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'The Voice' recap: 'Live Finale, Part 1'

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Tyler Golden/NBC

The Voice

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
8
run date:
04/26/11
performer:
Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera
broadcaster:
NBC
genre:
Reality TV, Music

12 weeks. That’s how long the final four — Laith Al-Saadi, Adam Wakefield, Alisan Porter, and Hannah Huston — have been reaching deep to pull out performances so they can stay and play another day on The Voice season 10. That’s a musical marathon, by anyone’s standards, but no one seems too tired just yet.

This time, as we officially kick off finale week, it’s no longer about merely muscling out enough to float through and somehow survive the cutthroat eliminations. All eight eyes are on the actual prize right now, and each of these guys and gals has exactly three more chances to prove why he or she should be the one to win it.

Good thing they’re ready to give it their best — even though the format isn’t completely conducive to letting them shine (YASSS to including original songs from each, but somebody please kill the duets dead forever because they are miserable) — but has a clear winner emerged from this thing yet? Let’s review.

1. Laith Al-Saadi (Team Adam):

Given that he was in the bottom three during last week’s cutthroat elimination episode, Laith Al-Saadi has something to prove this week, and based on the three performances he renders tonight, it’s clear exactly what message he’s sending his fans: If it’s musicianship you want, it’s musicianship you’ll get, no matter what they’ve named this show. As the self-proclaimed “brie cheese of The Voice,” he’s officially past singularizing himself here, and he has the full blessings of his coach, who says, “You’re a guitar player, dammit. That’s how we’re going out.”

His Cover: “White Room” by Cream

Last week, he annihilated the save-me voter stats by performing a classic rock anthem that was squarely within his comfort zone (Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”). So, this round he’s clearly consulted the musical thesaurus to find that song’s spiritual sister, and here we have it. Not only does he get the backgrounding benefit of a killer light show (which is not for the seizure sensitive, by the way) and a few key moments to take it away with the shred solos, but he also fits the vocal bill for this jam as well and proves that he’s one heckuva full-package entertainer. Even Blake Shelton, who admits he’d be the first one to say stow the guitar praises Laith for doing it his way and “shov[ing] the guitar straight up the area [he] was talking from.”

His Duet (with Adam Levine): “Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles

If there’s anyone else on this show who’s got as much zeal for stringed things, it’s Adam Levine. So, when he and Laith finally get a chance to rock out together on-stage, it’s nothing short of an epic bro-jam session for the ages. Adam even hops instrumentals from the drums to the bass, and, even though there’s minimal singing involved, they do harmonize nicely, since they’re representing two different sides of the vocal spectrum. It’s easily the best duet of all four contestant-coach pairings tonight.

His Original Song: “Morning Light”

Laith’s song itself sounds like what would happen if you mashed up The Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas” with Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” with a sprinkle of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s signature blues, and frankly, it works very well for him and fits right into what he’s been laying down so consistently all season.

His Over/Under: Laith’s three for three on commanding the room with his unique sense of can’t-stop-won’t-stop showmanship, and, as Adam Levine puts it, he fills a “room with joy.” Pretty compelling case he’s plead for himself here tonight. Last week proved he doesn’t have the fandemonium to put him in the winner’s circle, but he darn sure showed why he deserves to walk away from this thing with some fanfare in tow. If he thought his six-day-a-week bar gig schedule before was intense, no doubt he’s about to get even busier.

NEXT: This song belongs on the radio, y’all …

[pagebreak]

2. Adam Wakefield (Team Blake):

For the country crowd, Adam Wakefield is and has long been the easy vote because almost every time he sings something, it’s already radio-ready. Plus, he’s obviously a nice, humble dude who’s been waiting for this shot at the spotlight forever and a day and is clearly way too good to be anybody’s backup vocalist. Tonight, it’s all about maintenance. He doesn’t have to move mountains here; he’s just got to prove that his long-held ascent to the top of the ones he’s already climbed on this show was no happy accident (spoiler: it wasn’t).

His Cover: “When I Call Your Name” by Vince Gill

At first, Adam’s rendition of this classic is a little bit jarring because of how steady he holds the notes — as compared to the original’s unforgettable note runs — but once he gets to the chorus of this thing, it’s clear what he’s done. He’s taken a heartbreak song and made it peppy, against all odds. Not only that, but eventually he inserts his own inflections and charms into it and has Blake Shelton clapping and grinning like a fool before gushing, “You just blew the roof off this place, dude.”

His Duet (with Blake Shelton): “The Conversation” by Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, Jr.

There’s a lot to be said for the amount of Southern-boy style that’s happening on the stage when these two take it, but what they deliver, musically, is a little bit hokey and weaksauce. Adam standing alone is still solid in his ~moments~ but overall, it’s a rather boring and shoulder shrug-worthy song. Meh.

His Original Song: “Lonesome Broken and Blue”

Gawd, could this guy get any more solid? This song belongs on the radio, like, yesterday because lyrically, technically, and everyotherwhichwayly, it’s pretty perfect for its intended audience. As Blake Shelton can’t help but reiterate half a dozen times tonight, Adam’s written basically a surefire hit country song, with clever words like, “Loving you is like staring into the sun/ The more I try the faster the tears will run” and “Holding on is like trying to bottle the rain/ Might last a while but it just don’t feel the same.”

