“The Voice” semifinals was filled with surprises, though most of them didn’t turn out too well.
Maybe it was Usher’s odd performance of “Twisted” that started things off on the wrong foot. It’s only natural that he releases that song as a single now, considering that it is set to become the summer of Pharrell, who already has hit collaborations with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke.
However, Usher turned the song, which sounds cool and fresh on record, into some weird James Brown-ish tribute that strips away many of the best parts of the song.
It was just the first of several questionable choices that will likely result in an unexpected Top 3 tonight.
Here’s how the performances stacked up:
1. DANIELLE BRADBERY, “Who I Am” (Team Blake): Here’s where Blake Shelton’s coaching starts to pay off. We’ve spent nearly the whole season listening to the 16-year-old sensation do songs that weren’t exactly right for her and having her handle them effectively. Now, that we’re heading to the finals, Shelton gives her a pair of songs that are perfect for her. Her version of Jessica Andrews country smash was incredibly sweet – right down to her move off the stage to sing the end directly to her folks. “She is every bit the girl you hope she is,” Blake says. “She’s a star. She’s a superstar.” Exactly right.
2. MICHELLE CHAMUEL, “Clarity” (Team Usher): This was another brilliant song choice. Not only is it a great song, co-written by Zedd and Seaford’s Matthew Koma, but it cements Chamuel’s standing as the alternative to Danielle for the finals. Usher has been finding songs for her that suit both her voice and her temperament. She will be the underdog, but that’s a role that she embraces.
3. DANIELLE BRADBERY, “Please Remember Me” (Team Blake): “Amazeballs” is what Usher called it. Her take on the Tim McGraw ballad, suited her exceedingly well, aside from the bit at the beginning where she struggled with the low part. Big country ballads are like hanging curve balls to Danielle and she smacked this one right out of the park – just as McGraw predicted in his videotaped message of encouragement.
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4. SWON BROTHERS, “Danny’s Song” (Team Blake): Well, well. Look who’s in the running now. The Swons pulled all their promising bits together at just the right time, with their sweet harmonies sounding right at home on the Loggins and Messina classic. Also, it’s turning out that Zach Swon may be the right go-to brother.
5. MICHELLE CHAMUEL, “Time After Time” (Team Usher): “You are in a permanent crescendo,” Shakira said, after a version that owed as much to Inoj (Google it!) and Coldplay as the newly minted Tony winner Cyndi Lauper. “You’re the winner,” Usher said. “You’re perfect the way you are .?.?. You are medicine for the whole world.” This may not make her the winner, but it does show how crafty she is as a musician.
6. AMBER CARRINGTON, “Sad” (Team Adam): Her version of the Maroon 5 song really was more beautiful than the original, though it may not help convince people to vote for her. Everyone else has picked a lane and tapped into the fan base that comes with it. Not Amber. This showed her pop side nicely, though. “You sang it better than I did,” Adam said. Can’t get better praise than that.
7. AMBER CARRINGTON, “Firework” (Team Adam): Countrifying Katy Perry’s “Firework” was a smart twist. She gave it slightly odd harmonies and interesting phrasing to transform it into something unexpected. “You can do anything,” Adam told her and that may be true, but it doesn’t mean that people will understand it. According to the iTunes charts, this was the lowest-selling performance of the night.
8. SASHA ALLEN, “I Will Always Love You” (Team Shakira): This song is almost always a trap. It’s a tough song to sing and if you mess up, it will be a huge failure. If you succeed, you will almost always be considered as not quite as good as Whitney Houston. So why do it? She did a good job and did it better than anyone else left in the competition would do it. But is that really good enough? Probably not.
9. SWON BROTHERS, “Turn the Page” (Team Blake): This was good, but not really harmony-filled, which is what the Swons need to compete well on the show. Adam Levine did create “the Swon Salute.” Blake said they have grown the most in the competition, which is probably true even if their take on Bob Seger didn’t show it.
10. SASHA ALLEN, “Bad Girls” (Team Shakira): The Brooklyn mom had the momentum going into the night, figuring out how to show off her big voice in a likable, commercial way. However, Shakira’s decision to pick this particular Donna Summer classic made no sense. The glitzy performance, with the choreography and the huge “SASHA” backdrop would have worked a thousand times better on “Dim All the Lights” or “Last Dance.” “We didn’t have a clue how great a performer you could turn into,” Shakira said. That’s true. And it’s something Sasha can take with her from the show, because after this choice, she’s certainly not going to take home the win.
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Sasha, Amber
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Sasha, Swon Brothers
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Sasha, Amber