Can People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” (*With a Current Project to Promote/Not Named Idris Elba) be stopped?
That’s the question surrounding The Voice Season 5 semifinals, seeing how coach Adam Levine hasn’t lost a single contestant since Nov. 7 (aka Top 20 results night) (aka for freakin’ ever).
Of course, perhaps the even bigger question is whether membership on any coach’s team means anything at all. I mean, fans of NBC’s reality singing huggernaut — a typo, but that seems apt given all the positive vibrations, no? — have heard each member of the Top 5 perform 10 individual solo numbers over the last few months.
So shouldn’t it be more about the future potential pop stars than the already established ones? Should it be held against Jacquie Lee, for example, that her mentor Christina Aguilera turned her critique of James Wolpert into a mini rant about how she’s the one who should’ve been singing U2′s “With or Without You”? (Insert eye roll here.) Would anyone enamoured of Cole Vosbury’s gruff voice (and silky beard) withhold their vote to prevent Blake Shelton from nabbing his fourth consecutive win on the show? Is anyone more appreciative of Will Champlin, Tessanne Chin or the aforementioned Mr. Wolpert because Adam Levine (allegedly) cooked ‘em eggs for brekkie? (Side note: If Adam truly did rock the kitchen, how the heck did NBC’s camera crew fail to capture it? File under: #CookingIsSexy4Real.)
Forgive me. This recap has devolved into tragic hashtag territory. Who do I think I am? Mariah #Pow Carey? #Ugh #It’sBeenALongSeason #HelpMeIdolStartsInJustAMonth
OK, it’s clearly time for me to get to the hard work of assigning letter grades for tonight’s performances:
James Wolpert (Team Adam): U2′s “With or Without You” — Grade: B- | Maybe James was bummed about getting stuck in the undesirable leadoff position — after last week’s Bottom 2, no less — but his performance tonight lacked the haunted urgency and the desperate ache required to sell the lyrics he was delivering. Not only that, but James also struggled with his pitch, especially in the opening third of the song when he wasn’t in full-on belting mode. There’s no doubt the guy has some genuine vocal talent, but his semifinal performance had an aura of defeat enveloping it — kind of like he’d been sent to chop down a sapling with a pair of basic household scissors.
Will Champlin (Team Adam): fun.’s “Carry On” — Grade: A | I’m not going to try to pretend Will didn’t make a couple of mistakes tonight — particularly on that one glory note in his upper register. But minor sins can be washed away, especially when they’re being blasted by a virtual fire-hose of emotions and sanded down with the grit and gravel of a voice that’s full of character and mystery. I know, I know, this paragraph is a being brought to you by the word “excessive,” but the combination of fun.’s stirring anthem and Will’s newfound freedom — the freedom to smile, the freedom to truly lose himself in the music, perhaps even the freedom to imagine winning this whole thing — was truly invigorating.
Jacquie Lee (Team Xtina): Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” — Grade: A- | This just in: Jacquie Lee does not need to be at Diva Defcon One to stay on pitch or to properly communicate the emotions of a song. Despite Xtina’s goofy insistence that “Angel” is sweet and innocent, I felt like Jacquie cut straight to the heart of a mournful ballad about a tortured soul finally succumbing to addiction. The purity and clarity of the airy opening half gave me a serious case of the shivers, and while Jacquie’s detractors will almost surely call “blasphemy!’ on her choice to go for the glory notes and tear into phrases like “dark cold hotel room” and “in the arms of the angels” after the key change, I appreciated that she took a risk and stepped away from McLachlan’s template, choosing her own more intense path rather than keepin’ it ethereal start to finish. Loss is a complicated thing, after all, with grief and anger and acceptance and relief all operating on the same plane. And despite two or three wobbly notes, Jacquie absolutely brought all of those emotions to the stage tonight. Here’s hoping she’s rewarded for it with a spot in the finale.
Cole Vosbury (Team Blake): Billy Joel/Garth Brooks’ “Shameless” — Grade: B | With so much riding on this single performance, I was hoping Cole might take a chance and overhaul a pop or R&B ditty to fit his roots-rock-n-soul style, but as Blake has proven in the past few seasons, big, bold moves aren’t always synonymous with winning. And so we got Cole behind the piano for one of the least hook-y songs in the Billy Joel repertoire, with the impressively bearded fella using his cedar-smoked rasp to infuse the tune with a little extra oomph. Surprisingly, the usually spotless Cole hit a series of flat notes once he stood up and tried to get his rockstar on, but if I’m being honest, the bigger problem was that — like a dark-colored minivan in a shopping-mall parking lot on Black Friday — there was nothing in particular about this performance to make it stand out.
Tessanne Chin (Team Adam): Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — Grade: A- | Based on the length and power of her final glory note alone — honestly, that was Shelley-Winters-underwater-in-The-Poseidon-Adventure-level breath control — Tessanne should (and likely will) advance to the finale. But focusing on her grand finale alone would rob Tessanne of the credit she deserves for a vocal that was so regal, I half expected Queen Elizabeth to hop on stage and pop a crown on it. (I know, I know, that sentence went off into the woods and never came back.) If I’m being nitpicky (and I have it an A-, so you know I am), I was more impressed/astonished by Tessanne this week than I was moved/stirred — I still feel like sometimes there’s a hint of reserve preventing us from seeing everything the former background vocalist has to give — but who knows? Maybe the early-front-runner who lost momentum post-Knockouts and has been slowly building back to contending status, is just saving a little somethin’ somethin’ for next week.
Should Go Home: James, Cole
Will Go Home: Honestly, I’d just be guessing at this point.
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Top 5 performance night? Who absolutely must make the finale? Who will and should get booted? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!