The Voice recap: It's the semi-finals and the Top 8 are singing '90s-themed duets
Welcome to The Voice season 21 semi-finals! Eight musical acts will enter, only five will move forward to next week's finale. That's right — we're getting a Final Five and, as a reminder, there's no guarantee that an artist from each team will make it through. This is all about getting the highest votes (and that Instant Save). In order to win those votes, each artist will be performing a song they've yet to do this season, and then we'll see them all again as acts are paired up for some "duet" type performances (even though we have duos and trios still in the competition, but you get what I'm saying). Those "duets" will all be songs from the '90s — well, okay, it's more "rock/pop-ish songs from the '90s." Obviously, I'm here for Alanis and Wilson Phillips but, um, hello, where is the '90s R&B? You have an iconic Brandy and Monica duet sitting right there. I won't get too fired up about it, but that's only because I'm soothed by the fact that Kelly Clarkson came dressed for the theme with a slip dress and choker, and we are all truly living.
Let's talk performances:
Team Ariana: Jim and Sasha Allen, "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel
Jim and Sasha Allen are the final artists standing on Team Ariana, and that is still shocking to me — that Holly Forbes loss stings! It's surprising that after having such a great week after singing a more contemporary song that pushed them vocally (Rihanna's "Stay" in case you need a reminder), that they'd go back to singing straight folky classics. It's a great song, but this is the semi-finals! Although John Legend enjoyed it because it felt so comfortable and the guys looked at ease, so what do I know? Coach Ariana Grande praises her duo, telling them that she and America love them because they are "nostalgic" and "warm" and what they do is "infectious."
Team Legend: Jershika Maple, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" by Elton John
Okay, now this is a performance by someone fighting for one of those final five spots. Jershika Maple tells her coach John Legend that being in the bottom three last week sparked "a competitive fire" and you can see that in every part of this. From the cape to the flowers on the piano to the choir surrounding her, Jershika looks like a star. She sounds like one too. She owns this song. John echoes a sentiment from Carson Daly, who tells Jershika that he felt like he was just at her Grammy's performance. "You deserve to be in this space," John tells her before calling her "a superstar talent."
Wendy Moten and Paris Winningham, "If I Could Change the World" by Eric Clapton
I mean, they knew by pairing up these two that they could give them literally any song from the '90s and they would've known exactly what to do with it. It's not the most exciting song choice but Wendy and Paris do the most with it. That ending back and forth? I wanted it to last at least 10 more minutes. It got Blake up off of his seat at the end, yelling, "Those are my students!" And you know what? He should be super proud of his team this season.
Team Blake: Lana Scott, "Something in the Water" by Carrie Underwood
Speaking of Team Blake, he might have three people in the Final Five next week. Lana Scott knows what she's doing with this song choice. Blake tells her that this week is the most important of the competition and that it's time to get fully lost in the moment. It certainly seems like Lana has brought it all this week — seriously, all these people and full choir accompaniments! — and she gives a rousing, anthemic performance. Blake agrees with John, who says that Lana Scott has been consistently great, but adds that she's "never turned it up like that before." Team Blake is playing to win.
Team Kelly: Hailey Mia, "Someone You Loved" by Lewis Capaldi
Hailey Mia's had a real dark horse run on this show. This week, she's making her final play for the finale with a song she knows well. That's smart! In rehearsals, Kelly continues to try to push Hailey's range because she knows she can do more than we're seeing, even if Hailey doesn't know it yet. Just because this song should be retired from reality singing competitions doesn't mean it's not a good fit for Hailey. She sounds great in those quiet falsetto moments. Kelly's glad that Hailey picked a song that allowed her to showcase "every part of her voice" as well as highlight her storytelling skills.
Lana Scott and Jim and Sasha Allen, "Hold My Hand" by Hootie and the Blowfish
Hooooooootie! If you lived through the '90s, you just have to, you know? This is a great pairing of artists. There's lots of room for harmonies in this song and Lana's bright voice complements the folksy sound of Jim and Sasha so well. Also, I don't think Sasha has ever sounded this good? Anyway, these duets are always fun and this one is no different.
Team Kelly: Girl Named Tom, "River" by Joni Mitchell
Let's be real: There's no way Girl Named Tom isn't making it into the finale, so I guess it doesn't actually matter that they also picked a perfect song for the semi-finals. This song is gutting on its own (plus we're singing the saddest Christmas song during the Christmas season? perfect), so adding GNT's ethereal harmonies on top of it is only going to make it even more heartbreaking. What more is there to say about this trio? They should sing more Joni Mitchell songs. Kelly praises her artists for their work ethic and the fact that they tinker with every single moment of a song until they get it right. She tells them this kind of care "shows in the performance."
Jershika Maple & Joshua Vacanti, "Hand In My Pocket" by Alanis Morissette
OBVIOUSLY, I would've loved to have heard these two powerhouses take on Alanis's "You Oughta Know" (can you imagine?), but any Alanis will do, I guess. They sound unsurprisingly great on this song, even if it does seem a bit restrained. Still, there are big, booming notes and lots of room to up the theatrics.
Team Blake: Wendy Moten, "You're All I Need To Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
In rehearsals, Blake tells Wendy that she's sort of "been playing it cool" in recent weeks, and he thinks right now is the time to "turn back up the heat," and by the end of the song, he wants her to "let it fly" the way only Wendy can. She does this. She does this while just casually sitting on a stool on stage. The end of this song is incredible, and the wildest part is how easy Wendy makes it look. Ariana Grande can only laugh at how insane the whole thing she just witnessed was, and Blake, who seems downright giddy, says, "You're sitting on a stool like Kenny Rogers, hanging out, and blowing the roof off the place." He thinks we all just witnessed "music history" taking place on stage.
Hailey Mia and Girl Named Tom, "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips
Young Hailey here wasn't born until 2007, but when she thinks of the '90s, she says she thinks of things like scrunchies, Britney Spears, and Destiny's Child. She isn't wrong, and now I would immediately like to hear a duet on "No, No, No (Part 2)" okay? Wilson Phillips will have to do for now, and it's a great choice, what with all the harmonies. Plus, this group does the march down the stage, which is like a prerequisite when taking on this jam. They sound nice, and it's cool to hear Bekah with another female voice.
Team Blake: Paris Winningham, "Close the Door" by Teddy Pendergrass
Paris Winningham says that old soul music like this song is his "bread and butter," so he wants to return to it for the semi-finals. Blake agrees and also wants to see Paris have a little bit of fun out on stage. He wants him to show off that charisma so innate to him. You guys, this is so fun. Paris shows off that great, gritty growl he has, plus takes us all on a journey with those vocal choices. Kelly calls it a "perfect performance," and Blake says that although he's a married man, "[his] heart was pounding for Paris" tonight. "You did exactly what you needed to do [to get to the finals]," he adds.
Team Legend: Joshua Vacanti, "Ashes" by Céline Dion
For his semi-final song, Joshua is singing not just any Celine song, but one co-written by The Voice season 9 winner Jordan Smith. That has to be some kind of good luck charm, right? It's another song that allows Joshua to show off his full range — he's really picked some great songs for his voice throughout the competition. And not for nothing, but doesn't Joshua seem like the kind of artist who should exclusively sing in front of chandeliers? It just works. Ariana is sure this — Joshua meets Celine — was a performance just for her, and she loves it. She also heaps praise for how skilled Joshua is as a vocal technician. His own coach agrees and specifically calls out the vibrato in Joshua's falsetto, saying it's "haunting, spiritual, and inspiring."
And that closes out this season's semi-finals. Who is a lock for the Final Five?
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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.