With a performance from Nate Ruess to open the show, two performances from each artist, and clips of them singing at parades and concerts in their hometowns, tonight’s Semi-Finals episode of The Voice felt a little bit like a musical marathon—but it was a marathon where for some reason you got your heart broken right at the starting line and then somewhere around the 13-mile marker, were welcomed into a warm embrace by your mom. Because, man, were the first half of these performances a drama-soaked cry fest. Yes, those emotional covers brought out a powerful moment or two, but with one after the other, after the other, it also felt like I was getting broken up with at prom with each new song.
So, thank goodness for Hometown Visits, which always promise to bring the other kind of crying: The kind that comes with watching a 17-year-old get a day named after her while her dad says this is the proudest moment of his life; or with seeing a formerly struggling artist look out over a sold-out crowd screaming his name; or with observing Naomi Judd arrive unannounced to pull newspaper clippings out of her pockets. Wait—that part felt less familiar. But, I guess if The Voice isn’t worried about shying away from the fact that Meghan Linsey has already had multiple incarnations of a music career (that’s according to Big & Rich), then we shouldn’t be either. Everyone is just trying to achieve their dreams, as evidenced by the subtle scent of desperation that seeped its way into the first round of performances, but worked itself back out by the time everyone got to dedicate a song to the places that have supported them endlessly through this competition.
It just goes to show that a performance is always better when the artists are feeling it rather than trying to convince the audience to feel something. You feel it, we feel it, capiche?
JOSHUA DAVIS (Team Adam)
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
This one really felt like the soundtrack to a breakup-dance at the Senior Prom, which isn’t a bad thing per se, but when accented by Adam’s increasingly unhelpful comments that the “challenge” with Joshua is to highlight what he does best because he can’t compete with the other, more interesting contestants (okay, I’m paraphrasing), it wasn’t the best. It sounded nice, you can almost always say that much for Joshua, and I don’t know why Adam won’t just say that and leave it alone.
“When I Paint My Masterpiece” by The Band/Bob Dylan
I appreciated how totally overwhelmed Joshua was by all the Traverse City support, and equally appreciated this slightly more upbeat performance that leaned on a more country sound than we’re used to hearing from the soulful fellow. It didn’t break any boundaries, but it was at least interesting.
KORYN HAWTHORNE (Team Pharrell)
“One” by U2
It’s very possible that Pharrell is trolling us with the “inspirational” comments at this point. I get where the guy is coming from—there is, indeed, something very moving about the way that Koryn digs into a performance. But it seems like a random first-of-the-night performance might be a good time to let a 17-year-old have a little more fun.
“Oh Mary Don’t You Weep”
Because when Koryn is ready to inspire, she’ll do it. I only wish that Koryn hadn’t let her signature growl take over quite so much of this lyric, but still—this was drama at its most well-executed. With the white gown and the white mic and the choir of backup singers on individual platforms, this was Koryn Does the Grammys with a 90 percent vocal to front a 100 percent production. From shaking hands to Xtina level arm-singing, Koryn really has come a long way.
NEXT: First song, eh; second song, yeah! Just get used to it…