The slow trek toward the finals continues as the remaining 10 artists perform in this installment of The Voice. The group has been diminished by only one from the previous week. Shelby Brown, Evan McKeel, Barrett Baber, Korin Bukowski, Amy Vachal, Zach Seabaugh, Madi Davis, Braiden Sunshine, Jordan Smith, Emily Ann Roberts and Jeffery Austin performed like superstars in the Top 11, and all but one return to grace our screens and bid for iTunes sales while we live blog the evening’s performances. Blake and Adam’s teams have three artists each, Gwen has two and Pharrell has one.
During the results show, the bottom two, Evan and Korin, performed for the Twitter Save. Unfortunately, Evan was then sent home. After being in the bottom two for two weeks in a row, we’ll see if Korin fares better in this round (which she totally does).
The Live Blog Begins Now
As we always do during the live shows, we’re blogging on the fly for the Top 10 performances. Remember to refresh your browser every 10 minutes to keep up with the commentary. Just be aware that in the interest of pushing out this article as quickly as possible, the spell check fairies don’t fly through the copy until after the episode is over, so cut us a little slack in that area. That being said, feel free to give us a nudge as even the fairies have been known to transpose or miss a gaffe here or there. These things happen as their hands are already fairly full trying to keep me from falling flat on my face here in print. (God bless them!)
We welcome (that’s not true — we are gleefully grateful for) a lively debate and spontaneous reactions to the performances in our comments section below, so feel free to participate as we go along.
Not “Overjoyed” to See Evan Go But Might as Well “Smile” as Our Hearts are Breaking
Evan McKeel was one of my personal favorites. I was highly disappointed to see him eliminated in the Top 11, but to be honest, he hadn’t really pushed any envelopes in his most recent performances. Evan’s favorite performance was “Smile,” but I still contend that his cover of Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” was his shining hour.
My colleague Jeff Dodge had the opportunity to speak with him after his elimination last time. Here’s what Jeff learned about Evan’s experience being coached by Pharrell Williams, his favorite performances and what his future plans are.
Jeffery Austin Performs “Jealous”
Jeffery was the fan favorite in last round according to our own poll. The Top 10 opens powerfully with Jeffery performing a gut-wrenching song of love and loss. Jeffery can’t believe that only a short while ago, he was working behind a desk pushing papers.
Gwen advises him to dress conservatively and smartly but, more importantly, to let himself fall apart during his performance. The song is about watching an estranged lover move on to a new love. This has gotta kill for Gwen to watch since she recently said goodbye to her marriage. Surprisingly, Gwen is tear-free. She’s got a ton of pancake makeup on, but her hair is absolutely stunning.
Emily Ann Roberts Performs “She’s Got You”
Blake gifted all three of his artists with brand new guitars. How cool is that? Wynonna Judd called Emily Ann after her Top 11 performance to talk about her cover of the Judd song, and we get to hear some of that conversation. What a surreal life this teenager is living these days, right?
The coaches have wonderful things to say about Emily Ann’s performance. Blake says Emily has been the best collaborator he’s ever had on The Voice. Of course, the coaches always say that the most recent artist/performance is the most spectacular thing to ever happen on The Voice since Jesus was in sandals, so we’ll take that with a grain of salt. She does a great job, but this song isn’t much of a step-up from her previous performances, if at all.
Braiden Sunshine Performs “Radioactive”
Baby boy’s granny has been plastering his hometown with posters encouraging everyone with a pulse and a driver’s license to vote for her heir. Once again, Gwen has gifted an artist with some excellent advice about appearance. Braiden has gotten a haircut! This time, he’s had the sides of his coif shortened, allowing him to keep the curls on top. This is a much better look than the straightened Donald Trump-ish ‘do. Everyone is bowled over by the size of Braiden’s balls (thanks for that image, Adam) in choosing this song, but the breakout performance of the evening is yet to arrive.
America Ferrera and The Wiz Visit The Voice
Earlier, we saw Ugly Betty‘s award-winning actress America Ferrera in The Voice audience to pimp her new show Superstore, which premieres after this episode. Also appearing on The Voice is the cast of The Wiz Live, who perform a mock audition with Toto, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow as the coaches.
Shelby Brown Performs “Go Rest High on That Mountain”
Adam makes good on his promise to get Shelby a giraffe after she did well in the Top 11. At the beginning of practice for the Top 10, Adam sweetly introduces Shelby to Gerard the Giraffe, which she hugs as they discuss the upcoming performance.
Shelby wants to sing a song that will allow her to display her emotional side, so she chooses a favorite of her grandfather’s, one that was played at his memorial. Shelby does knock this performance over the fence. I don’t know how anyone who has ever lost someone could listen to this song without getting dehydrated. I certainly can’t. Adam alludes to trying to get Shelby to get out of her own way, and that is truly the only thing holding this talented beauty back. Hopefully, going forward she will continue to buff up her confidence because she’s got a lot to offer.
