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'The Voice' recap: 'Top 8 Performances'

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The Voice

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera
Reality TV, Music

Some tricky business is about to start happening on season 8 of The Voice. The Top 8 performed tonight, and while it was a mixed bag of melodies and the occasional missed note, it was as evident as ever that this is a particularly talented group of singers; but two still have to go home on Tuesday night as we work our way toward a winner. And while it’s pretty easy to figure out who the top performers in this crew are, it’s a little more difficult to find an overlap between the artists who most deserve to be cut loose, and the artists who are most likely to head home tomorrow.

The biggest issue facing these artists now is that some of the best performers dwell in a similar space and are bound to start canceling each other out with voters. To see the emerging talents of Kimberly or Koryn (both on the pop charts tonight) go home tomorrow would simply be a crime, while it’s becoming difficult to imagine that the country vote will every fail Corey even though he hasn’t been at peak performance recently. Hopefully the risk of losing great performers will encourage voters to go with artists whose album they would actually want to buy, as well as encourage these artists to give performances inspired by the album they’d actually want to make. Because isn’t that what this is all headed toward?

I firmly believe that The Voice is capable of producing a real superstar, and with all the mentoring power of the ghosts of coaches past and present (except for Shaki, miss you, girl) assembled there tonight, as well as Matt McAndrew—proof that winning isn’t everything—it’s clear that this season has all the tools to be the one that finally means something big to the current music industry landscape. But it’s tomorrow’s results following tonight’s performances that will be most telling…

TEAM BLAKE: Hannah Kirby, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner

Hannah and Cee Lo hanging out in a room together makes a lot more sense to me than Blake and Cee Lo occupying the same space, but I don’t know if she ended up benefiting from his extra coaching or not. I’m with Adam that I was so distracted by how cute the dancing children in white bedazzled jackets were I often wasn’t focusing on what Hannah was doing during her Tina Turner cover. She did tone down the yelling that has overshadowed some of her recent performances, which is a good thing, but she also seemed to lose some of her normal energy among all of the production.

TEAM ADAM: Joshua Davis, “Fields of Gold” by Sting

It was good to see Joshua back in his element after a few weeks of confusingly off performances. Now the questions is, after seeing the weaker side of his voice last week, is that element dynamic enough to make Joshua a viable recording artist? There is no denying his perfectly husky tone when it’s right in its sweet spot—consider Sting the eye of that storm—but there’s also no denying that very tone might just lull you to sleep in two tracks flat. I need iTunes to tell me whether that’s a negative or positive thing to the music-buying public.

TEAM CHRISTINA: Kimberly Nichole, “Creep” by Radiohead

She’s done it again. I would like to point out that even if the show didn’t mention it, Kimberly credited Postmodern Jukebox and Haley Reinhart’s “Creep” cover that went viral a few weeks ago as the inspiration for this arrangement. But whether someone else created the melody or not, Kimberly Nichole absolutely embodied it out on that stage. Christina wanted the normally edgy Kimberly to show some vulnerability, and it started in the practice room when a few perfect notes from Christina (“Can I try singing this for a second?” The answer is always yes, Xtina) moved her to tears because she relates to the outlier message of this song so much, especially in regard to her time on The Voice. But the irony is that Kimberly so very much belongs on this show, and her dramatic, controlled, and perfectly angsty performance tonight proved that fact yet again. (And props to Gwen for pointing out that Kimberly’s normal rock-ballerina style would have been at odds with this performance.)

NEXT: Blake lets his cawn-fi-DENSE get him carried away…[pagebreak]

TEAM BLAKE: Meghan Linsey, “Something” by The Beatles

I like Meghan’s voice—I would like to state that for the record. And even though she seemed off the melody on this arrangement, her voice always sounds great. But it’s becoming more difficult each week to watch Meghan’s unwavering intensity. That weighed especially heavy tonight as she sang about being totally in love without cracking a smile. While her passion is always present and believable, there’s a certain amount of lightness in Meghan that really needs to reveal itself sooner rather than later.

TEAM CHRISTINA: India Carney, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz

I’m expecting mixed reviews here for India’s big, dramatic performance. If you’re a longtime watcher of singing competition shows like me, then you probably also cringed when India announced her song choice. I fully understand the draw to this song about hope and happiness, especially when it meant so much to India in the discovery of her love for music; but it’s also a song that’s been covered more bad times than good, and it’s difficult to do the original justice while still making the cover your own. I give India endless credit for the drama with which she approaches each of her performances, but tonight’s cover felt like it was a little more about singing—not a note was left unturned, not a run resisted—than it was about the song.

TEAM PHARRELL: Sawyer Fredericks, “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

At 16 years old, Sawyer is a guy who knows who he is, both musically and personally, and I think that’s what continues to make him so appealing (to many) as an artist. Sawyer is a simple boy raised on a farm with a bounty of guitars and hats, and he’s becoming a simple man right here on national television. Does that mean he can effortlessly switch from playing guitar to swaggering around a stage, grasping audience member’s hands? No. But does it mean he’s willing to try new things to continue to grow into the artist that his unique tone and folksy style are begging him to be? I think so.

TEAM BLAKE: Corey Kent White, “When I See You Smile” by Bad English

Corey was also willing to try new things this week, but his execution was little more encumbered by his discomfort. I give credit to Blake for the positivity he rains down on his artist at all times while the voting public is listening in, but surely he didn’t really think that was Corey’s best performance yet. That’s a discredit to Corey who has had plenty of performances where he showed off the sweet spot in his range, rasp, and confidence, all while staying in key. But this wasn’t the best example of that and I felt a little like Corey didn’t even believe his coach.

TEAM PHARRELL: Koryn Hawthorne, “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys

Koryn surely couldn’t keep topping herself every week, and this wasn’t her single best performance, but it was still a great one. Alicia Keys seems like an obvious choice for Koryn, but I’m left a little undecided on the arrangement that she, Pharrell, and Gwen put together. While I think the moment that Koryn finally descended those stairs and took the chorus into the stratosphere was worth just about anything, the first third of the performance that took place on the stairs did feel a lot like waiting around. But still, it’s been amazing to watch Koryn grow from the girl who was doing everything she could to keep her hands from shaking during “How Great Thou Art,” march down a set of translucent stairs to nail an Alicia Keys chorus, and “Girl on Fire” felt like the embodiment of that journey.

It’s time to take bets: Who deserves to go home tomorrow, who will go home, and which judges have most helped/doomed their artists with their very differing approaches to post-performance comments?