It’s hard to believe that season 15 of NBC’s The Voice 2018 is nearing its end. The amount of talent that has crossed the storied stage has been unparalleled, and each show has been better than the last. The first night of the Top 10 live performances was no exception. With two artists facing elimination, nerves may have been high, but you would have never known. Each of the competitors displayed extraordinary poise and grace as they performed like the semi-finals depended on it.
Because they do.
It was ladies first and Team J-Hud’s first competitor of the night, and the youngest in the show, was 13-year-old Kennedy Holmes. After performing ballads all season, coach Jennifer Hudson told the young talent, “we want to see you have fun!” Challenged with that and performing Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too,” the young teen hit the stage with a squad of dancers, a choreographed routine, and some serious skills.
“If that was being 13, then I sucked at being 13,” Adam Levine told her after she caught her breath. “A lot of times people are put in these positions where they’re dancing with people and they can’t necessarily dance. You can move. That, to me, is another strength that we didn’t know much about until this moment, so your timing is pretty good, kid. You’re doing really, really, really well.”
Team Adam’s youngest, 14-year-old Reagan Strange, took the stage next. Bringing her A-game, the petite beauty tackled Faith Hill’s incredibly rangy and difficult ballad, “Cry.”
A jokingly bitter Blake Shelton told Reagan, “I want to cry because you didn’t pick me as your coach. I’m still not over that. I’ve got to be one of your biggest fans and I know that right there, that was a tough song, That has the lower register and the higher register. You did a great job on it, sis. Every time you get on stage, you do a great job. ”
Kelly Clarkson also had a few words for Reagan. “He’s not playing around, that is probably Faith Hill’s rangiest song, that is a big song, but, honestly, it wasn’t even your big soaring notes that I love about you most,” she said. “What I love about you most is something that can’t be taught,” Kelly went on to explain, “How you express emotion, you can’t teach people.”
The competitors weren’t the only ones in the spotlight during the December 3 show. Blake got behind the microphone to sing his most recent smash, “Turnin’ Me On.”
Continuing the trend in teens, Team Kelly’s Sarah Grace, the 16-year-old blues singer/trumpet player, hit the stage with “Amazing Grace,” but the familiar tune was arranged to the melody of “House of the Rising Sun.” She also brought her horn with her.
Jennifer broke down the bluesy, gritty performance, telling the young artist, “Sarah Grace, first of all, I loved how in the midst of you singing that song, you still found time to put your horn back down in the right place and did not miss a single note. I notice things like that. That was amazing. Then I loved how this just displays your confidence. To be able to take ‘Amazing Grace’ and then make it your own and do something else different with it, and take that chance, and then to use this moment to display all of your talents, that was extremely smart, and that was beautiful.”
Aspiring gospel artist Kymberli Joye was Team Kelly’s second singer of the night, and Kelly encouraged the singer to invoke the same emotional performance that she gave the week prior.
After delivering a riveting performance of Hillsong United’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)“ that brought Kelly to tears, Blake told the incredible vocalist, “I feel like that is your most powerful performance so far and I can tell you why, too. I feel like you finally were able to rein in everything and give us a controlled, incredibly tasteful performance, and man, did that have an impact. Congratulations to both of you.”
Jennifer added, “You are already walking into your calling, and listening to you sing that song helped renew my faith just a little bit more, so you’re already walking into your purpose.”
Finally, a gentleman competitor took the spotlight, and it was Chris Kroeze representing Team Blake and Garth Brooks with his rendition of Garth and New Grass Revival’s “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”
“I love him,” Kelly emphatically declared following his performance. “I’ve loved you this whole competition, but I think you’re not only talented, but you’re super sweet, and I want to be friends with you. You seem so rad. You seem really cool, and relatable, and sweet, and super talented. Like, who attacks Garth Brooks? That was amazing.”
