The Voice Top 5 Performance Night Recap: Semi Homemade [Updated]

The Voice Recap Season 4Things got viciously, competitively real on The Voice‘s Season 4 Top 5 performance episode. How real, you ask?

How about Adam Levine declaring that “from a technical standpoint it doesn’t get more proficient” than human ray of sunshine Danielle “I’ll make more money by 20 than you will in a lifetime” Bradbery’s TimMcGraw cover? Or Shakira declaring “you did good” after Amber Carrington’s disappointing “Firework”?

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Okay, I know, those critiques qualify as faint praise at worst, but THIS IS THE VOICE — BTW, any time the phrase “this is The Voice” is uttered, it must be done in the style of the NBC megahit’s jingle — where all critiques must be carefully buried between the lines.

In other words, Adam might’ve well hurled a bucket of pig’s blood on Danielle’s mauve mullet dress, while Shakira’s words landed like a foul, month-old tomato smack in the middle of Amber’s face.

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Anyhow, regardless of how the judges tried to subtly signal their favorites, Tuesday’s results show should be verrry interesting. Two acts are going home, while three will advance to next week’s finale. My best guess is that Michelle Chamuel has enough momentum — and uniqueness — to sail to the Top 3, especially when she was rock-solid again tonight. And while season-long front-runner Danielle Bradbery hit her share of flat notes (musically and emotionally), that wade out into the audience to hug her mom and dad probably resulted in an avalanche of votes.

Which means Sasha Allen, Amber Carrington and The Swon Brothers are fighting for the last chair left in the circle. With that in mind, let’s cut to tonight’s set list and letter grades, shall we?

The Swon Brothers: Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” (Contestant’s Choice) | If The Voice was a theme park, Team Blake would be stuck at the Bumper Cars or the Merry Go Round. Which is my snarky way of saying dude and his singers have exhibited a very limited taste for danger over the course of Season 4. “Turn the Page,” however, found the Swon Brothers graduating to the Tilt-a-Whirl, as they took a ’70s rock classic and delivered it with 20 percent more country flavor. I didn’t entirely buy Zach as the road-hardened protagonist, and Colton looked like he was rocking grandma’s paisley blouse as it was being devoured by a plaid cowboy shirt, but the big notes at the end landed perfectly. I may never download a Swon Brothers track off iTunes, but I can’t deny that this was their best week in the competition to date. Grade: B+

Sasha Allen: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (Contestant’s Choice) | You don’t steal a steak from a hungry lioness. You don’t pick a fight with Wladimir Klitschko. And you don’t cover “I Will Always Love You” on a reality singing competition. Because in all of the above scenarios, chances are you’re gonna come out maimed and bloodied. And sure enough, as Sasha botched the timing of the ballad’s delicate intro, it began her descent toward Tuesday-night elimination. The excessive vibrato and multiple flat notes didn’t help, either, and nor did the harp and fog and white robe-dress that had everything except a pair of clip-on wings and Shakira shouting “Angel! Angel!” But to me, the biggest issue with the performance was an odd emotional disconnect — which I suppose I should’ve predicted based on Sasha’s interview package and her dedication of the song to her kids. I mean, how can you rehearse “IWALY” all week and remain blissfully unaware that it’s more than the sum of its refrain. Dolly Parton’s classic ballad is a woman’s bittersweet goodbye to a love affair that’s not destined to work out. You don’t sing, “So goodbye/ Please don’t cry/ We both know I’m not what you, you need” to your children! Grade: C+

Michelle Chamuel: Zedd feat Foxes’ “Clarity” (Usher’s Choice) | Michelle will never be a perfectly flawless singer — note how Blake underplayed his praise with an “it’s always solid” remark — but that’d be like complaining that a shark isn’t winning a foot race against a cheetah. Razor-like precision isn’t Michelle’s game. She ultimately seems more interested in using the textures of her voice — the high quavering swoop of her falsetto, the banshee wail of her belting — to harness the power of a song’s lyrics. In her hands, “Clarity” wasn’t just another radio hit for boogie-down purposes, but a plaintive question about the fate of a relationship sung by a woman who manages to hold the eye without the need for backup dancers or crazy costumes or superfluous minutiae. Also, is it wrong for me to admit I also fancy Michelle for the sole fact that she tackles alt-electronic music on a consistent basis — and that, alongside thrash metal, is one of the least likely genres you’re gonna hear covered on a reality singing competition. Grade: A

