The Voice Top 20 5th Judge: Blake Plays Favorites, Declares Who He Wants to Win the Whole Show
9th November 2021

The Top 20 hit the stage live for the first time all season, with only 13 advancing — who did enough to move on automatically, who will have to fight in the Wild Card battle Tuesday night?

It was a packed night on “The Voice” with 20 singers hitting the stage before all was said and done. Only 13 will advance after tomorrow’s elimination

The Top 3 from each team will advance automatically. Then, each Coach will pick a Wild Card to compete for a chance to round out the Top 13. Those four artists will be joined by the four Comeback artists from last week.

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That means we won’t get to see Aaron Hines, Samara Brown, Vaughn Mugol and Hailey Green all four compete, even though they were selected for that Comeback chance. That’s because a Twitter poll determined a winner among them and that artist alone will join the Wild Card battle.

In other words, they have to battle their way back twice if they want to make it to next week’s live show — once with the Twitter voters, and then once against four other artists who performed tonight but didn’t score enough of America’s vote to advance automatically. Confused? Yeah, so are we.

At least we know that tonight was a great showcase of a great season, and a testament to Ariana’s skills as a Coach (and draw for contestants). Of the Top 20 artists who made it to the live show, seven of them started off on Ari’s team. That’s an incredible average!

Kelly has five from her starting team still in the competition, while each of the guys have four. But that doesn’t mean Ariana has the strongest team right now. Honestly, it’s hard to say for sure, but we’d definitely argue that Blake might just have the strongest two singers in the competition — we’ll have to see how it all shakes out in the coming weeks.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton. And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from each team worst to first so we can see who emerges as my Top 3 under each Coach — and then see if you get it right, i.e. agree with me.

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Katie Rae

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(“Stormy Weather,” Ethen Waters [as performed by Lena Horne] – 35, Pettisville, OH) She found her moments to show us her power and range, but what we were lacking was passion. It was a strong vocal performance, but surprisingly for Katie, it left us feeling somewhat empty. We’re not sure if she wasn’t connected to the song, but it’s so important to stand out and be remembered at this point, and this was a little safe and boring, to be honest.

Girl Named Tom

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(“Creep,” Radiohead – 20-26, Pettisville, OH) While not the most exciting song to try and win people over, the sibling trio did find their moments here and there. As always, their harmonies were absolutely magical, though we’re not sure Bekah actually hit every note she sought. Caleb was beautifully sinister alone on the opening measures, so he set a great mood. It had a lot of personality, so hopefully it’s enough as we do enjoy them in the competition.

Jeremy Rosado

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(“When I Was Your Man,” Bruno Mars – 29, Tampa, FL) Always one of the richest and most sincere voices on this show. Jeremy’s nerves had him a little sharp in the early going, but by the time he was belting he seemed to find his groove. The thing about Jeremy is he can play it straight, but you can always hear how big his heart is. That alone is enough to score votes. But it helps he’s a memorable and incredibly gifted singer, too.

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(“Say Something,” A Great Big World – 23, East Point, GA) The only thing we didn’t like about this performance was that frill around her waist — it did not complement the outfit at all. Her voice was incredible, though, as was her soulful interpretation of what’s traditionally a pretty quiet song. She filled it with ache and moments of subtle power with that awesome rasp that creeps into her voice. She’s such an exciting artist, and that’s the key — she showed her artistry here.

Hailey Mia

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(“traitor,” Olivia Rodrigo – 14, Clifton, NJ) Holy hell, Hailey just took this round to the next level. That was such a great song choice, something that resonates probably with how big she feels things as a teen. We felt that she had lived this story and really resonated with the lyrics. Plus, she showed off a beautiful falsetto. While hers wasn’t the most powerful on Kelly’s team, this was the most connected performance, and sometimes that means even more. It was stunning.


Hailey and Gymani feel like absolute locks after those stunning performances. After that, things get a little murkier. While Girl Named Tom is something really special in this competition, they didn’t showcase their best tonight. Jeremy, meanwhile, had a palpably emotional performance, so we’d probably put him in the Top 3 (he’s been a sentimental favorite all season, too).