Korin Bukowski Performs “Same Old Love”
Gwen pushes Korin to let her sassy side out with this performance. This woman has been crawling out of her shell more than any other these past three months. Finally, finally, her performance of “Same Old Love” allows her to stay in her most powerful register, right there in the middle of her range. She said she doesn’t want to be in the bottom two this time. She has just guaranteed herself that. This performance has brought her right up into the middle of the group as far as the competition is concerned.
Amy Vachal Performs “Bye Bye Bye”
Amy’s “Blank Space” from the Top 11 was #4 in the iTunes Top 100. This artist has risen from the generic middle of 48 artists in the Blinds to the very top of the remaining 10. What a ride. Amy does well with ‘N Sync’s song, but it’s not as earth-shattering(?) as “Blank Space.” The delivery comes off as a little too powder-puffy to convey the original angsty intent of “Bye Bye Bye.”
Jordan Smith Performs “Hallelujah”
Though he’s been in the iTunes Top 10 the entire season, the previous round was the first time he was so radically upstaged by Amy Vachal. This time, he’s chosen another spiritual song, though many of us will be hearing it and remembering the Shrek version — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Adam loves Jordan because Jordan is the embodiment of what Adam’s soul looks like. Inside, Adam is a big geeky, awkward doughboy just looking for love. Inside, Jordan is a sexy tattooed rock star waiting to get out. We’ve seen Jordan pulling the heartstrings many times so far.
It’s time for that rock star to come out. That’s the kind of versatility we need from Jordan. We aren’t getting it in the Top 10, but hopefully we will in the Top 9. I’m looking straight at you, Adam; do you hear me? We need something that won’t just get Jordan to the next level, but that will also send him over the top and be fun and be different. For the winner, that’s what America wants … something and someone different and provocative.
Naked Gwen in a Sheer Wedding Dress Performs “Used to Love You”
In a dress as transparent as her lyrics, Gwen pours her heart out with her latest single. It’s almost embarrassing to see how thoroughly she puts it all out there (both the dresslessness and the song), but that’s why these artists are the stars that they are — they know how to take the raw and wretched human experience and give it back to us so we know we are not alone. Well done, Ms. Stefani
Zach Seabaugh Performs “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Blake says he knows better than to tell Zack what to do on stage, but he does need to get this artist back to previous levels of excitement. In the Top 12, Zach’s gyrating Elvis impression inspired women of all ages to throw their panties on the stage (figuratively, at least). For the first third of the performance, Zach’s movements are exactly like Barrett Baber’s. Look back over Barrett’s performances and you’ll see how right I am. It’s a little creepy.
This performance of Zach’s is mellower in the pelvis department, and more confident. His interpretation of the lyrics leans more toward the insecure rather than the cocky, which is great to see. Instead of seducing the audience, he lets them see a more tentative and unexpected side. The lack of emotion, however, is a bit surprising. Blake, of course, says it was his best ever since dinosaurs started eating out of trees and expects that Zach will be in the finals. We shall see, Blake. We shall see.
Madi Davis Performs “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
Madi is Pharrell’s only remaining artist. She chose this Cyndi Lauper song because it speaks to how people subjugate girls all the time. She’s slowing down this pop ballad substantially and that worries me. What’s cool about the mellow tempo of this rendition once Madi takes the stage, however, is that it allows us to focus on the lyrics. Cyndi Lauper is an undeniable musical genius. She’s also all about female empowerment. Madi Davis is a woman after Cyndi’s own heart. It’s a beautiful performance … if you can forget about the original hip-hop version of the song.
Barrett Baber Performs “I’d Love to Lay You Down”
Have we heard enough songs about how much Barrett loves his wife? I feel guilty writing that because I do enjoy Barrett’s talent, but I think we need to see something more from our Top 10 pimp spot performer. It’s refreshing to see him sitting on a stool and focusing on his mellow side again.
This is one performer who has commanded the audience with his energy throughout the competition, but his stationary performance of “I’d Just Love to Lay You Down” is exactly what he needs at this stage of the game. His softer tones are fantastic, but the brash landing in the center of words with the ‘ow’ sound in them — ground, down, around and gown are examples — is grating. He needs to sand down the corners off those sharp centers. This goes for his past performances as well.
Adam comments on the genuineness of Barrett’s show-closing piece. Blake agrees; the man is best when getting back to his roots.
Get Thee to the Polling Place, America
Well, America, it’s up to you now. Do our votes even count anymore or is iTunes all that matters? I don’t honestly know, but I can guess. If you want your favorite artist to advance, you have to buy their single. It sucks. It’s outrageously commercial. It should be illegal, though it’s not. But there it is.
As for any prediction I might have to offer, I’m afraid you are on your own. Braiden Sunshine is my choice for the chopping block, but America and I have been butting heads about this since day one of season 9. However, this is the first time Korin is not in any danger of landing in the bottom two, I predict — though America may kick me in the teeth about that as well. It was her best performance yet.
It’s tough at this stage of the game when the talent is still rather equal. Who do you think will be going home based on their performance in the Top 10? And which performance was your favorite?
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)