The Voice 5th Judge Top 16 Live: Technical Difficulties and Frontrunner Fails -- See Who Faltered

It was wall-to-wall music as the Top 16 packed in performances on the first live episode of “The Voice” this season. It was a mostly seamless affair, with only one artist really struggling with the live experience due to a technical mishap with their earpiece. We’d love to say they didn’t falter because of it, but they definitely did, even going briefly silent at a key moment. At least they had an excuse, though, as some of our favorites from the previous rounds fell flat on their faces in this round. One of the biggest voices of the whole season who’s been predicted to win the whole show wound up in our Bottom 4 on the night -- could they actually get booted? The way this is going to work is that each Coach came into the week with 4 singers. America will vote to save two from each team, leaving the Coach to save one more from the remaining two. Then, the four singers who didn’t get saved by their Coach will have to prove themselves to America on Tuesday’s show. They’ll each perform a new song, vying for America’s vote in an instant save, but only one of them will survive to have an awkward reunion with the Coach who just opted to not save them. Maybe they should have the choice at this point to pick any Coach they want! That means by the end of this week, we’ll have 13 singers left in the competition. After tonight’s performances, we can already see our Top 6 emerging, so the others are really going to have to step it up to prove they deserve a spot in the Finale -- because we’re not seeing it right now! Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Blake Shelton, Camila Cabello, Gwen Stefani, and John Legend. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first and then see how you do as the live shows progress -- i.e., if you agree with me. (“Angels Like You,” Miley Cyrus - 19, Fresno, CA) She said she felt very connected to this song and we could hear the earnestness, but this was not a strong vocal by any means. She didn’t hit all her notes cleanly and the whole thing carried along in the same sing-song way for too long. There were no dynamic moments to capture our attention, and without a genuine emotional resonance coming through, we found ourselves untethered from her big moment. Add to that some vocal issues that jarred our ears here and there, and it wasn’t a huge win. (“As It Was,” Harry Styles - 19, Miami, FL) Some of those high and low notes early on felt calculated rather than natural. We know they are, but we shouldn’t be able to tell so obviously. The arrangement was creative, but it needed to flow more organically from Kique so we could instead feel the beautiful heart of the song. He’s got this great tone, but it was all trying too hard for us on this one. It was much stronger later on as it felt like he stopped calculating so meticulously and relaxed into his performance. (“You’re Still the One,” Shania Twain - 27, Oklahoma City, OK) Right from the jump, Kate was having trouble with her headpiece, and it almost immediately started impacting her performance, with her stopping singing at one point entirely. Her confidence was rattled and then it left her falling flat early on as she didn’t have the advantage of hearing herself. Even with that mishap, though, she managed to find some great moments and notes, rediscovering her confidence as the performance went on. By the end, though, it was clear the whole thing left her rattled, but she powered through better than she thought she did. Unfortunately, her anxiety left the performance a little flat emotionally, too. (“Livin’ on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi - 33, Orlando, FL) Admittedly we went into this with very high expectations, considering the power of his rock voice in the Blinds, but this was surprisingly underwhelming on the verses. It was as if he was trying to put too much into those parts, which are supposed to be more subtle. It can’t be all sauce. We didn’t care for his unnatural line delivery toward the end and even the a cappella part felt a little shrill. This was a big surprise, but not in a good way. He’s so much better than this performance. (“I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” Travis Tritt - 22, Woodstock, GA) There was an unexpected disconnect for us when it came to Bryce and this song. The opening lines felt like he was trying to push his voice too hard, rather than inviting us to sit around his fire and listen to these lyrics with him. It felt like he was trying to go big to stand out, but didn’t rearrange the song to do that, so it didn’t quite work. This was a more intimate piece and he could have stood out with a more intimate performance. As it stands, it felt a little like he was trying to be heard over a rowdy bar crowd. (“Tiny Dancer,” Elton John - 18, Dallas, GA) With an incredibly rich and interesting texture to her voice, we

The Voice 5th Judge Top 16 Live: Technical Difficulties and Frontrunner Fails -- See Who Faltered

For the first time this season, the Top 16 hit the stage live with extremely mixed results -- who seized the opportunity, and who just seized up?

It was wall-to-wall music as the Top 16 packed in performances on the first live episode of “The Voice” this season.

It was a mostly seamless affair, with only one artist really struggling with the live experience due to a technical mishap with their earpiece. We’d love to say they didn’t falter because of it, but they definitely did, even going briefly silent at a key moment.

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At least they had an excuse, though, as some of our favorites from the previous rounds fell flat on their faces in this round. One of the biggest voices of the whole season who’s been predicted to win the whole show wound up in our Bottom 4 on the night -- could they actually get booted?

The way this is going to work is that each Coach came into the week with 4 singers. America will vote to save two from each team, leaving the Coach to save one more from the remaining two. Then, the four singers who didn’t get saved by their Coach will have to prove themselves to America on Tuesday’s show.

