Jump back, fans, we're back with the remaining Top 10 artists competing for the title of The Voice. During the broadcast, we'll be treated to snippets from each artist's mentoring sessions with their coaches and several of the most prolific and sought-after music producers on the planet. These mentors are mega producers in the world of recording and I can't wait to see if they are as down-to-earth as all the other mentors have proven to be. The clips from this past week of practice show that two of the special guests compliment The Voice for having the highest level of vocal talent of any show on TV.
For the third time in season 8, viewers will determine which of the Top 10 artists will advance to the next round, so make sure you vote. I'll be posting my Top 10 Performance Rankings after the evening's festivities and my esteemed colleague Derek Stauffer will be posting a predictions article in the morning. Feel free to weigh in on either of those with your thoughts, folks. We love to hear from you.
Christina Welcomes Mark Ronson
To assist with mentoring Top 10 artists Rob Taylor, Kimberly Nichole and India Carney, Christina Aguilera welcomes Grammy-winning producer and musician Mark Ronson, the man who partnered with Bruno Mars to create "Uptown Funk," the longest running #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in this decade.
Blake Introduces Scott Hendricks to His Team
On deck to mentor Hannah Kirby, Corey Kent White and Meghan Linsey is Blake Shelton's invited guest, the legendary record producer who has spent time at the helm of both Capitol Records and Virgin records, Scott Hendricks. Hendricks has produced nearly 100 Top 10 songs for 16 different artists, over half of which made it to the #1 spot.
Adam Brings Dave Stewart to The Voice
Adam Levine invites Grammy and Golden Globe award-winning producer, lyricist, instrumentalist and Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart to mentor Joshua Davis and Deanna Johnson. Stewart has collaborated to write songs with such hot contemporary artists as Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Stevie Nicks, Bryan Ferry and Mick Jagger.
Pharrell Chooses Ryan Tedder to Mentor His Team
Pharrell Williams introduces Sawyer Fredericks and Koryn Hawthorne to their mentor -- writer, producer and OneRepublic founder, Ryan (OMG!) Tedder. Tedder has collaborated with stratospherically successful contemporary artists such as Adele, Beyonce, James Blunt, Ellie Goulding, Arianna Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. This music industry mega producer has sold over 130 million records and has 75 titles charted at #1 to his credit.
Live Blog Begins Now with a Group Performance of an Elton John Medley
Per the formula on The Voice, the evening starts out with Carson Daly telling us all about the four mega superstars and showing us clips of them working with the artists. Then those Top 10 artists delight us with an Elton John medley. Everyone seems nervous and Deanna's voice gives out a bit.
Kimberly Nichole Performs "Something's Got a Hold on Me"
Christina has chosen this Etta James number, tasking mentor Mark Ronson with the job of dirtying it up a bit. They have fun during practice, especially after Christina sings back-up for Kimberly. Taylor is impressed with Kimberly, whose last Top 12 recording knocked his own song out of the #2 spot.
The stage opens with Kimberly covered in sequins and lounging on a bright red bench. You can already tell that this woman is in charge and means business. I'm getting a Fish Mooney vibe off of her. Etta took this song to #4 on the R&B Billboard chart back in 1962. The disadvantage of this song is how unfamiliar the target demographic of viewers is.
The performance is energetic and flawless. While her last two performances built to a crescendo and finished off powerfully, this song moves forward at the same pace. Not as dynamic as I expected for Kimberly.
Joshua Davis Performs "Hold Back the River"
Something funky is happening with my television when Carson comes back to introduce Joshua Davis' segment. Then the television goes completely mute for about 25 seconds. Ouch. I pray this doesn't carry over to his performance or Joshua is s-c-r-e-w-e-d.
When Joshua takes the stage, the sound system is squared away. Whew! Joshua begins with his guitar slung behind his back. His voice is more mellow than James Bay's, which may be to his disadvantage. What's impressive about Bay's rendition of this song is the electric guitar runs and Bay's clear voice that rises above everything else. Joshua puts his own spin on "Hold Back the River." He has some low notes that he seems to struggle with. Adam addresses some of the struggles.
Hannah Kirby Performs "Shout"
Scott Hendricks comments on Hannah's energy during the practice, calling her "possessed." He says she's a vocal monster. Blake admits that he did not think this song choice was the best, but he says he's glad he let her do her thing. Blake comes up with a fantastic idea for vocal accompaniment during the performance.
Hannah comes out in a sleek Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tunic in black and silver. Once again, her makeup is fresh and beautiful. Hannah rocks the song, which doesn't feel stuck in the '80s in any way. She gave us more vocal diversity than Kimberly and Joshua did. Blake calls her a freak of nature. She is so much dang fun to watch, but will that be enough to get her to the next level? I still haven't seen anything that inspires me to head over to iTunes to spend some money.
Meghan Linsey Performs "Home"
Meghan knows exactly who Scott Hendricks is and she's no stranger to him either. This voice he hears now is one he had no idea she could deliver. The song Meghan has chosen resonates deeply with Meghan, whose roots are firmly planted in the Bayou of Louisiana. During practice, Blake tells her she's going to have to dig deep into the New Orleans in her soul.
