Gotta be honest, with Danielle Bradbery all but locked in as the winner, ‘The Voice’ season 4 is starting to drag. Blake’s plan of country domination has come to fruition, making these performance shows pretty brutal for a non-country fan like me. Thank goodness for Judith Hill and Sarah Simmons; but even despite their heroic efforts, we’re left with a mostly boring field full of singers that are talented in more or less the same way. Where have you gone, Nicholas David?
Anyway, let’s get to it.
-Shakira’s rocking gorgeous straight hair tonight, Usher with the shades. Blake? Dirty jean jacket. Carson calls him a “national treasure”. Ok Carson, settle down.
-Anyway Blake’s performing a song for Memorial Day. In this song he talks about “doing the Dougie”. I think he’s rapping. Happy Memorial Day, everybody.
-The Voice official Twitter teased that someone’s singing Adele’s “Skyfall” tonight. Oh no, please do not be Sarah Simmons. If it’s her, it’s going to be rocky (nobody’s going to match Adele, sorry) and she’ll be in trouble. If I lose Sarah (ranked #1 out of 48 in my post-audition rankings) while the Swon Brothers are still around (ranked #48 out of 48 in my rankings), I might have to retire.
-Gonna have to give Carson another “settle down” for his Spanish flirtation with Shakira. She’s in full-scaled “PLEASE DON’T ELIMINATE MY LAST CONTESTANT” mode. Ah, Xtina memories. Meanwhile, Usher smartly promotes Michelle Chamuel, who seems a shoe-in to make the final.
Anyway, let’s get to the performances. Up first…
Judith Hill, “#ThatPower”
Yay, Judith! So happy to see her, then she drops the bombshell that she’s singing the Bieber/Will.I.Am song. Here’s how good Judith is: I’m not even worried. She’s such a pro. And hey, she kills it. You know how it’s always a bad thing when contestants choose Adele or Whitney songs, because their performances will never live up to the original? Well, within 5 seconds Judith’s performance was MILES better than the original. Not only that, but she proves she can crush contemporary radio music the same way that she can with 70’s and 80’s stuff (not that there was any doubt). Adam nails it: Judith in no way feels like a singing show contestant, which is the highest compliment you can give a singing show contestant. Will she challenge Danielle at the top of the iTunes charts this week? Here’s hoping she will! Let’s make this season interesting!
Holly Tucker, “Done”
POP THE CHAMPAGNE MOFOS, HOLLY TUCKER IS NOT SINGING A SLOW BALLAD THIS WEEK! Fascinated by this choice and glad it was her idea. And holy cow, she’s awesome! This is not exactly a 10/10 on the vocal difficulty scale, but Holly is CRUSHING it. So impressed. Why didn’t she do this like, a month ago?! Whatever, better late than never. This was PHENOMENAL. And hey, we’re off to a pretty awesome start to the night! Blake’s right – Holly OWNED that song, and it’s the first time she’s shown any inclination to even want to own a song.
-Usher calls Carson Jimmy Neutron. I’m dead. Usher killed me.
-Michelle, Judith, Sarah, and Sasha team up to perform ‘Diamonds.’ Michelle is excellent. This song needs more Kanye verses.
Swon Brothers, “Seven Bridges Road”
Oh great, let’s keep the momentum going with Ren and Stimpy (*sad trombone*). Look, I’ve got nothing against them, and Stimpy really is an excellent singer. But as a duo I can’t identify why they’re anything special. Blake calls them “the modern day Eagles”. Let’s dial it back 400 notches, Blake. But on stage, they open with a super fun a capella section. Oh man, I might have to re-evaluate my Swons meanness. They’ve got a campfire and everything going! The middle of the performance turns into your pretty typical (and shaky) Swon Brothers fare, but they wisely go back to the a capella for the ending. I’d love to see them sing a Fleet Foxes song, but country kingpin Blake would never permit it. I wish everyone would stop pretending that the Swons’ harmonies are great – the big one can sing, the little one can’t, together they sound okay. That’s it. It’s not any better than that. Adam knows it but is afraid to offend anyone so instead of saying it he calls himself an idiot.
