The live top 10 show was anchored by blow-you-away performances of classic songs, with contestants drawing on the likes of Whitney Houston and Johnny Cash. Yes, the dudes are in the majority, but DaNica Shirey is an imposing force. However, she is matched by Craig Wayne Boyd, who continues to deliver high grade work.
The evening started out with a group performance of two Rascal Flatts songs: first the women on “God Bless the Broken Road” and then the men doing “Stand,” which the three female contestants eventually completed. The coaches also brought in some fun mentors. Gwen had Christina Aguilera, who is gearing up for another turn as a coach. Blake tapped Colbie Caillat while Adam got Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. Still no one could top Pharrell: He had Diana Ross.
But enough about the coaches, let’s get to the performances.
Adam clearly has the strongest team at this point in time, but who is the strongest of the strong? For me, it’s a tight race between Damien and Matt McAndrew. McAndrew sang Coldplay’s “Fix You,” a.k.a. the song Aaron Sorkin uses to make you cry. McAndrew’s performance showed the range of his talents, from the soft falsetto of the song’s opening to the song’s powerful crescendo. He also showed an uncanny ability to work the crowd, which segued into some overt hamminess. He hugged a woman and said “hey” to an audience member in the middle of the song. “Who was that lady over there?” Carson asked. McAndrew didn’t know her. Damien was also spectacular, singing Stevie Wonder’s “You and I.” Simpler is better sometimes, and McAndrew could probably learn from that. Damien had the audience at his fingertips just with the power of his voice. Chris Jamison was tasked with singing a new song, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk.” Jamison closed out the show, and was given a huge production number, which didn’t work in his favor. He felt overwhelmed by the stagecraft.
Gwen is the other coach with three contestants left. Perhaps this is a matter of taste, but Anita Antoinette was the standout on her team. Antoinette, outfitted in a Janelle Monae-esque get up, sang a reggae-inflected version of Passenger’s “Let Her Go.” It was obvious Antoinette was having a great time—”I guess you’re having fun, huh?” Blake said—and that made her all the better and proved that she is one of the singers who is confident in her artistic style. Taylor John Williams did a funky interpretation of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” a choice that Gwen was initially worried about. And while Williams comported himself well, he didn’t create a version of the song that felt like an advancement on the original. He wasn’t wearing socks though, a fact that Gwen liked. America saved Ryan Sill last week, and I’m not sure he made enough of a case to be saved again with his take on Muse’s “Starlight,” a song which just felt too big for him.
Although Pharrell only has two contestants left, they are a wildly impressive two. Clive Davis was in the audience, giving DaNica Shirey the unique opportunity to perform Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” in front of a significant person in Houston’s life. Shirey did not disappoint. While, sure, no one can match Whitney, Shirey gave a commanding performance, with not one false note. That’s not to say Pharrell‘s other contestant, Luke Wade, was no slouch either. He gave his all to a “Try a Little Tenderness” that had a repeated break down during the “got to” section. Though both Adam and Gwen pointed out Pharrell’s influence, Adam specifically referencing the 808s, Wade recovered nicely from his rough outing last week.
Team Blake has a force to be reckoned with in Craig Wayne Boyd, who once again gave what was probably the top performance of the night. Boyd took Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” and made it completely his own. The song was barely recognizable, but that wasn’t a bad thing. He slowed it down and honed in on its power and his own. That sustained “walk” at the end? Wow. The baby of the competition, 16-year-old Reagan James, didn’t fare as well. She made the choice to take on Iggy Azaela’s “Fancy,” singing through the rap portions. James’ “Fancy” was sort of the Kidz Bop version, lyrically—(“Bad bitch” became “bad girl” and “Let’s get drunk on the minibar” became “Let’s have fun in the minibar”)—but it also didn’t totally work melodically. Unfortunately, she was probably the weakest link this episode.
Check out the EW Community to read season 2 semifinalist Katrina Parker’s take on last night’s episode of The Voice.