As The Voice Season 19 went live for the first time Monday with the top 17, we already knew the names of the top 16 contestants. But that 17th slot would be filled by the publicly voted winner of last week’s four-way Knockout: either Team Blake’s Taryn Papa, Team Legend’s Julia Cooper, Team Gwen’s Larriah Jackson, or Ryan Gallagher from Team Kelly. Classical-crossover crooner Ryan was widely predicted to prevail, but as host Carson Daly announced the four-way result at the top of Monday’s Live Playoffs episode, Ryan was nowhere to be seen. Only Taryn, Julia, and Larriah stood onstage, as Carson awkwardly stated, “As a side note, Team Kelly’s Ryan Gallagher had to exit the competition.” Carson offered no other details.
Ryan’s departure seemed sudden and unplanned, considering that less than 24 hours earlier, he’d posted a smiling photo of himself nattily suited up, seemingly in his Playoffs stage wear, ready to perform. “Here we go America!! Never thought a small town guy like me would make it here! @NBCTheVoice @kellyclarkson,” read his excited caption. Fans were immediately worried for the well-being of Ryan and his family, since both his mother and grandmother had contracted COVID-19 while the Battle Rounds were being filmed back in September.
But just as The Voice top 17 Live Playoffs were airing on the East Coast Monday — the same day that he’d mysteriously postponed his holiday-themed Instagram Live session — Ryan hopped on his Instagram Stories and Twitter account to address his disappearance in a brief, terse video. “Thank you everybody for your concern for my family,” he began. “However, everybody’s fine. That’s not the cause of what happened tonight on The Voice. I didn’t drop out of the show. Details are still to come. I’ll keep you posted.”
A source with direct knowledge of the situation, however, told Yahoo Entertainment that the coronavirus was in fact the reason for Ryan’s abrupt exit, explaining that the show “has strict COVID protocols in place to secure a safe set” that Ryan broke, so, “out of an abundance of caution,” it was decided that he could not continue in the competition and “potentially put others at risk.” It wasn’t exactly clear what Ryan’s violation was; as of this writing, the singer has not yet responded to this allegation.
With Ryan out of the running, Carson proceeded to announce in a businesslike manner that Taryn had won the four-way (or, by default, three-way) Knockout, so she would be taking the 17th spot. We’ll probably never know if Taryn was the actual highest vote-getter. Though Taryn was shocked by this outcome, she may have won fair and square, since she was this Knockout’s only country singer and she was coached by the popular Blake Shelton. But it’s also possible that under different circumstances, Ryan would have triumphed.
Watch this space for possible additional Ryan updates… but even if we never learn more details regarding what really happened with him, the drama and abrupt early exits will continue on Tuesday’s results show, when the top 17 become the top nine. Team quotas will still be in play, with the highest vote-getter from each team automatically advancing, each coach saving a contestant, and one contestant from each team singing for the Instant Save. But before Tuesday, let’s see how Taryn, along with the rest of the top 17, fared, in my full recap below.
DeSz, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”
Given four-chair contestant DeSz’s Texas-sized pipes and rock ‘n’ soul aesthetic, I expected this sultry Tina Turner classic to be the perfect song choice. And yet, I was underwhelmed. DeSz vamped it up in a red femme fatale gown and tried to sell the drama, but her performance felt old-fashioned. John Legend called her an “assassin,” but I’m afraid she may have killed (or at least maimed) her chances tonight.
Madeline Consoer, “What If I Never Get Over You”
This Lady A(ntebellum) heartbreak ballad hit a pop/country sweet spot that worked wonderfully with Madeline’s voice; Blake said he was “impressed,” and Kelly Clarkson said she “did one helluva job.” I believe that if this were a more leisurely paced season, Madeline would have a chance to be a dark horse. But with nearly half of the contestants getting cut in one fell swoop Tuesday, this probably wasn’t enough for her to stand out.