-Christina Milian interviews Holly’s 79-year old grandpa and the results are so funny I can’t even type.
Sasha Allen, “Without You”
Here we go, Shakira’s last remaining hope to avoid going full-Xtina and peacing out with a month left in the season. Interestingly, Sasha’s singing an Usher song this week. At least it’s far away from Broadway, which has definitely been Sasha’s bugaboo. She’s…fine, I guess. This isn’t great. Feels like she’s not 100% comfortable with this song and the associated performance. I don’t know. Sasha always wants to sing everything like a Broadway song, even when it’s something as poppy as this. She has some decent moments, and she’s obviously a terrific singer, but this was not a very strong performance. Oh Shakira, I fear you may be in trouble come tomorrow night.
Sarah Simmons, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Ok, Holly and Judith have set the bar high for Sarah tonight, and I’m dubious of this song choice. Everyone’s pretty much done with this Gotye song, and it’s not quite in the hard rock wheelhouse that last week’s selection was. The verse is…fine, but I’m not sure what this song really lets Sarah do. Feels like it’s really confining her. In the second verse, she injects her trademark growl and things pick up a bit, but then it’s right back to the plodding chorus. Every moment of emotion feels manufactured. I don’t understand this song choice even a little. Sarah OF COURSE has some great moments, but overall the performance doesn’t hold together at all. I know she can’t sing all rock songs every week (or can she?), but this didn’t work, not even a little.
Hold on, I need to rant a little about Adam here, because he basically just got my favorite singer this season eliminated. What the hell was that song choice?! Even if Sarah had done a GOOD job with it, who is downloading the Gotye song that everyone has heard a billion times already??? And it’s not even the kind of song that Sarah SHOULD sing well, and guess what? She didn’t. Great work, Adam.
-Some contestants team up for a Sugarland song. Whatever. I’m still reeling from Sarah crashing and burning.
Michelle Chamuel, “Grenade”
Bruno Mars song? Okay! Michelle needs to find the balance between the soft ballads that she’s been KILLING and the pop/punk songs that seems like her favorites to perform (but that she’s only done so-so with). Usher very smartly tones the song down during rehearsals, allowing Michelle’s surprisingly excellent voice to shine. She sounds so pure, and she shows impressive restraint on songs like this. Really fantastic. Love that thanks to this performance, there is some pressure on Danielle tonight. Only a little, but it’s there!
Danielle Bradbery, “Grandpa”
Savvy by The Voice putting its two favorites back-to-back, then heightening the tension by showing Danielle struggle in rehearsals. She’s performing while sitting on a swing, so that’s…something. This is a little down-tempo for my taste, but when Danielle gets going, she’s so, so good. She has these entire choruses where she’s just SO in the pocket and nailing every single note while simultaneously making it look SO easy. I don’t know what to say, really. Danielle’s a star. If she wins the season like she almost certainly will, it’ll be hard to complain.
Amber Carrington, “Skyfall”
Ah, so HERE’S where we get our “Skyfall.” Any time someone’s singing Adele, alarm bells ring in my head. It’s immediately clear that this is 100% Adam’s choice and Amber hates it. Adam is seriously sabotaging his own contestants tonight. So here we go, ready for Amber’s funeral, and…wait…wait is she nailing this??? What is happening?! Amber is remarkably controlled in the verses, then UNLEASHES her monster voice in the chorus and it TOTALLY WORKS!! This is a shocker, an absolute shocker. Amber utterly incredible tonight.
RECAP & PREDICTIONS
Judith, Holly, Michelle, Danielle, and Amber were all very strong tonight, and you could make a case for any of them being the best performance of the evening. All should be safe this week. On the other hand, Sasha was forgettable, the Swons were the Swons (read: mediocre), and Sarah was a near-disaster. Of those three, I’m sad to say that I think the Swons’ mediocre harmonies will be enough to get them through, meaning my snap-take prediction is that Sarah and Sasha will go home tomorrow.