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The Voice Season 18 had to switch to remote production last week due to coronavirus concerns, and the show undoubtedly suffered due to everything from bad green-screen effects to bad WiFi connections. Bad singing, however, wasn’t an issue. This season’s top nine semifinalists — particularly Team Blake’s Toneisha Harris, whom Mega-Mentor James Taylor once compared to Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand — are an undeniably strong bunch.
Thankfully, this Monday, producers seemed to heed last week’s criticism, with most of the top nine’s performances looking like actual professional television productions instead of like the product of some make-your-own-music-video kiosk at the local mall. But some contestants still thrived more than others in the at-home format. And unfortunately Toneisha, a classic pop/soul diva belting Céline Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” couldn’t fully showcase her Barbra-level vocals the way she would have on a proper soundstage. That’s when her fellow diva Kelly Clarkson stepped in to right that wrong — by making Toneisha a can’t-refuse offer that, quite frankly, is probably a grander grand prize than actually winning The Voice.
“America, she ain’t even on my team. I’m keeping it real,” Kelly declared. “Because of how we’re doing the show, you couldn't tell the power that Toneisha has, the power that that song takes. Toneisha, this is my request: I hope you honor me by coming to my Vegas [residency] in 2021 and just taking the stage over. I want people to hear just how big that song is, because I feel like people couldn’t hear how big you epically got. That was incredible. You are an incredibly gifted vocalist. You are so good.”
Toneisha just stood there in her Georgia living room, in understandable shock, before finally accepting Kelly’s generous invitation. Added Toneisha’s actual coach, Blake Shelton: “That's an awesome thing for Kelly to offer you. If I ever get to play again, you are welcome to come sing with me, too.”
It’s a good thing that Toneisha has a backup plan, because despite her undeniable talent, the odds are still stacked against her going into Tuesday’s results show, which will determine which five — yes, five — contestants move on to next week’s finale. With this derailed, curtailed, pandemic-era season now rushing to wrap up, for the first time since Season 2’s finale there will be team quotas in place, with the top vote-getter from each team automatically advancing. And it’s unlikely that Toneisha, who had to be saved by Blake last week, will earn more votes than Team Blake’s perpetually grinning pastor and father of eight, Todd Tilghman. One more wild-card contestant will make it to the finale via Tuesday night’s five-way Instant Save sing-off, so it’s possible that with her mighty pipes, Toneisha could prevail in that round. But no matter what happens, as host Carson Daly put it, “Toneisha has a gig in 2021!”
Let’s check out Monday’s other eight performances, and then make our predictions for Season 18’s top five:
Joanna Serenko (Team Blake), “Lean on Me”
Blake’s wise Skype-session advice was “not to sound like you are singing it in the bedroom folding your clothes or something,” so Joanna sang this Bill Withers classic on her idyllic porch, which added a nice sunny vibe. This was smooth and pleasant overall, but considering that Joanna had to be Instant-Saved by America last week, went first this week in the “death spot,” and is on the same team as Todd and Toneisha, it’s highly unlikely that this will be enough to keep her in the competition. But John Legend praised her “heart and honesty and soul,” and Blake once again misused his favorite adverb by telling Joanna, “Your voice, it literally floats like a butterfly.”
Micah Iverson (Team Kelly), “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”
I am sorry for ever questioning Micah’s emo cred. Not only did he deliver the performance of the night with his elegant, folksy take on a Death Cab for Cutie song, but he got his own can’t-refuse offer from Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba, who apparently wants to collaborate with Micah in the future. I loved this dreamy and slightly eerie performance, complete with its black-and-white “Every Breath You Take”-style production. “We have all had to find ways to be more creative and make these performances from home special, and what I have admired from you in last week's performance and this one is your creativeness and execution as a vocalist. That's the kind of performance you would see on an awards show,” said Nick Jonas.
Todd Tilghman (Team Blake), “Love, Me”
Wow, Todd pulled a total power-move by doing a churchy Collin Raye ‘90s country song about grandmas and grandpas, in his homeschool rec room, surrounded by his adorable sitting cross-legged on the floor like he was their Sunday school teacher. “We’re going to the finale with that one” declared Blake, and Todd confessed he’s already got his own confetti ready for next week. This was super-corny, but vocally solid, and America will just eat it right up.
Zan Fiskum (Team Legend), “Never Be the Same”
This hippie chick showed some impressive artistry and versatility with her thoughtful, ethereal take on a Camilla Cabello pop smash. Reclining on a scarlet velvet fainting couch in a forest, she was serving Stevie Nicks realness — and I was here for it. “I love this arrangement. You have a unique ability to make every song you sing your own,” said Nick. “I have to tell America that Zan is so involved in how these songs are arranged; she's at home coming up with her own arrangement and crafting it to make it her own, and then when she sings she gives you a master class how to jump between your head voice and chest voice. All of these jumps and dances around the notes, very few singers can accomplish what she is doing,” said proud coach John.
Thunderstorm Artis (Team Nick), “Home”
Thunderstorm is also a master of making songs his own, and his Americana remake of a Michael Bublé ballad, set against a starry fairy-lights backdrop in his backyard, was pretty magical — and classic Thunderstorm. Blake, who has performed this song himself, called Thunderstorm’s version “cool and different and inventive,” and Nick assured him, “You have cleared a path for yourself that I think is a clear shot to the finale, and I hope that America gets behind you.”
Megan Danielle (Team Kelly), “What Hurts the Most”
Megan has a stoic pain and natural cry in her voice (she and Kelly have bonded over their similar deadbeat-dad childhoods), so this plaintive power ballad was smartly chosen. Every raspy, bluesy syllable that came out of Megan’s mouth was believable. Not even the bad Zoom-background/Snapchat-filter effects could distract from this raw and tender performance. (I do wish the tight, “Nothing Compares 2 U”-style closeup that started the performance had just lingered there the entire time; it was very effective.) “Every time you sing, it's like you hear what a broken heart trying to fly sounds like. It sounds so beautifully broken. Whatever happens in this competition, thank you for being in my presence and singing and reminding me why I love to sing,” said Kelly.
Allegra Miles (Team Nick), “Overjoyed”
Those Calm app nature sounds were distracting — were they frogs? birds? why? — and the old-fashioned arrangement of such a familiar Stevie Wonder song, especially for a 17-year-old, made this feel a bit karaoke. Allegra is one of the best technical vocalists of this season, but I think she got lost in the shuffle this week. But John praised her “maturity” and called this an “all-star performance,” and Nick told her she “came out swinging.”
Cammwess (Team Legend), “Rainbow’
Dedicating his performance to his 5-year-old cousin, who’s undergone many surgeries due to a condition called short gut syndrome, the “honeybutter”-voiced Cammwess tapped into all the sweetness and sentimentality of Kacey Musgraves’s ballad without ever being cloying or corny. This was just pure-hearted, smile-inducing sincerity, and it was a tasteful, warm-‘n’-fuzzy way to end the episode. “I haven't had an artist I feel as much musical kinship with as Cammwess, he will be successful beyond this show,” said John. “America, you know what you need to do. Vote for this man.”
I do think America will heed John’s call-to-action and vote for Cammwess, making him the guaranteed Team Legend representative in next week’s finale. And as I mentioned before, Todd is a lock for Team Blake. Thunderstorm is the obvious Team Nick pick. Team Kelly is the toughest prediction, because both contestants have their strengths and performed wonderfully this evening. I just hope that whoever doesn’t make it — Micah or Megan — will get an invite to join Kelly in Vegas in 2021 too.
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