The Voice Top 8 Performance Recap: Hold Your Breath and Count to 10 [Updated]
NBC’s The Voice has a lot of fantastic qualities — stellar vocalists, positive energy, the limitation of Christina Milian’s ineptitude to two or three mercifully brief interview segments per episode — but subtlety ain’t one of ‘em.
Indeed, a cursory examination of the performance order from last week’s Top 10 telecast and this week’s Top 8 show reveals that certain contestants have been unfairly marooned in top-of-the-episode “death slots” that veteran reality TV viewers know are synonymous with results-night exits. To be more specific, this week’s 1-2-3-4 solo performance slots were mired in the 2-1-3-5 slots last week. Meanwhile, front-runners Daniele Bradbery and Michelle Chamuel have never performed earlier than No. 7 in performance order since the live voting rounds began. Come on, Mark Burnett…that’d be like having a Survivor camera guy secretly hand-hold a contestant till he or she was within 3 feet of a hidden immunity idol. (Wait, the camera guys on Survivor don’t actually do that, do they?)
Whatever the case may be, what began as a showdown among a pretty evenly matched Top 8 soon found four singers — Judith, Michelle, Danielle and Amber — beginning to separate themselves from their rivals. Without further ado, let’s cut to the set list (along with my letter grades) for the 120 minute concert.
Judith Hill: will.i.am (featuring Justin Bieber)’s “#thatPOWER” | From a strategic standpoint, it was risky for Judith to choose vibe over vocals and grit over glory notes, but I appreciated her effort to make something more (and different) (and vastly more interesting) of an inconsequential pop trifle. Swathed in a cape of feathers and rocking a Sanjaya-esque “ponyhawk” that looked in silhouette like the crest of some strange exotic bird, Judith brought funk and tempo to the Voice stage, and didn’t have any troubles maneuvering the tight curves of will.i.am’s ditty with her Mack-truck sized voice. Judith may be too far polished to appeal to voters who like their reality-show pop stars to emerge from half-shells of complete anonymity, but this week she convinced me that she could be a viable player on today’s Billboard Hot 100. Grade: A-
Holly Tucker: The Band Perry’s “Done” | You can’t fault Holly when it comes to vocal consistency: The still-active college student hits her notes like Katniss Everdeen at target practice. But there’s still something uninspired about her delivery — a shallowness of emotional connection, maybe — that leaves me thinking “She’d be great at karaoke night” or “I might’ve voted for her if she’d had another five years of life experience” rather than “I can’t wait to buy her record next fall.” Grade: B
Judith, Michelle, Sarah and Sasha: Rihanna’s “Diamonds” | I’m just going to come out and say it: Individually, these women have talent, but together, they operated as naturally and purposefully as the combination of a fork, a woodchipper, a gallon of 2% milk and a box of Kleenex. I couldn’t wait for it to end…and upon second listen, I realize I was way too generous with my inital letter grade. Grade:
The Swon Brothers: The Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road” | I’m not gonna lie: It bugged me that the trio of background singers overpowered Zach and Colton for at least half of their Eagles cover — especially because, from what I could tell, their vocals simply weren’t as on point as last week. No, the end product wasn’t terrible, but Usher’s use of “incredible” in triplicate strained the outer boundaries of credulity. Adam made a half-hearted attempt to point out the aforementioned pitch snafus, but then retreated under a blanket of disingenuous self-deprecation: “I’m just being stupid and picky. I’m sorry.” Urgh, dude, that’s your job! And you’re paid wayyy too much to be shirking it in the hopes someone else will get it done. Grade: B
Sasha Allen: David Guetta (featuring Usher)’s “Without You” | Shakira has been a delight during her maiden voyage on The Voice — she’s got great chemistry with her fellow judges and seems really invested in her contestants. But can you imagine how much more successful a coach she’d have been if she’d wound up with a final three of Luke Edgemon, Shawna P and Cathia? I know some TVLine readers adore Sasha, but to me she’s like orange marmalade or oysters or chardonnay — flavors I just can’t get excited about. Sasha’s rendition of “Without You” had so much vibrato that I wondered if there was a tower of laundry machines on spin cycle beneath the platform where she began her performance. Worse still, though, the gorgeous young mom went intermittently flat throughout the verses — making me wonder if those dancers in Hazmat gear had been sent in to clean up the notes she’d made toxic. Grade: C-