The Voice Top 12 Performance Recap: Man, You Oughta See Her Fly [Updated]

The Voice - Season 4 Judith HillTonight’s installment of The Voice had twice as much suspense as usual. Not only was there the looming question of which two contestants’ performances would fail to garner voter support — setting themselves up for a Tuesday night walking-of-the-plank — but there was also the looming threat that a power outage might suddenly pitch the live telecast into darkness.

Yep, as host Carson Daly announced at the top of the show, today’s California heat wave had blown out the air conditioning in The Voice studio, and “if it hits a certain temperature, the lights could go out.” I can’t say I’d have minded such a blackout-esque catastrophe, since it would have merely returned the program to its “you can hear ’em, but you cannot see ’em” roots.

RELATED | Report: Christina Aguilera Returning for The Voice Season 5, As Shakira Leaves

On the flip side, though, I’ve got to admit the one area where the ongoing incarnation of The Voice lacks any sense of mystery concerns the gender of the eventual winner. Just like in the current, much-maligned Idol season, the ladies just keep on asserting their superiority over the gentlemen like piranhas in a tank of fragile guppies.

Whether that was a calculated move by producers trying to avoid another Javier Colon/Jermaine Paul sales vacuum — or simply some kind of goddess energy cloud hanging over Hollywood in the first half of 2013 — I cannot say.

But I do know it’s time to get to tonight’s set list and letter grades.

Team Usher: Vedo — Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” | Usher and his choreographer spent so much time focused on Vedo’s dance moves — which ultimately weren’t all that mesmerizing — that they neglected to notice Vedo’s vocal approach was so karaoke that he might as well have been surrounded by drunken coworkers during an ill-advised Monday happy hour. Dude’s intermittent pitch problems and inability to sustain his breath support at the ends of phrases didn’t help, either. Grade: C+

Team Blake: Holly Tucker — Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing” | Holly’s definitely got a big range — and this week she showcased a little bit of grit and growl on the final chorus of Martina McBride’s ballad of a woman overcoming an emotionally abusive relationship. The problem was, though, that Holly’s occasionally blank delivery didn’t fully communicate the angst of the song’s protagonist, only her eventual flight. Or to put it in constructive terminology, she’s got to stop mistaking volume for genuine feeling. Grade: B

Team Shakira: Garrett Gardner — Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” | When Garrett wasn’t doing his full rocker wail tonight, his voice dissipated like steam from a teapot. And while there was something conceptually cool about taking a boy-band ballad, piercing its lip and teaching it to rock, without a foundation of proper pitch and meaningful phrasing, the whole affair became a triumph of arrangement over actual exection. Grade: C+

Team Adam: Sarah Simmons — Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” | I know Sarah’s not everyone’s cup of Earl Gray, but there is something deeply thrilling about the way her voice shreds like the fibers of a jute rug when she opens up and lets loose her banshee wail. That aspect of Sarah’s voice painted her as a deeply flawed and messy protagonist, whereas Brandi Carlile’s sweeter touch feels like it comes from a place of mild (yet completely adorable) neuroses. Sarah may have sacrificed a little musicality showing off what Blake referred to as “the extremes” of her voice, but at least she wasn’t boring. Grade: B+

Team Blake: The Swon Brothers — George Jones’ “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” | I can’t lie: I was a little dismayed when the season’s least distinctive act (thus far) kicked off their pre-performance package with a quote that was like a shot of Novocain to my soul: “We want to be the kind of artists that people love.” (Um, what would be the alternative?) But the good news is the duo chose for themselves a George Jones ditty that shored up their authentic country cred, and performed it with a simplicity that helped them stand out from some of the night’s fussier arrangements. On the flip side, Colton’s verse simply didn’t have the mojo of Zach’s, and — whoops! — that final harmony went badly awry. With those flaws in evidence, I felt like Usher deserved a perjury charge for using “incredible” not once, but twice, in his critique. “Pretty good,” however, I’d have accepted. Grade: B

Team Shakira: Sasha Allen — Heart’s “Alone” | Shakira asked for less Broadway belter, more intimate rock confessional, but Sasha seemed to get her wires crossed. The quavering, over-the-top emotionalism of the verse (where she also seemed to be a half-beat behind the piano and cello that led the band) bordered on a theatrical parody. And when Sasha ramped up the volume on the chorus, there was so much “cry” in her voice that the overall effect was jarring. The woman obviously has talent, but she’s wielding it in entirely the wrong way. I mean, if Wolfgang Puck unwrapped a bunch of Velveeta singles and slapped them on a plate, would it be haute cuisine? Exaaaactly. Grade: C+

