The Voice’s 13th season has been so weird.
We’re down to the top 10 contestants, and yet there are still some very visible (or should I say audible) weak spots in this lineup. While we’ve got a couple of clear frontrunners who would really have to blow it to find themselves evicted before the finale, there are also a couple of singers who’ve managed to stick around much longer than expected.
Tonight, those divisions become even clearer as this season’s endgame starts to present itself.
Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming
“Hurt” by Christina Aguilera
The coaches seem a little nervous about Davon Fleming’s prospects this season, and based on this particular performance, it’s not hard to see why. In his full voice, Davon’s tone is crushingly good. But when he reaches back to that head voice — all too often — for some softer notes, it’s jarringly amateur.
He’s got great note control and punches through those escalations like it’s nothing, but we’re still not getting a comprehensive sound from Davon. His falsetto is crazy, as evidenced by those last few notes, and combined with his church-ready run style, he’s a force. But when he throws in those whimper-whisper moments, it’s deflating.
Team Adam: Adam Cunningham
“Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis
OKAY, ADAM CUNNINGHAM. After two back-to-back weeks in the bottom two — eking out victories against very strong contestants — Adam’s on a mission to prove he doesn’t belong in the bottom this time. He’s going back to his country roots with an old favorite, and this song seems like a tragic match on paper because Pam Tillis’ trilling vocals were what made this song so untouchable. And yet Adam does it.
He pulls out his best Chris Stapleton impression and slaughters this song, progressively getting better throughout. His ordinarily irritating tendency to screech when he wants to sound powerful is virtually nonexistent (mercy!), and instead he finds a legitimate connection with the song in a way we haven’t seen from him before. Adam stepped up his game in a big way tonight. Whether it’s the song choice or his urgency to prove himself, it’s hard to know; he’s not pulling magic rabbits out of the hat so much as he is committing to the moment and hitting the right notes in the right places. Well played.
Team Jennifer: Noah Mac
“Ordinary World” by Duran Duran
In theory, this is the perfect song for Noah Mac: It’s got all that raw tension and air of importance that seems to mark his preferred performance style. So there’s no rearrangement necessary, right? Ha. No, he still has to make the instrumentals sound like they’re fit for a modern dance recital.
Noah really is some fierce-eyed transplant from the world of Pretty in Pink, and he this time leans hard into his deep, almost angry delivery of lyrics that make him sound like he’s auditioning for the Breakfast Club soundtrack. He’s incredibly serious and seems to have something to say that even he can’t quite discern yet, but, as Jennifer Hudson puts it, it’s “captivating” enough to carry him through, and fans are obviously all about Noah Mac right now.
Team Jennifer: Shi’Ann Jones
“Diamonds” by Rihanna
Shi’Ann Jones is one of those contestants you can’t help but root for, even if she’s not quite as polished as she’d need to be to take this to the next level. A few months of vocal lessons could really teach her what note to hit and when, because her range is not an issue. Instead, it’s her instinct to float around from one side of the note spectrum to the next at random. It’s a little exhausting to hear her linger on a high note, only to drop to her lowest register in the same breath, just for the sake of surprise.
As Blake Shelton points out, too, Shi’Ann’s got a lot of “character” in those sobby low notes, and she emotes with real heart. Frankly, this isn’t her best showcase, but it’s also not her worst. In a cutthroat situation, I don’t see how she keeps advancing, but this might be enough to keep her around for at least this round. We’ll see.
Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski
“Call Me” by Blondie
Far and away the frontrunner of the season thanks to her ridiculous iTunes download numbers and consistent strength on the stage, Chloe Kohanski already seems to be a shoo-in for the finale. So right now, she’s just having fun with her view from the top, checking song titles off her “bucket list” for this show. “Call Me” is one of those unapologetically forward female anthems, so in addition to landing all the notes, Chloe proves tonight that she can throw some physicality behind the music.
