Ariana Grande is reduced to tears after one powerful seated vocal, and collapses in confused laughter when Blake Shelton declares another act's soulful singing has him feeling some kind of way.
Talk about a brutal week of competition on “The Voice,” with only four of them earning a guaranteed spot into next week’s finale -- with the other four having to fight again Tuesday for that last position.
It’s going to be a five-person season finale this year, but for that fifth position, it’s going to be a four-way Instant Save battle for the ages. That’s because everyone at this point is so talented, we’re guaranteed heartbreak no matter what happens.
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Tonight, we got two chances to see each of the artists perform, though Carson Daly tried to tell us only their solo round counts in the competition. Yeah, try telling that to the voters. You know they’re factoring in those ‘90s-themed duets.
The solo round was filled with one great performance after another, but we cannot say the same for the duets. In fact, we’d go so far as to say two of them are borderline disasters, from terrible song choices that don’t fit the artists to artists mismatched so badly they don't fit one another, either.
Thankfully, there were only four duets throughout the night, with most of them coming from members of the same team. The only cross match came because Ariana is down to one artist left, while Blake has three. Thus, Jim & Sasha got to pair up with one of Blake’s acts.
It was a tough week for Ariana Grande, who got emotionally destroyed by Wendy Moten’s seated performance with casts on both arms, and then hilariously disturbed later when Blake Shelton declared that despite his marriage, Paris Winningham’s soulful vocal had him feeling some kind of way.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton. And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first in each round so we can see who emerges as my Top 5 -- and then see if you get it right, i.e. agree with me.
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Jim & Sasha Allen [Team Ariana]
(“Mrs. Robinson,” Simon & Garfunkel - 57/19, Newtown, CT) Ariana was right in that it was good seeing Sasha join Jim on guitar, but we’re not sure we were sold on him running down to Ariana herself to get said guitar. It just seemed a very odd thing to do. Vocally, though, the duo were on point with some stunning harmonies right up there competing with the original. It was a sincere and straightforward cover of a classic tune, but there’s such a sweetness in their delivery, it may prove enough.
Lana Scott [Team Blake]
(“Something in the Water,” Carrie Underwood - 29, Chesapeake, VA) With a voice thinner and more nasally than Carrie, Lana certainly brought a different vibe to this piece. Carrie really belts on this with the full richness of her voice, but that’s not Lana’s sound. She proved she can hit the notes and carry the passion, but it was an odd vocal fit at times still for us. It was good to see her pushing herself in a new direction, and her take on “Amazing Grace” actually worked quite well. We’re sure she ultimately did enough, but it was a little uneven in places for us.
Wendy Moten [Team Blake]
(“You’re All I Need to Get By,” Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - 57, Memphis, TN) Wendy is a powerhouse vocalist, but there was something missing in this for us. She started off as a front-runner, but she’s been fadiing for us and it has to do with connection. We’re just not really feeling anything from her in these past few weeks, and tonight was no different. She did all the things she needed to do vocally to really blow us away, and we found ourselves technically impressed, but there was nothing even behind her eyes. When everyone is good, as is the case now, it’s these other factors that make the difference. Wendy can still do things no one else can do, but is she connecting enough to get viewers to pick up their phones?
Girl Named Tom [Team Kelly]
(“River,” Joni Mitchell - 20-26, Pettisville, OH) There was only one moment where all three harmonies didn’t quite work (Bekah was a little too high), but this was otherwise an incredible vocal performance from all three of them. Remarkably, they each managed to have multiple solo moments and were stellar in each of them, while still leaning hard into the harmonies that got them that four-chair turn. They remain a sentimental favorite for fans and Coaches, and their talent certainly backs up that love. Things are tight, but it’s hard to imagine a finale without them.
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Joshua Vacanti [Team Legend]
(“Ashes,” Céline Dion - 28, Lockport, NY) One of the most unique artists to ever participate on one of these shows, it’s so hard to pinpoint what lane Joshua is in. The theatricality was toned down, inasmuch as it was inherent in the song somewhat, but his voice still manages to soar beautifully. He has effortless range and such richness and texture with what he does, it’s as if his voice is a balm that soothes whatever might be ailing you. So far, America has embraced his unique qualities, and there is precedent for unique artists doing very well. Was this enough?
Paris Winningham [Team Blake]
(“Close the Door,” Teddy Pendergrass - 33, Jacksonville, FL) A throwback classic, Paris was having so much fun on this one, we found ourselves tapping along with his rhythm. Add to that the power of his voice, those subtle dance moves, his range, his playfulness with the band and this may have been his most overall entertaining performance of the season. On top of that, he was in fine voice with all that depth and strength coupled with a sweetness. His voice was butter tonight and he was definitely bringing the sexy from his look to his sound to everything.
