Monday, December 8, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7 Semi-Finals: Twice the songs, twice the fun? Not for everyone.

Down to just five there's no place to hide, no room for a shaky performance or an off night.  Only three will move on after tonight.  Whose performances tonight earned them a guaranteed spot in the finals, who might be competing tomorrow for the wild card spot?  Let's dive in and see.

First up was Team Adam's Damien who was taking on Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life."  It's a sleepy song, not one of his biggest hits and in fairness to Damien I'm not a huge fan of the song.  Having said that, I cannot find anything negative to say about his performance. His voice is nearly flawless and he attacks the song with assurance and sensitivity.  Damien connects to every song he sings like he was listening to the song when he got the news his dog died.  Sometimes it's almost too much to take, I still wonder where he fits into the current music scene and whether he is unique enough to stand out.  But he did another strong vocal performance. 

Craig Wayne Boyd is the last member of Team Blake and he was given Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues."  Blake chose the song for Craig to rock out with, but I found it a bit underwhelming. Again, some of my reaction may be due to my anti-honky tonk bias.  I also wasn't crazy about some of his mugging and running around on stage.  But he does have a nice smooth tone, especially when he goes for the lower notes, that offers a great contrast to his rough-edged gravelly sound.  

Team Gwen's Taylor John Williams had been a favorite of mine since his audition but he had a shaky night.  His first song was "Falling Slowly" and I worry it might be a prophetic commentary on his Voice trajectory. Over all, I was not impressed with his version of the languid song.  He was too timid, too tentative and there were some distracting explosive consonants that interrupted the song's flow.  There were a few moments, a note here and there, that reminded me of why I liked Taylor, but not enough. 

Matt McAndrew is so far beyond the other semi-finalists that if this were a game the mercy rule would come into play.  He took a song I'd never heard before (Ed Sheeran's "Make it Rain"), in a genre I'm agnostic about, and blew my mind. He controls his voice like a virtuoso, making it do whatever he wants, molding it, bending it to do his bidding. He doesn't need any backing instruments or singers, his voice takes over a song and transports it. I cannot perfectly convey how awed I am by what he does on stage. 

Last up the first round was the third member of Team Adam, Chris Jamison.  The good soldier debuted Maroon 5's next single "Sugar" for his coach, which meant he was a bit handicapped by having a song absolutely no one had heard before (I kid, Adam).  I'm surprised Adam chose it for Chris since there's no way the original will live up to Chris's dynamic performance. I know I sound like a broken record (how's that for an outdated reference), but Chris keeps getting better and better.  He has gone from "what's with the Marine haircut" to "how did he hit that note?"  Of all the semi-finalists, Chris is the one who has the most current sound and he has both a great soulful groove and an incredible vocal range.  The guy is the complete package and that he can do so much with his voice is the cherry on top of a really tasty sundae.

Second time around Damien did Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait."  For the first time, there were some cracks (both literally and figuratively) in a Damien performance. He's been pretty perfect up till now, but there were a few missed notes, a few flubs, probably due to his moving around on stage more than usual.  It was far from his best performance and I can't imagine the song cracking the iTunes top 100, let alone the top 10.  I think this was an unfortunate step back for him at a time when he needed to bring his A game.

It's always smart to chose a song with "God" in the title or chorus when you're vying for votes and especially when you're the last remaining country singer in a competition.  So it was no surprise that Craig's second song was something you'd hear at the start of a Tea Party rally - Alan Jackson's "The Old Rugged Cross."  If that doesn't get the red states a-voting, I don't know what will.  Craig did a solid job, sounding every bit as good as anything on country radio today. It's not my favorite sub-genre of country, too old school for me.  But there's no question he has a very strong voice. 

The wheels fell off the wagon on Taylor's second performance tonight.  Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" should have worked.  He's taken pop songs before and sprinkled some magic Taylor dust on them and had a big moment.  But this was all over the place. He looked lost and scared and totally out of his element.  His voice was breathless and weak and his performance tentative, rather than quirky.  I have no idea what happened, but you could tell by his face that Taylor felt it too.

Could Matt top his great first performance?  Well, not top, but he had another amazing showing.  My only complaint, if you can call it that, about his take on U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was that it was too faithful to the original.  Matt actually sounded a lot like Bono which, of course, is a compliment.  But you also want to have your own sound.  Matt doesn't look like he should be able to so ably tackle an epic, arena-sized power rock anthem but he did. 

Last up was Chris with Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man."  Chris has slowly but inexorably moved up the rankings to the top spot.  Pretty good timing on his part. I cannot think of one thing he could do to improve on this performance. He is so effortless as he moves up and down from fuil voice to falsetto and back again.  If he's not in the finals, Sarah Koenig can investigate that crime on next year's Serial podcast. 

Best performers of the night: Chris, Matt and Craig.  

Tune in tomorrow to see which three will automatically be in the finals and also to hear the rest of the Top 12 sing for the one remaining wildcard spot. And let me know what you thought of tonight's performances in the comment section below. 


  1. Doesn't happen often but it did this time; we picked the same three. Good review.

  2. I agree ladies! Although I do feel that this Top 5 us the best I've seen on a TV talent show. Great recap Shari!! :-)