Last week will forever be known as The Blake Shelton Reckoning, as the country rambler’s season-long plan to stamp out any remnants of other genres came to fruition with the elimination of Sarah Simmons and Judith Hill. Ok, to be fair nobody’s calling it that but me, and maybe Blake’s success this season is all just a happy accident. Whatever, I wrote about it at length last week, so no need to re-cover old ground here.
Plus! We’ve got a show to watch. We’re now down to 6 fine contestants (well, 5 1/2 fine contestants along with the skinny Swon Brother), and each will be performing not one but TWO songs tonight! We’ll lose one contestants in this week’s quarterfinals, then another in next week’s semifinals, setting the stage for a winner-take-all finale on June 17th. Spoiler alert: Danielle has all but won the season already, but hey, let’s not let knowledge of the destination spoil the ride.
Who’s at risk this week? Everyone but Danielle and Michelle, basically. Right now it’s all about whether a contestant has the juice to get just one of his or her performances into the top-10 on iTunes by tomorrow morning. Based on that, I like the Swons’ chances, because the voting public is ready to eat up anything that even vaguely sounds like Mumford & Sons at the moment (in other words, white guys strumming guitars and harmonizing). Amber’s been near the top-10 as well this season, so I like her odds. That would leave Sasha, who placed dead – last on iTunes last week but was saved thanks to what I can only assume was goodwill towards Shakira (a theory advanced by the great Joy D’Angelo @joyofgab last week) – against Holly, whose one and only iTunes breakthrough came with a traditional Gospel song.
Will Holly go back to the Gospel well? Will Danielle retain the stranglehold she has on this season? WILL I GET THROUGH THIS RECAP WITHOUT CALLING BLAKE SHELTON “LUCIFER”?! Let’s find out!
-Carson Daly, handcrafted by Gepetto himself, welcomes us to the top-6. I don’t think season 4 of The Voice has been nearly as interesting as season 3 (THANKS BLAKE), but it HAS gone by a lot quicker – mainly because the field was trimmed from 64 down to 48. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.
Let’s get to the performances!
Holly Tucker, “When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues”
Look at that, another upbeat song for Holly! After roughly 10 straight ballads to start the season, she’s really let it fly the last couple weeks. Or maybe, this is how Blake planned it all along, saving her rockin’ side so she wouldn’t peak too early. At this point, I would believe Blake controls the Federal Reserve while simultaneously running the CIA. Anyway, Holly is…fine, but this is nothing we didn’t see last week. In fact, even though it’s an upbeat song, it’s a pretty stock performance. Not sure how crazy I am about that song choice, and I’m not sure what that gets her in terms of voting. Usher expresses my sentiments exactly.
Michelle Chamuel, “Somewhere Only We Know”
Usher is just as savvy as Blake, but being a new judge it took him a while to figure it out. Michelle crushes ballads and is a little rocky on faster songs, so he’s smartly given her a radio-friendly ballad by Keane. Also one of my favorite songs, so I’m looking forward to this one! She maaaybe over-sings the first verse, but I can’t really blame her. Once the song picks up, so does Michelle. This is a FLAWLESS song choice by Usher. Michelle knocks the soaring chorus out of the park, and brings it down really nicely for the end. Excellent, excellent performance. Usher is 100% locked in right now, and so is Michelle.
The Swon Brothers, “Wagon Wheel”
Blake advises the Swons to “not stumble through these lyrics,” which pretty sums up my thoughts on them as a whole. Just stumbling through this season, failing upwards thanks to the strangehold Blake has on the proceedings. But I digress. The Swons are the same as ever, which is to say: Stimpy can sing, Ren can’t, they’re fun enough, the harmonies are passable at best, and they’re singing a very traditional country song (although apparently this one is contemporary). So, great? I don’t know. I haven’t gotten them since day one, so I’ll just take a pass.
Sasha Allen, “Ain’t No Way”
Here comes Sasha Allen with an Aretha Franklin song. Welp. I guess if you’re going out, you might as well go out big. It worries me that she picked this one herself. If Shakira picked it, at least it might be a tactical play of some kind. Look, Sasha is really good, she got this far for a reason. At one point I had her #3 in my rankings. She does a VERY nice job with this, and Adam’s maybe correct that this was her best performance to date. She is an EXCELLENT singer when it comes to these monster songs. Having said that, two notes: A) We already knew this about her, and B) While this was very good, this is the kind of song that could result in a legendary performance, and I don’t think Sasha quite hit that level. She was swinging for a home run and ended up with a triple. Will that be good enough to advance her to the top-4? We’ll see.
