‘The Voice’ voters go ‘straight down the middle’ with disappointing first live results of Season 22

Bryce Leatherwood, Sasha Hurtado, Kevin Hawkins, and Kate Kalvach await their fate on ‘The Voice’ Season 22’s top 16 live results show. (Photo: NBC)

Tuesday brought The Voice Season 22’s top 16 results show — the season’s first live results show — and for the first half of the episode, there were few surprises. In fact, if I may gloat for a moment, I predicted 10 of the top 12 contestants correctly, albeit with the voting order slightly different for John Legend’s team.

It was only when it was time to fill the top 13 round’s final spot — via a real-time, public-voted Instant Save sing-off among the remaining four contestants — that the episode became unpredictable.

So, at the start of the evening, host Carson Daly explained that each team’s two vote-getters, based on Monday’s top 16 performances, would advance, after which each coach would save a third artist. For Team Blake, America voted for alternative singer-songwriter Bodie and country heartthrob Brayden Lape, as I’d predicted, although it was a bit of a surprise when Blake Shelton then chose to save teen pop singer Rowan Grace over “straight down the middle ” country crooner Bryce Leatherwood, who Blake had been so certain would make the top 13. But Blake revealed that he’d strategically based this decision on “who’d gone through already,” so maybe he thought Bryce and Brayden would cancel each other out in future votes. Or, maybe, just maybe, Blake was simple that sure that (spoiler alert) Bryce could win the Instant Save.

For Team Legend, America rightfully voted through deserving teen diva Parijita Bastola (as I had predicted) and rock showboater Omar José Cardona (John was right about that result; I was wrong). John then saved “The Velvet Powerhouse,” Kim Cruse, of course — and since I’d assumed that America would vote for Kim’s dynamite Aretha Franklin cover, Team Legend’s top three lineup basically ended up as I’d predicted anyway.

As for Team Gwen, America voted for new-school song stylist Kiqué (he seemed shocked, but I certainly wasn’t) and old-school soul belter Justin Aaron, just as I’d called it. It was also no surprise when Gwen Stefani saved her much-adored mini-me “muffin,” 19-year-old pop starlet Alyssa Witrado — even though her recently stolen contestant, Kevin Hawkins, with whom she obviously shared a less solid bond, had delivered the vocally stronger performance Monday.

And that left new coach Camila Cabello and her team. America (and I) got it right by picking country-rock badass Morgan Myles and cool cat Devix, and while I was pleased (and unsurprised) that Camila saved dynamite showman Eric Who, aka the self-proclaimed star of The Eric Who Showmy heart went out to former frontrunner Kate Kalvach, whose Monday performance had been derailed by technical issues that were in no way her fault, which she had handled like a true pro.

But all was not lost yet for Kate — or for Bryce, Kevin, or Team Legend’s Sasha Hurtado — as they sang for redemption and a wildcard spot in the top 13, all doing tunes of their own choosing. I thought Bryce going with “Let Me Down Easy” — the Billy Currington song, not the Chris Isaak one, which would have been a lot more interesting — was an odd choice for a save-me song. It was hardly a vocal showcase, and the sentiment almost seemed defeatist, as if he’d expected to go home. I figured this, plus the fact that he was singing in the disadvantaged first spot, meant that Bryce would go home But (spoiler alert) I should have never under-estimated this show’s devoted country/Blake-fan voter base. “I wasn’t too stressed about putting Bryce in this situation,” Blake asserted.

Sasha’s cover of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” was a great fight anthem, and her coach John told her, “I loved that you picked this song about resilience!” It was a tricky song, very wordy, and there were moments when Sasha clearly struggled to keep up, but she really nailed it at the end as her confidence grew. It probably wouldn’t be enough to save Sasha from elimination, but John praised her for “never being afraid of the moment — you always rise to the occasion.”

And so, it seemed that it would all come down to Kevin and Kate. It seemed that way, anyway.

Kevin’s choice to do Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” was risky, albeit an on-brand one… but man, did he ever pull it off! This was the most exciting performance of the night, a whole vibe. It was obvious that Kevin really wantedthis victory, and he got deeper and deeper into the groove as he worked that flexible falsetto and worked the crowd like a true star. And the crowd loved it, with even all four coaches giving him a standing ovation. “Wow, the room is exploding,” raved Gwen, who surely must have been second-guessing her decision to save the undercooked Alyssa over the seasoned Kevin. “That was so incredible. Everyone is blown away by you. I can’t even talk, it’s so loud in here right now!”

Kate went last — historically the best Instant Save position — and while Miley Cyrus’s 2010 movie theme “When I Look at You” may not have been the best fight-song choice, and Kate’s performance wasn’t as daring or fiery as Kevin’s, there it was no doubt that Kate had the best vocal of the night. Her bell-clear tone was gorgeous, and this time, her redemptive performance went off without a hitch. “Kate, oh my God! Everybody freaked out. I choked up. Everybody choked up,” Camila gushed. “You have one of the best voices in this entire season.” Later, Camila even declared that Kate had “one of my favorite voices of all time.”

But apparently America disagreed, and the voters at home went “straight down the middle” for… Bryce, of course. Bryce actually gave the weakest performance among these four contestants, but this sort of disappointing result seems to occur every season with Blake’s team; perhaps this result wasn’t so unpredictable after all. It’ll be interesting to see if average country singers fare this well, and coast though this easily, once Blake leaves The Voice after Season 23.

But in the meantime, Season 22’s top 13 — Bryce included — will be back next Monday to compete again. See you then.

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