It’s crunch time, guys, and while some artists are stepping up in impressive ways, others are starting to show signs of fissure in both their voices and song choices. Two artists are on the chopping block this week as we inch ever nearer to the finals, and while previous weeks’ send-offs have been a little difficult to figure out, it looks like we might be able to tell from tonight’s performances alone who’ll advance (and who will say goodbye).
Here’s what happened in the Top 10 performances on The Voice.
Billy Gilman (Team Adam)
“Anyway” by Martina McBride
What a start.
Billy Gilman has basically been a shoo-in for this level in the competition since the blinds, but now that we’re starting to reach the all-important cutthroat stage, he’s been digging deep to make his performances completely undeniable. Last week, he proved his ability to be present with an emotional number, and tonight he reminds everyone of his formidable roots in the country-music genre.
See, Billy’s always been able to hit and stretch those big notes and deliver a rhythmic and measured performance, but by throwing in that something extra — from his makes-it-look-easy flow through an entire scale and his limbered-up body action to the way he extends a note beyond even his own high bar (seriously, someone call Guinness about that last bit) — he proves he’s definitely worth the hype. He absolutely murders this performance and definitely earns his new nickname from Adam Levine: “Bulletproof Billy Gilman.”
Courtney Harrell (Team Blake)
“If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher
Sigh. Perhaps there’s a reason Blake Shelton’s team is usually only successful with country artists: He knows how to coach them. With Courtney Harrell, however, this pairing has struggled to make use of the singer’s talents. Tonight’s showcase, while chock-full of rad-itude from Courtney, fails to capitalize on any of her vocal gifts and leaves the girl pacing, grunting, and missing note after note. There are several moments when even she seems to realize she’s phoning in the repetitive lines with off-key cat scratches. As delightful as this song might be to the Cher faithful, it belongs nowhere in this competition — it’s just too busy and unflattering to do any favors for the performers. This flub might just cost Courtney big. It is…not helping her state a case for the Top 8.
NEXT: Ouch. My ears…
Josh Gallagher (Team Adam)
“Real Good Man” by Tim McGraw
At this point, there’s no doubt Josh Gallagher is a competent country artist, and he’s not prepared to step outside his comfort zone for any reason whatsoever. And while it was easy to peg him as a mere cover artist early on for his exact replications of radio favorites from the southern pop-rock genre, now it’s becoming kind of a feather in his baseball cap. Because if he can hang with the best of ’em, like he has unquestionably done so far, doesn’t that just mean he’ll eventually find his own way in this biz? Tonight’s performance is as rock-solid and crowd-pleasing as any he’s given, so he’s sticking to what works for him, and clearly, this is good enough for America.
Aaron Gibson (Team Miley)
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
In my notes for this performance, I have the word “NO” scrawled, like, a thousand times. This was bad, guys. No, no, no, no, no. On a positive note, Miley Cyrus and Aaron Gibson were smart to try a peppier number for him this week, since those have been so successful in bottom two save-me votes, where his gloomier (albeit arguably underrated) tunes haven’t landed with audiences…but this was not the one to do that with. “Rocket Man” is a great song the way it was, but what it became tonight — some Ben-Harper-meets-Jack-Johnson coffee-shop pop thing — deprived the words of all significance or impact. This is probably going to be the nail in his proverbial coffin on this show, I’m sorry to say. Even the coaches’ comments about his post-show future seem to confirm they know this is a definite deal-breaker.
Christian Cuevas (Team Alicia)
“Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga
Christian Cuevas has the benefit of a radiant personality and a boisterous voice that’s kept him alive in this competition so far. Tonight, he tries to go somewhere softer with Lady Gaga’s shiny new single, but he ultimately accelerates to the same full-belt lines that we’re used to. This isn’t “Yesterday” for him, unfortunately. It’s a good thing he does go back to what he knows best, too, because for a second there, he starts to sound a little generic in the middle. This is a show about “The Voice,” so if he wants to get even further, he’s going to have to show off what makes him Christian Cuevas a little more than he did tonight. It’s honestly just an okay performance, but knowing his built-in popularity, it’s probably good enough to see him through to the next round.
