For its top 6 show, “The Voice” decided that it was going to try to be a little more like “American Idol” season 12, except with nicer people offering up critiques. There were some great numbers in here, but way too many ballads / songs we’ve heard on every other reality show. Usually, the show manages to do us a favor and stay away from some of these traps, so this was a bit of a drag.
There are two rounds of performances this week, so we are going to be ranking them into groups to not create any sort of massive confusion for anyone. Thankfully, there’s no silly themes in here; this isn’t “X Factor” after all.
6. Matthew Schuler, “Story of My Life” – We’re not going to sit here and bash the song choice as much as some other people out there probably want to, since we actually feel like this is the best song that One Direction has ever done. But the reason this song works is because Harry Styles really nails some of those notes in the chorus. Nothing worked here for Matthew. The arrangement was weird, he sounded breathy and sharp, and there was not that same sort of vocal drive or passion that is in the original. Let’s hope for a great second song, since Matthew is coming close to a pretty surprising collapse after being at one point an undisputed favorite.
5. Will Champlin, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – A mixture of some good notes, and some where the pitch was a little all over the place. The best way to describe this was an example of his passion going all over the place to the point where it started to impact the quality of his voice. Not so much the perfect follow-up to “At Last” that we were personally hoping to see.
4. Cole Vosbury, “Rich Girl” – This was pleasant, but not in any way the sort of direction that we would have taken at this point. You gotta be a little bit more bold when picking songs at this point to get those downloads. Cole’s best hope is to snag some buys on iTunes for people who grew up in the 1970s and are feeling a little nostalgic.
3. Jacquie Lee, “Cry Baby” – This was going to be #2 on our list for this round, but then Jacquie went ahead and did something that is very high on our pet-peeve list: Making a production out of being out of breath at the end of the song. She was nailing this killer vocal, and then took us immediately out of that moment. You gotta let us simmer it a little! That’d be like Christina performing “The Voice Within” and then telling a joke.
2. James Wolpert, “Fell in Love with a Girl” – Fantastic choice by James and Adam Levine. This was reminiscent vocally of James’ blind audition at the start of the season. Rather than throwing James into some sort of vocal typhoon that he struggles in, this was the sort of weird, indie vibe that really makes him stand out.
1. Tessanne Chin, “Redemption Song” – If we could make a top 5 list of songs that we would want to hear Tessanne sing on “The Voice,” “Redemption Song” is at the top of the list. Obviously, she has a cultural connection to the Bob Marley track, but more than that, she added her own sort of passion and power to the song. Her best performance on the entire season, and we don’t really think that it’s close.
6. Cole Vosbury, “Better Man” – This week is going to be the big test of Cole’s fan base, and for a couple of reasons. He went first during both rounds of the show, and he also performed two songs that are probably not that memorable in comparison to some of his past work. This was an emotional song that he performed very well, but the unfortunate thing is that this show can be pretty commercial, and he may have needed something here that was a little more well-known than James Morrison. Hopefully, we’re wrong, and this is “Let Her Go” 2.0.
5. Matthew Schuler, “When a Man Loves a Woman” – Let’s try to give you a better sense as to the timeline of this performance. It came after three other ballads, and we wanted to fall asleep. But this isn’t really Matthew’s fault, and we have to look at this as he was performing on a normal night, and he did a pretty good job with it. There was maybe one or two off notes, but this is not an easy song to sing … at all.
4. Will Champlin, “Oh Brother” – This is not a song that we were really familiar with going into the night, but we totally dug it. It felt a little like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” but with a modern edge. Very different for Will, and yet at the same time somehow in his musical pocket. This was a nice little thing for him and Adam to pull out of their cap at a time when everyone else was really lulling us to bed.
3. Tessanne Chin, “Unconditionally” – The great news for Tessanne was that this was another very good performance, and this was of a current song on the charts that could even get the attention of Katy Perry herself. Always a smart move when you can do something like this and do it well. The only problem we ran into is that after this is that we started to feel like there were way too many ballads being done on the show tonight.
2. Jacquie Lee, “The Voice Within” – Does Carson really need to remind us that Jacquie is the youngest in the competition every time she sings, as if that is some sort of barometer to how we are supposed to treat her? The truth here is that we give her props for the killer performance, even if it was another ballad (and two on the night for her), and despite how sick we are of hearing this song at this point. What Jacquie has to watch out for now is doing too many big ballads that viewers simply get used to them and forget to vote.
1. James Wolpert, “I Can Do Anything For Love (but I Won’t Do That)” – There are probably people out there who hated this performance, and we won’t blame them. But we loved it, mostly because James seemed to really understand that this was pure entertainment. After a night of so many slow songs, this was electric, crazy, and just a ton of theatrical fun. Easily the most memorable performance of the second half of the show. Episode Grade: C+.
You can see where we ranked all of the contestants before this show at the link here, and we’ll of course have a full look at the iTunes sales in the morning as always.