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'The Voice': Atlanta's Darby Walker, Aaron Gibson try to survive crazy top 20 live show

This was posted Monday, November 7, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Normally, "The Voice" will turn the season's first live show week into a big to do over three days.

But Election Day put a kibosh on that by pre-empting their usual Tuesday show.

So instead, the producers are going to do something a little head spinning: they will air all 20 singers tonight and then eliminate eight of them. America - at least those watching live on the East Coast - will be able to vote in real time to save eight of the singers. The judges will save the other four.

Yes. This voting system is rigged because it's disenfranchising the entire Western half of the country! But relatively speaking, this isn't going to affect our democracy in any way - unlike what happens tomorrow.

In the end, this "Voice" episode will feel rushed because it is rushed. Twenty songs. Eighty five minutes minus commercials. Twenty results, eight eliminations. Host Carson Daly will have to tighten up the pregnant pauses.

There will be 1) very short intro packages for each singer 2) extremely cut-down versions of songs (60-70 seconds maybe) and 3) brief critiques (and since this is "The Voice," let's just say praise) from the judges.

That may not be a terrible thing per se - at least if you have ADHD.

Of the top 20, two have Atlanta ties: Darby Walker grew up here and Aaron Gibson lives here. I've been talking to each of them every step of the way. I spoke to both last Tuseday as they were starting preparations.

Here's Walker's take on things after making it past the Knockout rounds.

On picking the Florence + the Machine song "Shake It Off": "It was a song I really really love. It's so great. You really can't go wrong with it. It was a song I felt I could challenge myself to make sure it was 100 percent my own. I do feel I accomplished that and had a great time performing it... I did feel I told the story and put the point across." [She later added that she does not feel she sounds like lead singer Florence Welch although some folks think that is the case.]

What did guest coaches Faith Hill and Tim McGraw say: "Balance." She had to maintain the integrity of the song while giving it enough of her own spin.

On the two-hour condensed show: "It's going to be so fun and interactive. It's going to be intense. It will be fast moving. Voting will be done through Twitter and the Voice app."

She now lives in Los Angeles. What will her fans there do? "People off Twitter will still be able to vote. They just won't be able to see my performance lives."

Songs will be severely truncated. Did that affect what song she chose? "Yes and no. I always try to choose a song I connect with, a song I can tell a story with. I have to feel something. That's always on top of the list. I like to choose songs people wouldn't expect. [Although arguably, "Shake It Off" was not a shocker.] I try to choose songs people can either love or fall in love with again."

Going live: "I'm so excited. I'm an adrenaline junkie. I love that it's real time."

I talked to her six days before the airing: "I feel super ready already. I'm feeling really comfortable. I'm going to use this time to keep grooming and getting ready. I can't wait. I'm so stoked!"

Aaron Gibson

His strategy going into Knockouts: "At this stage to be honest, everybody is so unbelievably talented. It can go either way. I went into my particular Knockout trying to win. I didn't want to rely on a steal. I left it all out on the table."

On his cover of Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man": "I did my best interpretation of the song. Miley was very supportive of my musical direction. She gave me the win. I couldn't have been mad at the outcome...I didn't want to be put in a box so I've sung three different songs in three different genres. I wanted to see a softer tone me yelling all the time. I felt like it was a good current song I personally liked. I had never sung it before but I always like it when it was on the radio. It was a good decision."

On his Knockout Round rival Josh Halverson, picked up by Alicia Keys in the final steal: "Josh is an amazing artist. He's had some chart success. His 'Whiskey and You" is in the top 20 on the iTunes chart. America loved his performance. I loved his performance. I had nothing but great things to say about that guy. It worked out awesome. Everybody won. We both went in there giving it our all."

On Miley Cyrus as a coach: "She has been absolutely incredible. I can't say enough good things about her. She has taken so much of her personal time. It's very clear to us she really cares. It's an absolute pleasure to work with her."

On the two-hour event tonight: "It will be nuts. It's going to be a crazy event. The performances America will get will be great television for two hours on Monday night."

On the condensed time to impress America: "America has a short-attention span. If you like a song, you'll just need to make sure you deliver the highs and lows in that condensed time and deliver them effectively. You gotta sing with your heart. Song choice is everything."


"The Voice" first season 11 live show, 8 p.m. on NBC on Monday, November 7.



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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.