Kelly Clarkson returns to ‘The Voice’ days after surgery

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Clearly Kelly Clarkson wasn’t kidding when she once sang, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” On Monday, the “Broken Beautiful” coach returned to The Voice’s live top 13 night less than a week after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, while still struggling through a difficulty recovery.

Last week, Kelly revealed on Twitter that the day after hosting the Billboard Music Awards on May 1, she “broke down in tears after the show from pain” and “flew home directly after the event” to have surgery. And on Sunday she tweeted, “Recovering after surgery super duper sucks. Turns out I don’t ‘rest’ well (so bored), pain meds make me feel a different kind of horrible to where I question if I’d just rather feel the pain instead, and two out of the three scars feel as if Lord Voldemort is always near.”

But Voice viewers who don’t follow Kelly on social media would have never known about her ordeal — because, true professional that she is, Kelly put on a brave, smiling face and never acknowledged that she was in any pain. Sure, some fans did notice that she was featured less on Monday’s episode, but that could’ve just been because her team was almost entirely wiped out last Tuesday. Well, at least with only two contestants in the top 13 (compared to her rival Blake Shelton’s six), Kelly had less to do, so didn’t have to exert herself too much this week.

And now, on to this week’s top 13 performances. Get well soon, Kelly!

Gyth Rigdon (Team Blake), “Nobody But Me”

Gyth already seems like a lock to win Season 16, since he was last week’s most-streamed contestant on Apple Music and he’s repped by this series’ most popular coach. But just in case, doing an actual song by his coach was a pandering, seal-the-deal move. I preferred Gyth last week, when he was more emotional and raw, but then again, this week’s theme was fans’ songs picks — so I guess this is what viewers want from Gyth. Go figure. This performance was unremarkable, but I am sure Gyth will keep playing it safe — and playing to Blake’s base — as he predictably sails through to the finale.

Kim Cherry (Team Blake), “Whatta Man”

Again with the gimmicky novelty-rapping! Kim actually possesses a strong voice, but you’d never know it from how much she relies on her goofy party trick. This performance was vivacious, confident, and committed, but it was way more Salt-N-Pepa than En Vogue — featuring hardly actual singing. Kelly noted that if Kim moves on, she’d like to see Kim sing a ballad next week. My guess is Kim will miss Kelly’s point and end up doing LL Cool J’s “I Need Love,” but we shall see.

Jej Vinson (Team Kelly), “Close”

Kelly had to save Jej last week, but she still seemed to believe in him, declaring, “Jej is gonna blow people’s minds this week!” She had him start this sexy Nick Jonas slow-jam on the piano, and it was a major improvement over his shaky performances of the past two weeks. Jej was smooth and in tune. He didn’t blow my mind, but he did demonstrate why Kelly gave him another chance.

Andrew Sevener (Team Blake), “She Got the Best of Me”

Andrew’s vocals were muddled in the mix at first, but his performance of this Luke Combs hit was passionate and professional. This week, I surprisingly preferred him over Gyth.

Oliv Blu (Team Blake), “Smooth Operator”

OK, this song choice was genius. The fans got this one just right. Oliv was like a baby Sade, so sultry and smoky and classy, serving drama and face. Her styling was on point too. This was a crazysexycool performance. “This is not only the voice. This is the hair. This is the look. It’s everything,” gushed John Legend, admitting that he now regrets giving Oliv up in the Battles. Yep, John definitely blew it. I hope America doesn’t blow it too, and Oliv gets the votes — unlike last week, when Blake had to save her.

Dexter Roberts (Team Blake), “Something Like That”

Oh look, yet another Team Blake performance! Monday sure was looking like The Blake Shelton Show. On the CMT Network. Anyway, this was a fun performance of Tim McGraw’s uptempo hit, as Dexter played to the crowd — but it wasn’t all that memorable, and all that moving around in the audience compromised his vocals. But I am sure Dexter will skate through. I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of Blake’s country contestants ended up in the top eight, really.

