The Voice Recap: The Playoffs’ Beginning Marks the End of the Line for Four Contestants

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As The Voice’s Season 25 Playoffs got underway Monday night, John Legend and Dan + Shay faced the unenviable task of cutting their teams of five down to three apiece. How’d they fare? Let’s review the performances and the coaches’ picks, then discuss, shall we?


Nathan Chester, “Oh! Darling” — Grade: A+ | Dude could win Season 25 if he keeps barreling down this retro lane like he is; it’s beyond perfect for him. Tackling The Beatles’ classic here, Nathan not only delivered a kickass vocal but demonstrated enviable showmanship. Whether you, too, can do a split, kids, this is how it’s done. “Best performance ever!” Reba declared. “Flawless!” Shay cheered. Agreed.

Kamalei Kawa’a, “No Woman, No Cry” — Grade: B- | Again pulling from Bob Marley’s songbook, Kamalei turned out a lovely, spirited rendition of the reggae legend’s classic. Kamalei even cranked his energy level up a bit; appreciated. Still, the performance felt kinda one-note. The coaches adored it, with John marveling at the “spice” Kamalei puts on every number. I’d go so far as to say “flavor,” but “spice”? No.

Bryan Olesen, “Africa” — Grade: C | You’ll get no argument from me if you say that Bryan has a massive voice. But I will throw down if you suggest that this was a great performance. Perhaps owing to the fact that he was doing a Toto oldie that didn’t showcase his strengths, Bryan oversang and came off even more karaoke-esque than he might have otherwise. John loved the way that Season 25’s elder statesman stopped to get his guitar midway through, but it played awkwardly on stage, and to what end?

Mafe, “Someone Like You” — Grade: A | Perfect song choice for Mafe. Adele’s hit allowed her to show off her gorgeous tone, enviable range and ear-popping control. But on top of all that, the number reminded us of how deeply into a song Mafe dives — she was feeling that s—t. Shay balked at the number of liberties that Mafe had taken with the melody, but I was with John, who quipped that he was “entitled to be wrong.”

Zoe Levert, “Iris” — Grade: B+ | Credit where it’s due: I may not be the president of the Zoe Levert Fan Club, but this was not only her best performance yet, it was also a pretty damn good performance in its own right. She gave a real sense that, start to finish, she knew what she was doing, she seemed to be emotionally invested, and her vocal was stronger than I can remember hearing before from her.

John’s Picks | Nathan Chester, Zoe Levert, Bryan Olesen

Eliminated | Mafe, Kamalei Kawa’a


Karen Waldrup, “Heart Like a Truck” — Grade: B | I really have no quibbles with Karen’s cover of Yellowstone singer Lainey Wilson’s ballad. Karen’s vocal was solid, and she was in the moment. I just wondered if it was going to be “enough” to sway her coaches, considering that the number didn’t really let her “wow” until she started hitting one superb long note after another near the finish line.

Anya True, “All Too Well” — Grade: A- | Step aside, Zoe Levert. If any of Season 25’s contestants have what it takes to be another Taylor Swift, it’s Anya. (Or was until Dan + Shay cut her!) There’s an ache to her gorgeous voice that draws you all the way in. She also sings with the vulnerability of someone making a confession rather than just performing a song. Her coaches likened her vocal stylings to Julia Michaels. Me, I was thinking Addison Agen.

Olivia Rubini, “I’ll Stand by You” — Grade: D | OK, so we know I’m not much of an Olivia fan to begin with. So I have to ask: Was this as dreadful as I thought it was? ’Cause to my ears, it sounded flat enough to have been run over by a semi. And WTF was up with those squeaks she threw in here and there? You know how coaches will talk about contestants’ tasteful choices now and then? Those squeaks were not tasteful. I actually went to fast-forward this performance before I remembered I was getting paid to stick it out to the end.

Tae Lewis, “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” — Grade: A- | On Randy Houser’s bop, Tae turned the charisma way up as he churned out a wholly enjoyable, rollicking performance. The only obstacle in his path, as far as I could hear, was that even when he was really putting the pedal to the metal, vocally speaking, his engine wasn’t as powerful as other contestants’. But this? No two ways about it. It was a blast.

Madison Curbelo, “Landslide” — Grade: A | Is there a rule that someone has to perform this Fleetwood Mac classic every season? Whether or not there is, Madison’s version was nine kinds of gorgeous. Her voice soared and dipped through it like a sparrow through the clouds. And unlike some contestants Monday night — sorry, Bryan and Olivia — I believed every syllable that Madison uttered. A dazzling, confident, emotional performance.

Dan + Shay’s Picks | Madison Curbelo, Karen Waldrup, Tae Lewis

Eliminated | Anya True, Olivia Rubini

So, for my money, there is no way that Bryan and Zoe deserved to remain on Team Legend more than Mafe, who has been consistently good. I would have also preferred that Dan + Shay had stuck with Anya over Karen, but I can’t say that Karen hasn’t been bringing it. Which eliminations surprised/perturbed you the most? Vote in the poll below, then hit the comments.

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