One thing’s pretty certain following The Voice Season 10 performance finale: The song I’m most excited about downloading will probably rank last in iTunes at the end of voting (noon ET on Tuesday).
What’s far, far fuzzier is whether the contestant with the strongest overall body of work/most impressive trio of Monday night performances — incidentally, not the artist whose song I’ll download first — can stand at the eye of the Coaching Popularity Hurricane (which is located at the edge of the Growth Arc Volcanic Precipice) (which can be found at the Song-Choice Downloadability Fault Line) and still take home the whole enchilada.
The song in question is Hannah Huston’s electric, electrifying funk-pop jam “I Call the Shots,” a ditty she penned with Pharrell Williams that sounds like the kind of mainstream, Billboard-topping smash the likes of which no Voice finalist has ever been gifted (not during his/her time on the show, anyhow) but is in no way a great vocal showcase.
Perhaps Pharrell should spend $1.29 and drop it in his pal Beyoncé’s inbox. After all, as she points out in “Formation,” she might just get your song played on the radio station. (No, I can’t/won’t apologize for bringing the conversation back to Bey for the 774th time this month.)
Still, keeping it really really rlly rrrll — ugh, sorry, I spend too much time on Twitter — Season 10 belongs to Alisan Porter. Or at least it should.
Will folks fire up their iPhones and download her exquisite rendition of Broadway’s “Somewhere”? Will they find it in their hearts to vote for the sole remaining contestant coached by the show’s least warm and fuzzy (but also least cloying/phony) panelist? Will the Power of Blake compel fans to reward the country dude with a tone as good and tingly as Ben Gay on a fatigued muscle (but whose charisma/enunciation still need work)?
We’ll know in a little more than 24 hours. ‘Til then, allow me to present my grades for all three rounds of competition (they’re listed chronologically in the poll below — should you want to know who got the Pimp Slot)!
Hannah Huston — The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” — Grade: B- | “10 Points to Hufflepuff!” for Hannah’s decision to take a big risk in rearranging The Police’s ode to obsessive/unrequited love. (Honestly, this show is in desperate need of rule-breakers — and not just in the “wacky performance-art backdrop” category!) Unfortunately, the Nebraska pre-school teacher delivered the tune with an overabundance of tremulous vibrato, and her peculiar melodic choices strained the seams of the song’s earwormy hook. To make matters worse, the decision to have Hannah perched atop a high staircase — while clad in a floor-length red gown — left her in need of a male escort to lead her to safety on the main stage midway through the performance. How producers thought this distracting bit of staging would result in votes for Hannah… oh wait, I forgot, they’ve never been particularly interested in an arc where the Season 10 dark horse actually pulls off the upset, have they?
Laith Al-Saadi — Cream’s “White Room” — Grade: A- | Could Laith’s lower register have resonated more powerfully? Yes, for sure. But on a night with few uptempo ditties from which to choose, this straight-up-the-middle slice of classic rock provided some much-needed variety, not to mention a psychedellic-funky joy emanating off the guy who kept getting “it’s an honor that you even made the finale” speeches from the coaches.
Adam Wakefield — Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name” — Grade: B | On paper, Adam’s final performance of the night should’ve been as easy as Blake making fun of Adam’s hair color. Unfortunately, his “toddler with three bites of unswallowed broccoli in his mouth” enunciation rendered almost unintelligible most of the first verse and a number of other words and phrases. Dude’s gorgeous, rumbly country-soul tone saved this from being a disaster, but all I could think of during the refrain — “Nobody answers, when I call your name” — was that the lady in the lyrics might not have been able to decipher that she was being beckoned in the first place!
Alisan Porter — “Somewhere” (from West Side Story) — Grade: A | Earlier in the night, Adam seemed to subtly dog Alisan for having “the voice” — but perhaps falling short on other qualities important to voters. (Oooh, the death stare from Christina could actually be bottled by the CIA and used to silently neutralize terrorist threats!) The thing is, though, Alisan’s achingly nuanced intro, elegant build and explosive conclusion showcased not only the power of her pipes and her pitch perfection, but her ability to tell a story, too. The way she captured the romanticism and wistfulness and regret of the lyric, the way she took her time with her phrasing, the way she pressed down (without ever slamming down) on the pedal at the peak… whether or not her style fits your iPod is up for debate, but Alisan’s vocal mastery cannot be questioned.
DUETS WITH COACHES
Permission to review the duets in a Twitter-esque 140 characters or less? (C’mon, nobody really wants to talk about duets, right?!)
Hannah Huston and Pharrell Williams — “Brand New” — Grade: B | Pharrell’s vocals on this dance track were wobblier than a dive-bar table, but Hannah’s lilting high notes & creative riffs proved infectious.
Laith Al-Saadi and Adam Levine — Beatles’ Abbey Road medley — Grade: B+ | Medleys are lukewarm chicken broth for the music lover’s soul, but Laith/Adam’s jam session & gritty vocals made this one surprisingly hot.
Adam Wakefield and Blake Shelton — Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Conversation” — Grade: B- | Pitch-wise this was decent, but the energy was a little too “Shakira critiquing from the red chair after all her contestants have been axed.”
Alisan Porter & Christina Aguilera — Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” — Grade: B+ | Elegance (and calculated girl power) were on the menu, but wouldn’t something raucous/uptempo (#SistersAreDoinIt4Themselves?) have been more fun?
Hannah Huston — “I Call the Shots” — Grade: A+ | Not since Phillip Phillips’ “Home” on Idol has a reality singing competition delivered a potential winner’s anthem this radio-ready. The way Hannah strutted the stage, wrapped her textured voice around the slinky verses, snarled out the staccato bridge, repeatedly changed up the riffs on the chanting refrain, and brought kicky joy to those little “Whoos!”… well, let’s just say I’m a believer in this quirky, still-gaining-her-confidence pop diva. (Hey, NBC, how about using “I Call the Shots” in your summer Olympics promos?!) She may not (OK, definitely won’t) inherit Jordan Smith’s crown and sash, but here’s hoping Pharrell keeps her under his wing.
Laith Al-Saadi — “Morning Light” — Grade: B | I still can’t believe Adam played up the idea that Laith’s an “acquired taste” — what? because of his beard?! — but I’m not sure the bluesman’s romantic midtempo ditty, with its absence of big, emotional moments, was a strong enough final impression to reposition the guy who needed last week’s Twitter Save.
Adam Wakefield — “Lonesome, Broken and Blue” — Grade: A- | Seconds after Adam finished his original track, I took to Twitter and predicted he’d wind up at No. 1 on iTunes come Tuesday. Like Blake noted, the lyrics on the first verse alone — comparing the sensation of an ill-fated love to the experience of staring into the sun — are pretty breathtaking. And the melody gave Adam a chance to show two all-important qualities sought out by reality-competition voters: his vulnerability and his sense of who he wants to be as an artist when the show is over.
Alisan Porter — “Down That Road” — Grade: A- | Alisan could’ve easily dubbed her original track “Bless the Broken Road (Part 2),” what with its country-pop sensibilities and its lyrics about the hindsight of realizing that a dark path can be the exact road to a sense of home and inner peace. Alisan’s borderline-magical finesse with melody and lyrics — combined with the startling sight of backup singers lined up behind her with lanterns — all turned out to be considerably less cheesy than the sum of its parts (even if her sheer/floral-sequined bathing suit coverup was ill-advised for courting the viewing public).