Well, here we are. The Voice‘s Top 8 face another cutthroat elimination round this week ahead of the finals. Only four will make it through to next week’s big showdown, and while there are some singers who seem like shoo-ins for the big show, it’s still unclear who’ll get America’s vote to vie for the win.
Let’s take a look at tonight’s performances and see if we can’t figure out who’ll earn those coveted finale spots.
“Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel again this week, Sarah Grace is going with a simpler number that more obviously matches her tones, and yes, it works. Her soft growl-slash-wail effect is well served by this number — although her emotion does sound a little put on in some parts of the song. Coach Kelly Clarkson is especially impressed by her reaching into the headspace a little to mix it up because, yep, it’s nice to hear a little something new from Sarah, even if her default tones are so reliable and strong.
Reagan Strange and Kennedy Holmes
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae
After last week’s drama, Reagan Strange is obviously just trying to enjoy her bonus time here on The Voice, while Kennedy Holmes is enjoying her continued status as one to beat on this show. As far as duets go, this is about as pleasant as they come, as both ladies merrily float through their lyrics and seem to be having a lot of fun with trading off. Their vocals are mostly strong, too, with Kennedy handling the lower register that Reagan loathes so well, while Reagan sticks to the higher notes.
“Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
MaKenzie Thomas sees no need to break away from the diva dynamic, and why should she? It’s kept her here without obstacle so far, and these are obviously the kinds of songs she’s been hoping to play with after so many years in the church scene. There is a little too much fawning happening by the coaches, though, because although it is nice — good even! — this is not a perfect delivery. Her instinct for those “gospel” runs is legitimate, as is the boundlessness of her ambition for impossible songs. But there are several points here tonight where she hits the roof of her range, and she gets a bit pitchy trying to break through. She’s still one of the most solid competitors left in this thing, but to say this was the best performance ever on this show is a bit of a stretch.
Kirk Jay and Chevel Shepherd
“She’s Country” by Jason Aldean and “Country Must Be Country Wide” by Brantley Gilbert
Another duet, another chance for these guys to kick back and have a little fun. Yes, these things do count towards the competition element of this show, but they’re also made to fill in the gaps on time, so why not let loose a little? In Kirk and Chevel’s case, they just seem to be enjoying each other’s company as the resident honky tonk aficionados of the group, and while she does ease into this brisker pace a little more nimbly than her company here, this is fine for both.
“Never Alone” by Tori Kelly
Kymberli Joye’s voice soars again tonight as she continues to thrive in her space in gospel music, but the first minute or so of her performance is definitely more interesting than the rest. In the opening, she explores some new elements of her tone that are sharper, impressively lower, and even more spirited than we’ve seen before … but then she blasts into that never-ending scream-singing routine and isn’t able to come back down from it, and it’s a lot of the same from that point on.
“Can’t You See?” by the Marshall Tucker Band
There’ve been a lot of on-the-nose performances on this show, but this has to be one of the most exact. Chris Kroeze’s steely tones are a near match for the original, and there’s really nothing else to say except that he definitely has this audio-impression down to a science.
Kymberli Joye and MaKenzie Thomas
“Best of My Love” by The Emotions and “Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn
These two are probably competing for the same votes at this point, since they’re both soul singers with gospel backgrounds. Both have heaping voices and love to throw in a ton of dramatic runs, but, again, Kymberli just seems to get stuck once she hit full-blast, so MaKenzie gets the edge in their head-to-head.
“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman
Apparently, birthday girl Kennedy Holmes has been wanting to sing this song for quite a while, and it’s easy to see why. She’s really, really good at delivering all elements of this performance. There’s emotion, honesty, and most importantly, showmanship throughout her very poised set, and if this isn’t the kinda thing that nudges her to the next stage of this competition, it’s hard to know what could. This is pretty near to perfect for her.
“You Are the Reason” by Calum Scott
There’s a lot of image rehabilitation effort happening with Reagan Strange’s segment. She and Adam are shown delivering toys to wildfire victims before he addresses the issue of his mistreatment of DeAndre Nico during the instant save last week. “DeAndre’s my boy. I love him. We talked. It’s all good,” he says in rehearsals before Reagan’s shown video-chatting with DeAndre, who again shows an immense amount of grace by wishing her well in tonight’s performance. Will all of this be enough to make America forget how mad they were about Adam’s decision last week? If not, her performance just might be. Unlike last week when she phoned it in, this seems like a more emotionally affected showcase where she’s drawing down the background effects and allowing some softer notes to carry the moment so that her meatier notes can stand out. It’s a smart play, and this is one of her better deliveries as a whole. It’s just… now there’s baggage associated with her name that might be hard to carry, and besides, she’s already been in the bottom before any controversy ever happened.
Chris Kroeze and Sarah Grace
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones and “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
This is a surprisingly astute match-up because Chris and Sarah both like to jam on their instruments while they sing, and each has a distinct tone that doesn’t seem to ever waver much. Sarah’s a little more difficult to hear throughout the melody — she might be struggling with a microphone issue — but what we do hear from both is right on course with what they always do. A growl-moan for her, a rasp rock from him. The arrangement is a little hectic, but they both manage to hang on well enough.
“Blue” by LeAnn Rimes
After last week’s Loretta Lynn performance, this is exactly what I wanted to hear Chevel Shepherd tackle next, and tackle it she does. This girl is so comfortable with her instrument — one of the few people left who treats her voice as an instrument at that — and she delivers such a clean, gorgeous rendition here of what is a very iconic and challenging song that I wonder if she might not be a real contender for the win here. Wow. How authentic is she?
“I Swear” by John Michael Montgomery
Blake Shelton is right to coin his season standout “a country balladeer with a pop flare,” but I have to wonder if this might’ve been better had he just gone with the Boyz II Men version of the song? In the intro, Kirk Jay’s voice is pretty shaky and uncomposed, and all those little tricks and nuances that are usually so delightful about his performances seem a bit overdone here. Things improve as he goes along, and perhaps he’s a bit overcome with the dedication of this song (to a fan named Courteney who’s in a hard battle with cancer), but it’s still just a little off throughout. That said, the coaches are still right to point out the distinction of his voice and the fact that he’s such a passionate and interesting person, so maybe this will still be enough to see him through to next week. Hard maybe, though.
Predictions: It’s definitely gonna be ladies night next week during the finale because it’s hard to imagine MaKenzie Thomas, Chevel Shepherd, and Kennedy Holmes not making it through after this week and everything that’s happened before it. As for who joins them in the final four? Sarah Grace and Kymberli Joye are also strong singers, so it’s hard to picture them not getting a chance at an instant save alongside … Chris Kroeze? Maybe? Or Kirk Jay if fans can look past the rough edges of tonight’s show? Either way, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see four women advance and leave Adam Levine and Blake Shelton without representation in the finale, but I’ve been wrong about these things before.
Adam Levine – Reagan Strange.
Blake Shelton – Kirk Jay, Chris Kroeze.
Kelly Clarkson – Chevel Shepherd, Sarah Grace, Kymberli Joye.
Jennifer Hudson – MaKenzie Thomas, Kennedy Holmes.
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UPDATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kymberli Joye and MaKenzie Thomas performed just one song.