Meghan takes the stage in an understated black sequin halter jumpsuit, and before long it's clear she's the best performance of the night so far. She's so good I can smell the swamp from my childhood home in Kentucky. Now, I've never heard this song either, but her delivery is so phenomenal that it doesn't bother me in the least like the previous performances tonight did. Well done, sister girlfriend.
Koryn Hawthorne Performs "Make It Rain"
I love that simple black dress she wore during practice. Those colorful ornamental beads that make up the waist have me all excited. I'm a bit of a clothed fanatic, folks, but I know full well that there are a bunch of you out there who are just as fascinated by the outfits and makeup as I am. Hey, it's all part of the experience.
Ryan Tedder says Koryn is a firework display and he's not wrong. This girl is mega talented and can hold her head high when she stands among the other 10 artists. Hell, she's better than half of them, in my humble opinion. This song she's chosen, "Make It Rain," is a complete 180 degree switch from her kick-ass performance of "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" in the Top 12. "Make It Rain" is a soulful, reflective entreaty to her maker.
For the first time of the night, my body is covered with goosebumps and I have glossy moisture clinging to the outside corners of my eyes. I lived and died during that performance. Koryn loses herself in that song and takes us along with her. When the coaches comment, you can tell they don't have to fake their excitement or awe over her performance. I can see her in the top two at this point. I am buying that performance on iTunes, folks.
Deanna Johnson Performs "Somebody to Love"
Deanna is the only one I'm worried about. You saved her with your tweets in the instant save last time. Now, she's performing a rock tune that's a complete departure from her previous song choices.
Deanna does better with "Somebody to Love" than I thought she would, but some of the lyrics come out almost as moans.
Rob Taylor Performs "A Song for You"
Rob's version of this song does not move me at all. This is a song I am familiar with and I don't even recognize it. His jump from the lower register to the very high one is cracked. Yes, it's emotional as the coaches mention. I'm surprised that Rob made it into the Top 10; we'll see if you again believe he is more gifted than at least three of his competitors.
Corey Kent White Performs "Unwound"
You know Corey is a coach, audience and personal favorite. "Live Like You Were Dying" has been played at my house at least twice a day since Corey laid it at our feet in the Knockouts. Things aren't looking too good for Corey at the beginning of practice with Scott Hendricks. Hendricks comments on the lack of energy in Corey's performance. Then Blake and Hendricks get up on the practice stage with Corey and they start putting their heads together to figure out what they can do to infuse "Unwound" with some excitement, or at least some motion. Both mentors agree that the guitar is doing absolutely nothing for Corey.
It's a fun song, but Corey could have put a lot more power behind the ends of his phrases. He looks like he's having fun, as are the women in the crowd. What he's not giving us in this performance is the pissed-off brokenhearted man who is supposed to be saying those words.
Sawyer Fredericks Performs "Iris"
Sawyer's whole segment with Pharrell and Ryan Tedder is low key and comfortable, like these three guys have been doing this together for years. You can tell by how Pharrell and Tedder speak with Sawyer that they respect his gift and are in awe of it.
Sawyer chooses "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls. He says he's never been in love, but he's always felt a connection with this song. Before the practice is over, Tedder tells Pharrell that he's really digging Sawyer's voice.
The first verse is a little flat in spots, but the chorus picks up and is much better and by the end he's kicking it somewhat. The feeling behind the song is there, but it doesn't lend itself to being good for highlighting Sawyer's unique gift or the power we know he has within him. The coaches mention the sheer power behind Sawyer's voice in general, but it's clear no one thinks this was his best performance by far. Sawyer should make it through to the next level because he's frickin' Sawyer Fredericks and amazing, period. This performance was a fluke. Let's see if America agrees.
India Carney Performs "Run to You"
Finally, we have India in the pimp spot. I'm interpreting it as confirmation that I was right in putting India above Kimberly in my Performance Rankings in the past. India's challenge is exactly what her mentor Mark Ronson says: she has to forget about all of her formal training so that she's able to release her soul to the passion of the song (he says it differently, but you get the picture). She has the chops, the power, the versatility. She needs to surrender to her talent and let it take her where it needs to go as dictated by the song. She needs to get a little dirty, maybe even sloppy. Does that even make sense?
India reveals that she sang "Run to You" during an audition for The Lion King and totally bombed it. Christina says that's why she has to do it now. Man, this is on a way grander scale than some audition, singing to three people sitting in the dark whispering among themselves. Another of India's challenges is making her covers unique to herself. Simply being a carbon copy of someone else is not going to win her The Voice.
"Run to You" is an emotional song, and India does a perfect job of it. As for the emotional vulnerability available for this song, she almost gets there, but not quite. America wants their entertainers to be willing to fall apart for their art and then come back together, or not, while they take us with them. India needs some of that passion that Koryn possesses in spades.
Who Will the Top 8 Artists Be?
I'm gonna say the top four are Koryn, Kimberly, Meghan and India. In the bottom three are Rob, Deanna and Joshua. America won't save Deanna a second time, so I think Rob might get the Twitter save. That leaves Sawyer, Hannah and Corey snuggled safely into the middle of the list. What did you think? Sound off below!
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)