The weirdness started as host Carson Daly brought the contestants onstage, and one person was missing: Reagan Strange, the 14-year-old soul-pop singer.
“She’s in the building, not feeling well at the moment, isn’t joining us. But is still here in spirit and part of the show, as for now,” Daly assured the audience. “So we’re thinking of her.”
In most cases, an absence would be unusual, but not a big deal — except that when Daly read the results, Strange was one of the bottom three vote-getters, along with 39-year-old country artist Dave Fenley and 22-year-old R&B-soul singer DeAndre Nico. Because only two singers would be eliminated, all three had a chance to try to save themselves (the show’s “instant save”) by performing one more song, as fans live-tweeted a special hashtag for their favorite.
“Dave, DeAndre and Reagan remain at risk for elimination. And you can only save one of them. Unfortunately, Reagan’s still feeling under the weather, she’s not going to be able to perform tonight.” Daly said gravely. Then, a twist! He clarified the rules: “You’ll still be able to tweet to save Reagan . . . so she won’t perform, but she’s not out of it by a long shot.”
Producers suddenly panned to an anxious-looking Strange, who was standing in a bathrobe backstage, next to her mother. The situation soon became even more odd. Fenley performed Lonestar’s “Amazed” while Nico went with John Legend’s “All of Me,” and the other coaches (Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Jennifer Hudson) offered praise. After Nico’s song, it was time for Levine to offer his thoughts, as he — along with Strange — was a member of Levine’s team. (Fenley was on Shelton’s team.)
“This sucks, man. DeAndre, you’re an exquisite singer. I’m a little confused as to why you’re in the bottom. That perplexes me. But I want to say this,” Levine started. He paused, as he appeared to search for a tactful way to phrase his remarks.
“There is an unbelievably talented little girl right now who is not able to fight for her position on this show. And you were fortunate enough tonight to be able to sing. And man, you sang like a champ,” Levine said. “I can’t sing for Reagan. Reagan has to sing for Reagan, and she’s not here.”
Nico had the expression of someone who could sense things were not about to go well, as his coach seemed to be a bigger fan of his other teammate. The camera panned between Nico and Strange, who was still backstage.
“It’s really, really hard for me not to just — “ Levine stopped. “As much as I urge you all to vote for this man, because he should never have been in the bottom — “ he stopped again. “I don’t know if I have the heart to not tell everyone right now — “ Levine stopped once more, looking frustrated.
Finally, Levine settled on this: “I have a very special relationship with Reagan. And I have two little girls at home. The thought of breaking her heart by not urging everyone to give this girl a shot to go and redeem herself next week would be too far beneath me.”
“I want you to know I love you. I appreciate what you’ve done here tonight, and honestly, I think you should both be there. But I gotta fight for my girl,” Levine told Nico, as Strange started to cry. “And I gotta make sure that I represent her properly in this moment, because she didn’t have a chance to use her voice tonight. So I’m going to use it for her as well as I possibly can to make sure she can make it next week. That’s all I can say. It’s weird.”
It was one of the more awkward television moments we’ve seen in some time. As the show went to commercial, producers briefly showed the live results streaming in, for #VoiceSaveDave, #VoiceSaveDeAndre and #VoiceSaveReagan. Strange and Nico were neck and neck, at 38 percent and 37 percent of the vote, respectively.
A few minutes later, Daly made the announcement: “America instantly saved. . .Reagan Strange!” he yelled. “What a story for Reagan Strange, who was unable to perform, still eligible for your vote, and America puts her through to the semifinals!”
In some ways, it was nice to see a young singer (clearly devastated at her bad luck getting sick) land another shot. Strange was too overcome with emotion to even look at the camera, and her fans were ecstatic.
However, there were quite a few more viewers who were, shall we say, not thrilled that Levine so thoroughly threw one of his team members under the bus on live television. While Nico was gracious and thanked Levine for his support through the season, furious tweets poured in so quickly that it was hard to keep up — “shame on Adam Levine” was a common phrase.
Even John Legend noticed something was up:
So, could “The Voice” turn this into a great publicity stunt and — as some fans are suggesting — bring Nico back next week for a redo? We wouldn’t put it past them.
Either way, producers must be aware of the backlash. (And are hopefully shielding Strange, a teenager who did nothing wrong, from the social media pile-on.) During the episode, after Levine’s comments, Clarkson seemed to sense a storm was about to hit — she quickly jumped in to defend her fellow coach.
“I know Adam and his heart, and I know he loves his team. He feels really bad for Reagan,” she said, adding that Nico “sang the hell” out of his song. “I just wanted to say I know it’s so horrible that Reagan is not able to present herself . . . so please know, that’s where it’s coming from, he’s bummed for her. Everybody did a fantastic job tonight, a really great job.”
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