Hold onto your hats, fans of The Voice; we are back with the final eight artists competing for the season 8 title. Some very familiar and welcome faces will be gracing our screens. Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine have invited Cee Lo Green, Gwen Stefani (advising for both Pharrell and Christina) and Usher back to the studios at The Voice to advise the final eight. This puts a huge grin on my face because since last season, I cannot get enough of Gwen Stefani. Expect excerpts from each advising session as each artist prepares to take the stage for their seventh competitive performance.
The Top 10 performances left us two artists down as America voted to save Koryn Hawthorne, Corey Kent White, Sawyer Fredericks, India Carney, Meghan Linsey, Kimberly Nichole and Hannah Kirby, leaving Deanna Johnson, Joshua Davis and Rob Taylor to duke it out. The Twitter Instant Save was a very tight race between Rob and Joshua, but in the end, Joshua got the most votes and advances to participate in the festivities of the Top 8.
We're Live Blogging the Top 8 Performances
As is our tradition here at BuddyTV, we live blog every episode from here until the end. Actually, we've already been doing it for a couple weeks and love seeing our readers adding their two cents' worth in the comments section. Chime in to agree, disagree or sound off on why your favorite artists should take home the gold and I'll attempt to participate as well between postings on this recap.
Speaking of posting, I will be adding content to this recap as the episode advances. So make sure to refresh your browser every 10 minutes to keep up with the running commentary.
Predictions Before the Facts
It's fun to play the prediction game when it comes to The Voice
, isn't it? Veteran viewers can predict just about anything, from how much fluff will be included in an episode to who will get the pimp spot of the evening. What I find pointless to predict (because I'm rarely right) is who will bloom like early Bougainvillea and who will choke during these last handful of episodes. Artists have a history of working extremely hard and surprising me. However, what I am
willing to predict is who will have the coveted pimp spot for the Top 8. My money is on Koryn Hawthorne after that extraordinary delivery of Ed Sheeran's "Make It Rain"
in the Top 10. What do you
Start Your Engines and Get Ready to Vote
Carson Daly tells us about the visiting advisers as well as the coming performance by Blake Shelton and Matt McAndrew. I think he mentions something about Shakira performing and I'm pumped. That woman fascinates me with her gorgeous voice and her unbelievable belly dancing. Talk about talented.
Next, Joshua, Corey and Sawyer treat us to a performance of Avicii's "Hey Brother." They blend well and the performance is not bad at all. Sometimes, these live group performances can leave a lot to be desired, but that's not the case for the men here. Let's see how the women do. The ladies do another Avicii song, "Wake Me Up," and I gotta say there are too many people on that stage. Onward.
Cee Lo Advises Hannah Kirby Who Performs "We Don't Need Another Hero"
In classic Hannah form, Hannah greets Cee Lo with a brash dressing-down about why the heck his cat isn't in attendance. Cee Lo talks about having a children's choir during the final verse of Tina Turner's theme song from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I'm gonna be tough on Hannah because I am a mega Tina fan and just as big of a Mad Max fan. Mad Max brings me back to the good old days when Mel Gibson was still sexy and he hadn't gotten politically weird yet. Good times.
The performance starts out in Hannah's lower register, which is not her strong suit and I'm hoping (like Blake) that she tames down some of the squiggly sound from her higher notes when she finally gets there. It feels like a fast song that is not quite getting up to speed. Baby dancers join Hannah on stage and they are kinda cute in their reverse Elvis attire, but they are a little distracting. Hannah keeps her crazy dancing under control, which is a plus, and she never does knock it out of the park.
The coaches comment on how perfectly she delivers the song, but it's clear no one is blown away. Blake tosses her a complement about being one of his all-time favorite artists on The Voice and it sounds like a consolation prize.
Usher Advises Joshua Davis Who Performs "Fields of Gold"
Joshua is blown away to be on the receiving end of advice from two Voice coaches. Usher reminds Joshua that America votes with their hearts and encourages Joshua to give his heart when he swings for the fences with Sting's song.
