It’s time for the cruelest cut of “The Voice” Season 7, as the show trims the finalist slate from eight to five for next week’s semifinals.
This season, it is extra cruel, because there isn’t a whole lot separating the top half and the bottom half.
“This is the best season,” Blake Shelton said, referring to the impressive performances on Top 8 night. Of course, it didn’t start out that way, as they opened with an iffy version of “Geronimo” from Australian buzz band Sheppard.
But after that, the night was overflowing with good performances, including an especially strong one from Gwen Stefani and Pharrell on her new single “Spark That Fire.”
Here’s how the Top 8 stacked up:
1. MATT McANDREW, “The Blower’s Daughter”: Introducing the brilliant Damien Rice ballad to a whole new audience (including Blake Shelton) was an inspired idea from Adam. Matt didn’t stray from the original much, partly because the original is nearly perfect and he understood that, and also because it fits so well with who he is as an artist. His emotional delivery gained him a standing ovation from all the coaches. Blake said, “Freakin’ brilliant, dude.” “I absolutely adore you,” Adam said.
2. CHRIS JAMISON, “Sexual Healing”: Adam Levine was right when he told Chris that Marvin Gaye was to be taken seriously. He was also right when he told Chris, “You just crushed this entire audience.” It’s hard to handle “Sexual Healing,” but he managed it effortlessly, using both his smooth vocals and charisma to make it work. “Chris, that was hands down your best performance on this show,” Pharrell said. “This is your zone. Stay right there.”
3. DAMIEN, “Someone Like You”: The problem with singing this song is how difficult it is to re-create the grace that Adele infused with so much pain. Damien certainly sang this song well, but all his fluttering falsetto notes (not to mention the blinking lampshades backdrop) distracted from the meaning. Nevertheless, all four judges gave him a standing ovation. “This was his choice,” Adam said. “He wanted to do this song for years. … Tonight was his best, best, best performance.”
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4. TAYLOR JOHN WILLIAMS, “Royals”: Twisting the Lorde smash into something moody and Mumford-y was quite a risk, but it was cool in a kind of precious way. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to strip away all of the peppiness, but at least he stood behind his move. “You’re 150 percent artist,” Blake said.
5. CRAIG WAYNE BOYD, “Take It Easy”: He sounds utterly lost on the Eagles classic, especially after he tries to rev it up with an overly dramatic opening. During rehearsals, Blake called him out for not having enough emotion in his delivery. After seeing his too-slick version, we can only wonder how lame the rehearsals went. “This is your show, bro,” Pharrell said. “You’re only going to evolve and continue to get better and better.” Blake admitted that he was “nervous as crap” about the performance before telling him he did a great job.
6. DaNICA SHIREY, “These Dreams”: Apparently, Pharrell thought that she should sing the first two verses of the Heart hit as straight as possible to make the rest of the song pop. It was a risk, but she transformed it into a Whitney Houston song at the end, even as she seemed trapped on the staircase and unable to move. “You found a connection to the song,” Pharrell said. “This could not have been any better.”
7. RYAN SILL, “Open Arms”: He’s still growing by leaps and bounds and manages to do a good job with the Journey classic. Coach Gwen drops Ryan (who has dark hair now!) in the middle of a forest, with snow falling behind him on the big screen, as if staging is the reason he keeps landing in the bottom three each week. His voice gets thin where Steve Perry’s would get thicker, but it sounds huge at the end, where it counts. “I don’t know what else you can do,” Blake said. “This performance is your best yet.”
8, LUKE WADE, “Holding Back the Years”: They transformed the Simply Red song into something far angrier and darker than the original, using the horn section to make it bluesier instead of the jazziness of the original. Unfortunately, Luke’s delivery wasn’t quite as interesting as the new arrangement. “It was a lot of sparse singing,” Blake said. “We expect these big moments. … It was cool. It was vibe-y.”
BOTTOM FOUR Luke, Ryan, DaNica, Craig (*actually Luke, Ryan, DaNica, Chris)
AUDIENCE SAVES Craig (*actually Chris)
WILL BE CUT Luke, Ryan, DaNica
SHOULD BE CUT Luke, Ryan, DaNica
ACTUALLY CUT Luke Ryan, DaNica