The Voice‘s playoffs are coming to a close with Miley Cyrus’ team, as she rounds out the top 12 and sends three singers on to the live performances. And man, is it a close one. Because unlike the rest of the teams, there aren’t really many struggling stragglers left here to make her decisions easy. Even her comeback artist is impressive enough to earn some serious consideration.
So, does she make the right choices when it comes to who she’ll carry through to the lives for season 13? Let’s take a look.
There’s no doubt Brooke Simpson has been a strong contender since her very first appearance on this show, and it’s been so interesting to watch her continue to come into her own on the stage, as she does tonight. Singing James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (from a very different perspective than its originator, of course), she begins the number with some, as Miley Cyrus puts it, “runny” moments that she quickly dispenses with.
By about halfway through, she’s taken full ownership of the lyrics she’s singing and how they apply to her specifically. Brooke’s voice isn’t the most unique sound of the season, and that may be a problem for her in future rounds, but for tonight, she’s managed to belt her way into impressing the coaches, again, with her solid note control and lively sense of authority.
It’s good to see Karli Webster get another shot at this thing because she really is just delightful to listen to. It was Janice Freeman who knocked her out of this competition with her bangle-slinging badassery, and there were no steals left to save Karli at their stage of the knockouts. So it only seems fair that Miley would choose her as the comeback artist for her team and at least give audiences another shot at hearing her sweet little voice.
Unlike everyone else who gotten an extra chance at the top 12, Karli does nothing but prove why she deserves that shot. Her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” shows that there is at least one genre of music her angelic tones are perfectly suited to, and Miley is right to entrust her with a tune from her own “fairy godmother” tonight. Sure, there are some moments when she’s pretty shaky (Miley chalks it up to pure vibrato), but there’s an appeal to Karli’s blissful countenance that’s simply undeniable. I’d happily listen to anything she wanted to sing, but this is a surprisingly swell song to combine her flower power with some Grand Ole Opry appeal, even if it’s not as definitive as some of her competitors, where Miley’s concerned. (I’d still rather hear her take on Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline than anything Red Marlow’s repping from the same generation of the genre, TBH.)
At this point, if we’ve heard one Adam Pearce performance, we’ve heard ’em all. That’s not necessarily a dig at him because he’s certainly solid and is able to tackle some very tough songs like he’s the one who originated them — his brassy throwback tone is somewhere in the neighborhood of early Steven Tyler meets Robert Plant in the shirtless heyday — but it’s hard to imagine him offering any more surprises going forward.
His take on Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” is only slightly less screamy than everything else he’s brought to the stage this season, but it also contains a few high notes that are audibly out of reach for him, despite some shouty effort on his part. Overall, Adam is still worth watching in a concert situation, but it’s not clear if his particular gift is unique or viable enough to get very far in a show called The Voice. (Recap continues on page 2)
Although Ashland Craft is initially intimidated by the soaring notes required for Gretchen Wilson’s “When I Think About Cheatin,'” those nerves and/or struggles in rehearsals are not apparent in her stage delivery of the verses.
What starts out as the softest and most subtle intro she’s had on the show so far quickly escalates into a full-on growl-belt-run-fest that blasts us with all of her drawl and power at once while not being the least bit of overkill. Ashland Craft is a good singer, and she knows how to use her instrument — even if it takes her a second to find the right note before it really counts.
After last week, I wondered if there was anyone who could beat Moriah Formica because, so far, she’s been such a compelling performer that she’s left everyone she’s run up against in the dust. Even where she lacks variety, she’s such a punch-for-the-sky kinda rockette that it’s hard to remember anything else after she sings. Tonight, however, that question has been answered.
What can beat Moriah, it turns out, is simply a poor song selection. She’s matched with Beth Hart’s “World Without You” because Miley thinks she sounds like that singer, but lo, it’s not a good choice. At all. Her signature rock star growls are slackened to the point of nonexistence, and what remains instead is a screechy, struggling mess. There’s only a single moment when the Moriah we’ve come to know this season comes through, but otherwise, she’s left behind most of what makes her effective, and the timing of that musical misstep couldn’t be worse.
There’s a lot to like about Janice Freeman, there really is. She’s a survivor, she wears her heart on her sleeve with every showing, and she’s got a genuine spirit that comes through in her vocals every time she sings. Tonight, that’s true of her rendition of Leela James’ “Fall for You,” as she brings all the warm, full gospel belts she’s been working with all season once again.
It’s nothing new, of course, but considering how convincing she’s been all season long, “same old, same old” isn’t a bad thing. To her credit, too, she’s a bit more measured and thoughtful about her runaways than usual, and exactly zero items of jewelry are lost in the process of her performance, so her self-possession is more on point than usual this evening. Perhaps the most impressive thing she pulls off is throwing in a fun, surprising throaty high note out of the blue that makes it seem like there’s still something we have yet to see and hear from her as the rounds roll onward.
Considering no one seriously blows it tonight, except maybe Moriah, it wouldn’t be too much of an upset for Miley to pick any of these artists for her advancing trio. But she seems to make her judgment based on tonight’s showcase alone because some singers are just more convincing at this crucial juncture than others.
- The first Team Miley member to get waved through is Brooke Simpson, who’s definitely done enough this season to earn a place in the live rounds, and while she hasn’t exactly broken the mold here tonight, she hasn’t hurt herself with tonight’s effort either.
- Janice Freeman gets Miley’s second slot for reasons unspoken — not that it isn’t already obvious that she just deserves it.
- Last but not least, Miley makes the tough call to take Ashland Craft on through, instead of Karli Webster, Adam Pearce, or Moriah Formica. Of the three who are being sent home, Karli seems like the biggest upset because of how well she’s done tonight, but since she and Ashland are in such similar lanes of music, a comparison of the two proves that Ashland is a bit less nerve-rattled and can probably hack it on the bigger stage.
- And with that…we have our top 12, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s time to press onward to the live rounds, where voters get to make all the calls from here on out. Who’s your favorite of the remaining contestants? Right now, it’s a toss-up between Keisha Renee and Addison Agen for me.
- Team Adam: Addison Agen, Jon Mero, Adam Cunningham
- Team Miley: Brooke Simpson, Janice Freeman, Ashland Craft
- Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming, Shi’Ann Jones, Noah Mac
- Team Blake: Keisha Renee, Red Marlow, Chloe Kohanski