That would leave GNT and Katie to battle it out for Kelly’s vote, and we think she’s going to stick with loyalty and the unique qualities of GNT and sent the trio into the Wild Card round as they’d have a better chance of standing out and making their mark.

If GNT does make it into the Top 3, we fear it would be at Gymani’s expense — for reasons we won’t go into, but you can probably guess and it’s frustrating season after season. If that happens, though, you know Gymani is going to the Wild Card and slaying! Sorry, Katie fans, we just don’t think she made a big enough impact to even compete beyond this.

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(“Love on the Brain,” Rihanna – 29, Douglasville, GA) A strong vocal performance, but we felt that it kind of stayed in the same lane and at the same level from start to finish. There was no build, no dynamic range to show a softer side, a stronger side, a more intimate, angry or anything side. It just came out one way and stayed there. In a competition, that’s a huge risk because you run the danger of being forgettable against so many other singers.

Samuel Harness

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(“So Sick,” Ne-Yo – 26, Fort Wayne, IN) Samuel’s gentler vocal was drowned out by the backing track, which is a shame because it’s just as special as his bigger voice. That raspy texture lives in every facet of his voice, and it draws us into his pain. Interestingly, outside of the chorus, he didn’t have our attention nearly as much as he did during the choruses, which were palpable. This wasn’t his best song choice, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most compelling voices in the competition.

David Vogel

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(“Slow Burn,” Kacey Musgraves – 23, Valhalla, NY) David has this little whine in his voice that suited this cover beautifully. And not just because he’s a male singing a female’s song, but the energy of the piece really felt different in his voice. He’s such an interesting artist; he may not have the biggest voice on the show, but he has some of the most intriguing interpretations, which always makes him someone you anticipate — and that hair!

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Joshua Vacanti

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(“You and I,” Lady Gaga – 28, Lockport, NY) We’re not sure what the audience was all excited about, but Joshua finally found a way to showcase his theatricality in a way that felt palpable, current and believable. He’s always been an interesting presence on this show, but this was the first time we started to get a sense of him as an artist. On top of that, he showed us so many layers to his voice, both in power and range, creating his biggest moment yet.

Jershika Maple

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(“Beggin,” The Four Seasons – 24, Killeen, TX) An unexpected song choice, but Jershika jammed it out and managed to pour a powerful vocal performance into a song that doesn’t really have one written in. She also spent a lot of time in her lower register, which has a very rich and unique texture to it. It was a powerhouse performance with a ton of energy right from the jump and she never once let up.


John really has a balanced team, and after tonight’s performances, we’re less certain than we expected to be. Joshua really stepped up in an interesting way, while it seemed like Samuel faltered on a song that wasn’t as strongly suited to his indie vibe.

We can actually see America rallying behind Joshua, as well as Jershika and probably David. Samuel deserves a spot due to his journey so far, so if he somehow falls short with America, we suspect he’d go over Shadale into the Wild Card round as he is unstoppable on the right song.

As for Shadale, she just didn’t manage to stand out enough against some pretty memorable performances. We suspect she’ll be the odd artist out, even if America does put Samuel through based on his season, as then John would probably send Joshua into battle because of how unique he is, as well.

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Raquel Trinidad

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(“Don’t Know Why,” Jesse Harris [as performed by Norah Jones] – 23, Miami, FL) Raquel had some unexpected pitch issues on this surprising song choice for her. She usually brings so much sass to the stage, so we can appreciate her wanting to showcase this different side to her talent. It’s a very difficult song to stand out on, so she set a big challenge before her. She made it her own, but we’re not sure if she’ll be able to overcome it.

Bella DeNapoli

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(“The Sweet Escape,” Gwen Stefani – 22, Long Island, NY) As much as we respect Bella’s artistry, she actually struggled a bit with her pitch once she decided to start wailing and stray from Gwen’s original melody. We were loving everything at the top of this piece when she was just delivering something fun and different. Turning it into a bunch of vocal runs and big notes took away all of that charm that we were digging.

Jim & Sasha Allen

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(“Hey Jude,” The Beatles – 57/19, Newton, CT) Interestingly, Jim and Sasha were much stronger tonight when they were not singing harmony, as it didn’t seem to come together as strongly as they’re usually capable of delivering. Individually, though, they were magical, with Sasha in particular having several breakout moments. Were those moments enough to overcome the shaky harmonies? Well, maybe. They are a pretty dynamic duo.

