Ed Sheeran showed real humility in opening up about his own journey toward musical super-stardom as this season’s mega-mentor on “The Voice” for the Knockout Rounds.
Working with Team Kelly’s pairing of The Cunningham Sisters (14 and 15 years old) and Hailey Mia (13 years old), Ed offered them some encouragement about their talent by revealing that he couldn’t even sing in tune when he was their age — and then he proved it.
That certainly isn’t the case for the rest of this season’s lineup of talent, as we got three more incredible Knockout battles to help “The Voice” celebrate its 500th episode across the past decade. It’s a monumental achievement, and one that comes with a very specific honor.
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Carson Daly revealed to the Coaches, ahead of a massive and impressive “Voice”-themed cake, that their show has been the “most watched television show of the decade on a single network.” We’ll need a minute to break down the logistics of that, but we think we’re impressed?
We were definitely impressed by the roster of Tuesday night’s performers, with an incredible stripped-down take on Selena Gomez’ “Lose You to Love Me,” as well as powerful takes on H.E.R., Lewis Capaldi, Miley Cyrus, Duncan Laurence, and Hillsong UNITED.
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton. And just for fun, I’m going to rank the overall performances from worst to first so we can see how my favorites do as the season progresses.
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Hailey Mia vs. The Cunningham Sisters [Team Kelly]
Some of the youngest contestants ever in the competition, Ed Sheeran gave them — and us — a special treat by not only revealing that he couldn’t even sing in tune when he was 14 years old, but by proving it. He had video and audio of him performing an original and it. was. Rough! Adorable, though. His lesson was that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough, while Kelly took from it that humility is a pretty great thing. He didn’t have to share that on national television … but aren’t we all grateful he did.
(“Arcade,” Duncan Laurence) Kudos to 13-year-old Hailey for slipping into her head voice, per Kelly’s suggestion — hell, discovering her head voice — for that final measure. It really helped her have a moment after a technically polished performance that lacked some emotional resonance. Don’t get us wrong, her voice is so multi-faceted and textured and rich for someone her age and what she just did was incredible, but her youth shined through only in that we didn’t get a sense that she was connected to the lyrical content.
(“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” Hillsong UNITED) Another magical connection of artist and song, these sisters really felt connected to a song they’d performed before during worship service, and that palpable emotional connection carried through. They also shared a beautiful connection with one another — another not from rehearsal — which helped create some palpable moments. But there were moments when the solo vocals were a bit shaky along with so many moments of greatness, so it’s a slight inconsistency that holds them back just a fraction.
Both of these young artists are incredible in their own right, and both have the smallest thing keeping them from achieving the greatness that surely lies in their future. The Cunningham Sisters need to grow individually even more as singers so that their solo work is as powerful consistently as their harmonies, while Hailey may just need to live a little more in her skin, or at least find songs that challenge her vocally while speaking to her emotionally. For the overall quality of the vocal, though, we think Hailey is just a little more ready.
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Ryleigh Plank vs. David Vogel [Team Ariana]
(“Midnight Sky,” Miley Cyrus) This was such a full-bodied delivery, and we appreciated the slow climb (see what we did there?) through Ryleigh’s range until she hit us with that power note toward the end. We’d ding her for what we dubbed the “Idol Power Note” back in the day, but she didn’t build the song around it, nor did she sustain it too long. Instead, it was tastefully delivered among a great series of notes. You could hear her connection to it and the richness in her tone was palpable. It was a great outing, filled with confidence and personality.
(“Lose You to Love Me,” Selena Gomez) What a beautifully painful, stripped back rendition of a song already wrought with emotion. David didn’t try to put anything fancy on it other than some strategically sexy hair work — dude has great hair, we’re sorry! — and a lot of angst that felt authentic. He has a slight whimper in his voice that really worked on the connection to the words and driving them through to us through the screen. It was a heartbroken anthem that we definitely felt.
What an unlikely pairing of two artists that couldn’t be more different. David is definitely more in that Ed Sheeran lane with how he interprets a lyric and tells a story, while Ryleigh is this fearless punk goddess with range and power for days. On this one, though, we felt that David has such a stronger sense of himself as an artist and a vocalist both in the songs he chooses and how he presents them, that he’s definitely the stronger choice of the two.
Result: Ryleigh Wins [John Steals David]
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BrittanyBree vs. Samuel Harness [Team Legend]
(“Best Part,” H.E.R. f/ Daniel Caesar) Like smooth jazz on the track, BrittanyBree melted her way vocally through a very chill performance. We agree that the broken runs are a bit much at times, as it would be nice to hear her slide up and down her range a bit. She didn’t deliver a huge vocal range, but she definitely put a lot of passion into the performance and gave a vast improvement over her rehearsal footage.
(“Bruises,” Lewis Capaldi) Samuel reined in that beautiful rasp, delivering it strategically in the chorus as coached to do and it created a truly intimate, yet powerful, performance. This was so emotionally wrought and he delivered it with such sincerity, you believed that he’d lived every word of those lyrics. His talent is undeniable, but his connection takes it to the next level. We’ve always loved him, but tonight he really showed something special.
BrittanyBree gave a technically strong performance with some very silky moments, but how can you compare to the emotional journey Samuel took us all on. He invited us into his heart and soul and showed us his vulnerability. It was a raw and beautiful moment on the one hand, and on the other he matched BrittanyBree’s technical talents and skills. This was definitely Samuel’s moment.
“The Voice” continues Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.