taped to the back) and Shelton showing off a beverage and bragging about having “the most expensive hair and makeup artist on Planet Earth, Gwen Stefani,” his girlfriend.
After Allegra Miles sang “New York State of Mind” from her home in West Palm Beach, Florida, Shelton offered a theory: “I feel like we can all sing better when we’re home, or in our the bedroom or the shower. … This singing I don’t think has ever been better. This is freaking me out. I feel like maybe we can never go back from here.”
That bit of wisdom didn’t keep Shelton from being mocked, as later in the show, Jonas raised a white dry-erase board that read: “Shut up, Blake!”
The show tried to surmount the separation, opening with a simple on-screen message, “We’re All in This Together,” before Season 18 Mega Mentor James Taylor performed “Shower the People” as video of health care professionals, food bank volunteers and other front line workers played. Soon, contestants joined Taylor as a chorus, at one point surrounding him in 20 smaller boxes.
For Monday’s show, the performances were recorded, with excellent production work bathing the singers in colored and flickering lights, artfully depicting them in black and white or presenting diaphanous doubles of the contestants as they sang. Coaches could be seen in smaller on-screen boxes, and their post-song interactions with singers were recorded live-to-tape.
The show made the most of the occasional non-home environment, whether it was Zan Fiskun walking in the Maple Valley, Washington, woods before singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” in a secluded RV or pastor Todd Tilghman performing “Glory of Love” from his tastefully lit church in Meridian, Mississippi.
The sound quality was excellent, as the singers, accompanied by “The Voice” band and supported by fans watching in their own Microsoft Teams boxes, performed from afar.
A few performances stood out. After Team Blake’s Toneisha Harris performed a rousing edition of Clarkson’s “Stronger” from Roswell, Georgia, an impressed Clarkson offered her vocal services: “If you need a background singer, call me.”
Jonas was proud of his team’s Roderick Chambers of Orange, California, praising his falsetto in “Lost Without You.” “I could see this being one of the performances that Twitter blows up after this, people talking about you.”
The fans, arranged in 29 on-screen boxes, went wild applauding CammWess’ rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song long associated with Bill Withers, who recently died.
CammWess’ coach, Legend, saluted him taking on such a challenging song, before waxing ecstatic about his sound: “I gotta talk about your tone, because it’s so buttery. Honey butter. So sweet and beautiful.”
On Tuesday’s live show, singers will learn the results of the overnight viewer vote. Four artists, one from each coach’s team, will be safe, with each coach picking one more performer to move forward in the contest. The singer with the next highest number of votes from each team will compete in the Wildcard Instant Save for the final spot in next week’s Top 9.
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