Jershika Maple [Team Legend]
(“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” Elton John - 25, Killeen, TX) John threw out the idea that Jershika could take this track to church, and she brought us all along with her. She even had a backing choir as the piece moved along. It was faithful to the original, but injected with so much heart and passion and power, it felt almost like a whole new song at times. She also managed to get her signature grit in there for a few powerful moments, creating even bigger and more exciting notes than the ones she was otherwise delivering. She seems to just get stronger and stronger every week, emerging as a world-class vocalist already at this point.
Hailey Mia [Team Kelly]
(“Someone You Loved,” Lewis Capaldi - 14, Clifton, NJ) About halfway through this performance, Hailey finally got the mic volume level she deserved throughout. At the top, we had to strain a bit to make her voice out over the strings and it’s a shame because she was killing this performance. Every nuance throughout was a masterstroke. The texture in her voice, the pain she injected into it, the pureness of her heart shining through, we could feel that young ache that burns so bright in how she presented it. And her range is absolutely ridiculous, with control and power she should not have at this age. Even taking that factor out, she is incredible.
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ROUND 2: ‘90S DUETS
Lana Scott + Jim & Sasha Allen
(“Hold My Hand,” Hootie & The Blowfish) A vocal mismatch and a song mismatch, the only part of this we were really digging was when they performed their harmonies, and even then Lana’s voice was a bit of an outlier. On their solo portions, none of them really came through with strength. We were surprised that Jim didn’t find the pocket of this one at all. Sasha was probably the closest in bringing that rock edge, while Lana went in and out of it having good moments and others that didn’t work at all.
Jershika Maple + Joshua Vacanti
(“Hand in My Pocket,” Alanis Morissette) With Alanis on Broadway, this seemingly odd vocal pairing with her grunge classic worked a little better than it looked on paper. We say a little, because it was still a little strange; particularly with Joshua’s theatrical delivery. Jershika at least has that gravel in her voice to bring it home, and we loved that she was able to perform the harmonica solo, as well. Even though it wasn’t a battle, she definitely felt more at home on this one, and they both belted beautifully. Ultimately, it was a bizarre, bonkers moment that we’re still not quite sure about. The sheer fun they had in channeling the decade throughout was a blast.
Girl Named Tom + Hailey Mia
(“Hold On,” Wilson Phillips) This should have probably been saved for the last number of the night because how much fun was that? Hailey slipped seamlessly into those tight GNT harmonies, and actually outsung all of them on the solo portions. Ultimately, though, this is a song built on harmony and all four of them were stellar in maneuvering through the rapid-fire lyrics without losing that sense of hope and optimism. You couldn’t help but smile through this one.
Paris Winningham + Wendy Moten
(“Change the World,” Eric Clapton) Wendy had a surprisingly shaky moment with an early run falling off key, but it was only a small one and did little to take from how incredibly seasoned they both sounded throughout this powerhouse routine. We were mesmerized in the early parts when they were just kicking and their voices matched, like two singers sitting on stools in the corner of a coffee shop. They had us mesmerized already with just how chill they were, and then they went for it in the closing bars and took the roof off of the place. With two of the biggest voices in the competition, it’s not a surprise by any means, but it’s still amazing to watch.
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This whole week has us a mess, as this is definitely the most impossible week to predict what will happen. Only half of these artists are going to advance automatically, with the other four fighting for that fifth and final slot in next week’s finale.
We could simply go with who brought it the best, but that might be too simple. You also have to consider the musical tastes of the viewing audience. Lana is the only country artist, while we have multiple soul and R&B artists. Are the latter going to cannibalize one another’s votes, propelling Lana forward?
Will the groups hurt one another with their similarities as harmony-driven performers? If we look at artists in their own lanes, you have Lana, Hailey and Joshua. Jershika and Wendy, as female soul singers could hurt one another, but at the same time, Jershika has more of a current edgy energy while Wendy has a throwback vibe. But could that then hurt her and Paris, who occupies a similar lane?
Ultimately, if we had to pick the four that will go through automatically, we have a feeling it’ll be good news for Girl Named Tom, Joshua Vacanti, Hailey Mia and Paris Winningham. As for that fifth and final slot, a lot will have to do with how they perform tomorrow night, but we wouldn’t count Jershika out.
If we’re wrong, we might swap out Wendy for Jershika, but we really feel like Jershika has been rising as the weeks have progressed, while Wendy has remained stable, and therefore more forgettable (despite her great talent).
If Lana can pull out an incredible Instant Save performance, she could upset both of them as Blake does have a sizable following and she’s their only option at this point. She wasn’t great tonight, so she shouldn’t get an automatic pass, but crazier things have happened.
“The Voice” continues Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.