by Lyn Jensen
After Austin Allsup was voted off last week, I was tempted to add this season of The Voice to things that make 2016 a garbage fire. I was prepared to vote for him as season 11 champ, but Team Blake lost both him and Courtney Harrell. At the same time Team Miley’s soft-voiced Aaron Gibson squeaked by with the Twitter Save for the third time in a row. His fans may not vote much, but they sure can tweet.
It’s only another week ’til the finale, though, and there are still a few singers I want to see do well, so I watched once again:
1. Christian Cuevas (Team Alicia): After doing a spiritual performance that got a lot of downloads last week, Cuevas returns with a gospel song, partly in Spanish. If Christian voters are making up a substantial block, he could make the final four. Adam comments, “No one else in this competition allows to wear their emotions on their sleeve like you do.”
As American Idol used to do sometimes, the contestants are paired for duets: We (Ms. Flinty Alto) and Aaron (Mr. Aspirate Voice) are the evening’s first pairing and I have no idea what they’re singing. “Four Five Seconds,” what’s that?
2. Ali Caldwell (Team Miley): We and Ali are the last female vocalists and the last soul singers left. Miley’s talking away about how this week’s song choice is “I Will Always Love You,” how it’s associated with Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston. (Not a word about Linda Ronstadt–she also turned it into a hit.) This song is very familiar–I know every note of it–and it makes Ali’s voice sound small. It’s like she’s only singing half the notes, the rest she’s faking. The performance is more like a run-through. Alicia and Miley gush afterward about such a perfect performance, but it wasn’t.
3. Brendan Fletcher (Team Adam): Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” is a song about an overdose, and Fletcher sings it for a friend who died recently. Adam thinks it’s the perfect “emotional choice” after last week, a chance for Fletcher to embrace “the tender side of who he is.” They try a bluesy-er arrangement, but Fletcher only sings about half of it right. Just like Caldwell’s performance, this sounds more like a run-through. Blake suggests because Fletcher has a gravelly voice, he next try a Michael McDonald song, but that strikes me as not much of a compliment.
Second duet: The two country singers, Sundance Head and Josh Gallagher, throw a curveball–instead of a hardcore Nashville country song, they go bluesy with Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright.” They are two of the best singers left.
4. We (Team Alicia): I’m still waiting for We to come up with a song that truly showcases her rich alto. (“God Bless the Child” came closest.) “Scars You’re Beautiful” isn’t it–instead it’s a contemporary rocker that requires a different type of vocals. The two judges who comment heap praise what they hear anyway. “What a We tour would look like!” raves Miley. Alicia adds, “Witnessing the growth of a star!”
5. Aaron Gibson (Team Miley): Out of all the songs Miley could’ve picked for a “big classic hit that everybody at home can sing along to,” she comes up with “Everything I Do I Do It For You.” Not only has Bryan Adams had hits that better fit Miley’s description, so have several dozen (hundred?) other stars. She thinks it’s going to keep Aaron from needing the Twitter Save on the results show tonight. I’m not so sure–it may even keep him below the cut line. He’s applying his soft (if powerful) aspirate voice to a nineties’ power ballad. Either this is the week his luck runs out, or he’s in the final four. (It makes me think of Blake’s comment about Michael McDonald–and Aaron would be a better fit for a McDonald song than Fletcher would.)
Third duet: Christian Cuevas turns out to be a Billy Gilman fan, and the two have become good friends. They show they both have power ballad-singing voices, but “Unsteady” isn’t a strong enough song for them.
6. Josh Gallagher (Team Adam): “Danny’s Song” (composed by Kenny Loggins, a big seventies’ hit for Anne Murray) doesn’t need much to be countrified, but Adam suggests adding fiddle and steel guitar to make it more country anyway. Gallagher is able to make it completely different from either Loggins or Murray. “I know you know you nailed that,” raves Adam. “Best of the night so far!”
A Bryan Adams song selection that makes sense: Brendan and Ali team for the night’s fourth/final duet, “It’s Only Love,” originally a vocal event for Bryan Adams and Tina Turner. The contestants sound better here than they did during their solo performances.
7. Sundance Head (Team Blake): Did I hear correctly? Did Blake make a rehearsal/practice tape of the Judds’ 1995 hit, “Love Can Build a Bridge,” for Sundance? How about hearing that performance? Sundance is one of this season’s contestants whose appeal goes beyond “the voice,” he more closely fits what American Idol used to look for. He sounds splendid–except for the parts where the arrangement gets too overpowering. Blake is so impressed with his one remaining team member, he raves about the performance “blows my mind” and “so much passion” and “could not have been better.”
8. Billy Gilman (Team Adam): Billy and Adam agree on a Celine Dion song, “I Surrender,” that’s “Celine but not already so Celine.” Adam advises, “Get lost in it … rock it.” Billy agrees there’s a rock element, it’s an epic song, the chords are epic. Adam says there’s a place for Billy in today’s music because “most of the people that do like what he does are women.” It’s an epic performance, Billy nails it, the audience loves it, and the host Carson Daly announces, “That’s how you close the semi-finals!” Adam gets a minute to comment before sign-off, and he says the coaches (judges) had looks of shock and amazement, adding, “The length of the notes you hold out is unbelievable.” He also says he’s glad Billy’s act followed Sundance’s.
Without peeking at the iTunes charts, I’m going to predict that Sundance Head, Billy Gilman, Josh Gallagher are three of the final four. You decide: will Aaron Gibson get one more Twitter Save or will Christian Cuevas sneak into that fourth position?
After peeking at the iTunes charts, I see Sundance, Billy, Josh, and Christian made top ten. Gibson is so far back of the pack that Brendan or We may nudge past him, but I still think, against either of those, the Twitter Save will go to Christian. We’ll see.