Monday, December 1, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7, Top 8: The race to the end closes in,who'll be there next week?

Tonight the Top 8 return, knowing that by the end of tomorrow night there'll be just five left.  That's a big cut!  Some of the strongest contestants faltered, will that gives some of the dark horses a chance to go the distance?  How many times can I weave racing metaphors into this recap?  Let's see!

First up, and still not in any risk of going home unless parents take phones away from their daughters during the "save" portion of tomorrow's show, was Team Gwen's Ryan Sill.  He sang Journey's "Open Arms."  Besides straining a bit to hit some of the higher notes, there was nothing much to say about this performance.  I feel as if I could just cut and paste my review of any of Ryan's past performances.  If nothing else, Ryan is consistent.  He has a nice band boy-voice, and he's solid.  I cannot fault his voice in any way. Like his hair, his face, his smile, it's pristine, like glass.  But it's vanilla.  That's great for an ice cream, but not for a performer.  He does nothing transformative, he doesn't make me feel anything.  He'd be a great wedding singer.

Craig Wayne Boyd from Team Blake took on the Eagles' "Take it Easy."  It was great seeing Craig veer away from his traditional country roots to move into more country-rock mainstream with the Eagles' classic, but I question his timing.  With so few singers left, and going from eight to five, you shouldn't do anything to hurt your fan base.  He stumbled out of the gate, flubbing his first line, and never really recovered.  This was not his best performance vocally.  He did a great job connecting with the fans at home, he gives good camera smiles, and he looked comfortable leading the band, but the melody didn't give him a chance to showcase his voice.  I blame the song (too fast, too many short notes) and not his performance, but he missed a chance to deliver another superstar performance like last week.

The last girl standing is Team Pharrell's DaNica Shirey. Fittingly, she sings "These Dreams" by the original girl rockers Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart.  I couldn't understand any of what DaNica was singing and I thought at first it was a rare translation, then maybe some new language, a cross between Swedish and Swahili.  I thought maybe she'd had a stroke, but when she got to the chorus, I recognized the title of the song.  That was a close one.  Putting aside her inability to articulate (and I'm a fan of King Mumbler Michael Stipe), there was just something missing for me.  It sounded a lot like someone giving birth, albeit someone with good pitch and a nice tone.  It was loud, but it wasn't that appealing.

Damien Adele's "Someone Like You"  Apparently, it was Damien's dream to sing this song and he fought for it.  Great choice.  Now, admittedly, I'm a huge fan of the song and the chills started with the first piano note.  But Damien was more than equal to the song.  We knew he had a great voice, but I don't think I remember Damien ever connecting this emotionally with a song before.   It was his best performance by far and might help keep Team Adam together one more week.

Why, oh why?  Of all the songs he could have chosen from. {{Sigh}} It's just embarrassing having to type "Sexual Healing" (and what of the families that watch The Voice together with their children?) - but Adam had to pick the Marvin Gaye classic to help Chris Jamison tap into his inner sexual being. Awkwardness aside (oh, look, there's Chris' MOM in the audience) it was a good choice. I love Chris' voice - it's not as bland as Ryan's nor as mannered as Luke's. He hits the middle ground just perfectly with a radio-friendly R&B sound. And he's cute.  Is he exciting?  Not really (despite all the screaming from the girls in the audience).  But the guy does yeoman's work, singing his heart out, going as high as is humanly possible without being kicked in the nuts.  The guy is effortlessly great and, as I said last week, he's creeping up the ladder to one of the top performers on the show.  Team Adam is looking strong.

Team Pharrell's "soul singer" Luke Wade is given "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red.  I'm of the "older" group that is very familiar with this song and think the blue-eyed soul song is a great fit for Luke.  The performance was a bit sleepy for most of it and at one point it seemed that his coach was exhorting him to do more. It doesn't help that he asked the audience to sing with him.  I don't see the contestants on Top Chef asking diners to cook with them.  It was fine, not memorable.  There wasn't much singing going on, not much of a chance for Luke to make an impact.  Like with Craig, this seemed like a lost opportunity.  The coaches seemed to agree and gave the closest thing to a critique all night.

Taylor John Williams is following up the Beatles' nearly 50-year old "Come Together" with relatively new "Royals" by Lorde.  Taylor is in his own world.  He's not a contestant on The Voice, he's just the cool guy who walks up, once a week, does his own thing on that stage and seems unconcerned with anything like votes or results.  I know that's probably not true, but his desire to put out the best, most interesting performance he can each time he performs sets him apart.  He's got such a great tone and is so compelling to watch, he is the one I wait for each week to see what he'll do.  He might not have the range or the power of some of the other artists, but he is the most watchable.

Last up was Mr. Consistency, the one who could go wire to wire from front runner to winner.  Coach Adam presented Matt McAndrew with a gift, Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter."  Big build up, big promise, could lead to a big let down.  How would he do? No reason to drag it out... Matt killed it.  It was perfect having him stand center stage, playing his guitar, not running around high-fiving.  The simplicity, the honesty of his performance gave me chills.  He can connect like no one else.  Matt is a true artist, who delivers not just the notes on the page, but the feeling behind the song.  Perfection.

Bottom four will probably be DaNica, Ryan, Chris and Luke (Craig should end up bottom half for his weakest performance of the season, but as the lone Team Blake member, he should get enough votes to keep him around another week.)  I was worried Damien might also be near the bottom just because he was sandwiched in the middle of the pack and doesn't have the young girls squealing like some of the other contestants, but iTunes downloads should save him.  Matt and Taylor are not going anywhere, get used to seeing them.  As far as America's save, I don't think Ryan can pull out another win. Luke has a huge following and Chris is just as cute as Ryan, so the Twitter vote probably won't save Ryan again.  If you want to have a say, follow @nbcthevoice on Twitter tonight at 8:50 EST to see when it's time to vote.

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