Were you feeling drunk with power Monday night? For the second season in a row, The Voice allowed viewers like you and me to pick the numbers that would be performed by the Top 11. And even if we totally screwed it up, there was virtually no way we could do worse at pairing singers and songs than, say, Jackie Foster and “Toxic,” or Pryor Baird and “9 to 5” (which, inexplicably, they’d chosen for themselves!). So, who wound up performing what? And whose vocals made the most compelling case for a spot in the Top 10? Read on…
Pryor Baird (Team Blake), “Night Moves” — Grade: B | This match-up of singer and song could scarcely have been any more perfect. Pryor’s barbed-wire voice wrapped around the Bob Seger classic as if it had been doing so for years. (And who knows? Maybe Pryor does cover it on the regular.) I couldn’t understand half of the lyrics and liked it, anyway, as I suspected those who in general (like me) dig Pryor’s gravel-lined larynx would. Those who haven’t been buying what Pryor’s selling — and he has started to seem like a rather polarizing contestant, hasn’t he? — probably shrugged and said, “Been there, heard that.”
Sharane Calister (Team Adam), “Hero” — Grade: D | The Mariah cover that viewers selected for Sharane should have suited her to a T but ultimately suited her to some other letter entirely. Her breathy verse was OK, if uncertain, but as she headed toward the showstopper moments, pitch problems began undermining her in a big way. By the time she got to really let loose, the performance had gone off the rails, so much so that I wondered if this had been just plain the wrong key for her. “I was afraid” before Sharane went on, her coach admitted. But if I were him, I would’ve been more worried afterward. Not her finest hour.
Kaleb Lee (Team Kelly), “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” — Grade: B- | Kelly was delighted that fans had chosen “a personality song” for Kaleb. But I wasn’t sure before he took the stage that he’d have enough personality to do it justice. Nice guy, sure; I just don’t imagine that he’s the life of the party, know what I mean? On stage, Kaleb’s vocals were really good, and I’m crazy about his growl — maybe especially because, unlike Pryor, he doesn’t use it every second of every song — but I’m sorry, he’s got about as much charisma as a mic stand.
Jackie Foster (Team Alicia), “Love Reign O’er Me” — Grade: A | Immediately, I could see (hear?) why viewers chose this oldie by The Who for Jackie: In theory, it would let her show off her crazy range and rock-goddess pipes without running too great a risk of her veering into screechy territory. When she took to the mic, she immediately began redeeming herself for “Toxic,” and by the time she nailed the first chorus, I was like, “Oo, she’s got this… she’s sooo got this.” And damn, she really did. I bit my nails through the whole song, fearing that she’d stumble along the way, but nope, she started strong and ended even stronger. This was terrific to the last note.
Jackie Verna (Team Adam), “Strawberry Wine” — Grade: A- | The Deana Carter number that fans picked for Adam’s country girl didn’t force her to strain vocally like I’ve so often felt that she’s had to. (“I’m With You,” for instance.) Instead, the ballad provided a lovely showcase for the sunny, honey-soaked quality that in its best moments her voice possesses. And Jackie was solid from start to finish. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you would’ve believed you were listening to the iTunes version. Pure and simple, and simply gorgeous.
Kyla Jade (Team Blake), “Sweet Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone)” — Grade: B+ | This was a blast. Remember when Kyla Blind-Auditioned with Aretha’s “See Saw”? Her voice was impressive, but her star power was on, like, “energy save.” Here, maybe having had her confidence raised as she survived round after round, she owned the stage, delivering a performance that was as much fun to watch as it was to listen to. That ginormous last note alone — come on! That was just a powerhouse singer having herself a good time.
Christiana Danielle (Team Alicia), “Umbrella” — Grade: C- | As we’ve come to expect from Christiana, she didn’t just cover Rihanna’s smash, she reinvented it. And since I’m a sucker for a creative redo, I expected to love it. I just didn’t, though. Christiana’s voice seemed to come and go, like it was getting tripped up by her vibrato. And when she was singing softly toward the end, she was beset by pitch issues. So, in the final analysis, this was another cool idea, just one whose potential wasn’t quite realized. (Note to self: Go back and check the iTunes version; I’m sure once that vocal was sweetened and leveled out by an engineer, this was all kinds of awesome.)
Brynn Cartelli (Team Kelly), “You and I” — Grade: C | Viewers served Brynn a real toughie: Lady Gaga’s hit requires serious chops to pull off. But, though that’s exactly the kind of chops the 15-year-old has — serious — much of her swampy rendition fell, well, flat. It wasn’t awful or anything; some of it was even pretty good. Yet the overall impression it left was that, no matter how much oomph Brynn threw at the song, she was getting swallowed up by the band instead of belting over the music. Not a disaster, but not a triumph, either.
Rayshun LaMarr (Team Adam), “Try a Little Tenderness” — Grade: B+ | If anybody was going to deliver as big a wow as Chris Weaver did with this Otis Redding classic, it was gonna be Rayshun, the human embodiment of a live wire. He was in great voice Monday, throwing in more runs than you’d find at a track meet, and heaven knows he put on an energetic show. (Can’t believe that, as much as he danced around, his vocal never faltered — that’s impressive.) Unfortunately, given the way he’s historically polled — which has next to nothing to do with the way he’s historically performed — I suspected he’d still be singing for the Save on Tuesday.
Britton Buchanan (Team Alicia), “Perfect” — Grade: C+ | OK, I was shipping the idea of Britton and onetime duet partner Jaclyn Lovey as a couple. But it was still a pretty sweet revelation that he’s actually dating Livia Faith. As for his take on Ed Sheeran… hmm. It wasn’t my favorite performance of his. Yes, he came off as sincere as ever, and some of it was powerful and pretty. But I didn’t feel like, as his coach suggested, he’d murdered the song. At best, I thought it was more… attempted murder. He can do and has done much better.
Spensha Baker (Team Blake), “Better Man” — Grade: C+ | Over the course of this season, Spensha has been hit-and-miss for me. Some weeks, she’s sounded like an obvious frontrunner; others, I’ve wondered how she’s hung in there for so long. Monday, her performance was a little bit of both. When she was at her best — toward the middle, as she hit her stride — she was really tremendous. But at the front and back of the number, she was weaker; she sounded like she wasn’t sure if she was singing in key. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure, either!
So, what did you think of the viewer’s-choice selections? And whose singing knocked you off your sofa? Vote in the poll below, then hit the comments.