Group numbers highlight the weakest vocalists and in tonight's mini-medley of Rascal Flatts' "hits" ("God Bless the Broken Road" and "Stand") that would be Anita and Reagan. Anita in particular hit some majorly clunky notes that proves, if nothing else, that they are singing live. It's strange enough that we're down to ten and there are just three females left, stranger still that only one of them has much of a voice.
Last week's frontrunner Matt McAndrew from Team Adam is up first with his second turn with a Coldplay song. He had wowed during the battle round with "Yellow," so tonight he took on "Fix You." It was a great, if obvious choice (heck, I had suggested it on The Voice App). Matt handled the high notes with ease and let the song build as he commanded the stage and, later, the whole audience. He's a natural performer and has a great, versatile voice. He may not belt out notes, but he interprets lyrics and conveys their message in a meaningful way.
Team Gwen's unexpectedly popular Anita Antoinette sang Passenger's "Let Her Go." Had she sung "Let it Go" from Frozen I might have had no choice but to vote for her since I'm a big sucker for that movie. Sadly, that was not her choice. I don't get why The Voice fans love Reggae singers, but her success, like that of Tessanne Chin, show that they do. Anita tried to put her Jamaican spin on the popular indie song and I thought it was a hot mess. She was off key half the time and even when she hit the right notes, they fell metaphorically, if not literally, flat. Her worst performance of the season. I listened twice to make sure I wasn't exaggerating and I wasn't. Just awful.
Damien has a nice voice, but nice is not exciting or memorable. The second member of Team Adam to sing tonight, he was given the well-worn "You and I" by Stevie Wonder. It's a pretty dull song and sounds really outdated in 2014. The only thing it has in common with current music is the over-reliance on repeating the song's title interminably. There was no passion, no feeling, just a succession of nicely sung notes. Damien is a good singer, don't get me wrong. But he does not have that special, indefinable "it" factor. Zzzzzzzzzz.
Will Reagan James legally change her name to "the youngest member of the competition?" Can Carson Daly come up with anything else notable about this girl besides her age? Is there a requirement that her age be mentioned every other sentence? I was really impressed by her youth until I found out that Lorde just turned 18. So step back Reagan, you're not all that and a bag of organic popchips or whatever you crazy kids are noshing on these days. The Team Blake young 'un takes on "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea. Uninspired is the word that comes to mind. Breathless, shouty, and nothing that any other teenager couldn't have covered better. She's giving Anita some competition for the worst performance of the night. Reagan, please for the love of everything holy, never rap again.
"Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding (and later covered by everyone) was an inspired choice for Luke Wade. Guest mentor her royal highness the great, one and only, Diana Ross was able to give Luke some good advice about feeling the music, too bad she couldn't give him suggestions for that thing growing on top of his head. But bad 'do aside, Luke does have an interesting, unique tone. Unfortunately, it's not a tone, nor a style of singing, that I find at all pleasing, especially on this tune. I didn't like his phrasing of the chorus, I didn't find any moment of the song to be genuine. The reliance on the "improvisational" part of the song made it all sound over-rehearsed and watered-down. Check out another cover of the song, by Three Dog Night, to compare. Luke didn't mess up on the intro like last week, and only left out one "don't," but this didn't hit me as a huge, memorable performance. Maybe you had to be there? I want to like him, but definitely not my cup of tea.
The only country singer left in the competition, Team Blake's Craig Wade Boyd, had some cojones to sing Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" and even more to play at all with the speed of the song. He slowed it down and totally changed the mood and disguised the melody. It was almost unrecognizable. But it was absolutely beautiful. This guy has come from the back of the pack to be the one to beat. He's got a great voice, with a rich tone that has genuine emotion. You believe him when he sings. And now that he's toned down his twang (and is pronouncing his "esses" not as "eshes"), I can see him having wide appeal for all country music fans, both retro traditional and nouveau bro-country.
I learned that Team Gwen's Ryan Sill was going to attempt "Straight" by Muse an hour before the show, not enough time to apply ex parte for a TRO or an injunction to prevent this injury to my ears from happening. I'm not a huge fan of this song as the wheezing and lack of breath control on the recording makes me run to grab an inhaler to keep the singer from passing out. But I'd take an hour of Matthew Belamy gasping for air over one minute of Ryan's atrocious performance. His voice lacks the gravity to take on anything but boy band fluff and he was completely out of his league on this song. Stick with light-weight pop songs and leave the real weighty stuff for the grown ups, Ryan. But unless he's against cutie pie Matt in the bottom three, I suspect the teenagers will again vote him through on Twitter.
To reward us for not turning off the show after than horrible performance, we get the vocal angel DaNica Shirey showing that she's more than up to the challenge of a Whitney Houston song. Team Pharrell's DaNica has the best pure voice on the show and her turn with "I Have Nothing" was inspired. She nailed every note, every word, every feeling. So confident, so powerful, so passionate. And she makes me stammer compliments in threes. I listened again as I was writing this and I'm still getting chills listening to her take that song and effortlessly beat it into submission.
In the unenviable, "I have to follow her??" position is cute, quirky Taylor John Williams. I'm of two minds on this performance. He took one of my favorite songs by my second favorite band and I'm very overprotective about their songs, especially those that John sang/wrote. So hearing that Taylor was going to sing Come Together... and that he was going to be playing a role in different parts of the song and put his own spin on it.... caused some major concern. You don't mess with such an iconic song. But Team Gwen's resident heartthrob, who eschewed his trademark porkpie hat for a bandanna, has an undeniably strong voice and great musical instincts. He sounded great and even had a few moments where he twisted the notes around (possibly thanks to some mentoring by major note abuser Christina Aguilera) and added something genuinely special to the song.
Final performance of the night was Chris Jamison who has moved from "how could Adam pick you over Taylor?" paraiah to contender for winner of The Voice in just one week. Could he equal his standout performance from last week? Actually, yeah. He was blessed with a hot, current song, "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson (ft/Bruno Mars) and Chris showed that he fits right in there with current young male pop/R&B singers. He's comfortable on stage, moves well and, if he grew out his hair a little, could be a favorite with the girls who are somehow keeping Ryan in the game. Love his energy, love how natural he is with this genre of music. He might be the best pure male singer left in the competition.
Bottom three performances, IMnevertobeHO were:
Of the three, Anita should probably be given another chance, but that Twitter vote may keep Ryan around for a few more weeks in which case we could have a final eight with just one girl left in the competition!
Tune in tomorrow to see who makes it into the Top 8!