Shawn Sounds (Team Legend), “A House Is Not a Home”

Slaying the Luther Vandross version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s classic ballad, Shawn earned the first standing ovation of the evening and drew raves on Twitter. I loved that he held back, carefully and tastefully choosing his runs and big moments rather than over-embellishing and showing off. This performance was elegant. “That was your best vocal of the entire show, and the best of the night,” said Adam Levine. “That was one of the best performances anybody has done in this competition this season,” added John.

Celia Babini (Team Legend), “Shallow”

I’ve been waiting for someone to do this A Star Is Born Oscar/Golden Globe/Grammy-winner on a singing competition, and I’m frankly surprised it took this long. It was actually worth the wait. The theatrical, moody ballad was a perfect fit for the quirky Celia, who was giving me Ally Maine vibes. Celia’s performance wasn’t perfect — she floundered in the beginning — but she embodied the song’s wild spirit, so much so that she was the first Voice contestant to crowd-surf since Kat Robichaud sang AWOLNATION’s “Sail” in Season 5. And that silver tuxedo Celia’s mother designed for her was the best Voicestage outfit since Chloe Kohanski’s lightning-bolt Bowie suit in Season 13. Celia is a bit messy and unhinged, but in a fascinating, can’t-look-away way — like a true rock star. She’s far from the shallow now.

LB Crew (Team Adam), “I’ll Make Love to You”

LB’s interpretation of Boyz II Men’s seduction song lacked fire and intensity; I wasn’t convinced, and I definitely wasn’t seduced. There were some nice runs and nice one falsetto power note — the four-chair contestant can definitely sing. But LB barely made it into the top 13 at all (he was cut during the Cross-Battles, then brought back in a surprise twist last week), and I don’t think this was enough to keep him in the competition.

Mari (Team Adam), “Foolish”

Adam saved Mari last week, so he did at least one unfoolish thing this season. Mari is such a little star, and she dug deep with this sexy, slinky Ashanti song. Vocally, this was her finest performance yet, and she was completely committed. “I think this woman is a superstar. She has arrived,” said Adam, telling her, “You’re an artist. You’re the only person where you get up there and your own thing. You should win this show.” I don’t think Mari will win, but I do hope we see more of her this season. She is one of the few actually interesting contestant left in the game.

Carter Lloyd Horne (Team Blake), “Let It Go”

Carter did Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” last Monday, so I appreciate that he went more current, and more genuinely heartbreaking, with this week’s James Bay cover. Stripping it back, performing with just an acoustic guitar, he proved that sometimes less really is more. I was immediately drawn in by Carter’s quiet intensity and hushed delivery. Carter may be my new favorite.

Rod Stokes (Team Kelly), “When a Man Loves a Woman”

Rod serenaded his sobbing wife tonight, so that alone will keep him safe. But this really was a magnificent performance. Rod’s voice was so commanding and pure and powerful, cutting through everything. The mood instantly lifted in the room; even the ailing Kelly got a burst of energy and was up on her feet during most of this song. “I was thinking, ‘Damn it, this guy used to be on my team,’” grumbled Blake. I understand his regret. Blake may have a lot of country dudes this season, but he let the wrong one go.

Maelyn Jarmon (Team Legend), “The Scientist”

However, if there’s one non-Team Blake contestant with a true shot of winning Season 16, it’s this spectacular piano diva. Her Coldplay cover was dramatic but tender, passionate but always pitch-perfect. This felt like a finale moment. “Oh my God, America,” raved her proud coach. “I think she’s the best singer in the competition. That skill level is not normal! That skill level is beyond! We’re all blessed to hear you.”

So the show is now racing to the finale in just two weeks’ time, with five contestants going home all at once on Tuesday. The top seven vote-getters will automatically advance, the three with the fewest votes will instantly go home, and the middle three will sing for the Instant Save. I’m not sure how all this will all play out, but I predict four of the five castoffs will be LB, Jej, Mari, and Celia, sadly. So, get ready for more of The Blake Shelton Show! See you Tuesday.

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