by Lyn Jensen
The Voice is cutting its field in half this week, with four contestants, regardless of team, advanced to the finals next week. If Randy Jackson had been one of the judges Monday night, he would’ve been telling all eight how they were in it to win it. Pink was celebrity guest advisor. Now for the music:
1. Shalyah Fearing (Team Adam) has one of the three weakest voices of the final eight. Pink advises her not to overuse her rasp, but she gets raspy and loud anyway. She’s more about drama than vocal on the Dreamgirls song, “I’m Telling You I’m not Going.” (What happened to Adam’s plan to have her sing “No More Drama,” by the way? Did he not get clearance, or did he reconsider?) Pharrell finds her to be “sweet” and “tender” but I don’t. Gwen says, “You were singing for your life” and Adam declares, “the moment we’ve been wanting to have,” but there are just too many bigger voices for her to elbow past.
First duet: The Voice is doing much the same thing American Idol used to do–pair up contestants for duets in the even-numbered middle rounds. Country-flavored Alisan Porter and Adam Wakefield sound beautiful together on “Angel from Montgomery.” The host, Carson Daly, calls the performance amazing.
2. Paxton Ingram (Team Blake) has another of the three weakest voices remaining in the competition. Blake assigns him Meatloaf’s “I’ll do Anything for Love But I Won’t do That” because “it’s got the dynamics Paxton likes to play around with.” The change of style (less churchy R&B, more like a rock frontman) is a wise move but he, too, probably won’t elbow past the bigger voices heading for the finals. Pharrell notes he took the next step, and advises him to get some experience with Broadway, and “it’d be interesting to see you do those big rock tunes, too.”
3. Laith Al-Saadi (Team Adam) attempts to break out of his classic blues-rock groove by taking an Adele song (“One and Only”) and making it his own. He struggles with some of the notes, so Pink advises him, “clench your butt cheeks.” (Is this Pink or Miley Cyrus talking?) I don’t see or hear anything other than great about his performance, but this morning’s iTunes chart indicates his risk may not have paid off. He didn’t get as many iTunes downloads as he usually gets, so he may be on the bubble at a bad time. He’s had his career breakout, though, regardless of what happens tonight.
Second duet: Brian Bautista and Mary Sarah find common ground with their interpretation of Ariana Grande’s “Break Free.” It’s a performance with some country and some R&B overtones, but works as mainstream pop. Carson notes Mary stepped out of her comfort zone.
4. Alisan Porter (Team Christina) has been an inconsistent front-runner, but she finds some great moments on “Desperado.” Her vocals often show more emotion than vocal technique, but this is her best performance in several weeks. Blake says she made the song her own. Adam talks about her ability to connect emotionally.
Third duet: Laith and Hannah Huston sing the bluesy “Knock on Wood,” and she’s overmatched. It’s not even one of her better vocals.
5. Adam Wakefield (Team Blake) keeps favoring soulful, smoky, haunting country songs. Blake assigns him one of his own hits, “I’m Sorry.” It was written by Chris Stapleton, Blake explains, and it’s the type of song he’d like to see Adam do more of. At rehearsal the question of whether to play piano is resolved when Pink observes, “As soon as he got behind the piano his voice opened up.” He gives what may be his best performance of the season at just the right time. Pharrell observes this Adam’s bringing a different kind of soul to country. Blake says, “I feel like that’s how you sing it. You’ve had so many breakout moments, never a moment like that one.” It’s the top Voice iTunes download this morning.
6. Bryan Bautista (Team Christina), who’s becoming this season’s smoky-lounge cocktail-jazz singer, turns Christina’s “Hurt” into a smoky-lounge cocktail-jazz ballad. Christina raves, “Such a huge and crazy song range-wise, I wanna hear it again, I’m downloading it!”
Fourth duet: Paxton and Shalyah, the two kids breaking out this season, get rappy and hiphoppy on “Masterpiece.”
7. Mary Sarah (Team Blake) delivers what may be her best performance with “I Told You So,” a song written by Randy Travis. She’s singing each word, fondling every note. Christina says, “You’re really owning who you are.” Blake babbles, “Ask me how do you know what’s good, I want you to YouTube that. That is your best performance.” Don’t underestimate a pretty girl with a pretty voice on Team Blake.
8. Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell) has the third-weakest voice in the final eight. Pharrell assigns her “When a Man Loves a Woman” for a style “of that era.” She’s raspy, loud, pitchy, still hasn’t developed much identity or personality–if she makes the finals, it’ll probably be because of her attractiveness and her sentimental working-girl backstory. She lays on the emotion and drama but just doesn’t have enough voice for the song. (Laith does. Tessanne Chin did. Susandra Lewis did.) However, Blake raves, “You haven’t had anything like this the entire season!” She may have elbowed her way into the finals, but who did she elbow aside?
I voted for Laith, Adam, and Bryan, guessing they and Alisan “Curly Sue” Porter would be final four. Going strictly by this morning’s iTunes chart, however, the final four would be Adam, Alisan, Mary, and Hannah. Will Laith’s and/or Bryan’s online votes be enough to offset a shortage of iTunes downloads? Or will two female vocalists with soft support–until this voting window–become the dark horses of the finals?