We’re down to the penultimate installment of The Voice season 8 when the remaining four artists will deliver their final decisive performances. Three months and more than 10 performances ago, Koryn Hawthorne, Sawyer Fredericks, Joshua Davis and Meghan Linsey threw their vocal cords into the ring against 44 other artists, daring to dream that they would be performing live in this final round after which one will be crowned The Voice.
From the beginning, it was clear that Sawyer and Meghan had a reasonable shot at making it, but who would have pegged shy, powerful teen Koryn or mellow, folksy Joshua to surpass such phenomenal performers as Kimberly Nichole, Mia Z, Cody Wickline and Sarah Potenza? Not I, my friends. It just goes to show you that endurance and grace under fire are what it takes to get this far. All four of these finalists are gifted with both of those.
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Coach Christina Aguilera Has No Skin in the Game
Remaining in the competition are all but Christina Aguilera, whose final artist, India Carney, was out-tweeted by Koryn Hawthorne in the Twitter Instant Save in the previous round. Remaining are Joshua Davis and Meghan Linsey for coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, respectively. Pharrell Williams has two artists left: media darling Sawyer Fredericks and emotionally riveting Koryn Hawthorne.
Now, we all know that it doesn’t matter how many artists represent a coach in the final performances. All it takes is one to win. Blake Shelton won season 7 with one artist (Craig Wayne Boyd) up against three for Adam (Chris Jamison, Matt McAndrews and Damien). More importantly, it’s the overall quality of the individual artist and their popularity with American voters that deliver the title. Let’s see what happens.
Koryn Hawthorne Performs “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
Carson Daly sits down with Koryn and Pharrell to review her journey on The Voice. Pharrell is humbly appreciative that he has been able to coach Koryn. Carson highlights her breakout performance when she belted out her prayer with “How Great Thou Art” in the Live Playoffs. That performance changed the tide for Koryn, who went on to further wow viewers with equally amazing performances of “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” “Make It Rain,” “Girl on Fire,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Dream On,” “One” and “Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep.”
The Top 4 is no different. Koryn kicks it with a powerful performance of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” and all the coaches are so very proud of her. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Meghan Linsey Performs “Change My Mind”
Each artist will perform three times in this episode, including a new song, an original song and a duet with their coach. Meghan’s journey to the finals included her Live Playoff performance of “Love Runs Out,” followed by “Girl Crush,” “Home,” “Something,” “Amazing Grace,” “Steamroller Blues,” “I’m Not the Only One” and “Tennessee Whiskey.”
Meghan starts the evening’s original songs with one she wrote herself after the breakup of a terribly painful relationship. Meghan takes the pain of failure and parlays it into a powerfully soulful diary entry for the whole world to hear. Meghan pours her soul into this performance and it rings of triumph. Blake nails it when he says Meghan and her co-writers wrote the hell out of that song. Excellent. Bravo, Meghan.
Sawyer and Pharrell Perform a Duet with “Summer Breeze”
After a brief preview of the finale event Tuesday evening, Carson appears with previous season 8 artists Rob Taylor, Sonic, Hannah Kirby and Nathan Hermida, then announces the first duet of the evening.
Pharrell and Sawyer sit comfortably on the stage and glide through the 1972 Seals & Croft hit “Summer Breeze.” This wasn’t the best choice for highlighting Sawyer’s vocal ability, but he still has two performances to make up for it. Besides, Sawyer is the favorite of the younger crowd whom Blake already identified as a frontrunner during the last round.
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Joshua Davis Performs “The Workingman’s Hymn”
Joshua and Adam chew the fat while sitting at the mixing table in a video that also includes clips of Joshua’s recording of the song he wrote himself.
Joshua grew up in a blue collar world, which is what he writes about. His lyrics speak of making a better life, a better world, by turning things around. Blake comments on the catchiness of Joshua’s sound. Adam says a million things in five seconds, per usual, and begs America to love Joshua.
Sawyer Fredericks Performs “Please”
In the Live Playoffs, Sawyer shone with “Trouble,” followed by “Imagine,” “Iris,” “Simple Man,” “Shine On,” “Take Me to the River,” “For What It’s Worth” and “A Thousand Years.” That brings us to this round.