Danielle Bradbery: Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me” (Blake’s Choice) | There’s no denying Danielle showcased a ton of vocal power in the rousing final refrain of “Please Remember Me,” but her interpretive power proved far less impressive. Nothing about her expression or tone or delivery matched the content of a song with the lyric, “When I can’t hurt you anymore, you’ll find better love.” If I didn’t know better (yes, that’s a Nashville reference), I’d have thought maybe Blake was sabotaging Danielle by giving her a song that was ill-suited to her tender age. But the floorlit closeups of Blake with dollar signs spinning in his eyes told a different tale. Apparently, it doesn’t matter what Danielle sings or how she sings it or how little creativity or growth she shows: The train is moving too quickly to try to wave it down with logic or constructive criticism. Grade: C+

Amber Carrington: Katy Perry’s “Firework” (Contestant’s Choice) | Amber’s usually such a dominator, vocally speaking, that it was jarring to hear her struggle with her lower register and then go sharp when she attempted to hit big notes on what Katy Perry says is her most challenging hit to perform live. It didn’t help Amber that the band’s arrangement cranked the strings, drums and background singers up to 11, but that only raises a question about why Adam and Amber didn’t cook up a more interesting countrified twist — or do something to move the performance past middling karaoke. Grade: C+

The Swon Brothers: Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song” (Blake’s Choice) | The Swon Brothers may have outlasted a half-dozen artists more interesting and/or distinctive than themselves — Judith Hill, Sarah Simmons, Grace Askew, Luke Edgemon, Christian Porter, Jessica Childress, Midas Whale, Caroline Glaser, Shawna P and Warren Stone all come to mind — but Blake has coached them brilliantly. “Danny’s Song” — a sappy but effective ode to a newborn baby — showcased Zach’s skills at the piano and the tightest harmonies the boys have cooked up to date, while stretching their artistry in a slightly folksier direction. Was this a home run? Not quite. But sometimes you can outscore your opposition with a series of doubles and singles and occasional triples than you can with a combo of grand slams and strikeouts. (Side note: I hope I didn’t both that baseball metaphor too badly.) Grade: A-

Sasha Allen: Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” (Shakira’s Choice) | With the wacky, no-way-they’re-gonna-blow-up-on-iTunes song choices Shakira keeps giving her, Sasha must be starting to feel just a little abused like a coffee machine in an office. (Click here if you don’t get that reference.) But while everything about “Bad Girls” was daft and strategically unsound — oh how I cringed at the sight of the word “SASHA” appearing in giant lit-up letters — the fact is that it was sung pretty darn well. I mean, the young mother might be a Broadway star in pop diva’s clothing, but she worked the stage moreso than most of her rivals, executed a series of choreographed dance moves and didn’t miss a single note along the way. Sasha oddly left out the beltiest line — “I got what you want, you got what I need/ I’ll be your baby come and spend it on me” — and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was hoping Shaki would call in Kris Allen to wash some of the disco out of the jam, but I can’t deny the element of risk or the power of the vocal. Grade: A-

Danielle Bradbery: Jessica Andrews’ “Who I Am” (Contestant’s Choice) | If I were a cynic, I’d be rolling my eyes and yelling “Come ON!” at Blake using photo albums from Danielle’s childhood as a backdrop to her brown-sugar sweet rendition of “Who I Am.” But wait, I am a cynic, and my eyes are rolling. Which isn’t to say that the whole performance — save for a few questionable notes in her lower register — wasn’t the ultimate get-out-the-vote vehicle (as well as a showcase for her seriously powerful pipes). I mean, even my jaded heart melted a little as Danielle walked out in the audience to finish her song in the warm embrace of her mama and her daddy. But if that wasn’t enough, Blake reminded voters that Danielle is “every bit the girl that you hope she is.” How long before they create an American Girl doll in her image? Grade: B+

Amber Carrington: Maroon 5’s “Sad” (Adam’s Choice) | Speaking of rolling my eyes and yelling “Come ON!”…I’ll admit I was a little dubious about Adam selecting one of his own band’s tracks for Amber — that is until the fog began to roll across the stage, an overhead camera captured Amber standing in a single spotlight and she began to deliver one of the most effortlessly gorgeous vocals this show has ever witnessed. I loved the way Amber’s voice was front and center in the mix — with minimal background singers and subtle instrumentation — the better to soak up the ache and regret that infused her every word, from the desperation of “I’m scared to death that there may not be another one like this” to the final falsetto runs of “I’m so sad.” I never make a Kelly Clarkson comparison lightly, but Amber’s versatility and ability to interpret country, pop and soul, definitely is reminiscent of the American Idol Season 1 champ, no? If the Voice franchise really wants a crossover superstar, maybe Amber should be the one it pushes, not Danielle. Grade: A+