Team Usher: Josiah Hawley — The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” | I’ll admit I rewound Josiah’s performance on my DVR — but only because those blasted SwayBots that surrounded him were so miserably out-of-rhythm that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Upon playback, it was clear that Josiah was wearing a white t-shirt had definitely improved his pitch and connectedness compared to last week, which ought to be enough to help him survive another week in the competition. He’ll have to take bigger risks and quit the male-modeling facial expressions, though, if he wants to seriously contend for the finale. Grade: B

Team Blake: Danielle Bradbery — Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted” | Blake’s coaching choices this season continue to confound me. I mean, we already heard Daniele give a serviceable cover of the Season 4 American Idol champ (“Jesus Take the Wheel”) in the Knockout Rounds, so why go back to the same well a mere two weeks later — unless he’s positioning Danielle as the eventual frontwoman in a Carrie Underwood cover band? Danielle showcased her usual clarity and power this week, but where she needs improvement is in finding a way to take full possession of a song rather than merely leasing it. Frankly, the lyrical content seemed too mature for a kid like Danielle, and her vacant grinning throughout the performance pretty much put an exclamation point on that theory. Grade: B+

Team Adam: Judith Hill — Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” | Judith was super smart to give the band the week off, sit down at the piano, and draw the audience in with a whisper instead of a roar. The conversational ease with which she caressed the lyrics made it feel like she was reaching out to each individual voter, but the meticulous soulful inflections served as a reminder that the “friend” in question was a world-class vocalist, too. And man, she’s definitely the best-dressed contestant on a reality singing competition in, well, ever. Grade: A-

Team Usher: Michelle Chamuel — Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” | Michelle may not have exhibited quite as much breath control as in previous weeks, but she also danced harder and roused the crowd more deftly than any of her 11 competitors. I loved the little falsetto flourishes she added on “the only way her heart will mend,” and the way Michelle really got me to listen to the lyrics of a song I’ve only heard a handful of times before. Girlfriend laid down some harsh relationship truths — and I suspect the object of her affections will have a heartbroken ex by lunchtime tomorrow. Grade: A-

Team Shakira: Kris Thomas — Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” | If you’re going to weave in and out of your falsetto over the course of a Jackson 5 number, you’d better be approaching 90 or 95 percent accuracy in pitch. And poor Kris, with his frightened eyes and trembling stance, never quite got past an 80 percent. Dude had better hope that Shakira’s adorableness translates into power voting, because I can’t really imagine anyone rushing to iTunes to download his “I’ll Be There” over the original (or even Mariah Carey’s). Grade: B-

Team Adam: Amber Carrington — Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” | I know Blake and Adam love to carry on about Daniele being the one to beat in the competition, but methinks Amber is the true front-runner right now for the Season 4 title. As Usher pointed out, every time you think Amber’s singing at full throttle, she finds yet another gear, digs even deeper into her song. She’s got a tremendous accuracy in her singing, and she seems to know the exact right moments to throw in an ad-lib or a twist on the melody (like that sweet slide on the final repetition of the word “love”). Even better, the teenager who recently lost her mom to cancer bravely took on a big bombastic ballad about a young mother’s fight with the disease — and managed to infuse it with an aching gravitas while not getting overcome with emotion. Amber was so sublime I can almost — but not quite — forgive Carson for kissing her on the head as she finished her performance. Grade: A

Should Go Home: Vedo, Garrett Gardner
Will Go Home: Garrett Gardner, Kris Thomas

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Season 4 Top 12 performance night? What did you think of the coaches’ comments? Who was your favorite? Who’s going to be in trouble come results night? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Lois Benton says:

    You think Kris Allen is going home? I don’t think so. He’s the best of the men; by all that is right, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom. You like Josiah Hawley?! Oh, cringe. He’s terrible. The best thing about him is his name. That’s pretty cool. And, okay, his Dad being a jazz pianist is also cool, but I wouldn’t buy a person’s records because of what a person’s parent does. Judith, Sarah and Sasha are the best singers; is there really a question about that? I like MIchelle and Kris too, but not as much as the aforementioned J.S.S. Amber is better than Holly or Danielle, but so what? I don’t care for any of those three.