Blake could hardly find the words for his team member’s performance. Stammering, he said, “What you just did, you brought country music to America just now on primetime television. I can’t thank you enough for that. To have that battle you just had with Jenee (Blake’s fiddle player), fiddle, guitar back-and-forth, you don’t see that anymore. Thank you for that.”
Another of Blake’s team, Dave Fenley, followed Chris and put his own spin on the Keith Whitley classic, “When You Say Nothing At All.”
Jennifer was up first with feedback and she admitted, “I’d be lying if I said I knew a whole lot about country. I might not know a whole lot about country, but I know a voice when I hear one, and you definitely got one. I look forward to hearing you sing every week, so I’m a fan regardless if I know something about country or not.”
Blake added, “The thing that drives me crazy about being Dave’s coach is the same thing that is the reason he is still in this competition. He never does the same thing twice, so when you’re trying to coach him, you’re going, ‘Wait a minute, we just…what?’ But it’s because he sings with his heart.”
Team Adam’s DeAndre Nico, who won last week’s instant save, was back with a new conviction saying, “I don’t want America to regret their decision.” Adam told the young singer, “Your back’s against the wall right now. You have to come at this with all you’ve got. You have the opportunity to have the performance of the night.”
And he came big with Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like,” showing ample swagger and taking his performance out to the audience. Adam offered his thoughts afterward. “I wish there was a way to convey to everybody at home what happens in the room sometimes because there’s always a moment when you start to feel it get hot. When somebody’s going really well, you feel the energy shift in the room. And, once again, these guys talk about how the ending was so sharp, and the reaction after that was so special,” he said.
Kelly’s final team member, young Chevel Shepherd, was next in the line-up, and Coach Kelly challenged the “Country Tinkerbell” to sing Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Lookin’ At Country,” complete with yodels.
Looking at Kelly, Blake said, “She is so cute, there’s no way around it.” He then told Chevel, “You have found a way to make a Loretta Lynn song even countrier than it was originally. How is that possible? With the yodel that was recurring throughout the performance, I thought it was a lot of fun. I thought you sang it great.”
Before Kelly could respond, Adam interrupted and said, “Can I just say I love you? You’re probably really annoyed with everyone saying, ‘oh, you’re so cute,’ but I don’t care because you’re so cute, I have to say it. And also, so talented. I don’t want anyone to underestimate how talented you are.”
The last man to take the stage in the first night of Top 10 lives was Blake’s Kirk Jay. Telling his coach that he loved making people cry, Kirk put an even more tender touch to Chris Young’s stirring ballad “Tomorrow.”
Jennifer was on her feet before the song finished. “I feel like I’m your co-coach because I don’t care whose team you’re on, please y’all, vote for this boy because he needs to make a country album,” she said. “You’re absolutely one of my favorites, every.” Adam also came loaded with compliments for Kirk. “I’m a huge fan as well,” he started, and then added, “It does feel, when you perform, like something new is happening for country music. There’s so many amazing elements to your voice that make you such a unique person to be doing this. The way you do it, the way you deliver the vocal, but I’m always transfixed by what you do and I think it’s really important for country music to have you in it.”
Closing out the night was MaKenzie Thomas from Team J-Hud, and she chose one of Celine Dion’s signature hits, “Because You Love Me.” Encouraging her to come with everything she had, Jennifer said, ‘There is no room for error. All the singing divas will be watching her.”
Earning a standing ovation from the coaches, Jennifer couldn’t wait to speak. “I said all the legends, all the greats, all the vocal divas will be watching, and Kelly was one of them, right,” she said pointing to Kelly who had just released a hearty “Wow!” Jennifer continued, “Just as there is a Whitney, there’s a Mariah, there’s a Celine Dion, there’s a Kelly Clarkson, there’s a Jennifer Hudson… there is a MaKenzie.”
The show definitely ended on a high note, but tomorrow there will be a little heartbreak as two of the contestants will be eliminated from the competition.