Fun fact: If you piece together all of tonight’s Top 9 performance song titles, you’d have a weirdly romantic little poem on your hands, but oddly enough, these choices have nothing to do with one another.
The performers are not concerning themselves with unity whatsoever — well, except during those team performance bits that are fast becoming more awkward than Blake Shelton’s flirty contestant compliments — but rather they want to distance themselves as far away from one another as they possibly can, and by virtue of that, tonight’s showcase is certainly one of the most eclectic we’ve seen yet.
Most of these guys (ahem) and gals have gotten this far by working something new into their segments — whether it was Alisan Porter punching everyone in the gut last week with her emotional ballad or Bryan Bautista repping some Dominican flare in his routine — and tonight, they each take a new directional baby step that works in some instances and, well, doesn’t in others.
One thing that totally works tonight? That Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” duet-slash-slow-gaze extravaganza. Yow!
1. Paxton Ingram (Team Blake):
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
Over the last couple of weeks, Paxton Ingram has emerged as one of the most passionate performers left in the game, with back-to-back song choices that lit a fire within him and the audience alike, and he’s been feeling the love as a result. “I feel like I’m focused more. I feel like I’m in the zone; I’ve grown. That’s what it is,” he says. His coach-slash-revivalist Blake Shelton is also pretty taken with how “the kid is not afraid to challenge himself” these days.
This week, Paxton tries to stoke the flames with a Whitney Houston favorite — albeit a more subdued (read: easier) arrangement — but that sudden sense of urgency that he was working with during his take-notice “Break Every Chain” is nowhere to be seen (or heard) tonight. Christina Aguilera compares his performance to a first-grade talent show, which, though she means it as a compliment, is a little too on the nose. There’s a lot of effort put into it, sure, but where his lack of finesse has been easy to overlook for the fact of his chill-induction factor before, tonight’s kinda just kids play.
2. Mary Sarah (Team Blake):
“My Church” by Maren Morris
Why yes, Mary Sarah, you may get a hallelujah and an amen. The throw-it-wayyyy-back classic country artist has decided to re-join the 21st Century for tonight’s show, and better yet, Blake Shelton’s instructed the gal to ditch the guitar (say it like so for present purposes: gee-tawr) and boogie a little bit. His reason, of course, is kinda gross (something about soldiers wanting to see her shake it — ick), but he’s right that Mary Sarah’s a lot more noticeable when she’s throwing chat lines out to the crowd and displaying some physical enthusiasm beyond the usual hip-sway.
The bad news is that her backup vocalists kind of commandeer the chorus of this thing, so we can’t always tell how well she’s hitting the toughest lines, but she still manages to win over the coaches with her visibly crystalline “connection” to the number (which may or may not mean they’re all surprised to see her put so much sass on display and put her usual gee golly ya’ll persona on a shelf…at least, temporarily).
NEXT: Does this song choice have a double meaning?