As the countdown to the twelfth Voice champion began with the top twelve contestants singing for votes on Monday night, Shania Twain made an appearance as a celeb guest judge/advisor. I’m not sure if she was just for the top twelve, or if she’s going to be a fifth judge for the remainder of the season. Maybe she’s in line to replace Blake when the country judge takes a break?
Seeing/hearing the top twelve singers provided an overview of their strengths and weaknesses:
1. Jesse Larson (Team Adam): Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” is performed so often on these TV talent shows, it’s tempting to ask, “Didn’t Bob Dylan ever write anything else?” Maybe getting clearance for it is easy, or something. Larson tries to copy Adele’s light romantic singing when he probably should have aimed for Garth Brooks (or even Dylan’s half-squeak). Adam calls Larson “the best pure singer in this competion” but I’d say his weaknesses showed.
2. Mark Isaiah (Team Adam): Shania thinks Isaiah’s adorable and has a natural star quality. This season’s aspiring teen idol brings a semi-acoustic flavor to the Drake hit, “One Dance.” Teen idol types don’t tend to do well with TV voting demographics, however.
3. Stephanie Rice (Team Alicia): So far tonight we’ve seen singers showcasing their weaknesses, and Rice continues the trend. She needs a dark and haunting song, and “White Flag” just doesn’t bring out her dark and haunting quality. The judges talk afterward about crying and emotion and the “purest singer on this show” but I didn’t hear it.
4. Troy Ramey (Team Gwen): With Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” Ramey is the fourth singer tonight who showcases his weaknesses. He just doesn’t bring out the heartbreak in this heartbreak song–he needs some Eagles or CS&N instead.
5. Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake): So far the best performances tonight have been from the teens–Isaiah and now Moulden. Blake’s assignment: Linda Ronstadt’s “Heat Wave.” It’s a fun song with country, soul, and rock overtones. What a difference a song choice makes! Now it’s a matter of how much of a teen demographic will show up in the vote.
6. Chris Blue (Team Alicia): At last, a front-runner that sings like it! Blue sings Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” as a soft soulful story.
7. Lauren Duski (Team Blake): Of course Blake’s one remaining country singer is going to do well. That’s especially true when she cultivates the Heartland Christian voting demographic, wringing every bit of spirituality from Lee Ann Womack’s “Lord, I Hope this Day is Good.”
8. Lilly Passero (Team Adam): Shania should know how to advise someone to sing “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” She advises Passero to combine soulful sultry verses with pure pop choruses. As a real-life La-La Land singer-actress-waitress, Passero has one of the better backstories in this competition, and one of the better voices. She isn’t a brassy, showy singer–but she’s charming and understated and full of grace, and can act the song as well as sing it. The one drawback is–she’s not Shania. However, Shania approves of the result, “You really do have the sass.” If Adam coaches Passero as well as he coached Tessanne Chin, she’ll be a star long after the show’s over.
9. Brennley Brown (Team Gwen): Linda Ronstadt’s “A Long Long Time” would appear to be a good song for country teen Brown–but in performance, it turns into a showcase for her weaknesses. Her thin young voice just isn’t up to the melody. Gwen thinks it was perfect and says she’s been listening to country music to try and find songs for Brown. You don’t have to get very far into country to get to Ronstadt, so maybe Gwen should go deeper.
10. TSoul (Team Blake): Being a You Tube star, TSoul has a ready-made base of TSouldiers that should keep him in the competition for a while, but the R&B field this season is especially stiff. He sings “Always on my Mind,” and it showcases his strengths–something several other contestants failed to do this evening. Blake likes it, saying, “No matter what song it is, he makes it his own” and “I’ve never seen anybody get lost in a song like you do.”
11. Hunter Plake (Team Gwen): It’s possible to see where this season is going. Plake fits the mold of so many winners of The Voice and American Idol. Nice decent Heartland just-plain folks–some a little quirky–who get the majority of mid-America’s vote (and downloads) and then, more often than not, vanish from the cultural radar. (Sometimes they even vanish from the Internet.) Tonight Plake sings “Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used to Know,” a staple of these singing contests. I’ve heard it done better, but he hits high notes and shows some angst and probably captivated his target demographic.
12. Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia): Some of the top contestants this season are from the teen demographic, then there are the more mature and experienced singers like Ferguson. She shows her strengths with the classic R&B soul hit, Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You.” Shania compares her to Gladys Knight. Once again we see a little of Tessanne Chin’s type of appeal.
Without peeking at the iTunes charts, I’m guessing Troy Ramey’s in the most trouble. Tonight one singer will be eliminated, and next week we’ll hear the top eleven sing.