“The challenge of the song is to not scare America. I’m changing ‘Amazing Grace,’ everybody. Fair warning.”
So said Team Kelly’s 16-year-old blues ingenue, Sarah Grace, on Monday’s top 10 episode of The Voice. Religious songs usually are popular on The Voice — last week, when Kymberli Joye did Tasha Cobbs’s “Break Every Chain,” she was the top-charting contestant on iTunes — but most contestants don’t take as many creative liberties as Sarah did this week. Besides playing “dirty” trumpet, Sarah also sang the traditional hymn with the “House of the Rising Sun” production under it — basically, she did a skronky, Blind Boys of Alabama-inspired “Amazing Grace”/”Rising Sun” mashup.
“This idea is the coolest idea that anyone I ever worked with on The Voice has ever come to the table with,” said Sarah’s coach, Kelly Clarkson. “This is an insanely cool version of ‘Amazing Grace.’ It’s my favorite I’ve ever heard.”
“I love how this displays your confidence, to be able to take ‘Amazing Grace’ and make it your own and do something different with it and to use this moment to display your talents,” Jennifer Hudson raved. “That was extremely smart. It was beautiful.”
I totally agreed with Kelly and Jennifer. Grace’s “Grace” was indeed amazing. But not all of America (and by “America,” I mean “Twitter”) was impressed.
“Sad to hear Sarah Grace on The Voice singing our beloved hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ to the tune of the honky-tonk song ‘House of the Rising Sun’! She did play a trumpet and the worldly world will vote for her, but not me!! Praying her out of the competition,” tweeted one irate viewer who found Sarah’s interpretation downright blasphemous. “I don’t want to stand beside her when she sings a Christian song to the tune of the Devil,” posted another. “‘Amazing Grace’ is not meant to be disrespected like that. Haven’t missed a season but this maybe my last,” read another angry tweet.
I hope voters sided more with me, J.Hud, Kelly, and tweets like “OMG if Sarah Grace didn’t JUST win @NBCTheVoice there is something wrong with the world!” In what I consider the most lackluster season in this series’ history, Sarah’s risk-taking and artistry should be rewarded. Season 15 would certainly be even duller without Sarah and her dirty trumpet. But I am worried for her chances.
Let’s assess the other nine performances of the night, then I’ll make my final elimination predictions. …
Kennedy Holmes (Team J.Hud), “Me Too”
Wow. I didn’t know the theater kid who did a stately Whitney Houston impression last week had it in her to do a funky Meghan Trainor number, complete with baby-Beyoncé choreo and even a bit of moonwalking! And her vocals never compromised. “Being 13 and having fun is one thing; nailing professional choreography like that is another thing,” said host Carson Daly. This was cool and cute, and has a Brandy-at-the ‘90s-Teen-Choice-Awards vibe that I really enjoyed.
Reagan Strange (Team Adam), “Cry”
Reagan, the second-youngest in the competition, switched up the vibe with this drear Faith Hill weeper. Well, it’s not dreary when Faith does it, of course. But the song was too big for little Reagan, and she didn’t have the depth of emotional experience to dig into a song that Faith once said in an interview was actually inspired by Edith Piaf. It was a noble effort, but I enjoyed Kennedy’s up-tempo, age-appropriate performance much more.
Kymberli Joye (Team Kelly), “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
Perhaps any religious viewers turned off my Sarah’s allegedly blasphemous display will give their votes to this gospel diva’s Hillsong United cover instead. Kymberli of course deserves votes on her own merits, though. This was another poignant, pitch-perfect, Dove Awards-worthy performance from the best vocalist of the season, a flawless balance of passion and control. Kymberli’s true talent transcends all religions, creeds, genres, and labels. “There is nothing you cannot sing. You’ve done everything. I felt the anointing through it all, my sister,” Jennifer said.
