The Miseducation of Vanessa Ferguson

By Amanda Bell
May 08, 2017 at 10:44 PM EDT
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Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC
S12 E24
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This week on The Voice, things are starting to get pretty intense, as not one but two people are up for elimination tomorrow. Of the top 10, there are a couple of perceived underdogs who’ve decided to come through with something special tonight, while some of the frontrunners are a little underwhelming. Will the top 8 look a lot different than we expected it would last week? Let’s walk through this performance round and try to make some predictions, shall we?

Jesse Larson (Team Adam): “Jungle Love” by The Time

After last week’s relatively laid-back performance, Jesse Larson is pulling out all the stops to put on a full-blast showcase of his stage swagger, up-tempo vocal skills, and, of course, his ability to shred on the electric guitar. Apart from the fact that this one runs about two minutes too long, he pulls off the theatrics of the piece just fine — the lyrical shout-out to Alicia Keys was a clever addition. I wouldn’t say it’s a supreme showcase of his voice, per se, but it shows off his ability to command an audience, even through a somewhat repetitive funk anthem.

Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake): “Jealous” by Labyrinth

Well, I didn’t expect this to happen. Aliyah Moulden has spent most of the season traveling straight to the highest decibel and staying there, which has made her a somewhat divisive contestant. But tonight, she wisely pulled back to perform a slowed-down melody that allowed us to discover the other octaves at which she can sing. Not only that, but her emotional connection to the number was something new and very endearing. Before the song was cut short by her tears, she did a nice job of escalating from a warm, softer range into her power notes, which were all the better for it. Easily, easily her best showing of the season.

Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia): “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill

GIRL. Holy emcee skills, Vanessa Ferguson. Alicia Keys is right that this woman can do it all. She’s such an entertainer, and I’m so glad Alicia was willing to phone in a favor with Lauryn Hill to allow her to throw this down tonight. Not only did she hit every line — many at rapid speed — with precision and clarity, but she took absolute ownership of this song, too. What a treat for any Miseducation of Lauryn Hill fans in the crowd. After a few weeks of being just a little less sewn up, this put Vanessa right back on track to be a frontrunner for sure. If this is as close to Vanessa Ferguson’s true style as we’ve gotten so far, we are in for a treat as we see what’s next from her.

Mark Isaiah (Team Adam): “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

There are some nice things that can be said about Mark Isaiah’s performance tonight. His seated piano intro started out as something subdued and intriguing; he’s a hard worker, per Adam; and… I’m out. The song choice was an attempt to break away from the norm for him, but belting out a Harry Styles number isn’t exactly leaving the stratosphere of the Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, etc. impersonation game he’s been playing all year. It did require his voice to show off more range than usual, but unfortunately, Mark’s head voice is too underdeveloped to land those high notes. Adam Levine’s plea for America to vote Mark through so he can continue to grow might just fall on uninterested ears this week.

Chris Blue (Team Alicia): “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

Like Blake Shelton, I also think that Chris Blue deserves to be the finals because he’s a very, very good singer with a lot of intangibles to spare. But tonight, as happens with so many singers who decide to break it down onstage, his voice seems to get lost in the shuffle of this high-energy dance ensemble. It’s fun, and he does have some killer moves worth knowing about, but that much activity puts stress on anyone’s vocal delivery, and Chris Blue’s ordinarily solid sound seemed a little off. Hopefully, enough viewers have paid attention to send him through anyway.

Lilli Passero (Team Adam): “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole

Ever since Lilli Passero and Adam figured out that she basically belongs in the elevator music-making biz, things have been going pretty well for her. This effort is a bit stretched — some of the notes are just beyond her range, although she doesn’t pierce any eardrums — but there is still something sweet about her performance that makes her stand out tonight. In the first half, especially, her voice sounds very pure, almost like Lea Salonga of Aladdin and Mulan soundtrack fame. Hey, maybe there’s a future for her in singing for Disney princesses.

Lauren Duski (Team Blake): “Tell Me Why” by Wynonna Judd

That’s it. There’s just no way Lauren Duski gets skipped over for finals. Not only does she have a signature “voice” that she successfully attaches to anything she sings, but she’s able to tackle a lot of low-key country classics like this one and breathe new life into them. Even with an increase in tempo, her rich tones still come through in full force. There’s definitely a nostalgia to her sound — it’s a mesh of several ’90s country and pop singers, Wynonna Judd included — but she manages to make her performances feel current. She’s not going anywhere.

Hunter Plake (Team Gwen): “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood

Agh, Hunter Plake. Noooo. His performance tonight makes me a little sad because he usually has such an enticing presence and sound, but tonight, that really doesn’t come through enough. While this song might’ve seemed like a good match for him on paper, the character of his voice is so lost in the first few verses that it’s hard to recover any of that zap that makes him him. Maybe if the arrangement had been moved around or slowed down a bit? I don’t know. But this is just an inadequate match and comes off as another boring cover, which is thoroughly surprising, considering the source. Bummer. Mine from the Tonic/Matchbox Twenty/Goo Goo Dolls era next time, Gwen!

TSoul (Team Blake): “At this Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters

Okay, TSoul. As Alicia Keys would (and did) say, “I feel you.” There’s something so delightfully undone about TSoul. His commitment to runs and that full-blast cadence is here tonight, too, but there’s also something deeper than usual woven into his performance that does what it’s supposed to do and summons a particular feeling as he’s singing. Is it perfect? No, TSoul’s not the one who’s going to hit every note on the nose, and he doesn’t pretend to be. But it’s still one of the more memorable showcases of the night.

Brennley Brown (Team Gwen): “Anyway” by Martina McBride

There’s no doubt Brennley Brown is incredibly talented, and her personal connection with the positive message of this anthem came through in the delivery. At this point, these performers’ personalities are part and parcel of the package they’re presenting, and there is something so strident about her. There are some notes that are wonky, and she’s behind the beat a little in the beginning, but she’s still a really good singer. Compared to Lauren Duski, it’s hard to choose which singer has the more satisfying sound, which is probably why they’re both still here at this point.

Predictions for the Top 8:

Mark Isaiah is probably going to find himself on the chopping block again tomorrow night. The past three weeks have proven that he’s just not getting the night-of votes, and, let’s face it, he didn’t do anything to change that momentum tonight.

I’m worried about Chris Blue and Hunter Plake. If anyone’s just tuning in tonight and hasn’t been versed on their former performances, these performances might not earn their interest (or votes). And while TSoul has been so fun to watch and listen to most of the time, he’s not for everybody.

Overall, I predict Mark Isaiah and TSoul will end up getting sent home tomorrow night.

Final standings:

  • Team Adam: Mark Isaiah, Jesse Larson, Lilli Passero
  • Team Gwen: Brennley Brown, Hunter Plake
  • Team Alicia: Vanessa Ferguson, Chris Blue
  • Team Blake: Lauren Duski, Aliyah Moulden, TSoul

Episode Recaps

The Voice

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.

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