They’ll each perform a new song, vying for America’s vote in an instant save, but only one of them will survive to have an awkward reunion with the Coach who just opted to not save them. Maybe they should have the choice at this point to pick any Coach they want!

That means by the end of this week, we’ll have 13 singers left in the competition. After tonight’s performances, we can already see our Top 6 emerging, so the others are really going to have to step it up to prove they deserve a spot in the Finale -- because we’re not seeing it right now!

Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Blake Shelton, Camila Cabello, Gwen Stefani, and John Legend. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first and then see how you do as the live shows progress -- i.e., if you agree with me.

Alyssa Witrado [Team Gwen]

(“Angels Like You,” Miley Cyrus - 19, Fresno, CA) She said she felt very connected to this song and we could hear the earnestness, but this was not a strong vocal by any means. She didn’t hit all her notes cleanly and the whole thing carried along in the same sing-song way for too long. There were no dynamic moments to capture our attention, and without a genuine emotional resonance coming through, we found ourselves untethered from her big moment. Add to that some vocal issues that jarred our ears here and there, and it wasn’t a huge win.

Kique [Team Gwen]

(“As It Was,” Harry Styles - 19, Miami, FL) Some of those high and low notes early on felt calculated rather than natural. We know they are, but we shouldn’t be able to tell so obviously. The arrangement was creative, but it needed to flow more organically from Kique so we could instead feel the beautiful heart of the song. He’s got this great tone, but it was all trying too hard for us on this one. It was much stronger later on as it felt like he stopped calculating so meticulously and relaxed into his performance.

Kate Kalvach [Team Camila]

(“You’re Still the One,” Shania Twain - 27, Oklahoma City, OK) Right from the jump, Kate was having trouble with her headpiece, and it almost immediately started impacting her performance, with her stopping singing at one point entirely. Her confidence was rattled and then it left her falling flat early on as she didn’t have the advantage of hearing herself. Even with that mishap, though, she managed to find some great moments and notes, rediscovering her confidence as the performance went on. By the end, though, it was clear the whole thing left her rattled, but she powered through better than she thought she did. Unfortunately, her anxiety left the performance a little flat emotionally, too.

Omar Jose Cardona [Team Legend]

(“Livin’ on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi - 33, Orlando, FL) Admittedly we went into this with very high expectations, considering the power of his rock voice in the Blinds, but this was surprisingly underwhelming on the verses. It was as if he was trying to put too much into those parts, which are supposed to be more subtle. It can’t be all sauce. We didn’t care for his unnatural line delivery toward the end and even the a cappella part felt a little shrill. This was a big surprise, but not in a good way. He’s so much better than this performance.

Bryce Leatherwood [Team Blake]

(“I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” Travis Tritt - 22, Woodstock, GA) There was an unexpected disconnect for us when it came to Bryce and this song. The opening lines felt like he was trying to push his voice too hard, rather than inviting us to sit around his fire and listen to these lyrics with him. It felt like he was trying to go big to stand out, but didn’t rearrange the song to do that, so it didn’t quite work. This was a more intimate piece and he could have stood out with a more intimate performance. As it stands, it felt a little like he was trying to be heard over a rowdy bar crowd.

Sasha Hurtado [Team Legend]

(“Tiny Dancer,” Elton John - 18, Dallas, GA) With an incredibly rich and interesting texture to her voice, we were hoping for Sasha to take a few more chances on this arrangement. She had several opportunities to break out and have a vocal moment that she just didn’t take. It felt like a very safe performance overall, and we didn’t feel any connection to the song from her, leaving us kind of flat in the audience as it washed over us. She’s got a great voice, but we’re not sure how memorable this will be on a night with 16 of them.

Eric Who [Team Camila]

(“Rumour Has It,” Adele - 22, Orangeburg, SC) We get that over-the-top is Eric’s thing, but this felt like a little bit of too much on a song that’s built on heart. There were some truly compelling moments, but we’re not sure about the arrangement that made this sound like an encore to an Eric Who performance. We’re not downing the choice to go big, but the song felt like a mismatch to what he was doing. The song has heart and this performance was all showmanship with no heart. A broader song choice would have helped him nail his intent better.

Kevin Hawkins [Team Gwen]

(“Skate,” Silk Sonic - 28, Dallas, TX) We know Kevin has way more in the tank than what he gave us in this performance because we’ve seen it before. This is definitely his vibe, though, as he brought all that sensual swagger that Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak bring to every one of their performances. He felt like a natural on this one, with great stage presence and personality up there for days. Vocally this was as strong as we’ve come to expect from him, but he could have pushed it a little more to try and stand out, as we know he can!

Rowan Grace [Team Blake]

(“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” Olivia Newton-John - 17, Rapid City, SD) This is definitely a song outside of Rowan’s tender years, but she managed to find that same sweet innocence that first made it a huge hit for Olivia. She didn’t quite hit every big note she went for, nor did she do anything with the arrangement to make it stand out or sound current. If this were a tribute to Olivia Newton-John, it would be a slam dunk. As a show piece to tell us who Rowan Grace is, we wanted more.