Danielle Bradbery, “Shake the Sugar Tree”
Telling that the first thing Blake references to Danielle is the sales of her “Maybe It Was Memphis” performance. If you don’t think Blake is calculating, you are out of your mind. Blake’s new plan for Danielle appears to be sit her next to whatever she’s singing about, so here she’s paired with a tree. The vocal is…I mean, it’s the same for Danielle every week, right? She’s rock solid. She never makes a mistake. In my opinion, she’s entirely unspectacular on songs like this, but then I don’t have an ear for country music. I’m sure this song will sell like crazy on iTunes, and Danielle’s at no risk, so no real point in writing about it.
Amber Carrington, “I Remember You”
Skid Row song, Adam??? Oh okay, it’s a country ballad. Maybe I don’t have a good understanding of who exactly Skid Row is. Compared to last week’s jaw-dropping “Skyfall”, this is a much more traditional choice for Amber. I feel like Amber’s a little under the radar because of Danielle’s success, but man when she digs deep for a note, she almost always nails it. For the mostly-country audience, this is a very important performance for her – a fact that Blake perfectly points out.
Swon Brothers, “Okie from Muskogee”
Gotta love a song that opens with “We don’t smoke marijuana” and “we don’t take no trips on LSD”. Wait, I didn’t mean “love”, I meant “roll your eyes at”. Oh my God, I can’t even tell you how much I hate this. I’m going to take a bathroom break for the rest of the song. You guys enjoy your country music while I drown myself in the bathtub.
Holly Tucker, “My Wish”
Ok, I’m back. Holly needs a monster performance here, because I think she’s the odds-on favorite to go home this week at the moment. This is her entire season. Rascal Flatts seems like a reasonable, radio-friendly choice. Holly’s performing like someone who knows her season is on the line, REALLY leaning into the chorus in a way that I’m not sure we’ve seen her do. Unfortunately, I think Holly’s best is simply not as good as Danielle or Amber. I know I’ve complained about her constant balladeering, but isn’t it a little weird that after a season built on slow boring ballads, Holly didn’t sing one in two chances tonight?
Michelle Chamuel, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
Savvy Usher is getting in the country business – or I should say, savvy Michelle because she’s the one that chose this Taylor Swift song. Usher pulls some strings and gets Taylor herself to show up to the rehearsals! USHER COMING THROUGH WITH MAJOR CAMEOS! YOURE MOVE, BLAKE SHELTON! As mentioned, Michelle’s record with upbeat songs isn’t spectacular, but like her first performance, this is a smart mix of a song that allows her to be emotional without forcing her into “stomping around the stage” territory. I don’t say this lightly: Michelle has SWAGGER. And the fans go crazy for her. COULD WE BE SEEING THE TIDE OF THIS SEASON TURN?! Probably not, but Michelle freakin’ killed it tonight. Fantastic job by her and her coach.
Amber Carrington, “Crazy”
Patsy Cline in the house! At least, in terms of song choice! Even though this is country I dig this song quite a bit, though I don’t know how well it’ll sell on iTunes. It’s slow, yes, but it’s sultry and soulful, and Amber does it justice. An almost shockingly understated performance, but man, what grace Amber performed with. Lest you think I just hate country music, I REALLY loved that. Maybe my personal favorite performance of the night.
Danielle Bradbery, “A Little Bit Stronger”
There was no pressure on Danielle going into tonight, but with Michelle’s breakout evening, suddenly there’s a lot riding on this. If Michelle cracks the iTunes top-10 and Danielle doesn’t, we’ve got ourselves a season! Do I feel good about rooting against a 16-year old? No, but that’s The Voice. First verse, maybe a little off? Not as flawless as Danielle normally is. But…she quickly gets on track for the chorus, and at the end finally opens up and nails the song’s big note. It’s been a while since Danielle really tried anything ambitious, and that was excellent. Just as quick as Michelle’s window for winning the season opened, Danielle probably just slammed it shut.
Sasha Allen, “Before He Cheats”
Ha, perhaps the best evidence of all that this is the country season of The Voice is Shakira’s desperate attempt to get Sasha on board by giving her a Carrie Underwood song. Sure Shak, why not! What a strange, strange pairing of artist and song. Sasha tears her dress off to reveal a tiny little number, she’s not even one IOTA country and she’s not even trying to perform this like a country song, yet she’s kind of crushing the choruses. My head is spinning. I don’t even know how to process what just happened. Will country fans buy this version? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. The Voice has broken me.
Best of the Night: Michelle Chamuel.
Runner-Up: Danielle Bradbery. Prediction: Both Danielle & Michelle make the iTunes Top-10 tomorrow morning.
Worst of the Night: Holly Tucker. (note: OF COURSE the Swon Brothers were worst of the night, but for the sake of my sanity I am no longer considering them part of this competition)
Prediction? Holly goes home tomorrow night.