Remember last summer when ABC aired the Kelly Clarkson-fronted reality competition Duets? [Cue sound of crickets chirping.] No? Well, the part of me that watches too much reality TV (aka my heart, soul, brain and spleen) likes to think the producers of NBC’s The Voice paid secret homage to their fallen rival during the Season 4 Top 8 results telecast.
Yes indeed, while the main focus of tonight’s show was — as Carson Daly reminded us at the top of the hour — watching eight become six, there was nevertheless a parallel to the very best late-night infomercials via a “But wait, there’s more!” addendum. Said Easter eggs came in the form of a quartet of contestant duets — a couple of ‘em quite terrific, two of ‘em fairly inscrutable — that gave the Top 8 one more chance to shine before the guillotine got wheeled onto the stage.
This was also the episode that proved you simply can’t predict who’s going home based on iTunes sales alone. While Holly Tucker, Judith Hill and Sasha Allen ranked as the week’s Bottom 3 sellers on the digital music service (with Sasha in dead last), only one of ‘em saw her Voice journey reach its conclusion. Let’s get to the results, shall we?
Sent to Safety (in Random Order)
Sasha Allen (cue a complete Shakira freakout, and feelings of nameless dread from Sasha’s five not-yet-saved rivals)
The Swon Brothers
Final Four Left in Limbo
Final Two Saved
Holly Tucker (Whoa! That’s three country blondes — and the entirety of Team Blake — in the Top 6!)
To me, the week’s results and the overall arc of Season 4 says that risk-taking simply doesn’t get rewarded by Voice voters. Or, if we’re paraphrasing the Teachings of the Hare, slow and steady (and fairly predictable) might end up winning this race. Also: People love Blake Shelton, or at least they’re responding to his silly “Oh em gee you are the most IMPORTANT thing to happen to music” feedback to his trio of contestants.
A few other thoughts and theories before we get to letter grades for the duets:
* Judith definitely had the buzziest Blind Audition with “What a Girl Wants,” but taking a brutally hard look at her full Voice trajectory, I can’t say anything she did in the weeks that followed quite managed to match that eye-popping Christina Aguilera cover. This isn’t to say Judith deserved to go home before lesser talents like Sasha or Holly or The Swon Brothers, but momentum and the illusion of “growth” both matter in reality singing competitions, and Judith had neither of those advantages. Perhaps just as damaging: Judith’s outré hairstyles and fashion choices may have alienated voters who like to see a star bloom in front of their eyes — and reminded the world that as Michael Jackson’s former duet partner, she had the advantage of industry experience (and the ability to tap into said experience should she not make the finale).
* Sarah, meanwhile, looked like a serious contender during the early weeks of the competition, but Coach Adam did her no favors by not reining in her growing tendency to, um, “explore” the most unpleasant edges of her vocal tone. Last week’s “Mama Knows Best” was a screeching tirade, and Wednesday’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” suffered from intermittent pitch problems. (Plus, it’s one of those songs that really needs another few years on the shelf before the general populus wants it brought back out into the sunlight.) I know she had a decent iTunes showing this week, but I’m not entirely shocked or saddened to see her exit.
* Interesting that Blake yelled “bullcrap!” after Adam said at the top of the show that his own team wasn’t going to ever “play it safe.” Defensive much?
* Also interesting that Shakira started off the show by admitting that if Sasha got booted, “it’s because her coach made a mistake [in terms of song selection].” I’m not sure I agree with that contention — to me, Sasha overwrought style and tendency to go flat are far bigger issues — but it was nice to see Shakira’s lack of ego (on a show where coaches have, well, healthy sized ones).
* Michelle Chamuel biting into a head of iceberg lettuce like it was an apple: Rated Y…for Yikes! (She’s still just so lovely though, isn’t she?)
* Could Christina Milian please come up with a better question than, “How does it feel to be saved by America?” I mean, how does she THINK it feels? URGH!
As for grades for the night’s duets…
Michelle & Judith: “Sweet Nothings” | The verses may have been pitched a wee bit low for Michelle, and the vibrato may have gotten laid on a little too thick by Judith, but the song fit quite well with both of their vibes, and they soared nicely when it counted. Grade: B+
Sasha & The Swon Brothers: “Don’t You Wanna Stay” | From the airplane “delayed” graphics on the backdrop to Sasha’s gale-force riffing dominating the Swon boys like a cheetah with a field mouse, this was a deeply peculiar pairing — with dubious results. Grade: C+
Danielle & Sarah: “1,000 Years” | The good news is Danielle’s restraint seemed to be contageous, prompting Sarah to focus more on the lilting melody. The bad news? I felt the Lunesta butterfly circling overhead by the midway point. Grade: B-
Amber & Holly: “Does He Love You?” | It’s not easy stepping out of Reba’s formidable shadow, but this pair of power divas completely unleashed their beast-sized voices for a throwdown of Godzilla-vs.-Mothra proportions. Absolutely terrific! Grade: A
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Season 4 Top 8 results night? Did the right contestants get the boot? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!