    • bingham says:

      Kris Allen? Didn’t he win American Idol a few years back. I remember it being a little controversial. ;)

  2. TiffanyC says:

    Honestly, I really don’t like country music but ever since Danielle came along its all I’ve been listening to. There’s something about her voice that is just so fricking amazing, I can’t even describe it. She’s truly amazing, I hope she wins. Can’t wait to go to her concerts some day.

    • ETG says:

      I don’t like Danielle’s voice a whole lot. Why??? IDK. Just doesn’t appeal to me; it is very one-dimensional, probably because of her age. I am sick of country music in general, but I would DEFINITELY listen to anything by Amber; now, SHE is good. :-)

  3. Jayce says:

    RE Sasha….hmmmm Michael you’ve lost me on this..She is a huge talent..the likes of which we have rarely seen..So emotional was too much for y’a…She was Screamy last time..compared her to ..Gokey..Geeze a musician let me tell you her “scream” was spot on..absolutely spot on….Unlike Candace’s last note in Somewhere (and I love Candace)…I agree that shortening the songs is a great disservice…

  4. Ash says:

    Judith is too good for this show. I think Blake is the smartest one, he knows the game very well. Danielle is a regular kiddo from Texas, who can show you that everything’s possible. The brothers are mediocre, but the tribute was catchy. Holly is Holly. I don’t get what Adam is doing with Sarah. She has an amazing voice, I think she made a mistake choosing Adam over Blake. She could’ve won it with Blake. Sasha has a great voice, but damn that was bad song choice by Shakira. Michelle is funny, but again, the song was weak. Amber is really good, but there is no story behind her. I wish Judith won, but nope, this is not happening.

    • MJ says:

      Judith: She’s a fantastic singer. The best of the bunch. I think I’m starting to understand why there are people not getting behind her. Her back story does not help her. She must be perfect good for Michael Jackson to select her to be his singing partner, right? She sings, performs, and looks like she is already established as pro. The coaches has nothing to say but WOW! Win or not, Judith will make it big.

  5. DaysGoBy says:

    Simon Cowell Jr. – agreed with every word you said!! I think Vedo & Kris should go home they were both pitchy..& Vedo ran out of breath several times. Poor Vedo is #309 on Itunes…if he stays the show is rigged!

    It is not Garrett’s fault Shakira picked a BSB song!! He at least sang on pitch!!

  6. lindalee says:

    the judging on this show has gotten as boring as Idol’s. Judges are too nice and take too long to find ways of not saying — hey, that sucked. Absolutely sick of Adam and Blake flirtation. Get over your selves!!!

  7. joey says:

    The Voice is a better show than American Idol, but no one on the show is as good as Candice Glover. I wonder why that is?

  8. JW says:

    Sarah’s voice drops out on the low end, you can’t make out the words. But she did a good job on a great song. Judith was class all the way. Vedo and Kris were off all the way. Garrett is better than what he’s been giving us.

  9. Tedatbent says:

    The Swon Brothers won the iTunes bonus this week. I am not a country fan, but that was a beautiful, breakout performance. Watch out for this duo. They found their niche, now let’s see where they go with it. I have no idea what all the fuss is about Amber, Holly and Sarah???????

    • Davey says:

      I don’t care if the Swon Brothers win this think, I would never buy an album of their music. So generic. As far as their performance last night, if the male country singer had been kept by Blake he would have shone last night as well. Just a good song choice, not a special vocal by the Snore Brothers.

      • BillyBob says:

        I don’t think The Snore Borthers will. The Snore Brothers are a dime a dozen. But last night’s performance surprised me. It was memorable. The Snore, oops, Swon Brothers and Danielle Bradbery had the highest iTune ranking songs from Monday night’s performances.

  10. I feel like Blake is asking for a “do over”. He tried to make Rae Lynn happen and she didn’t. Now he’s found Rae Lynn 2.0 (aka Danielle who for the record is much better) and wants to take a swing for the Taylor Swift fences. I think the kid is pretty darn good and comes off as genuine, which will make her hard to beat. My favorites are still Michelle, Sarah, Judith and Amber though.

  11. bingham says:

    I like Shakira but I have to say her song choices did not impress me last night. In fact, I’m going to predict a shock boot and say Sasha is going home. And my other guess would be Vedo.

