We’re down to the nitty-gritty! The judges have done their jobs (some better than others, COUGHBLAKESHELTONCOUGH), and now they can just sit back and engage in awkward banter with Carson Daly!
This year, I’m going to be updating my rankings each week, based on who I think is most likely to win. Going into this week, here’s how the list looks:
12. Garrett Gardner (Shakira)
11. The Swon Brothers (Blake)
10. Vedo (Usher)
9. Josiah Hawley (Usher)
8. Kris Thomas (Shakira)
7. Holly Tucker (Blake)
6. Amber Carrington (Adam)
5. Danielle Bradbery (Blake)
4. Michelle Chamuel (Usher)
3. Sasha Allen (Shakira)
2. Judith Hill (Adam)
1. Sarah Simmons (Adam)
#10. Vedo – “Rock With You”
Usher’s got Vedo singing a slow, groovy jam this week. I agree with this choice! He takes the stage wearing a leather jacket and with an impressive commitment to working the jazz hands. There’s a mid-song dance break and everything. Vocally, I still don’t know about Vedo – I don’t think he was one of the four best R&B singers this season, and Kris Thomas has been better than him every week. However, I enjoy this song choice a whole lot more than his usual sad ballads. I prefer groovy, dancing Vedo to weeping Vedo. So that’s something!
#7. Holly Tucker – “Broken Wing”
If there was a way to gamble on whether Holly Tucker would sing a slow country song each week, I would be a very rich man. Here she’s got a little Martina McBride number that at least isn’t as downtrodden as Holly’s usual fare. Holly can really sing – comparing her to the every-shaky Vedo is laughable – and she’s more engaging here than she’s been at any point this season. I still don’t consider her a serious contender to win the season, but she’s poised to move up in the rankings.
#12. Garrett Gardener – “I Want It That Way”
In his rehearsal, Garrett opens a story with “There was this one time…” so you know he’s cool. Shakira’s got him singing a Backstreet Boys song, so that’s great. But don’t worry you guys, he’s totally rocking it out! Well, kind of. Okay, not really. This is what I’d call a nice “talent show performance”, meaning that it would PROBABLY win your average high school talent show. But on ‘The Voice’? I’m gonna have to take a hard pass, Garrett.
#1. Sarah Simmons – “The Story”
Whoa whoa whoa. In the interview, Sarah revealed that she was in a RAP band?!?! Does footage exist? I’m totally derailed. On stage, I think Sarah starts off trying a little too hard to make the slow part of the song interesting. But once she hits the meat of the song and gets her trademark growl going, she’s golden. She really pushes it hard and it pays off so nicely. All the judges praise the song choice, and rightly so – that was a great match-up between song and singer.
Most importantly, I am 100% confident that no other singer in this competition could even TOUCH that song. Don’t sleep on how important that is – Sarah has a unique skillset as a performer that really makes her stand out. This song choice provided a perfect forum for her to do just that. A fantastic performance.
#11. The Swon Brothers – “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”
The Swons have chosen a George Jones song to pay tribute to the recently-departed country singer. I’m interested in how they’ll sound with a stripped-down arrangement: one Swon on piano, the other on guitar. The heavier one is well-established as the better singer of the two, and does a MUCH better job with the first verse. Look, I’m a sucker for this kind of performance, so I enjoyed that quite a bit. Definitely my favorite Swon Brothers performance this season.
#3. Sasha Allen – “Alone”
Shakira continues to be phenomenal in working with her contestants, making a really smart distinction between pop music and Broadway for Sasha, who was singing “Alone” too much like the former. Does Sasha follow her advice? Somewhat. No one will ever accuse her of not pouring her emotions into her performances, that’s for sure. That was a big-time vocal. I do think she went a bit over the top, but as Usher points out, the song kind of calls for that.
The difference between Sasha and Judith Hill is that Judith can easily shift her intensity up or down depending on what the song calls for. Sasha is always set on max. That stuff flies on ‘American Idol’, but ‘The Voice’ tends not to award that kind of singer.
#9. Josiah Hawley – “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”
Josiah’s going acoustic this week, which is interesting because he’s had his most success with rock material. Josiah’s biggest question mark is his voice and his ability to connect with songs, so this is a bit of a dicey proposition for him. Sitting on stage on a stool with just his acoustic guitar, this is a much more intimate Josiah, one that women of the audience surely appreciate. Adam’s right – this was a lot better song choice for him, and he looked much more comfortable than with the rock stuff. I think this was the best Josiah performance to date. Here’s hoping he continues down this path.
#5. Danielle Bradbery – “Wasted”
Blake continues to give his country singers pure country songs, which makes sense. He’s pushing Danielle this week with a Carrie Underwood song, presumably because she’s at no risk of going home even if she’s shaky. But “shaky” and Danielle don’t go together, because she’s been universally good this season. That continues here, and while the song doesn’t have any particularly memorable moments, Danielle delivers another rock solid performance. Shakira calls Danielle a “16-year old Margaret Thatcher”, so…there’s that.
#2. Judith Hill – “You Got a Friend”
Oh, a solo piano performance of a Carol King sing? Sure thing Judith, do your thing. I can barely even type while watching this because I’m 100% transfixed by Judith here. As opposed to Danielle’s effortlessness, Judith was absolutely burning some calories here, and it paid off. A terrific, understated performance that only Judith could pull off. That’s about as good as it gets, folks.
#4. Michelle Chamuel – “Call Your Girlfriend”
Michelle continues her streak of adorable nerdyness in rehearsals, but she’s got a tall task this week living up to last week’s breakout performance. The lineup isn’t helping here here, because most singers wouldn’t look great compared to Danielle and Judith. Her dance moves are quite enjoyable, and she does her thing – there’s definitely room in this competition for both powerhouses and pop/indie singers like Michelle. That said, I can’t help but feel that this was a little bit lightweight. Not Michelle’s fault though, and not a big problem. I continue to enjoy Michelle every week.
#8. Kris Thomas – “I’ll Be There”
Big week for Michael Jackson on The Voice! I say it every week, but I love Kris Thomas. I’d rather see him performing jaunty R&B stuff than straight-up crooning, and he does have a couple of rough patches. But Kris’ upper register wins out, as it tends to do. If he sticks around, I think Shakira really needs to hammer down better song choices for Kris. When this season began I thought he had a niche, but recent song selections have me feeling not so confident. I’m glad she’s so supportive, and I’ve enjoyed Shakira’s coaching this season, but I don’t think Shakira has the first clue how to handle Kris, and it’s hurting his performances.
#6. Amber Carrington – “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”
Amber batting clean-up for the night! She earned it with last week’s performance, which by all counts won the week on iTunes. This is a major factor going forward, because Carson reveals that the iTunes votes will once again be multiplied by 10 for top-10 finishes. Amber chooses a slow country ballad to devote to her mother, and really belts it out. She is very, very good. Huge country presence on ‘The Voice’ this season, and I’m having a very hard time ranking Danielle vs. Amber. Could they be the frontrunners? iTunes sales this week will be our first indication.