The Voice Season 5 Semifinal Performance Recap: Keep Calm and 'Carry On' [Updated]

The Voice Will Champlin Carry OnCan People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” (*With a Current Project to Promote/Not Named Idris Elba) be stopped?

That’s the question surrounding The Voice Season 5 semifinals, seeing how coach Adam Levine hasn’t lost a single contestant since Nov. 7 (aka Top 20 results night) (aka for freakin’ ever).

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Of course, perhaps the even bigger question is whether membership on any coach’s team means anything at all. I mean, fans of NBC’s reality singing huggernaut — a typo, but that seems apt given all the positive vibrations, no? — have heard each member of the Top 5 perform 10 individual solo numbers over the last few months.

So shouldn’t it be more about the future potential pop stars than the already established ones? Should it be held against Jacquie Lee, for example, that her mentor Christina Aguilera turned her critique of James Wolpert into a mini rant about how she’s the one who should’ve been singing U2′s “With or Without You”? (Insert eye roll here.) Would anyone enamoured of Cole Vosbury’s gruff voice (and silky beard) withhold their vote to prevent Blake Shelton from nabbing his fourth consecutive win on the show? Is anyone more appreciative of Will Champlin, Tessanne Chin or the aforementioned Mr. Wolpert because Adam Levine (allegedly) cooked ‘em eggs for brekkie? (Side note: If Adam truly did rock the kitchen, how the heck did NBC’s camera crew fail to capture it? File under: #CookingIsSexy4Real.)

RELATED | The Voice‘s Caroline Pennell on Tackling Bieber, Rocking ‘Royals,’ Accepting Cee Lo’s Laid-Back Coaching: ‘Everyone Else Was Standing Up’

Forgive me. This recap has devolved into tragic hashtag territory. Who do I think I am? Mariah #Pow Carey? #Ugh #It’sBeenALongSeason #HelpMeIdolStartsInJustAMonth

JACQUIE LEE ANGEL THE VOICEOK, it’s clearly time for me to get to the hard work of assigning letter grades for tonight’s performances:

James Wolpert (Team Adam): U2′s “With or Without You” — Grade: B- | Maybe James was bummed about getting stuck in the undesirable leadoff position — after last week’s Bottom 2, no less — but his performance tonight lacked the haunted urgency and the desperate ache required to sell the lyrics he was delivering. Not only that, but James also struggled with his pitch, especially in the opening third of the song when he wasn’t in full-on belting mode. There’s no doubt the guy has some genuine vocal talent, but his semifinal performance had an aura of defeat enveloping it — kind of like he’d been sent to chop down a sapling with a pair of basic household scissors.

Will Champlin (Team Adam): fun.’s “Carry On” — Grade: A | I’m not going to try to pretend Will didn’t make a couple of mistakes tonight — particularly on that one glory note in his upper register. But minor sins can be washed away, especially when they’re being blasted by a virtual fire-hose of emotions and sanded down with the grit and gravel of a voice that’s full of character and mystery. I know, I know, this paragraph is a being brought to you by the word “excessive,” but the combination of fun.’s stirring anthem and Will’s newfound freedom — the freedom to smile, the freedom to truly lose himself in the music, perhaps even the freedom to imagine winning this whole thing — was truly invigorating.

Jacquie Lee (Team Xtina): Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” — Grade: A- | This just in: Jacquie Lee does not need to be at Diva Defcon One to stay on pitch or to properly communicate the emotions of a song. Despite Xtina’s goofy insistence that “Angel” is sweet and innocent, I felt like Jacquie cut straight to the heart of a mournful ballad about a tortured soul finally succumbing to addiction. The purity and clarity of the airy opening half gave me a serious case of the shivers, and while Jacquie’s detractors will almost surely call “blasphemy!’ on her choice to go for the glory notes and tear into phrases like “dark cold hotel room” and “in the arms of the angels” after the key change, I appreciated that she took a risk and stepped away from McLachlan’s template, choosing her own more intense path rather than keepin’ it ethereal start to finish. Loss is a complicated thing, after all, with grief and anger and acceptance and relief all operating on the same plane. And despite two or three wobbly notes, Jacquie absolutely brought all of those emotions to the stage tonight. Here’s hoping she’s rewarded for it with a spot in the finale.

Cole Vosbury (Team Blake): Billy Joel/Garth Brooks’ “Shameless” — Grade: B | With so much riding on this single performance, I was hoping Cole might take a chance and overhaul a pop or R&B ditty to fit his roots-rock-n-soul style, but as Blake has proven in the past few seasons, big, bold moves aren’t always synonymous with winning. And so we got Cole behind the piano for one of the least hook-y songs in the Billy Joel repertoire, with the impressively bearded fella using his cedar-smoked rasp to infuse the tune with a little extra oomph. Surprisingly, the usually spotless Cole hit a series of flat notes once he stood up and tried to get his rockstar on, but if I’m being honest, the bigger problem was that — like a dark-colored minivan in a shopping-mall parking lot on Black Friday — there was nothing in particular about this performance to make it stand out.

Tessanne Chin (Team Adam): Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — Grade: A- | Based on the length and power of her final glory note alone — honestly, that was Shelley-Winters-underwater-in-The-Poseidon-Adventure-level breath control — Tessanne should (and likely will) advance to the finale. But focusing on her grand finale alone would rob Tessanne of the credit she deserves for a vocal that was so regal, I half expected Queen Elizabeth to hop on stage and pop a crown on it. (I know, I know, that sentence went off into the woods and never came back.) If I’m being nitpicky (and I have it an A-, so you know I am), I was more impressed/astonished by Tessanne this week than I was moved/stirred — I still feel like sometimes there’s a hint of reserve preventing us from seeing everything the former background vocalist has to give — but who knows? Maybe the early-front-runner who lost momentum post-Knockouts and has been slowly building back to contending status, is just saving a little somethin’ somethin’ for next week.