  12. WO says:

    Sascha and Vedo should go home… here’s the thing… if you take away the “glory notes” Sascha’s song was not good and really…. neither is she. Vedo is in over his head, sorry to say. Garrett needs to figure out what he wants to be and only do that.

    The beauty of this show is that there are no “Schtick” weeks like on Idol. Who cares if all the contestants can sing Frank Sinatra or Disco or Motown… I just want to hear them sing their identity.

    Last week Judith was not that good again because when you strip the glory notes, there was emptiness. This week… SHE SANG!! And it sounded great. Best performance of the night. The reason country and pop artists win these shows or at least do the best after the show is because they are more than some high pitched, long note that sounds like an airplane gearing up for liftoff. Yeah, it may give you the chills for one brief moment, but it doesn’t really touch you… so why listen to it again?

    Best SINGING of the night (in order)… Judith, Amber, Josiah , Danielle.

    Needs to go home (in order)… Vedo, Sascha, Garrett, Kris Thomas, Swon Bros

    If we still have to hear that some lyrics are too “mature” to be sung by a teenager, then we may as well not invite them to the competition. What do you think they are going to sing on a record… The Oompa Loompa song? At least she wasn’t singing “I Kissed a Girl” or “Baby Got Back”…. Bad choice of comment by the author.

  13. BradyBunch says:

    Great comments from everybody. Seems like Vedo is most likely going home. Garrett could be in trouble too! Just looking at the itunes. Looks like Vedo, Kris, Garrett, and Holy are at the bottom end. So, I would say any of the 4 will go home.

  14. AlyB says:

    My take on last night:
    Judith – Seasoned performer with real star potential. Great vocalist, creative with a unique style and signature. I really like her a lot and look forward to her performances. I hope Adam gives her some more current material though

    Amber – Fabulous voice and good emotional connection. I feel bad for her loss but would really like her to stop talking about it before performances.She’s in my #2 spot vocally. I wish she didn’t sing country. I would definitely buy her songs if she did more like Stay.

    Danielle – What a pitch perfect, honey toned voice this girl has! She’s going to be huge in country music I’m sure. She is a little too young for some of the material though and watching her you can see she’s singing like a pro but not from the heart. I do see big things for this girl. I just wish she’d waited to compete on this show. Next to someone like Judith, she appears to be exactly the child that she still is, even at 16.

    Michelle – Great performer with a quirky charm that really draws you in. I don’t think her vocals are as strong as some of the other girls but she sure is fun to watch.

    Sasha/Holly – Tied for me. Each needs a little of what the other has. They’re both great singers with powerful voices. Holly needs to dig deep and give some meaning to a song. Sasha needs to pull back.. Her delivery is still too much over the top. Shakira did not help by giving her that song.

    The Swon Brothers – I’m shocked that I’m putting there here but that was a great duet and perfect song choice. They sounded fantastic. If I liked country I’d buy the song. They’re doing really well on the charts and I can understand why.

    Josiah – He did really well last night. The song suited him perfectly. This is the lane he needs to stay in. His extreme good looks do somehow give him a vibe of insincerity to me. I’m not sure what it is. He doesn’t seem to have a natural ease, it’s the modeling thing I guess. Those smoldering looks he gives the camera would be great in a soap opera close up camera shot LOL.

    Sarah – I still don’t get it. She did a good job on The Story. It suited her voice really well so kudos to Adam. Her delivery did go a little into crazy territory for me which is easy to do with that song. Still, I’m not a fan. I don’t like watching her perform.

    Vedo/Kris – Meh. That’s all

    Garret – That was dreadful. I think he’s going home along with either Vedo or Kris.

  15. shar says:

    There were several performances that I really like, but I have to mention Kris Thomas, I just love to hear him and watch him sing. I am just not that crazy about Judith. She has a great voice, but she just doesn’t do it for me. I think Sasha is 10 times better than Judith, and Michelle, she is fantastic.