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Ryleigh Plank

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(“I’m Your Baby Tonight,” Whitney Houston – 20, Fort Myers, FL) Ryleigh had a sultry purr in her voice we’ve not heard before, and she managed not to get overwhelmed by a Whitney song. She didn’t try to do exactly what Whitney did, but still managed to showcase a lot of power and range. On top of that, her pitch was on point in a very challenging song rhythmically while managing to make us believe what she was singing. She didn’t nail the closing moments, but until that, she was killing it.

Holly Forbes

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(“Torn,” Ednaswap [as performed by Natalie Imbruglia] – 24, Killeen, TX) While Bella tore Gwen Stefani’s song all apart to have nothing but huge runs, Holly surgically operated on this classic to make it her own and showcase her vocals without destroying the original. Instead, she showed her artistry by pouring all of her emotion into a beautiful performance that was mesmerizing from start to finish. It was her best to date.


After that performance, Holly has to be a lock for America’s vote as she dominated Ariana’s team. We also have a feeling that Ryleigh and Jim & Sasha will pick up that love from America. If that’s the case, there’s no way Ariana lets Bella go without a fight.

Now, it’s also possible that Bella nabs some love from the audience for all those big notes — which we thought were a bit much and all over the place — in which case we think Ryleigh might go. They are the two who will probably compete for votes as they gave something similar; we just think Ryleigh gave it stronger.

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Lana Scott

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(“Next Girl,” Carly Pearce – 28, Chesapeake, VA) The last country singer in the competition, which should help her in the vote, Lana gave a vocal that wasn’t her strongest, but still did a good job of delivering the attitude of the song. This is a storytelling piece that has a tinge of bitterness in it, and Lana’s voice is perfect for that. She’s such a quintessential country vocalist that even an off-night might not keep her from advancing.

Peedy Chavis

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(“Proud Mary,” Creedence Clearwater Revival – 19, Lawrenceville, GA) Another throwback song and performance, but at least this time we didn’t feel like Peedy was Elvis-ifying his performance as he’s done every round before this. On top of that, he really does have a good voice to go along with the most energetic stage presence in the competition. Is it too kitschy, though, or will audiences connect?


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(“Woman,” Doja Cat – 20, Minneapolis, MN) The performance got a lot more interesting after the rap breakdown, but we weren’t as into that big wail later on. Overall performance and stage presence were on point, but vocally this spent a little too long in the same pocket, even if she got all the Coaches on their set. It was a solid vocal and a breakout moment for her as a potential pop star, we just wish more of it could have been like the back half.

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Paris Winningham

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(“I Wish It Would Rain,” The Temptations – 32, Jacksonville, FL) Every lyric is delivered with such intention, Paris seems to savor each word. After a performance that left us breathless in the last round, he proved once again why he’s one of the best this competition has to offer. He makes it look so easy, but he’s giving world-class, pro-level vocals every time he hits the stage, making even an old classic like this sound fresh and exciting. That’s how you do it!

Wendy Moten

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(“I Will Always Love You,” Dolly Parton [as performed by Whitney Houston] – 56, Memphis, TN) If you want to prove you have the biggest voice in the world, you take on this song. Wendy did just that and she just did that! There were a few bits of flavor in there to make it her own, but mostly she stayed true to the original and just let her incredible vocal power and range soar to the point this could have been her original song and not a cover. That is how you make a statement!


“I’ve been doing this for 21 seasons now as a Coach, and there is nobody that I want this more for, ever, than you. You deserve this!” Blake told Wendy, and who are we to argue. This is one of the most seasoned and incredible artists we’ve ever seen on this or any show, so she’s a lock as far as we’re concerned.

We’d put Paris right up there with her, as he’s the strongest male vocalist of this season — Blake really did luck out — which leaves us with one more slot from America. Honestly, even though we don’t think it was her best night, we think being the only country artist will be enough for Lana to push forward.

That leaves Peedy and Libianca to face the Wild Card, and we just have a feeling that as much as he loves his throwback artist, Blake loves Libianca’s passion even more, so it’ll be her that gets that second chance.

“The Voice” continues Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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