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Song choice is everything for the top 8 on 'The Voice'

Season 7 | Episode 18 | “Live Top 8 Performances” | Aired Dec 1, 2014

Welcome to the top eight on The Voice, a place where dreams are made and broken. This is the week we whittle our hopefuls down from a robust eight to a very slim five. Ah, lucky five: the number of toes on one foot OR the perfect number of people for an awkward dinner party.

Carson notes The Voice has now reached maximum iTunes potential with over 20 million downloads, and they celebrate with the top eight’s cover of “Geronimo”—a performance that showcases just how many women have been weeded out of the competition.

Ryan Sill (Team Gwen)
We open the night with Ryan’s “Open Arms,” and once again, I want to have a song intervention with Gwen. Ryan has a lovely voice, but he is certainly not someone who can fill the shoes of my beloved Steve Perry (of Journey). Ryan does well with the verses, giving them the sensitivity they deserve, but the choruses are all about pure power, and you can hear the strain when he reaches for that. Let me be clear that I don’t blame Ryan for this. I blame Gwen. There is a reason Ryan has been in the bottom three each week. Instead of heeding the message voters are sending, Gwen just continues on the same path, and it’s not working. #FreeRyan, Gwen.

Craig Wayne Boyd (Team Blake)
Next up is Craig, the last artist standing on Team Blake (no pressure!). Blake decides to give Craig lighter fare with “Take It Easy,” a fun-loving follow-up to last week’s breakout performance of “I Walk the Line.” While it’s not groundbreaking, Craig still gives an energetic, natural performance that pretty much defines Blake’s “barn burner” end goal. Seriously, this is a party I’d want to crash. It’s something that would be right at home on the Country Music Association Awards stage, and just another showcase of Craig’s star power and professionalism.

Danica Shirey (Team Pharrell)

Pharrell takes a left turn with Danica this week, assigning her the lung-busting ’80s anthem “These Dreams.” Danica seems anxious to take on an iconic song so out of her wheelhouse. But she accepts the challenge gracefully, singing the hell out of it (only faltering a bit in her lower range because of the amount of lung power she needs for the bigger notes). It’s fairly flawless, as always.

However, I can’t even focus on Danica’s performance because I’m so distracted by the staging. Danica is perched on a tall staircase in a complicated gown, with string players below, forced to perform the entire song from one step. It’s like she’s on the Titanic, and the only thing left of the boat is this level of string players and her staircase jutting out of the water. She’s going to sing until the entire ship goes down, damn it!

We interrupt this broadcast to tell you Nick Jonas is on the show. However, he is fully clothed. Sorry, ladies (and shame on you for expecting something else!).

Damien (Team Adam)
Damien’s “Someone Like You” is one of the most compelling moments this week. One of Damien’s strengths is his ability to emote, and this song gives him ample opportunity to do so. He plays with the phrasing to make it his own, switching the chorus up to utilize his falsetto and milking the ending for all it’s worth. Pharrell calls out how effortlessly Damien “run[s] up and down the stairs of [his] range,” and I have to agree. His mastery of transitioning from chest to head voice is showcased well here.

My only quibble would be that sometimes Damien can over-emote a little … to the point where perfectly genuine emotion can sometimes appear disingenuous. Otherwise? I love everything about this performance.

Chris Jamison (Team Adam)
Adam decides that “Sexual Healing” is the appropriate next step for Chris, and I don’t know that I’m on board with this. Chris delivers a strong vocal with some ridiculously on-point falsetto, all while surrounded by red neon lights (is he singing from strip club? or possibly the depths of hell?). However, there’s something missing. The original feels a little dirty, and Chris is too squeaky clean to embody that. Yes, he has a fantastic voice, and yes, he is handsome, but as Adam pointed out, being handsome isn’t enough. Chris needs more connection or more charisma or some kind of spark to really meet this song’s potential.

Luke Wade (Team Pharrell)
I don’t have much to say about Luke’s “Holding Back the Years” because I am so perplexed by this song choice. It’s all in Luke’s lower range, so he has no opportunity to really sing out. The arrangement irons out all the song’s interesting angles and creates more space than vocals. The whole thing is an awkward, disjointed affair, and I think that has more to do with the song than Luke. If he’s in the bottom three this week, I am most definitely blaming Pharrell for it.

Oh, look: Gwen and Pharrell are having a hallucinogenic slumber party with PJs, dancers, and sparklers on their collaboration, “Spark the Fire.” I kind of love it, and I kind of feel like I’ve been dropped into someone’s PG-rated acid trip.

Taylor John Williams (Team Gwen)
Next up is Taylor, with another of tonight’s unexpected song choices, “Royals.” They adjust it to be a more minor, dissonant arrangement, and it works. It’s weird and at times off-putting, but it achieves this uncomfortable effect that I think is exactly what Taylor is going for (and that’s impressive). I think it would be much better if his voice wasn’t so overwhelmed by the background vocals, but otherwise? This was one of the most original showings this week from our resident “old soul,” Taylor.

Matt McAndrews (Team Adam)
Tonight’s final performance is Matt’s “The Blower’s Daughter.” This song is already stunning, but Matt does a rendition that both honors the source material and elevates it by giving one of the most intimate performances we’ve seen in all seven seasons of The Voice. It’s spare but lush, internalized but dramatic. This song is all about control and waiting for your moments, and Matt knows when to under-sing and when to lose control. It’s a delicate balance that requires patience on the part of the artist. But Matt holds the line and delivers what I consider to the best performance of the night.

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

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

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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