The Voice Knockout Rounds wrapped Tuesday, but only one contestant was actually eliminated during the hourlong episode. And that goodbye turned out to be one of the saddest of Season 19, when Team Kelly pop-belter Marisa Corvo lost out to country singer Tanner Gomes after performing a song that meant a great deal to her and her difficult career journey.
Marisa chose to cover Cher’s “If I Can Turn Back Time” because the song’s writer and Marisa’s occasional boss, Diane Warren, had championed her when no one else did — and was in fact the person who’d encouraged her to try out for The Voice. “I got dropped from my label when I came out as gay,” said 33-year-old Marisa, an independent artist starting over after retreating from the music business for several years. “[Diane is] a huge reason why I’m fighting for this career again, because she was the first one to believe in me after a really long time. … I’ve been hurt by so many women, and so many no’s in this industry. So, this is my opportunity to show all those people that said no to me that I’m here, and you gotta keep going.”
Diane, who met Marisa in October 2018 and has since brought the struggling singer into the studio and hired her for various gigs and functions, even sent Marisa some video words of encouragement. “Now, you know what you gotta do,” Diane proclaimed. “You gotta win!”
I do wonder what tough cookie Diane thought of Marisa’s version of “If I Could Turn Back Time” — which, unfortunately, effectively thwarted any chances that Marisa had of making it to next week’s Live Playoffs, let alone winning the whole season. I am all for contestants putting their own spin on a song – in fact, I think it’s necessary in order to stand out, and even coach Kelly Clarkson had instructed both Marisa and Tanner to “be themselves, not imitations” — but this was, well, an odd spin. Marisa changed up Diane’s melody so drastically that the Cher hit was almost unrecognizable, and the slowed-down arrangement, which John Legend noted “took a while to find its footing,” sapped the battleship anthem of all its energy and fighting spirit. It just didn’t work as a performance, even if Marisa’s intention was well-meaning and her vocal was beyond reproach from a technical standpoint.
Tanner then did a more faithful version of Tim McGraw’s “Real Good Man,” and while this Rockwellian boy-next-door didn’t quite get into the sexy bad-boy character that Kelly wanted, it was a solid performance — and probably the sort of performance that, during the Live Playoffs, would get votes. John appreciated that Tanner “lit up more and showed more personality,” while Gwen Stefani praised his “cowboy swag.” Even though Blake Shelton, surprisingly, rooted for the more vocally gifted Marisa — which must have given Marisa some validation — Kelly always relishes competing against Team Blake with a country singer, so she went with Tanner, the safer and more obvious choice. Poor Marisa looked positively crushed. She’s a talented woman, and she absolutely should not give up, but she simply took a risk that didn’t pay off this week.
Next was Team Legend’s John Holiday and Cami Clune. I don’t know what John was thinking by pitting his two best singers against each together. First up was Cami, doing Annie Lennox’s version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s of “I Put a Spell on You,” which she hoped would showcase her musical theater background. This too was a risk; Legend worried that the fiery tune might be too much of a departure from Cami’s signature indie-pop sound. But once they redid the arrangement to make it more “haunting and eerie,” it totally worked. It was, in Legend’s words, “artful” and “one of the best performances of this season” — smoldering, kind of goth (right down to Cami’s pointy-clawed manicure and Chanel Vamp lips), and just plain cool. As Kelly put it: “That was intense!”
But then, Holiday upped the intensity even more, with his ambitious, octave-hopping cover of Celine Dion’s version of “All By Myself.” As he put it, “Either I’m going to sink or I’m going to swim ” — and man, he swam. And sang! Relating to the lonely lyrics as a formerly bullied gay kid, and taking his coach’s advice to “think about what Aretha would do with this Celine version,” he delivered a Grammy-level tour de force (Gwen described it as “Olympics coming out of your mouth”) that had Kelly and John L. up on their feet, in shock and awe. (If Jennifer Hudson were still a coach on this show, she surely would have thrown both of her shoes at the stage.) That big money note didn’t even seem real, as in humanly possible. “We’ve never seen or heard someone that sounds like you on planet Earth, out of 7 billion people,” marveled Legend, who was now in the unfortunate position — a position that he’d put himself in – of sending Cami home.
But Cami, unlike Marisa, didn’t go home. Kelly, the only coach with a Steal left on this final Knockouts night, had probably been ready to pounce on whichever contestant Legend foolishly cast aside, so it all worked out. Cami joined Team Kelly... but Legend definitely weakened his team’s ranks with this ill-advised pairing.
And finally, Tuesday concluded with the much-hyped four-way Knockout — sort of the show’s Island of Misfit Toys, similar in intention to the failed Comeback Stage rounds of recent seasons, with four contestants who lost their respective Battle Rounds giving it one last go. With no Saves or Steals left in play, only one of these contestants will advance, via a public vote (the result of which will be revealed on next Monday’s top 17 episode, the first live show of the season).
First to sing was Team Blake’s country belter Taryn Papa, emoting on Faith Hill’s “Cry.” She had someone nice moments, but this truncated version of the song didn’t feature the most powerful, ramped-up moments of the original chorus, so the whole performance felt hesitant and anticlimactic. Blake, perhaps realizing this, rallied his base, declaring, “I’m counting on the country fans out there, to get my girl through for Team Blake!” Based on how past Blake-dominated seasons have panned out, that tactic just might work.
Team Legend’s Julia Cooper then warbled Billie Eilish’s “Wish You Were Gay” — not exactly a fight song or a Save Me song, but one that effectively showcased her artistry, jazziness, and slinky sophistication. She has my vote, but whether America will appreciate her artistry, jazziness, and slinky sophistication remains to be seen. “I’m calling all the country fans, encouraging them to vote. Vote for Julia!” John said, semi-jokingly.
Team Gwen’s Larriah Jackson — at 15, the youngest contestant in the four-way Knockout — held her own with another ambitious song choice, Adele’s “One and Only,” surprisingly pulling it off with her massive vocal range, even if she was a little too smiley and cutesy at times. I’d usually advise singing=show contestants to steer clear of the Adele songbook, but Larriah rose to the challenge.
But the likely winner here will be the only male four-way contestant, Team Kelly’s Groban-esque opera singer Ryan Gallagher, belting Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s “Time to Say Goodbye” in the pimp spot. While Ryan lacked the originality of some of the night’s other contestants, this was the sort of classic performance that will resonate with older and conservative viewers (i.e., the people who still watch regular network television). So, sadly, it will probably be time to say goodbye to Taryn, Julia, and Larriah next Monday. See you then.
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