Austin Allsup (Team Blake)
“Missing You” by John Waite
Man, oh man. Austin Allsup made a believer out of me about halfway through this show, and I’ve enjoyed what he’s done on this stage ever since, but that is simply not the case tonight. While the coaches are quick with the praise lines about his choppy take on the ’80s classic, to my ear, it was just not a good match for his voice. Props for trying to show us something new, as it’s not a bad idea in theory to take him away from that bayou-ready bluegrass scene. But this was just an ineffectual performance that wasn’t exactly a death knell for him just yet, though it probably didn’t earn him any new fans, either. Man, those ’80s power ballads are just killin’ people tonight, no?
NEXT: Bless the child indeed…
Wé McDonald (Team Alicia)
“God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday
We need all the praise-hands emojis the Internet has to offer to salute this girl tonight, because wow oh wow, is this a statement piece. Wé McDonald hasn’t ever fallen apart on this stage, of course, but she has had some moments that were weaker than others. This, though, has got to be her most charismatic moment on the show yet. Not only does she insert some playful blues banter in key places, but she owns that, too. And whether the operatic runaway at the end works for everyone or not, her cool confidence and luscious vocals are enough to easily make tonight her most complete and interesting performance of the season. If we had any doubts about her ability to step off the haunting low notes before, she just shut those down entirely.
Brendan Fletcher (Team Adam)
“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper
Think back for a second and tell me every Brendan Fletcher song hasn’t sounded exactly the same so far. You can’t, though, can you? So, when he says about his song selection of the evening, “It’s mellow — nothing like anything I’ve ever done,” that’s kind of a laugh because this is precisely what he’s done every single week since the beginning. That’s not a dis on his talent, of course. His raspy soft-rock tones are what they are, and either they work for audiences or they don’t — how many albums did Michael Bolton and Bryan Adams sell with the same game? A lot. But to claim this is a departure from the norm with him is pure falsity.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what’s he’s doing here. Brendan’s got the luxury of covering one of the most divisive voices in the history of pop music, so there’s no love lost when he makes the thing sound different. Does he blow everyone away with a huge note or some extreme range shift we weren’t expecting? No. But most likely, it was serviceable enough to get a few people typing his name for the votes for another week.
Sundance Head (Team Blake)
“Me and Jesus” by Tom T. Hall
Carson Daly’s right: This is a fun performance. Sundance Head has enough momentum in his corner to play around on this stage, and that’s exactly what he does tonight with this bluegrass homage to the Charlie Daniels Band-Hank Williams Jr. school of country music. Courtney Harrell needs to take notes from his performance, because this is how you do a speedy song without losing your way. The tail-end tempo hike is also a nice touch that seems to say, “I know I rock, so let’s roll.” I’m not a Sundance Head superfan under normal circumstances, but his performance tonight is honestly a pretty great transportation to the Grand Ole Opry.
Ali Caldwell (Team Miley)
“Without You” by Badfinger
Humph. So, Miley Cyrus is left blown away by what Ali Caldwell does with this song, and everybody’s on a cloud raving about her ridiculously long dress train, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? The fact of the matter is Mariah Carey covered and popularized this song — and hit so many divine notes in her rendition — that it’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed by what Ali’s done with it. Is that a fair comparison to make? Maybe not, but it’s probably pretty common, considering how many copies of MC’s Music Box were sold. Ali’s performance is a little reminiscent of what it was like to hear Jessica Simpson wailing on her early single “I Wanna Love You Forever” — it’s like, props for effort and all, and it’s not exactly terrible, but this song’s just a little too advanced for your particular skillset, friend. The lack of tone texture combined with the amount of scream-singing moments makes it just alright tonight.
Predictions for the Top 8:
- Even though they say there’s no order to when America’s voted-in contestants are waved through, Billy Gilman, Wé McDonald, Sundance Head, and Josh Gallagher are gonna sail to the next round thanks to what they did tonight, no doubt about it. Theirs were the most solid deliveries of the evening.
- Christian Cuevas, Ali Caldwell, and Brendan Fletcher might have to sweat a little before they, too, get voted through.
- Hate to say it, but Austin Allsup might find himself in the bottom three after tonight. The poor song choice just didn’t serve him well. The good news, though, is he’s done enough outside of this particular performance to prove he deserves to move forward anyway, so he likely will.
- Courtney Harrell and Aaron Gibson are going home.
- Team Adam — Billy Gilman, Josh Gallagher, Brendan Fletcher
- Team Alicia — Christian Cuevas, Wé McDonald
- Team Blake — Sundance Head, Austin Allsup, Courtney Harrell
- Team Miley — Aaron Gibson, Ali Caldwell