I have a soft spot for Joshua; I do. The advising session with Usher is delivered in mellow tones. Joshua talks about the personal significance of this song to him and his struggle to make a living with his music.
Ohhhhhhh, man, Joshua starts out with some crystalline acoustic fingerpicking. Give me distinctive, acoustic six-string any day and you'll have me in the palm of your hand. It's a lovely and mellow performance. It reminds me of what Blake said after Joshua's performance of "Arms of a Woman": he wanted to spoon him. I'd like to spoon with my own honey lovin' cup to this song, folks. Will I buy this song? Probably not. But I do appreciate Joshua's aesthetic. Does it resonate with what America is looking for in the next Voice winner? I'm not so sure.
Gwen Stefani Advises Kimberly Nichole Who Performs "Creep"
Kimberly gets emotional when Christina takes a moment to sing a verse of Radiohead's "Creep" and we are all reminded of what a gift Christina has. It makes me want to go out and buy more of Xtina's albums to round out my woefully inadequate collection of "Genie in a Bottle."
Christina advises that Kimberly come out as a more delicate persona than she's shown before. Be herself. Kimberly talks about how this song is reflective of how she feels on The Voice much of the time. It's a "What am I doing here?" kind of sentiment. Totally understandable.
When she takes the stage, her dress is breathtaking, her perfect skin is the most beautiful chocolate silk and her eyes are glistening. I was expecting a softer delivery, but Kimberly doesn't hesitate to let herself be who she is. Who Ms. Nichole is, is a powerful woman with a lot of talent. This all comes through during her performance. She doesn't yell. She doesn't scream. She may have had one flat note. She allows the entire song to unfurl across America masterfully. In the end, she slinks to the floor where she delivers her final stanza and it's powerful. Well done, Kimberly Nichole. Welcome to the Top 8.
Shakira Phones It In and Blake Performs "Sangria"
My disappointment over Shakira's lack of a live appearance is assuaged by Blake's performance of his new hit, "Sangria." Hey, season 2 artists Gwen Sebastian is singing back-up for Blake, so I guess there is life after The Voice, huh? Carson teases us with what's up next. Sounds like it will be Meghan Linsey. The placement of her performance right in the middle pretty much spells out that she's not a frontrunner at this point, but we'll see what happens when she takes the stage. Carson then teases us with the news that Matt McAndrew will be visiting and performing later. Yes!
Cee Lo Advises Meghan Linsey Who Performs "Something"
Meghan is very excited that Cee Lo is in the house. She's always wanted to work with Cee Lo. Blake says Meghan had a break-out moment during her Top 10 performance. Really? I don't doubt it, but I don't remember it either. Hm. Blake says she's going to do it again this time, but with a much softer song.
Meghan confesses that the first time she heard this song, it made her cry. Now, crying closes up the throat and ties the vocal chords into knots, so let's hope that doesn't happen during the live performance. Get your crying out at the practice, baby girl, and give us your all on stage.
Meghan shares that she is currently in love, which is good to hear. We've heard so much about the crash and burn of her relationship with the guy she used to perform with. It's good to know things are going well for her personally again.
That cavern created by two staircases facing her does her no favors. I'm so relieved when she walks out from between them, but she should have done it sooner. Meghan does a beautiful job, but it feels to me like she pushes her voice way more than necessary -- like she's trying to be powerful when what she really needs is to be gentle. Technically, there's nothing wrong with this performance. Meghan is a beautiful woman with some nice cleavage, by the way, but this is not the break-out performance Blake foretold, no matter what he says.
Gwen Advises India Carney Who Performs "Over the Rainbow"
The coaches advise India to live and breathe this song; get out of competitive mode and just be in the song. But the song choice ... are you kidding me? This did not do well for Matt McAndrew in season 7, and it still doesn't belong on The Voice. I hope she does something interesting with it. She's fantastic enough to get past this level, but what the...? Someone has the idea that every little girl has always wanted to be Dorothy, but that is just not the case. However, it's one of India's all-time favorite songs, so what can you do?
