On Tuesday night, NBC’s “The Voice” revealed the final four who will compete in next week’s finale: Teen singing prodigy Kennedy Holmes, along with country artists Kirk Jay, Chris Kroeze and Chevel Shepherd.
Exciting, right? Sure — except the narrative that dominated Season 15′s penultimate week had nothing to do with the finalists. Instead, many fans were still riled up about last week’s bizarre situation involving coach Adam Levine, along with his two contestants, DeAndre Nico and Reagan Strange.
If you missed it, both Nico (22-year-old R&B/soul singer) and Strange (14-year-old pop/soul singer) were up for elimination last Tuesday, and had a chance to sing for audience votes for an “instant save.” However, Strange was too sick to perform. After Nico’s performance, Levine made the odd decision to tell viewers (and we’re paraphrasing here) that he loved Nico . . . but would prefer them to save Strange. Because as the father of two daughters, he felt it would be unconscionable not to support “an unbelievably talented little girl right now who is not able to fight for her position on this show.”
Strange wound up winning the instant save, while Nico was eliminated — and fans, to put it mildly, flipped out. Hundreds upon hundreds of social media comments chastised Levine for throwing Nico under the bus, and humiliating him on live television with his speech about Strange.
It inevitably led to a sad, awkward conclusion this week. Instead of addressing the controversy to placate viewers, producers mostly tried to ignore it. On Monday night’s performance episode, Levine vaguely addressed the uproar in a pre-taped conversation with Strange, as they rehearsed her upcoming song. (This was after a segment that showed the two of them volunteering with Toys for Tots to help victims of the California wildfires.)
“It was a strange week. But it’s over now," Levine told her. "DeAndre’s my boy, I love him, we talked. It’s all good. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Those were Levine’s only words on the topic. A few minutes later, producers showed Strange on a video call with Nico, who said: “I called to tell you I love you. And all that extra stuff, don’t worry about it. Do your best and stay positive.”
Off camera, it was a slightly different story. While Nico was gracious last week and wrote an optimistic post on Instagram (“You can never take an L when you’re operating from your heart”), he expressed disappointment with Levine during an interview with 12NewsNow, a local NBC affiliate from his home state of Texas.
“It was just weird because I just felt like — not being rude, I just felt like he sold me out, you know?" Nico said. "And I just don’t respect it. Just being honest. We did our job, sick or not. I just got over laryngitis, and when I came back, I still sang. . . . I know she’s a little kid. But it’s like, man, you could have put in some words for me at all. Like, something.”
While it’s possible that even more people know Nico’s name after the incident, it’s not exactly the most auspicious way to start a singing career — this unhappy topic will almost certainly come up in every interview.
As for Strange, the online backlash was vicious. In the aftermath, she posted a note on Twitter thanking her fans for keeping her on the show, and added, “I love you all, even those who don’t want to be loved. I don’t expect some people to understand. They weren’t there." She also told People magazine that she and Nico are still “super close.”
Unfortunately, Levine’s diehard support wasn’t enough to send Strange to the finale. It may have even cost her votes, as some swore they wouldn’t vote for her after Levine’s stunt.
On Tuesday’s results show, Strange was in the instant save round yet again. Healthy enough to sing this time, she went up against gospel singer MaKenzie Thomas and Holmes. Alas, Holmes won in the landslide, and Thomas and Strange were sent home.
We don’t envy the many interview questions in Strange’s future, or the social media comments (although people should remember she is a blameless teenager). But Levine got to offer a few more remarks Tuesday night; he said he has high hopes for Strange’s career, even though he thought she deserved to be in the finale.
“I want you to understand that this is a crazy show on a crazy stage for a crazy amount of people,” Levine said. "But at the end of the day, I’m nothing but super proud of you.”