The Voice recap: 'Live Top 11 Performances'

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The Voice

type:
TV Show
genre:
Reality TV, Music
run date:
04/26/11
performer:
Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson
broadcaster:
NBC
seasons:
13
Current Status:
In Season

Tonight, The Voice‘s top 11 are paired with songs of their fans’ choosing, and for the most part, the musical matchings are incredibly on point — at least theoretically.

These song choices mostly give each singer an opportunity to the play to their strengths, and it pays off. While not everyone is perfect, no one absolutely tanks it, which means tomorrow might just be a free-for-all when it comes to who ends up in the bottom two.

Team Miley: Janice Freeman
“Shine” by Collective Soul

It’s Janice Freeman’s fans who’ve decided she should venture back to the early ’90s alternative scene for her next adventure in remaking the wheel, and it’s a refreshingly unabused song to hear on this show, no matter who’s at the mic. “Shine” is one of those songs that was overplayed as heck during its radio lifespan and only crops back up every now and again to remind you how good the rock scene was at the time. As for Janice, well, with her silver spiral ‘do and her spoon-dancing routines with the band members, it’s pretty clear our starting singer is feeling it this week.

As for the performance, well, it’s hit and miss. The beginning features Janice leaning hard into the same rocker persuasion we saw in the blinds, but by the end, we’re back to those unintelligible scream-singing runs that have detracted from some of her performances. We really only need the vowels to be exclaimed so many times in one song.

Team Blake: Red Marlow
“The Dance” by Garth Brooks

This is another solid (albeit obvious) choice by fans this week. Pairing Red Marlow with one of Garth Brooks’ most emotionally evocative songs of all time is sound because (1) it actually does match his vocal style pretty well without being too old school to earn new fans from latecomers to this season, and (2) it’s not Garth’s supreme range that’s a draw with this number but the palpable pain behind the words. Since “storytelling” is Red’s thing with singing, this is more than a suitable selection for him.

As for how he handles it, there’s good news and there’s bad news. Red manages to put together a pretty honest presentation of the long-lived favorite, but he’s also a tad flat where he should be high, and he’s totally unable to hit some of the number’s most signature low notes. Despite that, this is still one of his most convincing performances to date.

Team Jennifer: Shi’Ann Jones
“Listen” by Beyoncé

This isn’t the first time Jennifer Hudson has paired her so-called “mini-me” with a Beyoncé number, and tonight, it’s obvious why: She’s got that same fresh face that makes her easy to root for once she showcases her considerable pipes. At 15, Shi’Ann Jones can already hit any note she wants, but whether she can always control things is a different story.

This time, there are a lot of hollowed-out low notes that make me feel like I’m listening to “Unbreak My Heart” before she scales up to her whimpering wail. Shi’Ann’s diction leaves something to be desired, and there’s so much happening that it’s almost dizzying to behold, but it’s compelling all the same. (Recap continues on page 2)

Team Adam: Adam Cunningham
“American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

After having to rely on the instant save to stick around last week, Adam Cunningham has a lot to prove, and like most of the others here, he’s gifted with a smart song selection that fits his personality and strengths like a glove. For all his faults before — what with the butchered timing and inability to reach that upper register — he really has no trouble at all pounding out this piece with a precision that should please Petty’s fanbase.

This song also seems to broaden Adam’s horizons a bit on song choices going forward. I can now imagine him picking up something by Dave Matthews, O.A.R., or even the Counting Crows to try to break out of his box. He still struggles with the higher notes at times (and someone should really just tell him he doesn’t need to yell to emote), but his full voice actually rounds out the hook here in ways that are surprisingly pleasant. Subtlety is the key for Adam, I think, and this is the closest he’s come to that lately.

Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
“What About Us” by Pink

Brooke Simpson’s voice is undeniably powerful, and when we actually do get to hear her here, it’s also increasingly lovely and tempered. But the trouble is that this showcase’s attempt to pay tribute to her Haliwa-Saponi tribe with the drum tables and backup vocals (or perhaps pre-recorded audio?) drowns her out so often that all we get to hear is her attempting to overshadow it all.

And it’s a shame she’s so hard to hear because this, too, is a workable match for Brooke’s style and sound — especially in that last little verse, where everything else is dropped off and we’re left with just Brooke navigating the landing. I wanted to hear more of those notes.

Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming
“I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston

Aye, aye, aye. While it was exactly this kind of octave hot-potato play that differentiated Davon Fleming from Chris Weaver in the playoffs, it’s not working quite so well for him tonight. For starters, the soft-sung falsetto intro seems forced and unnatural for Davon. And then, when we finally get to his full voice with the chorus, it’s only a line or two before he’s switching to another key. By the end of it, we’ve heard four different Davon Fleming songs at once, and the transition is just too severe to enjoy.

The coaches are blown right out of the water — in fact, Adam Levine talks out of turn to call this a “miracle” — and I might agree with them if his chorus competence were the defining factor of the whole shebang, but alas.

Team Miley: Ashland Craft
“Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band

After last week’s decision to go with “Delta Dawn” over this new-age country favorite (and the sample audiences got to hear of what might’ve been), it makes sense that this would be the song selected for Ashland this time. When she’s got just a guitar and her microphone-free pipes in the rehearsal footage, the results are quite lovely and low key.

On stage, though, the over-production is real. From her tasseled denim duds, dripping head to toe, to the actual bales of hay scattered across the porch, there’s so much genre pandering going on that I can hardly pay attention to her voice at times. When it’s just her and the microphone, with everything else out of the way, the texture and sophistication of Ashland’s voice is displayed well. Otherwise, this performance is far from extraordinary.

Team Adam: Addison Agen
“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell

The upshot of singing a song that’s not as mainstream as others is that it probably does ramp up her download potential. And her coach is right that Addison has the same kind of cozy vocal countenance and authenticity that’s bound to draw people in to listen to whatever she’s willing to sing for them.

Tonight, her jazzy mid voice is especially strong, but she also trickles in some well-placed high notes that keep the tune from being too monotonous. Although Carson Daly isn’t employed here for his commentary, even he can’t contain his unbridled enthusiasm for Addison Agen’s voice, saying, “Great is great.” I wouldn’t say this was her best performance, but it was vulnerable and genuine enough to keep her fans interested (and voting). (Recap continues on page 3)

Team Blake: Keisha Renee
“It Matters to Me” by Faith Hill

I have been so sold on what Keisha Renee has been doing these last few weeks, but tonight I think she’s made a critical mistake with her performance. In her past performances of country numbers (or, in the case of last week, a soul-to-country transition), she’s done some really smart song arrangements that make her silky runs and gospel elevations work in kind, but this time she opts to stick super close to the original.

This is a problem because it feels like she’s got no more cards up her sleeve and we’ve seen everything she’s capable of doing (which I don’t actually believe, but still). And it’s just too hard to separate Keisha from the originator when she’s this on the money, and yet she and Faith Hill are still such different singers. I’d have liked to hear her own church-ready rendition, but here we are. I still got goosebumps, but it certainly wasn’t the best we’ve seen of her this season.

Team Jennifer: Noah Mac
“Electric Love” by BØRNS

Frankly, this song suggestion seems like something that might more easily fit Chloe Kohanski, but Noah Mac is digging it and has all kinds of ideas for how to arrange this thing to dial back on the instrumentals (again, sigh) and allow his voice to take center stage.

This choice does allow him to escalate from a subdued intro to him rocking right on out by the halfway mark, and there’s a grit and determination to his tenor that obviously resonates with a lot of fans. It’s a matter of taste as to whether his stripped-back, harrowing take on this otherwise synthetically heavy pop-rock number works. But Noah Mac’s penchant for creating chaos on the stage like this with so many persuasions in play at once has gotten him this far.

Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler

For starters, I had to look away from the screen to take this performance seriously as a result of that teardrop eye makeup. Other than that, though, this is pretty much peak Chloe Kohanski.

This is apparently the song everyone at home has been waiting to hear from her, and it’s easy to see why. She’s got the same grainy textures in her voice as Bonnie Tyler (just imagine Chloe tackling “It’s a Heartache”), and the song’s so rad, who doesn’t like to listen to it? She’s initially intimidated by the ranged notes of this number, but that isn’t apparent in her stage work. As Blake Shelton puts it, “Ladies and gentlemen, Chloe just set the bar.”

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