His Over/Under: While the duet wasn’t anything to write home about (ahem, is the horse unrecognizable yet?), his original song was exactly what he needed to bring to this stage to show everyone that he’s a real-deal entertainer with ideas all his own. He’d already proven his talents, instrumental and singing alike, but tonight he’s proven that he can write something worth listening to as well. If he doesn’t win by sheer volume of iTunes downloads of his original alone, he’ll place a very, very close second.

3. Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell):

Literally no one is expecting Hannah Huston to run away with the season 10 win, but darn if she’s not doing her best to change that narrative tonight. Unlike some of the other contestants, who’ve all been in or near the industry for years upon years, this kindergarten teacher with a big set of guts and a lot of stamina, isn’t coming in here with an entire discography of ready-made original musical numbers to belt out on cue, but she does seem to have an ear for her own gifts.

Her Cover: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police

Rather than rolling out with the ironically upbeat original arrangement of the song, Hannah (er, the band) chooses to give it the dark and moody spin the lyrics call for. This is a song about someone stalking someone else, so, yeah, it’s not too far of a stretch, concept-wise. As Carson Daly puts it, the new arrangement makes it “cool in a James Bond [sort of] way,” and Pharrell’s digging her moxie on this one.

Her Duet (with Pharrell Williams): “Brand New” by Pharrell

Sorry, sorry, sorry, but this is the worst performance of the entire night by a mile. Even Christina Aguilera was clearly tucking her lips in to avoid laughter during a cut-away shot because there’s no way this song could ever be imagined as a good choice for a live performance by a singer who’s actually trying to prove she can sing instead of just piping in with a few random oohs and ahhs where the karaoke machine would prompt her to. Not good. Not entirely her fault, mind you, but still not good.

Her Original Song: “I Call the Shots”

Whatever disservice Pharrell did for her during their shared performance, he made up for it ten-fold by way of their co-written original number. Don’t expect to hear this thing on America’s Top 40 or anything because it’s a pretty messy little throw together, but it does suit her particular style and strengths like a glove and lets her play around with her sultriest tones and presence. It’s probably the best and most true-to-self sound she’s had all season.

Her Over/Under: There’s just no chance she’ll win The Voice, but the fact that she’s made it this far oughta give her some traction if she does want to continue down this road as a possible career path. Her original song tonight has proved she’s got some unique and pleasing vocals going on for sure.

NEXT: Alisan Porter brings Christina Aguilera to tears …[pagebreak]

4. Alisan Porter (Team Christina):

Alisan’s coming into tonight as the official (and long-running) front-woman of this competition, but even Alisan has her critics. Those who aren’t sold on her complain that there’s no subtlety or deescalation in her performances. So, tonight, Alisan seems to try and answer that by choosing an original song that is so exactly on-point with her personality it almost couldn’t belong to anyone else and then a showstopping closer cover that will make sure no one forgets her tonight. Is it enough to seal up her W, though?

Her Cover: “Somewhere” (From West Side Story)

When Alisan Porter steps onto the stage with a full string orchestra and a sequined gown, you know it’s going to be drama. That’s what Celine Dion would do on her Vegas stage. That’s what all the old school divas would do in all their smoky ballroom shows back in the day, and that’s the kinda ambiance a song like this calls for. Alisan’s showing us her big show potential (basically securing her place on the Broadway stage, if she ever wants to mix her old and new careers) and reassuring us of the many, many levels she can reach and hold with her voice. Christina Aguilera’s blown so far away by the woman who might break the female judge curse — reduced to actual sobs as she declares Alisan as the most deserving winner of the show — and it is a formidable end to the finale showcase. But is it anything *truly* new from Alisan? Nah.

Her Duet (with Christina Aguilera): “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor

When they’re not singing at the same time, this is actually really nice and gives many gushy girl squad feels, but when they do cross tones (or worse, start competing for audibility), it’s kind of a mess, and ultimately, Christina Aguilera’s refinement and voice control winds up making Alisan sound unusually novice at some points. (Yet another example of why these duets are problematic for this show.)

Her Original Song: “Down that Road”

Alisan’s using her lyrics here to tell part of her story to everyone (again), and it’s certainly peak Alisan Porter material. It may even be a good fit for her first single. Like always, she’s at 110 percent almost right away with her performance, and it’s on-brand message-wise. Is it the kind of song that’s going to leave you humming the words tonight before bedtime? That’s a big maybe. But did we get a sense of what our Curly Sue can do on her own, given the chance? Heck yes!

Her Over/Under: Alisan Porter has definitely kept her momentum and direction intact, and there’s no doubt her already-in-place faithful fans will vote like crazy for her after tonight.

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Winner Prediction:

It’s so hard to say whether Alisan Porter’s steady pace to win will hold strong or if Adam Wakefield’s stunning original tonight will be the deal-maker that lands him in the winner’s seat. Anyone who’s just tuning in for the finale and throwing two cents on the ground here based solely on tonight’s performances might just have to give it to Adam, but Alisan’s run away with the votes so many times before — plus, ya know, she’s an actual celebrity — so it’s definitely tough. They both deserve it. Pick one, you say? Fine, fine. Alisan wins The Voice, but Adam Wakefield’s is the first voice you’ll hear on the radio, guaranteed.

FINAL STANDINGS:

  • Team Blake: Adam Wakefield​
  • Team Christina: Alisan Porter
  • Team Pharrell: Hannah Huston​
  • Team Adam: Laith Al-Saadi

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