Should Go Home: James, Cole
Will Go Home: Honestly, I’d just be guessing at this point.

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Top 5 performance night? Who absolutely must make the finale? Who will and should get booted? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!



Comments (553)

  • I hope that America will see that Jacquie is not ready; I agree that she has the potential, but it’s almost as if being on Christina’s praise bus has gotten to her head and instead of being true to the emotions of the songs she has performed, she has turned it into a “I can scream like Christina” parade. Will, Tessanne and Cole are my top 3, they deserve to be there – if I had to pick just one though, it would be Tessanne.Her “Bridge over troubled water” was entrancing. She is an amazing singer.

    Comment by Dgray – December 10, 2013 04:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • First, Jacqui was victim of song selection…and you would think her coach had never read the lyrics…and yes Michael the ridiculousness of Christina’s suggested interpretation..
    was both crazy and crazy like a fox. She seemed to depend on the general listener simply
    accepting it as a moving melody given a new treatment. Whatever her vocalpotential and it is great…she does not have the tools for that song. It would in fact be difficult to think of anyone less equipped. A complete, mature voice learns to meld the transition between the “chest” and “nasopharyngial” seemlessly into her head voice..not simply switch mid sentence from one voice to another that seems completely unrelated. Her head voice was
    clear but unsure…and for me turning it into a quasi gospel..quasi “broadway” gentle rain to hurricane song….just did not work. The lyrics were literally ignored,
    It was like she had taken the template from the”Three Dog Night” or “Committments” version..`Try a little tenderness…” complete wit the “you got to got to got tos”. And ultimately aside for a few extra blinks trying to spring that tear..she seemed to be in the dark. NOT HER FAULT…but not an A by any stretch. Sorry Mike you just can’t turn “If You Go Away” into “New York New York” PS the Chorus was wrong and contributed to the rest of the wrong.
    Then there were a few other singers…Ten there was Tessanne..and i agree there always seems to be more…because she’s just so good..A wise director once told me we have to believe an artist cannot possibly “go any further” whether it be range , passion, soul, sustaining ability or power or all the above….and then do just that to truly take us away.
    Personally I think vocally she’s in another league that only maturity could bring to the talented 16 year old…but I wish she just once made us think she’d hit the wall…and show us …she has none…Hey but that’s just me.

    Comment by Rodeoblu – December 10, 2013 05:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I sure hope you are in the music business.

      Comment by jaxguy – December 10, 2013 08:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Yes, because the validity of one’s statement is solely dependent on their standing in the music world. Does it make you feel better to know that someone has to tote their fancy arts degrees or musical aspirations in order to prove their point?

        Comment by Kaba – December 10, 2013 08:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • some of the people who post here are so into themselves. BOTH Jacquie AND Tessanne were wonderful. You bitch and moan when they don’t try something different and bring their own interpretation and then you bitch and moan because (they do), or it’s (not what you think it should have been.) GET OVER YOURSELVES. BOTW is not a folksy song. The Simon and Garfunkel version builds to a beautiful climax that Art G reaches gorgeous heights. I think the production of the show last night was superb for a change and Tessanne was tremendous. I love Angel but I love the way Jacquie changed the tempo slightly and sang the crap out of it. All you pros who know she will be so much better when she gets older send me some tapes of your vocal work and we’ll talk. That is the biggest pile of horse crap of all. I hate all these people who say they don’t feel the emotion. That’s purely garbage. She’s a tremendous vocalist. The only thing she’ll get from age and experience is come hack producer who buries her beautiful voice under some crappy production which is what happens to most of the singers on these show.

    Comment by jaxguy – December 10, 2013 08:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I think they are both good, I don’t hate on Tessanne at all, although Jacquie has had moments of the night sort of things far and away more for me and I think her tone is more interesting and she can switch to all sorts of interesting tones as well as hit the feeling more.

      Comment by HTGR – December 11, 2013 04:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I will not be watching the voice anymore now that Cole is off the show. The rest of the singers do have amazing voices but wouldn’t buy any of their records…well maybe Will. Tessanne is so lovely and has a beautiful voice but Just not a voice that would motivate me to buy her record…..Cole just stirred me and had such a unique voice… I still see him selling more records than anyone. Feel like because Blake already won three times in a row that kind of was a disadvantage for Cole….not fair but I guess that is life. Can’t wait to see what Cole does with what I am sure will be an amazing music career:)

    Comment by katie – December 10, 2013 09:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I have bought one or more singles on iTunes from most of the artists. I wouldn’t say now that you will never buy a song of Tessane’s or any of them. They all have the potential to be great.

      Comment by dj – December 10, 2013 09:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Cole has a really unique voice, I wasn’t his #1 last night, but I really loved his original sound… Some people begged to differ so good to see this!

      Comment by Quinn Carson – December 10, 2013 09:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I love how a lot of you are defending Jacquie but…the girl has no volume control. She knows softly, loudly and ‘break some glass’. There is no middle ground with her. There is also no maintaining the softly because if she’s not shouting, she isn’t comfortable. When I first started listening to the song, I was intrigued by her crooning and thinking “Damn, she learned some control!” And then…the shouting. Volume control, babe. That just ruined it for me.

    Now, Tessanne tends to get a little sharp on notes sometimes, but her vocal control, the sheer power of her voice and her VOLUME CONTROL has her beating JL in my eyes every week. She is way underrated in all these reviews. Now that she’s won…my faith in America is restored.

    Comment by Daniela – December 17, 2013 10:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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