Tanner Gomes, “Lovin´ on You”
Tanner went straight country with a crowd-pleasing Luke Combs hit, another safe karaoke choice. The only risk he took was with the key change, which was apparently his idea, but up until that moment, this was a sleepy and diction-challenged performance. (It sort of sounded like he forgot his lyrics in the first verse, actually.) However, if America’s country-loving voters only go for one country contestant from Kelly’s team, it’ll unfortunately be Tanner instead of the more deserving Madeline.
Cami Clune, “Never Tear Us Apart”
Cami is certainly one contestant that knows how to sell the drama, so INXS’s dark and orchestral rock ballad was a supreme showcase for her uniquely theatrical style. I would love to see Cami do some Tori Amos, Evanescence, or Annie Lennox (to whom Cami was actually compared by Kelly) if she goes forward — which I hope she does. But will America vote for a gothic drama queen over Kelly’s more traditional contestants? That’s unlikely.
My top two picks: Cami and (based on her overall body of work this season) DeSz.
My prediction: America votes through Tanner, Kelly saves DeSz, Cami sings for the Save.
Payge Turner, “It´s Gonna Be Me”
Wow. This just might be one of the most original and drastic covers I’ve ever seen on The Voice — or on any singing competition, for that matter. Somehow, Payge turned ‘NSYNC’s month-of-May banger into a bluesy, sexy slow-burner that was giving me total H.E.R./Janelle Monae vibes. “It felt like a James Bond opening sequence,” said Carson of the intense performance, while coach Gwen Stefani gushed, “From a distance, I was seeing Prince standing there.” Payge, along with Cami, is one of my favorites this season, but I fear that — similar to the situation with Cami — mainstream viewers will be too weirded out by this edgy risk-taker. It’s probably not gonna be her.
Ben Allen, “There Goes My Life”
This was yet another generic country singer, like Tanner. But Ben, like Madeline, was smart to go with a sorrowful, tender breakup ballad. He did a solid job with the Kenny Chesney song, stripping back the arrangement to effectively showcase his robust and recordable voice. I don’t know if Gwen has a country contestant strong enough to beat her fiancé Blake this season, but Ben does have a shot of at least making the semifinals.
Joseph Soul, “How Deep Is Your Love”
I just got through praising Payge for radically reworking her cover song, but Joseph’s reggae-lite/smooth jazz/hotel-lounge-act remake of a Bee Gees classic just didn’t work at all. Joseph sucked all the magic out of the ethereal song (and all of the air out of the room, with that ouchy falsetto), and his performance seemed to drag on for 10 minutes. Though Gwen was unusually excited about his chances, squealing and squeeing and shouting declarations of love, I doubt Joseph will be feeling the love from voters this week.
Carter Rubin, “Hero”
Gwen did a brilliant job picking a song for 15-year-old Carter that wasn’t just age-appropriate, but also showed off his huge, bell-clear, remarkably high voice. This certainly wasn’t an edgy performance, by any means, but few people of any age or gender can handle a Mariah Carey power ballad — and this kid sure did. A proud Gwen called Carter “mind-blowingly good,” and I think America will agree.
My top two picks: Payge and Carter.
My prediction: America votes through Carter, Gwen saves Joseph (because she keeps making bizarre, questionable decisions when it comes to him), Ben sings for the Save.
Jim Ranger, “Rumor”
After Jim’s star turn last Monday doing Tim McGraw’s heartstring-tugging “Humble and Kind,” I was disappointed to see him doing something so laid-back and shuffling this week. But the Bakersfield troubadour brought some fire and spunk at the end of this Lee Brice cover, and he oozed the sort of warm, inviting, likable quality that’ll snag votes no matter what he sings. “I believe in my heart you’re going to be in the finale. Do that again next week, please. Let’s go win this thing,” said Blake.