Devix [Team Camila]

(“Sex on Fire,” Kings of Leon - 28, Queens, NY) The subtlety of Devix’ approach meant he was hitting these big, hard notes from nowhere rather than building up to it. It was a bonafide rock performance that made him look like ready to front a band right now. We’d have liked him to put his own stamp on the performance in some way, as it came off sounding a bit too much like an homage to the original. It was a beautifully performed cover, but it was such a cover, it left us a little flat when it comes to connecting to Devix as an artist. We love his voice, but we need to see him, too.

Justin Aaron [Team Gwen]

(“Here and Now,” Luther Vandross - 34, Junction City, KS) This is a big artist to take on and Justin did Luther proud. He’s got that same teddy bear texture in his voice with a soaring upper end he tapped into from time to time. We were glad when he grabbed the mic off the stand because he took himself beyond soundalike into his own artistry. As sweet as his voice is, that grit that creeps in when he pushes it is the magic he needed to punch us in the face a bit and say, ‘Remember me!’ We definitely will.

bodie [Team Blake]

(“Glimpse of Us,” Joji - 29, Los Angeles, CA) An audacious choice that speaks volumes about bodie’s confidence of who he is as an artist. It’s a beautifully broken song and on top of that, there’s nowhere to hide vocally. After playing it straight at the start, he went full belt about halfway through and it was the perfect choice at the perfect moment. bodie is so fully realized already, he knows exactly what he’s doing. His tips up into a beautiful falsetto were tasteful and every bit of it served the message of the song.

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Morgan Myles [Team Camila]

(“Let Him Fly,” Patty Griffin - 35, Nashville, TN) Morgan just keeps it real. The voice is authentic, even though she was able to soar into a beautiful falsetto, showcased some gravel, some singer-songwriter vibe, heart and power. But it all comes from that authentic center that holds it together. She’s a storyteller and she told this story like she’d written it and even believably lived it. We love the hints of country in her voice, that suits her storytelling side, as well as that slight rocker edge and unique musical sensibility. She’s a one-of-a-kind artist.

Kim Cruse [Team Legend]

(“I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” Aretha Franklin - 30, Woodville, TX) Kim takes the stage like she’s a diva invited back to perform her greatest hits at the Grammys after a 40-year career. The quality of her voice, the passion in there and the conviction with which she performs is so beyond her years. She’s an absolute natural. If you can come out here and slay Aretha on the very first live show, you are really someone to keep an eye on. She should have a long journey this season.

Brayden Lape [Team Blake]

(“Buy Dirt,” Jordan Davis & Luke Bryan - 16, Grass Lake, MI) Some people have that indefinable “x factor” that SImon Cowell built a whole franchise around. Brayden is swimming in it and has been since we first saw him. Throw in his tender age and it’s incredible the connection he can have with a lyric and an audience. He does so much with so little, just as he did here. There were no fancy tricks on this performance, it was just earnest and heartfelt. But he didn’t need any of those tricks because he had us in the palm of his hand from the first note. The kid’s a natural!

Parijita Bastola [Team Legend]

(“I’ll Never Love Again,” Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (from “A Star Is Born”) - 17, Severna Park, MD) This wasn’t note perfect, but it was heart perfect. We’ve said before how amazing it is what she can do at her age, but at any age, the ability to convey emotion that beautifully is rare even in professional circles. She can reduce us to tears with just a wail, and did so again tonight. This was one of the most heartfelt, passionate performances we’ve seen in a long time. Add to that the incredible richness of her voice and Parijita has superstar written all over her. It’s just incredible to watch.

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PREDICTIONS

Looking back through our rankings, we were definitely hard on Team Gwen, but other than Justin Aaron, it just didn’t seem like her team stepped up to this opportunity. Teams Blake and Legend really dominated this first night as each have two powerhouse talents.

On the bottom end, we had both Kique and Alyssa Witrado at the very bottom, but only one can go home. We think it will be Alyssa, as Kique is better than that performance was and the last slot to save will be Gwen’s.

Kate Kalvach struggled with her earpiece for Team Camila, but we’d send Eric Who home over her for a tonally wrong direction on an Adele hit. Camila, though, will likely keep him because he’s definitely better and more unique than that was, which will be bad news for Kate’s journey.

As for the aforementioned powerhouses, John is probably going to have to choose between Omar Jose Cardona, who missed the mark with an unexpectedly shrill performance, and Sasha Hurtado, who just had no connection to her song. As Omar is so much better than what we got, he’ll probably get the save.

For Blake, we suspect he’ll have to choose between Bryce Leatherwood and Rowan Grace, and because he likes the country crooner so much -- and he just picked up Rowan -- he’ll probably let the teen go. She’s just not in his wheelhouse.

That would mean it’d be Rowan, Sasha, Kate, and Alyssa singing for the instant-save from America. Of these four, if Kate is on her game with the right song, she could be the one. But Sasha has been through three Coaches because she delivers something special when her back’s against the wall. She’d be our pick to most likely get the save.

“The Voice” continues next Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.