India and her hair take the stage in a big white doily dress (I had a Barbie doll with a dress like that) and gives a flawless performance. It is a more unique performance than Matt's was, and she inserts some outrageous runs in the mix. Blake says it was a magical performance.
What's Matt McAndrew Up To? You're About to Find Out
I don't catch the title of Matt's new single at first, but he looks like he's having a great time on stage. I have to rewind to suss out "Counting on Love." I like the shorter hair; much more attractive. He says things are going great since The Voice. No specifics, really, other than the advent of his single. Then Carson teases about Sawyer Fredericks coming up next.
Gwen Stefani Advises Sawyer Fredericks Who Performs "Simple Man"
Sawyer is quietly starstruck when he meets Gwen. Who wouldn't be? Well, I'd actually be screaming like a fangirl, but that's not Sawyer's way. His bashfulness is simply precious. I have high hopes for this young man. His voice is unique. I just hope he steps it up several notches from his deliver on "Iris."
Sawyer reveals that he owns 11 guitars. Holy treble clef, Batman, that's, like, 66 strings at least. He's brought a limited edition guitar to his practice with Gwen and Pharrell. Gwen says that Sawyer doesn't perform, he just "is." Pharrell advises Sawyer to walk around the stage and greet the people. Sawyer is shy by nature, perhaps even introverted, so you can see the discomfort in his countenance when Pharrell makes the suggestion. Sawyer is willing to do anything, so he's gonna give it a shot. Gwen comments on Sawyer's rawness and can already imagine him on the radio.
This performance seems like more of what we've already seen from Sawyer. He does make it over to the audience, but his interaction is limited. Pharrell gives a standing ovation. I already have two of this kid's songs in my iTunes library, but I'm not sure what to think of this song.
Pharrell gives a great pitch. I do think he's unique enough to have a career. His voice is distinctive enough to be recognizable on the radio. There's no way Sawyer is going home after this performance.
Cee Lo Advises Corey Kent White Who Performs "When I See You Smile"
Blake tells Corey he has to rattle America's cage during this performance and I'm with Blake 100%. We're at the point where the top artists distinguish themselves from those who will not be going forward to the final rounds. It turns out Cee Lo is good friends with Zac Brown, the originator of Corey's Blinds song, "Chicken Fried." What a surreal experience that must be for Corey to hear that Zac approves of his performance.
What can I say other than that Corey Kent White nails it when he takes the stage with Bad English's "When I See You Smile." The first several verses are rather mellow and I start to lose hope, but then the boy kicks it up a big notch and lets his sexy raspiness sail out of his throat. Wow. He totally nails it. I don't know that I'd put him ahead of Kimberly or India, but he's up there in my top five.
As predicted, Koryn Hawthorne is in the pimp spot.
Gwen Stefani Advises Koryn Hawthorne Who Performs "Girl on Fire"
Koryn is thrilled to meet Gwen Stefani, who says that Koryn's voice is so natural and effortless. For being only 17, this woman has already been through a lot in her short life. Gwen advises that she tap into her brokenness and go straight to that place where she's most vulnerable (or something to that effect). It's clear that Gwen knows this is going to take a lot of emotional energy for Koryn, as it would for anyone, but especially for a young girl on the cusp of adulthood.
Koryn decides to give it a shot. Though I adored her performance of "Make It Rain" and have listened to my iTunes download of it at least 26 times since last Monday, I hope that this time she gives us something new, something that tops "Make It Rain," If that is even possible. There's a lot riding on those young shoulders.
Shivers. Goosebumps. And holy wow, my friends. In the words of past adviser Reba McEntire, this girl kicks the dog poop out of that song. Halfway through the song, I realize I've been holding my breath the whole time.
She is the dream that is the show, says Adam. She's had lots of breakthrough moments. Christina says that Koryn thrives on the pressure of these live performances and I couldn't agree more. Wow and holy cats. Did she surpass her Top 10 performance? I'd say she met that performance, which ain't bad since that last performance was head and shoulders better than her nine competitors.
Let's see if America agrees with me. See you then!
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)