Even with the standard coaching from their red-chair-sitting superstars and additional guest mentoring from an all-powerful producer, the Top 10 contestants mostly seemed to be put out on their own to sink or swim this week. The Top 10 is a make-it-or-break-it time when the diamonds in the rough show their shine, the frontrunners cement their status, and the middle of the pack quickly become the next up on the chopping block. There’s nothing the coaches can do to change that, so they asked almost all of their performers to go out there and bare their souls, and that resulted in a much larger disparity of talent in the Top 10 than we’ve yet seen from this group as it’s gotten smaller and smaller.
This season there simply haven’t been too many low lows, but there were some middling middles tonight… and then there were the highs. Oh, did we reach some heights tonight with a few of these contestants, some of them barely in legal possession of a driver’s license. And as much as those performances were appropriately praised, with the Top 10, the coaches are apparently finally ready to get a little critical when their artists don’t perform well. I mean, no one even skirted around the idea of saying anyone did poorly, but lyrical flubs were pointed out, mistakes in risky song choices were considered, and, when in doubt, outfits were complimented.
When The Voice starts rolling out the big guns as far as production is concerned (that was a lot of backup singers and sassy violinists!) the people who are really ready for primetime reveal themselves, especially when they have some of the top producers in music—Mark Ronson for Team Christina, Scott Hendricks for Team Blake, Dave Stewart for Team Adam, and Ryan Tedder for Team Pharrell—helping them out behind the scenes. As Carson said at one point, “There’s something going on tonight,” and while it wasn’t going on all night, it was going on occasionally, and I’m ready to see more.
TEAM CHRISTINA: Kimberly Nichole, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James
In seems almost inappropriate to open the show with Kimberly Nichole because who could possibly hold up that standard? The woman is sheer command and confidence—she was wearing a white applique and mesh jumpsuit, for goodness’ sake! Etta James is more soul and less rock than we’ve seen from Kimberly in a while, but her performance is still totally her. Her vocal had so many different levels, and this performance shows that even when she’s not in her lane, she elevates everything she does. Kimberly just is the lane.
TEAM ADAM: Joshua Davis, “Hold Back the River” by James Bay
And then there are some artists who maybe don’t need to mess around with trying out other lanes. Many people have enjoyed Joshua’s soothing tones and emotional connection throughout the season, and weren’t really begging for him to take vocal risks that he probably wouldn’t if he was making his own album. Adam even admitted that the risk didn’t pay off in every way, but he says the mission to show that he can handle his higher register—an argument only Adam seemed to be clamoring to settle—was successful.
TEAM BLAKE: Hannah Kirby, “Shout” by Tears for Fears
Hannah was excited to “let it all out” on this song, but Hannah always kind of lets it all out; more so what ended up happening was a huge production that made this performance seem even more ’80s rock than its original rendition. That’s a voice that Hannah’s big, powerful (and truly impressive at times) voice lends itself well to, but as Ryan Tedder later pointed out, there are ways to make very decade-specific songs more current, so that it’s easier to imagine the performer in the current music landscape. I just can’t quite get there with Hannah, though I always enjoy hearing her let it all out—and watching her dance it all out.
TEAM BLAKE: Meghan Linsey, “Home” by Marc Broussard
As someone who isn’t familiar with Meghan’s country career, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine that she hasn’t always sung exactly as she does now. Her soulful style is just so honest and lived in. Tonight, in what Christina deemed her best performance yet, some of that might have had to do with her personal connection to this song about growing up in Louisiana. I’m glad to hear from Blake that Meghan’s self-assuredness behind closed doors is growing to match the confident performances she gives onstage, but I might also like to hear something a little less… intense from her at some point.
NEXT: Gird your hearts, Koryn is singing Ed Sheeran…