Chris Kroeze (Team Blake), “Callin’ Baton Rouge”
“I’ve been playing songs in bars for a long time,” Chris said. “It’s time to show America who I am.” Well, this Garth Brooks bar-band romp was fun and pleasant but too lightweight, and I think America will be underwhelmed. Chris is likely to get lost in the shuffle this week, unless his country background and Blake Shelton affiliation is enough to get loyal country fans to vote for him.
Dave Fenley (Team Blake), “When You Say Nothing At All”
After somehow surviving last week’s beatbox debacle (I guess those country/Blake fans really are loyal), Dave decided to get back to “killer country” and “what got me here” with this twangy Ronan Keating cover. He was definitely more in his element, but he was also dull. At least Chris had some pep in his cowboy step! But it was a safe and pleasant performance of a safe and pleasant classic song, so it was probably enough to carry Dave through to the semifinals.
DeAndre Nico (Team Adam), “That’s What I Like”
DeAndre seemingly cemented his R&B heartthrob status with a sexy Jodeci cover last week. I say “seemingly” because he ludicrously ended up in the bottom two. He survived by doing a religious Instant Save song (like I said, religious songs do well on The Voice), but he was back in loverboy mode this week, doing Bruno Mars while flanked by a keytarist. “No one has ever done this song on the show because no one can sing it,” Adam Levine said. Well, DeAndre — who turned four chairs with his Blind Audition of a different Bruno tune — sure could sing it! He’s such a smooth crooner. (I just hope the religious fanatics who hated Sarah aren’t also alienated by this song’s PG-13 lyrics. “I’m going to have to say ass, Jesus,” DeAndre warned during rehearsal. Adam assured him, “God will forgive you.” Fingers crossed he was right!)
Chevel Shepherd (Team Kelly), “You’re Looking at Country”
Chevel Shepherd the “country Tinkerbell” is really coming into her own on this show. After covering Kacey Musgraves last week, this week she gave a yodeling tribute to Kacey’s predecessor, Loretta Lynn, with big Priscilla Presley hair and a big ol’ voice. It was sweet and retro but not corny. “You’ve found a way to make a Loretta Lynn song even country-er than it was originally,” Blake said with a chuckle. That’s a ringing endorsement, for sure.
Kirk Jay (Team Blake), “Tomorrow”
Kirk did fine with a Sam Hunt bro-country novelty song last week — the dude can sing anything — but he was back in his element this week, playing piano on a teary, tender Chris Young ballad that showcased his earnest, emotional delivery. I believed every word that came out of his mouth; if you’d told me he’d written this song himself, I would have believed that too. Adam said: “It feels like when you perform, it’s like something new is happening for country music. … I’m always transfixed by what you do. It’s important for country music to have you in it.”
MaKenzie Thomas (Team J.Hud), “Because You Loved Me”
MaKenzie never shies away from a big ballad, even ones by such untouchable titans as Jessie J; Mariah Carey; Whitney Houston; and her coach, Jennifer Hudson. This week, she closed the show with some Céline Dion and once again made it all look so effortless. Even fellow divas Kelly and Jennifer were losing their minds over this dramatic performance. It’s still so hard to fathom that MaKenzie failed to turn any chairs last season. “There’s a Whitney, Mariah, Céline, Kelly … and there’s a MaKenzie,” said Jennifer.
— The Voice (@NBCTheVoice) December 4, 2018
So now it’s prediction time. On Tuesday, there will be a bottom three, which I heavy-heartedly predict will be Sarah Grace (because her performance was polarizing), Chris Kroeze (because his performance was forgettable), and DeAndre Nico (because he was in the bottom two last week, albeit undeservedly). I would love for both Sarah and DeAndre to stay, but that will be logistically impossible: Two contestants are going home this Tuesday. Sigh. See you then.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- I believe this child is the future of ‘The Voice’: 13-year-old Kennedy Holmes triumphs with Whitney cover
- CeeLo Green’s return to ‘The Voice’ draws Twitter protest: ‘Have we learned nothing?’
- Hurricane Harvey survivor DeAndre Nico goes from sleeping on couches to turning 4 chairs on ‘The Voice’