    • MJ says:

      Here’s my take on the singers:
      VEDO takes on Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and GARRETT’s rock version take on Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” were the most painful wrong song choices train wreck performances last night. JUDITH, who bucked convention and played her own accompaniment on piano without any help from the band on Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” Of all the contestants, she’s easily the most seasoned singer in this competition, effortlessly delivering a smooth, soulful performance with just a hint of rasp. Cutie pie DANIELLE tore through Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted.” Her performance and pitch were near-perfect. MICHELLE, singing Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” If gold stars were given out for sheer entertainment value, Michelle would get one right smack dab on her forehead. She’s got this jittery geek-chic energy that really shines onstage! KRIS did a virtually flawless take on the Jackson 5’s/ Mariah Carey “I’ll Be There.” Kris’s falsetto comes so effortlessly. HOLLY, who did a good but ho hum bland performance of Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” SARAH sings “The Story” by Brandi Carlile, which in theory was a great song choice but in fell a little short in reality. SASAH’s rendition of Heart’s “Alone” was too shaky and “theatrical,” The SWON BROTHERS, who paid a heart felt respectable tribute to the late George Jones with “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.” JOSIAH, who solidly sang the Script’s “The Man That Can’t Be Moved” but who just comes across as, well, fake. Every look, every move Josiah makes seems calculated, like he’s posing for one long photo shoot. Oh, I forget he’s a former model. AMBER’s emotional take on Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” She dedicated this song to her Mother. One of the best performances of the night.

      Worst two and going home: VEDO and GARRETT

  16. paula says:

    I agree with everything you said here. I had never heard “Wasted” before. While Danielle was singing and I was listening to the lyrics I was thinking, ‘why is she smiling?’
    I’m way past ready for Garrett to go home. Josiah, too. I’m trying to support him because he’s from my state, but I had to FF through both of those guys after about 20 seconds.
    Michelle, Judith, Sarah, Holly, and Amber–those are my favorites (pretty much in that order).

    Vedo sounded like he was imitating Michael Jackson, Kris sounded weak. I’m really enjoying the Swon Brothers even though I didn’t expect to (and didn’t want to because they were chosen over Christian Porter).

    Great season so far!

  17. BillyBob says:

    The iTunes results are in, and it’s good news for lovers of country music and TeamBlake.
    The Swon Brothers and Danielle Bradbery had the highest ranking songs from Monday night’s performances on The Voice when voting closed at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

  18. xx says:

    “whereas Brandi Carlile’s sweeter touch feels like it comes from a place of mild (yet completely adorable) neuroses”
    Have you *heard* the original? Or did you just listen to the first half-verse?

  19. Craig says:

    I think Kris and Vedo are going home

  20. funkybunch says:

    I would love to hear Danielle tackle Martina McBride’s ‘Wild Angels’
    I would love to hear Josiah take on Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’
    I would love to hear Amber tackle Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Because of You’
    I would love to hear Judith tackle Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’

    • Sheilalala says:

      Oooooooo I love your choices, what do you think for Sarah? I’ve heard that people from the show read Slezak’s board, so ya never know…

      • funkybunch says:

        Wouldn’t you love to hear Sarah tackle Susan Boyle’s ‘I Dreamed A Dream?’

        • Sheilalala says:

          Good thought but that song will always belong to Susan Boyle, for me that audition was astonishing..I would like to hear her tackle “What’s Going on” by 4 Non Blondes-that song is way overdue for a cover and she could show off every aspect of her range

          • funkybunch says:

            I love your choice for Sarah. I remember that song in back early 1990’s? I use to hear it all the time. Forgot all about the 4 Non Blondes, they were a short lived group.

  21. megs says:

    Aw I thought the Carson head-kiss was kind of sweet. He lost his father to cancer and his mother struggled with it as well, so he can relate to the song, as well as Amber herself.
    I actually find myself liking him as host more and more.

  22. Adam Fachry says:

    Sasha’a Alone performance wasn’t that bad, but girlfriend does need to tone down the dramatics! I’m such a big fan of Oh! Darling and probably among the minorities who thought that was a stellar performance, but Alone was honestly a bit of a letdown. Also, I don’t understand why Shakira keeps giving her this pseudo-rock songs. I get the feeling that she’s trying to transform her into Amanda Brown 2.0 but a poor woman’s version. We don’t know if Shakira’s familiar with Amanda’s trajectory, but something about Sasha during the live rounds so far has been giving off a vibe of Amanda Brown.

    • funkybunch says:

      @Adam Fachry: That’s why Sasha was in the bottom three but was saved, and goes on to the top ten. Vedo was sent packing as predicted by mostly everyone here to Timbuktu. He is planning to audition for ‘So you think you can dance’, and then there’s Garrett gone gone gone sent packing along with his rocking BSB song.

      • funkybunch says:

        Correction: Sasha was the last one to be called to make it to the top ten. I was confused, it was in no particular order. Darn Idol and X-factor messed me up.