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The Voice: Season 9, Semi-finals, Team Adam & Team Gwen, 11/9/15

November 10th, 2015 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Two new twists greeted viewers who tuned in for the first night of the semi-finals on The Voice, Season 9, on Monday. First was a very ill-advised idea, having the judges bring back one of their eliminated contestants for a “second chance,” giving each team six semi-finalists. So each judge, having cut one singer, has to explain to that singer how, like a jilted prom date, let’s try again. Such a twist would have made much more sense if the judges could have exercised their option to keep an extra person during the knockouts, instead of waiting until now.

Second twist:  apparently there’s no voting by phone this season, at least for the semi-finals, maybe because of the extra people on each team. People have to (1) go to the NBC Web site and vote or (2) go on Facebook and vote or (3) do the phone app thing.  (I think I listed all options.) There are still a few people in this country who don’t have easy access to a computer or phone app but like to watch singing contests on TV, so it doesn’t seem fair to restrict the vote this way.

Two people from each team will be advanced on the basis of how many votes they got. Then, in the cruelest cut of all, the judges can only keep one of their remaining four singers. It looks like one or more contestants are going to be eliminated twice, thanks to the “second chance” callback twist. Here’s what we saw and heard from Team Adam and Team Gwen on Monday:

1.  Team Adam:  Blaine Mitchell sings INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.” Adam thinks Mitchell’s “powerful, haunting voice” resembles the late Michael Hutchence of INXS. The performance allows Mitchell to break out of his Southern rock style, even though he’s already done some alt-rock this season. “You’ve been de-hillbilly-ed!” Blake wisecracks. Gwen, too, notices the new style, commenting, “That song was perfect for you.”

2.  Team Gwen:  Regina Love sings Adele’s “Hello,” a very contemporary hit that allows this season’s resident powerhouse to break out of her old-school R&B style. Pharrell likes what he hears, commenting, “Moving … a voice that fills the room … you act as you sing.”

3.  Team Adam:  Keith Semple has a charming Irish accent and he can rock the house–but not tonight. He turns in a folksy crowd-pleasing guitar-strumming performance, but this is The Voice. He’s hitting far too many falsetto notes on “To Be With You.” Voice host Carson Daly calls it a classic rock anthem–but people have trouble remembering if it’s from the eighties or the nineties, that’s how “classic” it is. Semple was one of the front-runners but not tonight.

4.  Team Adam:  Shelby Brown, whom Daly calls a 17-year-old Alabama spitfire, sings a seventies’ Linda Ronstadt hit, “You’re no Good.” Adam calls it a perfect match for her–and it would be, if she could sing like Ronstadt, but she can’t. Everywhere Ronstadt showed range, suppleness, or flexibility, Brown doesn’t. Blake notes her voice has a break in it–making us wonder how she ever got a chair to turn–but for the most part, the judges act like they didn’t hear what I did.

5. Team Gwen:  Korin Bukowsky shows a super-emotional quirky little character voice on a very big, very dramatic–but very uninteresting–Sarah McLachlan song. (What is it with song choices tonight?  This trend continues throughout the evening.)

6.  Team Gwen:  Ellie Lawrence is who Gwen called back, like a stood-up prom date. (Maybe the judges knowing they’d get some singers back explains some of their choices these past rounds.) Gwen calls her part punk and part country. She does a song called “Exes and Ohs,” not at all the same song as Trisha Yearwood’s “X’s and O’s.” It shows off her jazzy, bluesy, smoky voice. The judges rave about her. “Your best performance!” exclaims Adam. “My favorite performance of the night!” proclaims Blake.

7.  Team Gwen:  Jeffrey Austin is next, who turns out to be gay–he’s telling Gwen about an old flame that was a “he” not a “she.” Gwen says she wants him to have a Sam Smith vibe.  She gives him “Say You Love Me,” a song co-written by Ed Sheeran, which allows Austin to show his alt-rock side. The result’s a little like taking away Adam Lambert’s glam and replacing it with grit. I’d previously considered Austin more a teen idol type but this is more a mainstream rock performance. The judges are suitably impressed. Adam Levine raves, “You could win this!” Pharrell finds it to be the night’s best performance. Gwen proclaims, perhaps indicating Austin exceeded her expectations, “What was that? You were an artist!”

8.  Team Gwen:  Braiden Sunshine has looked bad because his coach made a poor song selection before, and this night it happens again. Gwen gives the 15-year-old a moldy Bread song, “Everything I Own,” from the seventies, and it’s just too big for him in more ways than one. His voice falters several times.  If the teen and his coach were aiming for soft rock that appeals to teen girls, they missed the mark. Gwen likes the result, of course, but Adam and Blake get critical. “You wanted to do more than the song was doing,” says Adam. “Not an over-the-top performance,” says Blake.

9.  Team Adam: Amy Vachal has one of the night’s breakout performances.  She does the old-school jazz she does so well, putting a feminine take on Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” Blake praises her “perfect crooner voice” afterward. Pharrell adds, “Effortless … the way you sang your way around” the notes. “Watching an artist!” raves Adam, “The best job you could possibly do!”

10. Team Gwen:  Viktor Kiraly indirectly plays up his similarity to George Michael by doing “All Around the World” by Lisa Stanfield, a female vocalist with a similar style. Gwen raves about the result, “It was the whole thing–stage, outfit, moves!” and not just his voice.

11.  Team Adam:  Chance Pena is who Adam chose to call back, of all possibilities. Adam says Pena has a “cool break” in his voice, although I wouldn’t call a break in a voice “cool.” Coach and singer make a weird song choice (“Barton Hollow”) and again we have a song that’s too big for a voice–there’s no there there. Why, oh, why, couldn’t Adam have called back James Dupre–or Cassandra Robertson or–you get the idea.

12.  Team Adam:  Jordan Smith applies his falsetto (like a boy soprano’s voice) to Beyoncé’s “Halo.” He turns in a serious performance that shows he’s not “just” a gimmick. After all, some male vocalists (Wayne Newton) build their careers on super-high voices. The crowd loves it–he gets an ovation that lasts so long, the judges and Daly barely have time to talk before sign-off.

Tonight:  Blake’s six and Pharrell’s six–who’ll get the jilted-date callback tonight? Tonight (Tuesday) we see Team Blake and Team Pharrell and then Wednesday (in competition with Survivor) we get the results.


Tags: The Voice