Good luck choosing your Top 10, America, because, frankly, I’m not seeing a legitimate straggler in the Top 11 right now. Not after tonight. This is a rare set when everybody brings something impressive to the stage, making it difficult to single out a particular contestant who doesn’t deserve to go forward. As Carson Daly puts it, “What a night for music.”
Here’s what went down during tonight’s Top 11 performances.
Ali Caldwell (Team Miley)
“9 to 5” by Dolly Parton
It’s a little ironic Ali Caldwell’s tune of the night is all about surviving the rigors of a day job when she’s so clearly preparing for a life well outside any kind of office space. Miley Cyrus decides to match the singer with one of her godmother Dolly Parton’s most memorable numbers — a choice following a nudge by fellow coach Adam Levine that last week’s performance proved Ali might be a good fit for something country. Tonight, Ali does not waste the opportunity the song presents her to show us something new from her skillset.
Her peppy, go-get-’em rendition of the cheery anthem shows off the full scale of her vocal range and proves she’s not just some run-of-the-mill R&B artist. And let’s face it: Her flapper dress is a full-package dream. Ali’s been emerging as one to beat this season, and tonight she’s done nothing to hurt her chances of making it far in this competition. Well played.
Sundance Head (Team Blake)
“No One” by Alicia Keys
Sundance Head is an unapologetic Alicia Keys fanboy, and tonight he confirms he’s not just a fan of her song as originally performed — but that he can absolutely transform it into something different altogether and still, somehow, equally as lovely. His rendition of her “No One” isn’t as rich with supple crescendos as the sitting coach, of course, but he does manage to make the anthem sound like it’s always been a country-music classic. In other words, if you’ve never heard the song before tonight, you’d fully believe it was always from that genre’s catalog.
What’s more is Sundance manages to remind everyone in the studio — and at home — that he’s definitely the most uniquely “himself” country singer left in this competition. Alicia, in particular, is pleased with what he’s done: “Songs are so powerful, and you just made me listen to my song in a whole new way, in a way that I personally need right now,” she says in high praise. That’s about as solid a compliment as they come, folks.
Aaron Gibson (Team Miley)
“Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails
Aaron Gibson knows as well as anyone his stint in the bottom two last week means he’s got to step up his game in a big way if he wants to make it any further in this competition. Tonight, he tries to add a new fold to his public profile by tackling a song requiring him to reach deeper than ever. “Hurt,” which was also covered by Johnny Cash (and is getting a bit of a pop-culture revival, thanks to the trailer for Logan), is a tough jam because it doesn’t rely on just showy vocals — there has to be some true gravity felt by the artist to convey the number’s dark message. Aaron handles that fully with his no-smiles, steely-eyed resolve at the mic, and Adam’s right: The song is an excellent match for his particular sound. Even if it’s not the typical feel-good beat of the evening, it’s a pretty gripping live performance indeed.
NEXT: Prepare for the goosebumps…