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Some sparkle and some falter on Monday’s ‘The Voice’

Season 7 | Episode 16 | “Live Top 12 Performances” | Aired Nov 17, 2014

Congratulations! You made it to live rounds. Your reward for holding on through battles, knockouts and playoffs is a pat on the back and a puppy. Redeem your puppy via the new Voice app!

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Now, this round should not be confused with live playoffs, which were live but not the actual, authentic LIVE ROUNDS. No sir. This round is different. Team lines have dissolved. The coaches no longer have a say, and the only salvation outside of voting is the controversial Instant Save (which is dominated by tween Twitter power users). It’s anyone’s game now.

Note: Carson announces that later this season, they’ll be debuting original songs for each of their artists. This could be wonderful. Or disastrous. I can’t wait.

Now let’s talk about tonight’s performances (in order of appearance):

Sugar Joans (Team Pharrell)
We open the night with Sugar, one of last week’s more pleasant surprises. Sugar has impressive pipes; there is no doubt about that. However, her voice can run a little shrill when she wails, and she relies too heavily on her growl at times (tasty vocal seasoning that shouldn’t be the main course). Sugar kept all of that in check last time around, but not as much with tonight’s “Take Me to the River.” She performs the hell out of it, but I can’t help but find it disappointing after last week’s trip to church.


Ryan Sill (Team Gwen)

Gwen assigns Ryan the early ’90s classic “Ordinary World,” a choice I find perplexing. Gwen expresses an interest in teaching Ryan to be more natural onstage, then gives him a song that seems unnatural for him on every level.

 

Ryan hits some crazy power notes that seem to redeem the performance, but this still feels like the wrong pairing of song and artist. He just seems uncomfortable and strained to me. The coaches, on the other hand, love it. Maybe I need a sip from Blake’s mystery cup to get on board?

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Jessie Pitts (Team Blake)
Jessie opens “Don’t You Worry Child” acoustically, with a glowing white piano and a platinum head of hair. Her vocal is wispy and measured and starts out well, but the minute she steps out from behind the piano and starts amping up, her pitch begins slipping; it’s all over the place. It’s almost as if the anticipation of that transition threw her off? That’s a shame because I loved the opener, and I think she could have done the entire song from behind the piano and excelled at it.


Damien (Team Adam)
Adam assigns Damien “He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother,” a song that Damien relates to as the oldest of six siblings. And man oh man, this song is perfect for him. It’s a lung-buster with tons of heart, and Damien totally embodies it, singing like his life depends upon it and sending Adam (and the audience) into fits of happiness. I might have had the same reaction at home. Maybe.


Danica Shirey (Team Pharrell)

Danica’s song choice (“Creep”) initially concerns me. Because it’s Radiohead. And it’s iconic. And it could go really wrong really quickly. However, Danica’s Al Green–inspired take on it is genuinely interesting, giving her a chance to flex her interpretative muscles and show off that glorious voice. And trust me on this: Her voice is glorious. Gwen calls her a “freak of nature,” and I have to agree with that statement.


Note: Kudos to hair, makeup, and wardrobe for softening Danica’s look and getting it all completely in sync for the first time.

Taylor John Williams (Team Gwen)
Taylor covers “If,” and for some odd reason they decide to project butterflies behind him for the duration of the song. Between that and the squishy arrangement (true to the original), it feels like a hallucination right out of That ’70s Show. Taylor sounds lovely, but the whole thing is a little sluggish and disconnected. Between this and Ryan Sill, I just don’t understand Gwen’s song choices tonight.


Reagan James (Team Blake)

Let me start this by stating (again) that I’m confused by the show referring to Reagan as an R&B singer. Reagan works a lot of quirky indie magic, but she is by no means an R&B singer (even if she identifies herself as such). Tonight’s song choice (“It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over”) further demonstrates this genre confusion. It’s not exactly an R&B song, but it is going for a throwback soul kind of feel that falls flat in this context. To commit to the song, Reagan has to iron out all the interesting wrinkles in her voice—the charming wild cards that make her so intriguing. And that dims her sparkle a bit. Until she (and her coach) truly understand her many strengths and capitalize on them properly, Reagan won’t fully realize her potential.


Luke Wade (Team Pharrell)

Luke’s “Thinking Out Loud” is more low-key than his usual fare, but I like the idea of giving his voice a more modern frame of reference. Unfortunately, the opening falters due to some technical difficulties, and Luke seems to have a hard time bouncing back from that. He settles in more once he steps out from behind the guitar and sounds gorgeous (as always), but this is definitely an off night thanks to the joy and pain of live TV.


Matt McAndrew (Team Adam)

Adam assigns Matt “Take Me to Church” in the midst of bonding over their shared love of the tattoo (so touching!). Matt hits all the right marks, with a delicate start that builds to a fiery climax and ends with Matt on his knees. It’s ballsy and pretty great. My only quibble would be that it loses some of its power when he veers into scream-y territory that doesn’t do the song (or Matt) justice.


Craig Wayne Boyd (Team Blake)

“You Look So Good in Love” is a smart choice for Craig, because this is one for the LADIES. It’s a tender ballad that allows him to show off his softer side (and his glam country makeover) to good effect. While the vocal is not technically perfect, it works, because of the LADIES. They are eating it up in the audience, and I imagine they’re eating it up at home. Like a big bowl of country ice cream.


Chris Jamison (Team Adam)

Adam attempts to create a breakout moment for Chris with this week’s “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, and he succeeds fairly well. Chris’ performance is at ease and “effortless” (to steal Pharrell’s description)—head and shoulders above previous weeks. Chris nails the vocal from start to finish, and wears his snazzy new suit with the confidence it deserves.


Note: I had to google Nick Jonas to figure out which Jonas brother we’re talking about here (the married one, the half-naked one, or the other guy). Well, folks, he’s the half-naked one. You feel kind of dirty now, don’t you? I know I do.

Anita Antionette (Team Gwen)
Our final song tonight is Anita’s “Redemption Song,” a distinct departure from her more upbeat material the last two rounds. While the vocal isn’t as sublime as her emotional, bittersweet performance, the performance itself elevates it to something more than the sum of its parts. This is the power of Anita. She can speak-sing her way through a song on a show called The Voice and still be the most compelling person there.


Who got your votes this week? Are there any favorites you’re worried about after seeing Monday’s performances? Let me know, and I’ll see you back here after next Monday’s episode of The Voice.

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The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7C on NBC.