There’s nothing to say about tonight’s performance that hasn’t been said before; her haunting low notes are strong, and her ability to glide into rocker growls shows she’s got the finishing of a much more seasoned performer. More importantly, her sound is something that calls back to a very empowering moment in music, and now’s as good a time for that to be revived as ever. Let’s just call it here and now: She’s probably going to win this thing if she keeps making decisions that are true to herself like this. (Recap continues on page 2)
Team Blake: Keisha Renee
“All By Myself” by Celine Dion
Keisha Renee really needed a big moment tonight, and, well, she got it. Coming into this round, she was dangerously close to boxing herself into that country-meets-gospel fluency that made her such a standout in earlier rounds. So, instead of note-running her way through another such number, she makes the very good decision to go for something we haven’t heard from her in a while: a stoic, withdrawn melody that doesn’t require her to play with the note runs quite so much.
And credit to Blake Shelton for advising her to, contrary to the message behind the lyrics, go it mostly alone on stage, because she’s got this and doesn’t need any help. The performance is lovely and new and everything she needed to achieve.
Team Miley: Ashland Craft
“I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett
Yawn. Sorry, but Ashland Craft is out of her league at this point. It’s not that there’s anything technically wrong with her voice, but she doesn’t pack much of a punch. From her droll delivery here to the fact that she doesn’t play a single power note in what should be a slam-dunk jamfest, it’s just ho-hum.
Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
Doing hymnals on this kind of stage can be tricky business, especially when it’s a song that reminds a lot of us of funerals. And in the first verse, when Brooke goes the traditional, somber route with her delivery, this performance is groan-inducing. But by verse two she’s supported by some soft but effective instrumentals, and her voice becomes absolutely angelic.
Miley says the goal is to do the song “like Coldplay,” but thankfully, that’s not what Brooke does. At all. She does it like Brooke Simpson, and it pays off. She’s still taking us all to church, but she’s refusing to make us feel bad about the weight of these lyrics. She’s singing with joy and vigor, and it’s all the more enthralling because of that. Some people have questioned Brooke Simpson’s longevity in this competition, but if she keeps managing to subvert all expectations week after week, she might just be stating her case for the finals.
“That’s What I Love About Sunday” by Craig Morgan
Please, someone cry uncle. If it wasn’t clear before tonight that Red Marlow’s skill set is too limited to keep going in this competition, it is now. This was easily his worst performance of the season: shaky, pitchy, and flat all at the same time.
Last week, Red dominated the iTunes downloads with his rendition of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” — and he did a very decent job with it. But unfortunately, his take on “That’s What I Love About Sunday” sounded more like open mic night at the local saloon. Compared to the other acts that bookend his performance, even he seems to know this was a very weak showcase.
Team Adam: Addison Agen
“Lucky” by Britney Spears
Sigh. I want to like this, I do — because Addison Agen is so easy to like, and she’s been so roundly delightful all season. Her achy, timeless voice is a treat to listen to. But this rendition lacks the compelling element of her prior performances, and that may have something to do with this song choice.
We’ve heard stripped-down Britney Spears songs do wonders before — hey, even Britney’s brought out her own retooled numbers to surprise fans from time to time. But “Lucky” isn’t one of Britney’s most recognizable hits, so hearing it stretched so thin like this takes away the power of the adaptation. And Addison may have been feeling clever about showing up in jeans and one of Britney’s signature newsboy caps, but by doing so she’s again concealed the song’s meaning. What we’re left with instead is her desperately trying to sell us on her sad tones, and compared to everything else, it’s just a little too spare.
- It’s time for Red Marlow and Ashland Craft to be in the bottom, but somehow I don’t think they both will. Ashland seems to have a less fervent fan base, so she’s probably more likely to land in the bottom.
- Davon Fleming and Shi’Ann Jones are also questionable. Both are so vocally gifted but don’t always make the greatest choices with their notes and runs. I’d say Shi’Ann is more likely to face elimination than Davon is tomorrow night.
- Adam Cunningham has probably done enough to earn a spot in the next round on merit, but then again, I’ve said that before.
- Chloe Kohanski, Addison Agen, Brooke Simpson, and Keisha Renee belong in the finale, but Noah Mac could take the place of one of the last two.
- Team Adam: Addison Agen, Adam Cunningham
- Team Miley: Brooke Simpson, Ashland Craft
- Team Jennifer: Davon Fleming, Shi’Ann Jones, Noah Mac
- Team Blake: Keisha Renee, Red Marlow, Chloe Kohanski