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?
3. Nick Hagelin (Team Christina):
“Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake ft. Majid Jordan
Nick Hagelin almost went home last week, despite putting on one of his more redeeming performances of the entire season, but he says that exact experience of being down and almost out made him feel a deeper connection with the crowd and viewers (he claims even Pharrell told him “you got this” during the insta-save showdown with his own teammate, Daniel Passino).
So, tonight, he decides to hop into a new groove — and not just figuratively. Between his tailed shirt-dress thing and his Drake meme impersonation dances, he’s twirling, kicking, and hopping his way into keeping everyone awake when his vocals can’t quite do the job. Is his song title here prophetic, or will he still get voted through?
4. Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell):
“Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware
Team Pharrell’s down to its very last hold-out, but she’s a strong one. The kindergarten teacher who barely moonlit at a coffee shop before coming on the show has a stellar set of pipes, and it seems like this week, she’s got ‘em all lined up and tighter than ever because, even though she only minimally relates to the message of the song itself, she plays it like it’s the most personal thing she’s spoken in weeks, and all the coaches peg it as her best, most dynamic, and yet somehow tender run of the competition so far. As Pharrell (and his floral embroidered raincoat) would and does put it, she’s “super spesh.”
5. Shalyah Fearing (Team Adam):
“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Shalyah’s never shied away from a deep song, but she’s braving her toughest waters yet by stepping into the Sam Cooke pool. As Adam tells her, though, “This song is not about you singing perfect[ly]. This is about a message.” And indeed, it’s a message Shalyah has been exposed to since she was a kid (pfft, she’s still a kid), and when she sings it, she seems to intuit the important inspiration for it. Was it perfect? No. But that wasn’t the point, then, was it?
6. Laith Al-Saadi (Team Adam):
“We’ve Got Tonight” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Just when you think the guy might have himself painted into a corner of same, he goes and opens the secret hidden door perched behind him and slips into somewhere all new, where his already-established “musicianship” is supplanted by his strength of vocals for a change. He offers his typical level of seasoned soulfulness, but this time, it’s coming less from his fingertips and more from his lips, so there’s no confusion as to whether he’s on the right show right now. As Adam notes in praise, “The whole room stopped. Your voice filled this room. Everybody stopped. You could hear a pin drop. And to me, that was the ultimate sign of respect. It was so beautiful. The mood was so beautiful.” Nicely done.
7. Adam Wakefield (Blake Shelton):
“Love Has No Pride” by Bonnie Raitt
Blake must have been a part-time carpenter before his music career took off because he hits the nail right on the head when he says that Adam Wakefield’s “magic happens when he’s tickling the ivory.” Also particularly on point is the stage work at play with his performance — literal, actual fire that enshrouds his entire background — because this man is definitely bringing the heat every time he performs, but especially tonight. He’s got rhythm, he’s got music… Who could ask for anything more? Blake’s calling this guy for the finale early, and he may very well be right with that pick.
NEXT: Is Aerosmith this season’s death knell or what?
8. Alisan Porter (Team Christina):
“Cryin’” by Aerosmith
There’s no doubt about it that Alisan Porter is the season 10 (and early ‘90s dramedy film fare) sweetheart and seems poised and eager to take her place as the winner of this competition. Even so, though, tonight is far from her best showing. Possibly one of her worst, actually. If there’s one common complaint about her sound, it’s that she has a tendency to screech when she gets to the highest notes, so trying to replicate what Steven Tyler does with this song is pretty inadvisable for her — or anyone, really. (Just ask Daniel Passino about that.) But points for working the rock star mojo, maybe?
9. Bryan Bautista (Team Christina):
“1+1” by Beyoncé
At this point, you really never know what to expect when Bryan Bautista hits the stage. The guy’s got a bevy of options for himself — last week’s Spanish-English melody proved he gives new meaning to the idea of genre-hopping. Tonight, he’s tapping back into his seductive side — you know, the same one that made Christina Aguilera fan herself after every show and choose him over Ryan Quinn and Tamar Davis — only this time, it’s also a traditionally female song at play and a Beyoncé one at that. And it turns out to be his most focused and uniform performance in weeks, earning a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge action from Xtina for Beyoncé to consider doing a duet with B2 because they’d be 1+1=“magic.”
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- If last week showed us anything, it’s that the Nick Hagelin faithful aren’t as sprightly with the clicking as usual, and based on tonight’s performance, he deserves the bottom two treatment again (and if the history of bottom two repeat offenders holds true, this might be the end of his road).
- Paxton Ingram showed something really interesting about himself a couple of weeks ago, but tonight was considerably weaker. Paxton finds himself in the bottom two, too.
- Nick Hagelin will somehow remind us all of his beautiful family and big heart (and possibly random dance moves), but Paxton will state his case for being saved from elimination by singing something worth a toot. It’ll be a nail-biter, but Nick will go home.
- Team Pharrell: Hannah Huston
- Team Blake: Paxton Ingram, Mary Sarah, and Adam Wakefield
- Team Christina: Bryan Bautista, Alisan Porter, and Nick Hagelin
- Team Adam: Shalyah Fearing and Laith Al-Saadi