Sawyer’s original song was written for him for his final performance by his idol, Ray LaMontagne. Pharrell and Sawyer discuss how to make this song its absolute best. Sawyer wants to do his own harmony. Once Sawyer takes the stage, giant peonies and roses slowly bloom on the screen behind him. It’s a folksy, enjoyable performance. This was so much better in regard to highlighting Sawyer’s beautiful voice.
Koryn and Pharrell Perform “We Can Work It Out”
Koryn and Pharrell have a blast all over the stage performing this uplifting song. Their voices blend nicely and it’s fun to watch. They both sound great, of course.
Joshua Davis Performs “Hallelujah”
Joshua’s winning Live Playoffs song was “Budapest,” followed by “America,” “Hold Back the River,” “Fields of Gold,” “Desire,” “In My Life,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” When he takes the stage for his finale performance, he’s chosen “Hallelujah” and all I can picture is Mike Myers as Shrek and Eddie Murphy as Donkey in the animated movie. Nah, I’m just kidding. Joshua gives a beautiful performance. I do have to listen to it again, though, because of Shrek.
Meghan and Blake Perform “Freeway of Love”
Okay. This feels like a strange song choice for the final performance night, but Blake and Meghan are having a blast giving us their only duet of the season. These coach duets are a challenge to comment on because there doesn’t seem to be much to them other than a lot of fun for the performers.
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Joshua and Adam Perform “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”
What a perfect song for both coach and artist! Remember how I’ve compared Joshua to Art Garfunkel almost every time the man’s taken the stage? Well, here we have Adam and Joshua singing a Paul Simon original. Simon, of course, is the lead half of mellow folksinging duo Simon & Garfunkel. Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” features Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing Zulu in the background rather than harmony by Garfunkel (or Levine), but this still possesses the smooth lyricism the diet was known for in their day. Sawyer and Adam are no different. As was Adam’s choice of “Lost Without You” to duet with Chris Jamison in season 7, this is the perfect choice for the coach to perform with Joshua.
Koryn Hawthorne Performs “Bright Fire”
Pharrell asks Koryn what it feels like to be charting as high as she has been on iTunes with her The Voice recordings.
“Bright Fire” exudes sunshine and God and life to Pharrell, its writer. He’s wanted to perform it for a very long time but has never been able to get it quite right. Koryn, however, in Pharrell’s mind, is perfect for this song and he is not wrong.
What a beautiful song. This song is typical Pharrell. He’s all about the joy and the living and doing what comes naturally. Reminiscent of “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher” in mood and tone, “Bright Fire” is a song of praise for people of all creeds and belief systems. Koryn is most definitely the perfect vessel for this Williams original.
Meghan Linsey Performs “When a Man Loves a Woman”
No one can deny that this woman is a phenomenally gifted and versatile vocalist. She’s not a spring chicken, and her experience informs the depth of her deliveries. If there could be two winners, I’d want Meghan and her Bonnie Raitt gravel to get that second title. She deserves to win something. Whether or not a mid-career female country-soul-rock performer can win season 8 of The Voice is up to America.
Blake says this was the performance of the night. Well, of course, he’d say that — she’s his last artist. I have to disagree with Blake, though. There have been outstanding performances by all four artists. One more left, and the voting can begin.
Sawyer Fredericks Performs “Old Man”
Darling Sawyer wins the pimp spot of season 8’s final performances. The preview for the performance has Sawyer interpreting Neil Young’s retrospective song. Hanging behind Sawyer when he begins to perform are guitars of every design representing Sawyer’s own growth as a musician over the years and most especially during these last three months. I wonder if 11 of those instruments are the ones he mentioned owning several rounds ago.
Sawyer has a distinctive sound. However, my complaint with this young man is that he has given us the same performance over and over. While I enjoy several of Sawyer’s recordings, I would not pick him for the title of The Voice, but fortunately for him, my voice is only one that will be tallied. He definitely has the young, female vote. Will it be enough to put him above the other artists? You decide, America.
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Quite honestly, I have no idea how this season is going to end. I could see it going four different ways. Truly. Actually, I would be most surprised if Joshua were to win. The other three are either distinct or powerful and unique enough for a recording career. We already have many mellow vocalists in the world. How am I going to rank all these great songs by these four amazing artists? Gah.
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The Voice season 8 finale airs Tuesday, May 19 at 9pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)