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The Voice: Season 8, Five Semi-finalists, 5/11/15

May 12th, 2015 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

We’ve heard American Idol is leaving us in 2016, but I know I saw on some Internet stream that The Voice will be leaving us in 2016, too.  Time will tell if that’s true or false, but for now let’s look at the five semi-finalists’ performances of season 8. All the judges are down to one contestant each, except for Pharrell Williams, who has two.  One contestant will be eliminated tonight and four singers will advance to the final round next week.

1-A.  Joshua Davis (Team Adam):  Two throwback folksingers are in the top five, and Adam’s folk-rocker makes an emotional song choice, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a pretty, folksy ballad just right for a tenor with an acoustic guitar. (It’s a bluesy Bonnie Riatt song.) Adam praises the subtlety of it.

1-B.  Koryn Hawthorne (Team Pharrell):  Koryn’s the last contestant whose judge saved her from elimination–the other remaining contestants were all voted into the top twelve. Pharrell provides a strange interpretation of her song selection, U2’s complex multi-layered, “One.” He says it’s about social injustice.  Her performance, however, is more about doing injustice to a song.  Her singing falls so far short of Bono–or anybody else who can sing–it’s pathetic. She’s loud, pitchy, flat in places, and has no range at all. If this performance doesn’t send her home, then the vote tally will be very hard to explain.  However, the judges are hearing something else. “Awesome!” Adam raves, “Fantastic job!” Pharrell sidesteps criticism, instead talking about how inspiring Hawthorne is, which is his usual fallback line.

1-C. Meghan Linsey (Team Blake):  Instead of her usual Southern-fried fare, Blake’s Nashville vet has countrified “I’m not the Only One,” a sultry ballad by gay British alt-rocker Sam Smith. The performance shows both sides of her style–one is subtle, and the other is more powerhouse, more rock-flavored.  Blake says he wanted to, “hand her a song she can power herself through emotionally … heart and soul.” Pharrell acknowledges how far she can stretch herself, with, “You just reminded everyone there are so many genres of music that live in Nashville now.”  Blake sums up, “Meghan is 29 but it’s like she came from a different time, bringing something vintage” to contemporary material.

1-D.  India Carney (Team Christina):  Carney’s major strength is how she can hit big operatic notes without resorting to screaming.  Christina assigns her “Gravity,” saying, “It’s a singer’s song” that needs tenderness and passion. After the performance, Adam says it was “coolest” the way she scaled the beginning back and then let it build. Blake says her softness at the end (after the climax) was the most powerful part.

1-E. Sawyer Fredericks (Team Pharrell):  As this season’s teen phenomenon does so often, Fredericks finds the contemporary relevance in decades-old songs, and tonight it’s the sixties’ protest song, “For What it’s Worth.”  Pharrell finds links to the larger world, talking about how songs like this carry a message forward, how they can help us evolve as a society.  About the performance, Adam says, “I applaud both of you for that song, it sounds current, you did it justice.” Then he keeps interrupting Blake every time the country singer says a word. Blake finally gets out, “Great job, Man!”  Pharrell just encourages the audience to let their applause be the commentary.

For the second half of the show, the singers visit their hometowns, to which they dedicate their second performances.

2-A.  Joshua Davis visits the small town of Traverse City, Michigan, then puts his Springsteen-like voice and a jaunty edge to Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Adam and Blake are half-forgetting about the performances by this point. Blake says he doesn’t know the song. Adam says, “It’s by The Band!” Blake shoots back, “Yeah, I heard the band, they’re great!”

2-B.  Koryn Hawthorne is from a water tower town in Louisiana, and she’s still in high school. She does an Aretha Franklin spiritual, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” which at least suits her style and range more than the U2 song did. However, she’s still loud and pitchy, and so many singers have done church music this season, The Voice is beginning to look a lot like a religious broadcast.  The judges avoid criticizing the performance afterwards. Adam talks about Hawthorne’s “drastic unbelievable journey.” Pharrell talks about God.

2-C.  Meghan Linsey goes back to Nashville, where A-list stars (Big and Rich, Naomi Judd) welcome her. She’s plainly moved up a few levels in the Nashville hierarchy thanks to her time on The Voice. She then puts on her smoky, bluesy barroom style for a Nashville classic, George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey.” Blake tells her afterwards, “I know what just happened.  You just engaged all the Nashville fans.” That base may come through for Team Blake once again, but Linsey’s already achieved what she wanted–the next stage of her career.

2-D.  India Carney attends UCLA, but she’s from New York. Her power is effortless, but she wastes it on “Earth Song,” one more church song on a season already overloaded with them. It’s an inspirational spiritual that comes from deep in the Michael Jackson catalog. She may get the Christian vote but not all music fans are Christians. The judges find her singing to be beautiful, however. Adam says her range of emotions are like a “little mini-musical every time.” Christina agrees, saying, “It’s like watching a storybook unfold before your eyes.” India’s barely squeaked by these past few weeks and she hasn’t dug out of that rut with either of her performances tonight.

2-E.  Sawyer Fredericks returns to his family’s farm outside the village of Coltonville, New York. For his hometown’s dedication, he finds room in his style for something more contemporary and sophisticated.  He takes on Christina Perri’s “1000 Years,” and he makes it sound ready for alternative radio playlists.  After the performance, Adam raves about how Fredericks’ voice can fill any room, anywhere. Blake voices the obvious, “Clearly the front-runner!  You’re the real deal. Congratulations!” Pharrell, the teen’s lucky coach, says the contestant has a generosity that he shares with everybody.

One singer is eliminated tonight, with a Twitter vote saving another one.  Unless somebody’s base is softer than expected, those bottom two are going to be Carney and Hawthorne.

 

 

Tags: The Voice