by Lyn Jensen
With the Season 11 finale of The Voice airing in two weeks, the field of ten singers is starting to separate into favorites and weak links. Two contestants will be cut this week, and I’m guessing that means four will be cut next week, leaving a final four. The numbers may shift a little during the final two weeks, but that’s the rough outline of what’s coming.
If last week’s songs became an unintentional night of American legends, Monday’s performances unintentionally divided mostly between singers who revived eighties’ hits and singers who revived–something else:
1. Billy Gilman (Team Adam): There are nights when so many singers pick religious material that The Voice begins to resemble a revival meeting. This evening Gilman proved to be one of those singers. He and Adam wanted to go back to Gilman’s country roots so they picked Martina McBride’s “(Dream it) Anyway” which is heavy on prayer references. Blake, Miley and Adam all agree, however, that the performance showed off Gilman’s vocals (they throw around words like “incredible” and “remarkable” and “event”) and he could win the season.
2. Courtney Harrell (Team Blake): Harrell is one of the night’s singers who flashes back to the eighties, bringing a fresh soulful flavor to Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” (no peekaboo costumes or naval props, however). Blake says when he chooses a song for her, he just picks the hardest song to sing. Alicia says she likes Harrell’s ability to “take the expected and turn it on its head.” Blake critiques, “Your stage presence and personality came out.”
3. Josh Gallagher (Team Adam): Following up last week’s energetic performance, Adam says his team’s hardcore country singer is one of the better performers left in the competition. Coach and singer repeat last week’s formula, this time choosing Tim McGraw’s “Real Good Man,” enabling Gallagher to do a guitar-slinging crowd-pleasing show, not just a song. Alicia comments Gallagher is “controlling the energy in yourself” with this performance. Adam’s unrestrained, declaring, “Tonight a country star was on that stage!”
4. Aaron Gibson (Team Miley): After being in the bottom two and getting a Twitter Save twice, coach and singer want to change their formula–try something fun instead of dark. Gibson sings Elton John’s “Rocket Man” but in an alt-rock style, as if the seventies’ hit were being revived by Dave Matthews. The problem is, Elton’s seventies-era style was more bluesy, and Gibson’s not a bluesy singer. Miley and Adam both ramble on after the performance, saying many nice things but not much in the way of critique. (Maroon 5 performed this evening, and Adam may have been on a performance high.)
5. Christian Cuevas (Team Alicia): Cuevas re-interprets Lady Gaga’s ballad “A Million Reasons” as a religious song. The result is an uneasy mash-up of love song and spiritual. It’s getting late in the competition and I’m still waiting for Cuevas to give us something with a romantic Latin jazz flavor–his best bet to get votes. Unless the Christian voting bloc gets involved, I don’t think he’s going to get many votes with this performance.
6. Austin Allsup (Team Blake): Allsup goes eighties with a county-flavored “I Ain’t Missin’ You.” Blake says this song selection is meant to show a softer side. The effect of Allsup’s Seger-like voice, deftly handling the soulful heartbreak ballad, is stunning. Miley says it’s one of her favorite performances. Blake raves, “Your personality comes out on stage … range and power … a classic song, makin’ it your own.”
7. We (Team Alicia): We (pronounced Way) McDonald becomes the third singer to turn this evening’s broadcast into a revival meeting. She brings operatic and gospel overtones to the old jazz standard, “God Bless the Child.” Her singing and speaking have both improved throughout this show, and this performance is her best yet. Even host Carson Daly observes the crowd was enamored by how much she brought to the song. Alicia says it “shows so many sides to who you are,” an opera side, a jazz side, a pop side, and so on.
8. Brendan Fletcher (Team Adam): Attempting to show a softer side, this season’s rocker is mismatched with Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” He’s more of a belter and the song’s not a belter-type song.
9. Sundance Head (Team Blake): Again The Voice turns into a religious broadcast. Head double-times his way through “Me and Jesus” and it does nothing to show off his vocals. Given the strength of the competition and how close to the finale, it’s a poor decision. (Of course the Heartland Christian voting bloc is downloading all the night’s religious performances on iTunes this morning, but that may say more about who downloads than who votes.)
10. Ali Caldwell (Team Miley): Caldwell may finally have found just the right song and style. Coach and singer want to go back to basics–and for them, that’s back to the seventies and Nilsson’s “Without You.” Caldwell draws heavily from Mariah Carey’s version, and it’s the big diva moment of the night (and the biggest voice of the night, according to Miley). It’s the performance I find myself most wanting to hear again this morning.
A peek at the iTunes chart shows Aaron Gibson and Courtney Harrell are the least popular downloads, but last week Ali Caldwell’s downloads were next to none, and she had no problem advancing.
Favorites (based on entire season): Ali Caldwell, We McDonald, Josh Gallagher, Austin Allsup, Billy Gilman.
Weak links: Aaron Gibson, Courtney Harrell, Christian Cuevas.
I’d like to see the show go back to the slower cut-two-at-a-time pace of several earlier seasons, rather than rushing to cut half the field in the final two weeks. Maybe next season?