Michelle Chamuel: Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” (Contestant’s Choice) | First, a small complaint: Can we please have a moratorium on clocks/hourglass imagery during any/all future performances of “Time After Time” on reality singing competitions? Because between Michelle’s rendition and Beatrice Miller’s on The X Factor last year, that’s two too many in the course of about eight months. That gripe aside, Michelle gave another stellar vocal on her second Cyndi Lauper ballad of the season, bringing a sweet restraint to the opening half before playing with the arrangement and going for some unexpected glory notes in the latter stages of the number. As Shakira noted, Michelle is on a “permanent crescendo” (that’d be a great name for a band or a race horse, no?) and the extended “lost” over the final chorus drove that point home. Even better, though, is the way Michelle personalizes every lyric, as though she’s somehow whispering it directly into your ear. “You are the winner,” declared a beaming Usher. If it turns out that “Coach” is incorrect, though, at least in terms of Season 4 voting, I really hope the collaboration continues, and he can use the Bieber machine to launch Michelle into the recognition and stardom she deserves. Grade: A-

Should go home: Danielle Bradbery, Sasha Allen
Will go home: Sasha Allen, Amber Carrington

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Season 4 Top 5 performance night? What did you think of the coaches’ comments? Who was your favorite? Which two singers are going to be in trouble come results night? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments, and for all my Voice-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. Kaba says:

    Anyone else have flashbacks of Jesse Campbell’s performance of ‘Halo’ on Season 2 when they watch Danielle’s 2nd performance?
    Idk how I’d feel if she got booted tonight (though she wont, but just…jesus that be evil).
    Nobody’s ever going to forgive Christina for that crackhead decision in season 2

  2. Jacob says:

    I’m pretty sure that Sasha is unfortunately going to go home tonight. I looked at itunes, and peoples comments for voting for like Danielle and Michelle and the Swan Brothers and everything. But the thing is, Sasha is much better than the Swan Brothers. I mean they make nice harmonies and everything.. it’s just that for some reason these days EVERYBODY (well, alot of people) looove country and don’t vote for the best singer. And she is also better than Amber. I agree that Michelle is crazy good and should be in the finale but Sahsha should be taking the second spot. Then probably Danielle. I could hear on my TV, the band playing to lound at the beginning of “I Will Always Love You” for Sasha to make much sound. That is NOT her fault. She can sing a Whitney song almost like in her sleep. And the second song was great too. She was full of energy, she sounded great, she looked great, and she can dance…pretty well (i know the sasha sign was a little too much). She has lots of expierience, has superstar quality, and is an amazing singer so yea… YOU ARE VOTING OFF THE WRONG PERSON

    • SnoreBro says:

      “I Will Always Love You” was a tough song for Sasha to take on (one of the all-time hardest songs to sing, according to Adam), but I was certain that this season’s resident R&B powerhouse, a woman who’s sung backup for the likes of Alicia Keys, would be able to handle it. So what happened? It sounded like she flubbed the first line, and that knocked down her confidence so much that she almost couldn’t recover. Or maybe the fact that she’d dedicated the ballad to her children got her all choked up, and maybe that compromised her vocals. It was only when Sasha got to the swelling, dramatic chorus that she impressed at all. And yes, she did impress. It was too little, too late? This certainly wasn’t her best performance of the season. This is definitely setting the stage for Sasha to go home tonight. Why would you download this version when you already have Whitney’s?

    • HTGR says:


  3. SnoreBro says:

    The Swons returned to the heartland rock that made such an impression at their first audition (when they covered Tom Petty). The Team Blake duo’s first song choice, Bob Seger’s road-weary touring anthem “Turn the Page,” (#7 on iTunes) was absolutely inspired. It tapped into their whole musicianship thing (of the five contestants left, they’re the only ones who consistently play instruments), and it expanded their audience while still pleasing their core country base. Hey, classic rock worked for Terry McDermott, so it could work for these WGWG. If the Swons make it to next week’s finale, this is what they should be doing: countrified covers of Boston, Journey, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, etc.

    After rocking out for their first number, the brothers mellowed out for a piano performance of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” (#2 iTunes). This had the potential to go the cheesy, dated route, but you know what? It actually worked. Why? Because the song showcased the duo’s biggest strength: their harmonies, which I always thought had a pleasingly ’70s vibe. Will the Swons, who’ve already gone way farther than any other duo in “Voice” history, be the first twosome to make it to a “Voice” finale? It’s looking very good for these brothers. Right now, it seems like all of America is swooning for the Swons.

  4. SnoreBro says:

    BEST quote of the day! Katy Perry’s “Firework” is reaaaaaallllly hard to sing. Even Katy can’t actually sing it. Adam admitted that when he informed Katy that he was planning to give the song to Amber, she said, “Are you nuts?” This folks is how Adam got rid of his last remaining member of TEAMADAM. Which did consisted of Judith, Sarah, and Amber.

