It gives me no pleasure to kick off my recap of The Voice Top 10 performance night with this tweak of a popular children’s song, and yet… it’s the most honest expression of my feelings about the obvious choice to go home on Tuesday’s results telecast.
One of these singers is not like the other
One of these singers just doesn’t belong
Can you tell which singer is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Sorry, Daniel Passino! Here you are brave enough to admit on national television how online criticism has shaken your confidence, and what do I go and do but tell you that you’re not cutting the mustard? (Actually, is there any molecular structure unable to cut through mustard? Scientific types, hit the comments and discuss!)
Trouble is, nine vocalists this week delivered solid-to-spectacular performances, while He With the Glorious Swoop of Hair dropped a glory note horrifying enough to send that drenched, black-haired chick from The Ring scuttling back into her TV set and crying for mommy.
Trust and believe I’ll dole out some other nitpicky criticisms of singers not named Daniel as we get to my letter grades for all 10 performances, so read on!
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Daniel Passino – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Grade: D+ | Putting aside the next-level dreck of his song choice, the opening third wasn’t bad (save for the pageant arm on the first verse). But after that, this performance collapsed in on itself like a half-baked souffle getting tossed into a subzero freezer. Plus, Daniel sent the SwayBots into overdrive — and SwayBots are pure evil. If he’s not sent home on Tuesday, then everything is called into question: Adam and Blake’s bromance. Pharrell’s love of a knit cap. Xtina’s ability to execute a run. EVERYTHING.
Shalyah Fearing – Emeli Sande’s “My Kind of Love” — Grade: B+ | OK, so I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: From a purely technical standpoint, Shalyah is kind of a mess, an imperfect teenage soul belter who makes you realize how good Season 8’s Koryn Hawthorne really was. But botched notes and excessive volume aside, there was something so magically raw about Shalyah’s interpretation that I had to just smile and bop my head. Because while the sparse arrangement exposed some of her youthful shortcomings, it also allowed us to experience an emotional ferocity that very few Season 10 performers have come close to matching.
Nick Hagelin – Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” — Grade: C+ | I have to give credit where it’s due: While Nick’s vocals the last few weeks have been weaker than a wet bargain-brand paper towel trying to hold up an anvil, this week, dude significantly improved his pitch and was only drown out by the band toward the very end of his number. Still, I can’t be the only one who wanted to cover my eyes with my hands, to block the second-hand embarrassment of watching a grown man swivel his hips against a metal chair inside an imaginary box/cage contraption. I mean, if you’re covering Michael Jackson and you wanna get down — then get down. Don’t offer up a sad spin, then point your leg to the right like Angelina Jolie posing for the paparazzi in a gown with a slit up to her hip! Sheesh.
Hannah Huston – Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” — Grade: A- | The Voice coaches have proven time and time again that they’ll give a standing ovation to just about anything — I bet they’d rise to their feet at a Kanye West “fashion” show — so how come only Pharrell got up for Hannah’s excellent, nearly pitch-perfect Adele cover? And why did Adam spend half his critique grousing about the gorgeous way she scooped the note on “alllll”? I get it: Girlfriend is a little too inconsistent for producers to back her as the Chosen One. But when you scale Mt. Adele and triumphantly plant your flag at the peak, that’s no small accomplishment!
Laith Al-Saadi – B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” — Grade: A- | The look of pure bliss on bandleader Paul Mirkovich’s face said it all: Dude was feeeeelin the blues being cooked up by Laith, via his transcendent guitar work and his loose but gritty vocals. Blake, of course, had a point that going forward, Laith needs to remember this is a singing competition (not a musicianship challenge), but if you can’t take some liberties in a week where you’re clearly destined to advance, what’s the point of it all, exactly?
Paxton Ingram – Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” — Grade: B | Like Daniel, Paxton selected a song that — in food terms — is a giant vat of liquified Velveeta. Yet while the Team Blake underdog ran out of steam as he crescendoed on “it was more than any laws allow,” I can’t pretend he didn’t land most of his notes with an accuracy I wasn’t anticipating. As Xtina tried to put it nicely, “I was genuinely pleasantly surprised.”
Mary Sarah – Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” — Grade: B- | First, the good news: Mary Sarah’s range is a terrific match for the high and cutting chorus of Tammy Wynette’s retro country anthem. Unfortunately, in order to land said notes, Mary had to start the verse at a much lower pitch, resulting in a string of unfortunate flat notes that veered from smokey at best to “girl, no” at worst.
Bryan Bautista – Romeo Santos and Usher’s “Promise” — Grade: B | Bryan confounds me. As Adam noted, the model-handsome Brooklynite might be one of the most vocally gifted artists in Season 10 — he’s got tone, range and rhythm for days. Unfortunately, though, dude is paired with Coach Xtina, a woman who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “excess.” And thus, “Promise,” just like Bryan’s last few performances, arrived at the table slightly overbaked, thanks to an unnecessary dog-whistle falsetto and a vibrato that was laid on a little too heavily. Yes, it was mostly in tune and quite pretty in spots, but dude needs to strip back the arrangement and quit trying so hard if he wants to have any shot of making the finals.
Alisan Porter – Patti Griffin’s “Let Him Fly” — Grade: A+ | It may be impossible for any contender to push past the woman who’s been the Season 10 front-runner ever since her Episode 1 Blind Audition, and I can’t be mad about it. Alisan brought such origami delicacy to this letting-go anthem that it damn near broke my heart. And yet her brute technical strength — the way she can hold and caress a note while making it soar with the power of a jet engine — is almost otherwordly impressive. The sparse, acoustic arrangement of “Let Him Fly” allowed us to hear all of Alisan’s gears – and the broken-down beauty of her softer tones — better than we have since “River.” Here’s hoping Xtina sees the expected surge on iTunes and keeps her best chance at winning from going overboard with bombast between now and the finale.
Adam Wakefield – Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” — Grade: B+ | Adam’s been one of my faves all season, but after his iffy Journey last week and his competent but by no means revelatory Ray Charles cover tonight, I’m starting to think he’d be wiser to stick with soulful country than attempt to cover straight-up soul. Mind you, dude’s piano solo was slick, but his vocal lacked the necessary abandon on the choruses to convince me Adam truly understood or felt the sexual/emotional fervor of the lyric. The pitch and tone, as always, qualified Adam for a B+… but that’s the kind of complacency that could find him falling short of the finale.
Should Be Bottom 2: Daniel and Nick (Daniel going home)
Will Be Bottom 2: Daniel and Nick (Daniel going home)