Worth the Wait, “Love Is Alive”
I’ve never understood why Blake, and the rest of the coaches, have been so enthusiastic about this amateur-hour family band. Their harmonies on this Judds song were pleasant, but hardly Judds-level, and in their solo moments, all three women’s shortcomings were on full display. I think by now the novelty that Worth the Wait is a trio has worn off, despite Blake ludicrously claiming that this performance was “next level.”
Ian Flanigan, “Make You Feel My Love”
This song has been recorded by so many people — Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Adele, and of course originator Bob Dylan — but this husky storyteller somehow made it his own. This felt like a Lifetime Achievement performance at the ACM Awards, like something by a real-life Jackson Maine. There was so much grit and gravitas here, and it was obvious that Ian felt and meant every note. The result was the first four-coach standing ovation of the night. “America, this show is called The Voice. When have you ever in your life heard a voice like that? Recognize it, and reward it!” demanded Blake. I think Blake will get his wish. This was special.
Taryn Papa, “I Hope You´re Happy Now”
This performance was fine, just fine, but considering what a lucky break it was for Taryn to be in the top 17 at all, I feel she could have taken better advantage of the opportunity. She was perfectly professional, but this Lee Brice/Carly Pearce song wasn’t the sort of number to grab voters’ attention at a crucial moment in a crowded competition, on an especially crowded team.
Sid Kingsley, “Beyond”
“Sid, for the life of me, I can’t understand… I’m very thankful, but I can’t understand how you ended up on my team, after being on two other coaches’ teams,” said Blake. Sid started off on Team Legend before moving to Team Kelly during the Battles, and while I’d say those teams’ collective loss is Blake’s gain, after this soulful and searing Leon Bridges cover, I do worry if piano man Sid can stand out on a team of country contestants. He probably would have been better off with Kelly or John. But hopefully the third time can be the charm for Sid, because he’s one of my favorite singers of Season 19.
My top two picks: Ian and Sid.
My prediction: America votes through Jim, Blake saves Ian, Taryn sings for the Save.
Tamara Jade, “Crazy”
This was a superstar interpretation of a too-oft-covered Gnarls Barkley hit, with sassy, steely, sequined Tamara serving looks, drama, and power notes galore. “You just owned the stage. Your voice is just magnificent, resplendent, beautiful, and the way you walk around the stage is like you know you’re supposed to be here,” raved John. I have a feeling that Tamara will still be on that stage on finale night. That is indeed where she’s supposed to be.
Chloe Hogan, “My Future”
With the criminally overlooked Julia Cooper exiting this week, Chloe now takes her spot as Team Legend’s token jazzy, music-schooled (and probably also criminally overlooked) song stylist. This elegant Billie Eilish cover was so classic and yet so modern; Chloe gave me Corinne Bailey Rae vibes (not to be confused with Team Legend’s country singer Bailey Rae, of course). John rightly described this performance as “graceful and tasteful,” but again, I fear that it won’t be enough to get Chloe to the top nine. John has a very strong team this season.
Bailey Rae, “Sweet Music Man”
Doing a song by the recently departed Kenny Rogers was a smart, sentimental choice (Kelly had actually suggested it), but this was an emotionally, if not vocally, flat performance. I wish Bailey had dug just a little deeper. That being said, I think the Kenny tribute, combined with the popular genre she represents, will gice her a shot at making the top nine. It’s when Bailey goes up against Ben Allen and Team Blake’s many country contenders that she will struggle.
John Holiday, “Fly Me to the Moon”
Holiday’s shrill voice, which kind of reminds me of a jazzy Shamir, is admittedly an acquired taste. But man, have I ever acquired it! I can’t get enough, actually. Holiday took this Sinatra song straight up to the stratosphere, to the moon and back. He nailed notes that I didn’t even know existed on the musical scale. “You are just one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever seen on this show,” marveled a proud Legend.
My top two picks: John Holiday and Chloe.
My prediction: America votes through Holiday, Legend saves Tamara, Bailey sings for the Save. Tune in Tuesday to find out if I’m right about all of this!
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