“The Voice” semifinals is all business.
No taped pieces about preparation. No footage of rehearsals. In the first round, it’s just one performance after another, while the second featured hometown visits that were essentially long-form pleas for votes before the performances for the Top 5.
The hometown visit really seemed to energize Team Adam’s Chris Jamison, who the audience had to save from elimination last week. And both the Pittsburgh native’s taped piece and his performances seemed to show him in a new, confident light.
With Chris’ newfound strength, would it actually be possible for Adam Levine to land all three of his singers in the finals next week? Probably not.
Here’s how the night shook out:
ROUND ONE (COACH'S PICK)
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1. MATT McANDREW, “Make It Rain”: His version of the Ed Sheeran song from “Sons of Anarchy” could be on the radio today. It’s that good -- passionate, powerful and distinctive enough to let people know that the song belongs to him, even though it really doesn’t. “That was a Grammy-worthy performance,” Blake says. Adam says Matt is a rarity on “The Voice.” “You astound me,” he says. “You can do anything.”
2. DAMIEN, “She’s Out of My Life”: He does a stunning job with the Michael Jackson ballad, letting the simplicity of his vocal tell his emotional story. Adam has all of his contestants left and this brilliant song choice shows why. “That’s one of the most perfect performances I’ve ever heard on this stage,” Blake says.
3. TAYLOR JOHN WILLIAMS, “Falling Slowly”: There is actual shrieking from fans for his version of the Swell Season song, proof that his connection with the crowd is as strong as his connection to his music. His ability to seem vulnerable, even when his voice is at its most powerful, is a true gift. “I always knew that you’re a pure artist,” Gwen says. “You know exactly what you want to do. You’re on a mission … We’re all fans.”
4. CHRIS JAMISON, “Sugar”: The weirdness of him singing the next Maroon 5 single aside, this was a tough choice for him, with a few too many falsetto notes and way too many syllables packed into each measure for him to succeed fully. However, he does a pretty good job for most of it. “I should have Taylor do ‘Spark the Fire’,” Gwen says of the idea. “That would be crazy.” Adam says Chris had to fight the hardest to be in the Top 5. “You have just continued to rise to the occasion,” he says.
5. CRAIG WAYNE BOYD, “Workin’ Man Blues”: Merle Haggard would never be this cutesy, with all the mugging for the camera and the pointing at the crowd. Craig is a good, strong country singer, but he still struggles to connect to some songs, even though Blake says he’s one of the best singers he’s ever heard. “You’re coming into your own on the show,” Adam says. “I love the individuality of what you do.”
1. MATT McANDREW, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”: He raises the stakes on the U2 classic, his dedication to his Philadelphia home, blowing up notes at the end even more than Bono would, without losing the rock vibe of the original. “Bono would be so happy and so proud,” Pharrell says. “You killed it.”
2. CHRIS JAMISON, “When I Was Your Man”: What a great surprise to see him tap into the emotions of the Bruno Mars smash, delivering a lovely, sweet song for his Pittsburgh family and friends. “That was my favorite performance you’ve ever had,” Gwen says.
3. CRAIG WAYNE BOYD, “The Old Rugged Cross”: His booming version of the George Bennard hymn may actually be his best performance on the show, matching the kind of simple, powerful delivery that Damien had in the first round. Blake called it “one of the most passionate performances” ever. “That was the perfect thing,” Adam says. “It was really special. We all felt that.”
4. TAYLOR JOHN WILLIAMS, “Blank Space”: Turning the Taylor Swift pop hit into something dark and mysterious was crafty and effective, reimagining it into something very Portland, Ore., something very Lumineers. It just wasn’t all that exciting. “You are a true artist,” Gwen says.
5. DAMIEN, “I Don’t Want to Wait”: His version of the Paula Cole song, a tribute to his hometown of Monroe, La., finds Damien falling into the bad habits of the early rounds. He’s singing too many notes, sometimes going off the rails. Gwen says it was Peter Gabriel-meets-tribal-beats. “It worked!” Adam says. “That was such a touching performance,” Pharrell says.
TOP THREE Matt, Chris, Craig
WILL BE CUT Damien, Taylor John
SHOULD BE CUT Craig, Taylor John
ACTUALLY CUT Damien, Taylor John
A few words about the odd wild card round that will follow the announcement of the Top 3 Tuesday night. The nine other singers from the Top 12 that were previously eliminated will get a chance to return to the contest as the wild card. A cool idea, but isn’t it most likely that one of the two singers just eliminated will likely go back in? And doesn’t that mean that Taylor John Williams or Damien will get another chance in the Final Four?
UPDATE: Um, yes, it did mean that. Damien won the wild card spot.