It was an off night for “The Voice.”
Maybe it was the news of the deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma, home to coach Blake Shelton and contestants The Swon Brothers, that set the show on edge. Maybe it was the insistence of Adam Levine that Judith Hill pay homage to her mentor Michael Jackson, even though it clearly still makes her uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. Or maybe after a season of beating “American Idol,” there was a bit of a letdown now that the shows are no longer going head to head.
In any case, it was an odd one – even the “fight” between Shakira and Usher seemed odd, with Shakira seizing on the idea that her contestant Kris Thomas was right to be nervous, while Usher tried to roll back the tame critique by saying he never said Kris was “nervous,” though Usher did say he was “thinking too much.” Shak sensed that Kris was in trouble, which he is, and tried to defend him, but it may not be enough.
Here’s how the Top 10 stack up:
1. MICHELLE CHAMUEL, “Just Give Me a Reason” (Team Usher): This season may end up being Michelle vs. Danielle and their performances last night showed why. Michelle tapped into the heart of Pink’s gorgeous hit and conveyed the song’s pain and beauty, with both drama and vocal control. “That was the performance of the night,” Usher says. “You are everything.”
2. DANIELLE BRADBERY, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” (Team Blake): This Jo Dee Messina hit is another song that is just a little bit too mature for the 16-year-old to relate to and understand. Does that matter? Not really. She really does have a fearlessness and ease that makes that issue and even the few vocal wobbles disappear in her likability. “You’re my retirement,” Blake tells her.
3. JUDITH HILL, “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Team Adam): This was a bad idea. Having the former Michael Jackson backing singer do a song of his, even when she has mixed emotions about it, just puts undue pressure on her for no real reason. She did a good job, especially in the jazzy opening and the raspy ending. But she also seemed too conflicted about it to make it a home run.
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4. SASHA ALLEN, “Next to Me” (Team Shakira): After getting two versions in the last two weeks of “American Idol,” the well-traveled Emeli Sande hit gave Sasha some problems. However, it also gave her a chance to let loose and have a fun performance that was contagious.
5. HOLLY TUCKER, “How Great Thou Art” (Team Blake): You can tell Holly has sung this song a lot, in control of it from beginning to end. She was worried about singing a religious song, but she actually should have worried about whether it sounded interesting and current. “Never apologize for who you are,” Blake tells her. Good advice, because she has never seemed more at home on the show.
6. SARAH SIMMONS, “Mamma Knows Best” (Team Adam): The Jessie J song is all over the place, but Sarah mostly brings it under control, with a Janis Joplin-esque fierceness. “This was the performance of the night,” says Adam. Um, not exactly, though it wasn’t necessarily because of Sarah.
7. THE SWON BROTHERS, “How Country Feels” (Team Blake): The Swon Brothers sound like they could be on country radio right now, especially with this Randy Houser hit. As the best-performing duo in the show’s history, though, they really don’t need the background singers doing their harmonies. In any case, this one was fun.
8. JOSIAH HAWLEY, “Clocks” (Team Usher): This was a mess. Mentor Pharrell Williams nailed him on being a bit intimidated by the song and it showed in parts, especially when he lowered the key at the end. It was a struggle, but considering how loud the crowd was cheering for him, he should make it through.
9. AMBER CARRINGTON, “Breakaway” (Team Adam): Singing Kelly Clarkson songs on these shows is always a bad idea because they’re all deceptively tough to sing. Amber did OK, technically, but she didn’t really connect and there was no spark in her vocals. “You’re a chameleon,” Adam tells her. Yes, but that’s not really a compliment when you’re trying to be your own artist.
10. KRIS THOMAS, “Adorn” (Team Shakira): It’s not a good week to be singing this song, apparently. Even Miguel had trouble with it at the Billboard Music Awards. Kris fared even worse. He’s tentative and a little off at the start, though he got stronger. Usher and Adam both pointed out that he was thinking too much about his vocals, which Shakira blasted them for.
SHOULD BE CUT: Kris, Amber
WILL BE CUT: Kris, Amber
ACTUALLY CUT: Kris, Josiah