  5. Debbie M says:

    Something about Danielle just doesn’t connect with me emotionally. I don’t know if it’s her age or her inexperience in front of an audience, but the vacant look in her eyes just is off-putting for me each week. Sasha is so overly dramatic on each performance, that I just can’t help but think she should be on Broadway, not the Voice. (Not that Broadway is a bad thing.) Michelle is probably my fave left since Sarah got booted, but I really cannot see that any of them will be hugely successful. Seriously, I can’t even remember the name of the guy that won last year!

  6. DaysGoBy says:

    Cassadee won last year…Jermaine Paul eon 2nd season (Still pissed about Juliette Simms) did Alicia Keys get all her fans to vote in droves???

  7. JSR says:

    Thank you MC I appreciate your appreciation! I honestly think all of the judges/coaches added so much to the show and were genuine in their comments and support in the way they coached their teams. Again, unless one is part of that world it is difficult to explain how incredibly fascinating yet difficult it is to coach/train a performer to sing many of those difficult song choices. I’ll say it again too about those who have been critical about Danielle and her supposed “deer in the headlights stare” and/or inability to “connect with the song and audience”. That may have been the Danielle in the first couple of weeks until Cheryl Crow actually pointed it out to her and worked with her on that. After that Danielle grew. She’s very young (16), not a flashy girl from the “hood” with hot pink studded sneakers….no, she’s sweet, smiles a lot, down to earth appears grounded and as luck would have it, hasn’t experienced enough failures to rattle those nerves of steel and I say never let those nerves unravel and hold onto that feeling as long as you can!! With a voice like hers, she doesn’t need pyrotechnics and flashy costumes. She was given classic country songs by Blake on purpose to reintroduce her and the rest of this country to it’s roots and it worked. Those songs are as timeless as the classic standards sung by Sinatra, Bennet, and Streisand. Those older songs of country are what makes our country wonderful and should be thought of as a celebration of our country and the American Family and how hard we all work….just listen to the words. They are filled with innocence, love, family pride and what family means. Personally, I can’t think of a better time for our country to begin to rise up on the charts all on its own. We need a sense of stability and strength and encouragement and I sure don’t think it’s going to come from Rap and Hip-Hop but that’s just my opinion. Every person tonight moving on to next week deserves to be there. Sasha is a good singer but needs to find who SHE is and be true to herself. Amber needs the same and sing far more consistently and it wouldn’t hurt if she stuck to one genre. Develop that and then test the waters, she needs better focus to remain consistent. As for Mr. Slezak? I seriously hope he has his pencil sharpened much better for next week. I”d also love to know what kind of training he has that allows him to pass judgement and grade each of these singers – he was way off in his grading. Here’s an interesting concept-perhaps MZ should give the voters and audience a glimpse into his world and let us know how he comes up with his grades! Hmm…What do you think?

    Thanks again MC – On the bright side? All of these artists WILL walk away with some kind of contract deal when this is all over so in the end, they really all won.


  8. storm says:

    I really dont know what you people see in Michelle I have to go out of the room when she sings.not marketable at al

  9. JSR says:

    This goes out to HTGR-
    Thanks for your response on my comments about Southern Bias and I hear your point. However, my remarks were directed towards Jasmine and her blatant, almost militant display of anger. This is just a show for entertainment! I recall one of the earliest seasons of Idol between Rubin and Clay. Well, Rubin won because there was something wrong with the phone lines and most of the votes for Clay never went through. These things happen and have nothing to do with WHO the person is that’s voting. If you have a problem, tell the network. Whoever wrote the show needs to check their sound system I believe is correct-every one of those contestants comes out and tugs on their earpiece which by now should say something to the sound production crew. It’s like the old games of Mouse Trap and Dominoes, one tiny little thing effects another and then another an so on and so on. In this case if the sound is off for the singer, that’s real bad. If people are cut off from voting? Well, you get the picture… Some of my comments have been directed towards people who have just been mean and there’s no reason to be. If you want to be angry- I guess that’s OK, but I don’t need to have anyone call me names ( as someone did) nor do I need to listen to mean talk. It gets old real fast and has no purpose. It’s OK to have an opinion and a healthy debate as long as you know what you are talking about. In addition, and this is just my opinion, bringing up past season contestants makes no sense when trying to stay focused on the ones currently competing. The ones from the past,like Haley, I’m quite sure will be heard from again; that’s exactly how the music industry works. Just get yourself out there to be noticed and when you finally are your day will come and everyone of those people competing knows that. They are all winners whether the northerners or southerners have voted! :o}

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