The Voice 5th Judge: Surprising New Front-Runner Emerges as Fan-Favorite Falters

One act got all four Coaches on their feet with a stunning performance, while another had their Coach in tears after dedicating their performance to them.

The Top 13 laid it all out with emotional dedications as “The Voice” gets poised to lose two more singers this week.

It was a night of tears, as one contestant dedicated their performance to their Coach — and it was so sweet — while another contender’s performance was so mind-blowingly unexpected, it left all the Coaches on their feet, with their jaws firmly on the ground.

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We were surprised that one of our early favorites to win the whole thing might have put their season in jeopardy with a performance that left us feeling nothing at all. At the same time, a couple of others found songs that really meant something to them, and left everyone gobsmacked.

Those are the kinds of moments you wait for watching shows like these, and those are the moments that have Coaches smacking themselves for letting someone go. This week, Kelly went so far as to call herself an “idiot” for letting one powerhouse singer go — but at least she’s still in the competition!

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 11 — and then see if you get it right, i.e. agree with me.

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TOP 13

Ryleigh Plank [Team Ariana]

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(“Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac – 20, Fort Myers, FL) We’re all for making a song your own, but Ryleigh shifted in and out of the familiar pitches of the song in ways that didn’t consistently work. They felt more like her wanting to show that she could wail and hit a big note rather than an artistic choice that meant something to her, and thus the listener. She sounded good in the rhythm, but her chorus work was inconsistent and we weren’t as enamored as we hoped we’d be.

Hailey Mia [Team Kelly]

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(“I’ll Stand by You,” The Pretenders – 14, Clifton, NJ) For the first time this season, we felt like we started to hear the edges of Hailey’s vocal power and range. Granted, she picked a huge vocal song and she handled it more than capably, but it wasn’t as big as the original. It was a sweet dedication to her Coach with some special moments, but it also mostly sat in the same lane and didn’t give us the texture and power and depth we’ve come to expect from her.

Shadale [Team Legend]

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(“Life Is a Highway,” Tom Cochrane [as performed by Rascal Flatts] – 29, Douglasville, GA) We didn’t expect a haunting bridge, but it certainly got our attention. Shadale showed another side to her voice there, as well as in her rock-out moments. We’re not sure she quite had the vocal strength to keep up with her own dancing — we heard her catching her breath here and there — but we appreciated that she came out to show something different. It got better as it went along, and we enjoyed when she was rocking out the rhythm toward the end.

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Lana Scott [Team Blake]

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(“Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw – 29, Chesapeake, VA) A beautiful ending, the only parts we weren’t as enamored with were her softer measures during the opening and toward that ending. Lana’s full voice has a special lilt to it that is so classically country, but it didn’t work on the breathier verses. Once she got past that, though, we began to feel her connection to the lyric and the whole performance was elevated.

Paris Winningham [Team Blake]

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(“What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye – 33, Jacksonville, FL) There was nothing that stood out from this performance, but that’s not necessarily a knock. Paris has a killer voice and he’s been consistently stellar throughout the season. With only two people going home, he should be gone, but with him going first on the night, we’d have liked at least a moment or two where he really grabbed our attention. It was just consistent for him.

Joshua Vacanti [Team Legend]

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(“You Will Be Found,” “Dear Evan Hansen” – 28, Lockport, NY) We love that Joshua is unabashedly himself, a theater kid stepping out onto “The Voice” stage. This performance takes him full circle, but he also smartly picked a song that both suited his personality and is incredibly well known even outside of the theater. His voice is just enormous and he used every bit of it to bring this show-stopping number to the stage. We’re not sure if a pop career is in his future but there’s no reason he couldn’t find a stage somewhere that would embrace him. Maybe one on Broadway?

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Jim & Sasha Allen [Team Ariana]

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(“Your Song,” Elton John – 57/19, Newton, CT) Last week, this act was the Sasha show, but this week was Jim’s time to shine, and Dad came through in a huge way. His voice was so rich throughout, he added the foundation to allow Sasha to soar later. And then, their harmonies were so strong. The whole performance kept things subtle and sweet, but in the best possible way. It was like being wrapped up in a warm aural hug. ON a side note, we had to crack up that Jim ran away from Ariana (unintentionally) trying to hug him live on-air after we just saw him do the same thing during rehearsal. See her, Jim!

