McDonough resident Corey Ward, after a virtuoso first audition that led him to Team Kelly Clarkson, was paired with a similar raspy singer-songwriter type in Savanna Woods for the Battle Rounds of “The Voice.” Good news: he passed with flying colors.
Kelly gave them the classic 1977 Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams,” which recently was introduced to a new generation thanks to a viral TikTok video involving a dude on a skateboard swigging cranberry juice to the song.
Corey, who was in a band for many years when he was younger, said he thought the song fit Savanna more than him. “It’s in her wheelhouse,” he said on the show. She on-air said she had sung Stevie Nicks songs before and had been in a band for seven years.
Luis Fonzi, helping out Kelly as a mentor, said Corey has the power and attitude and knows who he is. “He’s a true artist,” Luis said. “I can see him as a frontman of a band right now.”
Corey has suffered some family setbacks recently. His mom had a mini-seizure before his season 19 audition, and his dad had multiple heart attacks prior to his season 20 audition. “This opportunity has been a second chance for me and my family to really grow,” he said tearfully on the show. “It’s been a huge blessing I’ll never forget.”
Kelly said the pair could be part of a good band, that they connected very quickly during rehearsal.
The actual performance went well, with their harmonies blending just right while each highlighting solo moments of note.
Blake Shelton noted a pitchy spot midway but complimented Savanna for her surprising power and Corey for his “weathered” voice and “credible sound and pitch.” Nick Jonas said Savanna is an artist, and he’d be open to seeing her in concert and is curious to see where she goes. He said he felt Corey was tapping something inside that made his performance special. John Legend said both clearly love being on stage and project that love well to the audience. He preferred Corey because of his edge and urgency.
Kelsea Ballerini, subbing in for an ailing Kelly, said she struggled to make the song her own when she sang it with Halsey but felt like they did were able to do so in a way she couldn’t. She ultimately chose Corey. But then she used her “save” to keep Savanna after texting Kelly. So in the end, she didn’t have to eliminate anybody!
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Corey said “Dreams” was a surprise choice. It’s not a song involving a lot of vocal range. Corey described “Dreams” as “a pretty linear song. It has this groovy vibe. Because we’re both such passionate, powerful singers, I was a little shocked.”
But once he absorbed that shock, he figured out that they could make it work, even if he knew instinctively that Savanna could slay it. He just hoped to hold his own.
They came in working as a team and not trying to outshine each other, Corey said, in hopes that someone could get a save or steal, which is ultimately what happened.
They found a way to subtly rearrange the song without totally messing with the bones of a classic. “We did these little civil wars, then let the harmonies do their job,” Corey said. “We then broke down the last chorus to bring on a little of our own flavors. We swelled into each other. We thought we did it justice without ruining the song.”
The fact both are experienced musicians really helped. “We knew how to musically direct this,” he said, “where we wanted to go. We knew how to speak the language to the band. We want a crescendo here; break this down in a higher octave.”
The song has a universal break-up element, too. “Everyone has dealt with some heartbreak including myself,” Corey said. “We want our freedom. We’re exhausted. I tapped into whatever I was feeling about letting go.”
So far, Corey has shown emotional depth in both of his songs on “The Voice” but he plans to go for something sweeter and more delicate in the Knockout Round that leads into the live shows if he gets that far. (The Knockout Round was pre-taped so he already knows the outcome.)
And while they are clichés, Corey said the best bits of advice he’s gotten from Kelly is be true to himself and enjoy himself on stage even amid the strange madness of a reality competition show. In other words, he said, don’t get so much in your head and compare yourself to other artists. Kelly was able to do it in 2002 on “American Idol.” So why not Corey in 2021?
Corey said he’s ready for the live shows. “I’m here to do what I’m meant to do and have fun doing it,” he said. “I’m having a blast!”
WHERE TO WATCH
“The Voice,” 8 p.m. Mondays on NBC and available the next day on Hulu and Peacock
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Credit: Henderson and Sons Funeral Home