Girl Named Tom [Team Kelly]

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(“Dust in the Wind,” Kansas – 20-26, Pettisville, OH) The group let Bekah take the lead more than ever before in this tribute to their grandmother, living with dementia, and she was transcendent in a way we’ve never seen before. Bekah was magical all her own, and with her brothers behind her they managed to create stunning sounds. We weren’t as thrilled with the “O-o-oh” parts as Kelly was, but there’s no denying — thanks to Bekah — the group had a moment tonight.

Gymani [Team Kelly]

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(“Made a Way,” Travis Greene – 23, East Point, GA) We honestly thought Gymani was building to a bigger crescendo with this piece; she seemed to find one in rehearsal; but that’s no knock to what she did deliver. This was definitely a “take it to church” moment, and she confidently took us right there. You could feel the connection she had to the piece and the rising journey she was taking us on. Everything from her stage presence to the backing singers flanking her created that type of moment. It was a great vocal to be sure, we just thought it could have gone a little bigger.

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Holly Forbes [Team Ariana]

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(“The Dance,” Garth Brooks – 31, Killeen, TX) Holly took a beautiful song and managed to make it her own without taking away what makes it special. She carried straight through the first chorus before going a little bigger and a little broader. Every decision felt so intentional, she managed to hint at the size of her voice without really going there — and it was smart not to for the piece. This was a showcase of her heart and emotional connection rather than her power, which can be just as effective. It was a great moment for her.

Wendy Moten [Team Blake]

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(“Blue Bayou,” Roy Orbison [as performed by Linda Ronstadt] – 56, Memphis, TN) Wendy makes it all look so easy, but it’s more a statement to just how incredibly gifted she is as a vocalist. She didn’t even have to pull out any tricks on this song to show us both her tender register, her power and her heart. It’s not a particularly emotional song, but she still had us believing in her conviction with it. Every time she hits the stage, she does it like a pro who’s coming to help these contestants get better.

Jeremy Rosado [Team Kelly]

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(“Because You Loved Me,” Céline Dion – 29, Tampa, FL) Jeremy blew the roof off of the big parts of this song, and then he caressed those final notes so beautifully. He has such sincerity in his performances, you believe every line he sings. In this case, in paying tribute to his father, we know he believed every line he sang, too, and that carried through. It was a beautiful and impactful performance filled with heart, incredible power and range for days.

Jershika Maple [Team Legend]

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(“God Only Knows,” for KING & COUNTRY – 24, Killeen, TX) Jershika clearly feels connected to this song in a way she hasn’t yet in this competition, because this was her most powerfully emotional performance yet. It was so powerful and so emotional, it was almost overwhelming. On top of that, the range she displayed throughout this piece was just crazy. Jershika has always been a bit of a dark horse, good but kind of behind some of the bigger personalities. This week, she made a huge step toward being a front-runner.

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We’re pleased to see one representative in our personal Top 4 from each Coach, as Coach no longer matters. The Bottom 3 will face the Instant-Save vote and only one of them will be saved. No Coach involvement, two will leave the show. So which two?

Interestingly, we also have one representative from each Coach in our Bottom 4 with Ryleigh Park, Shadale, Hailey Mia and Lana Scott. Just above them are Paris Winningham and Girl Named Tom, so it feels like that’s a dividing line as we don’t see either of them going.

Of the four, only Hailey wasn’t a Coach’s Save, but she was an Instant-Save. That means America has been on the fence, at best, about all of them already after the first week of live shows.

If we had to pick someone to eke into safety from the foursome, we suspect it would be Hailey Mia. The Coaches loved her more than we did. A dark horse in this category would be Shadale to avoid the Bottom 3. Either way, though, we don’t see either going home.

For that dubious dishonor, barring a stellar Save-Me performance, we definitely see it coming down to Ryleigh and Lana. Each are in their own lanes, but neither have come through with consistent greatness against stiff competition, and neither has won the hearts of America. Our alternate is that country music fans rally behind Lana and that spells the end for Hailey.

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

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