“The Voice” is down to just 12 performers in Season 12, but it’s the coaches with something to lose. With two vying for bragging rights and two others hoping to depart the show on a high note, the pressure was on for the performers to make their famous mentors look good.
As the Season 10 competition moves to a free-for-all format, there is no obvious front-runner going into the top 12 performances. Having said that, the stakes have never been higher. Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, who share a bitter rivalry, will return for Season 11. However, Shelton currently holds a single season win over Levine, which the Maroon 5 singer hopes to change this season.
Meanwhile, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera aren’t returning for Season 11. As a result, they’re each hoping to strut off “The Voice” stage with a win under their belt. The question now is: Which of these four celebrity competitors is in the best shape to win?
To help give fans a perspective before they vote ahead of Wednesday’s live results show, below is a rundown of how each of the top 12 performers did in the top 12:
Mary Sarah, Team Blake
“So Small” by Carrie Underwood
She’s the last female country artist left in the competition, and she couldn’t be in better hands. Shelton brought Sarah, who spends her free time volunteering with children with disabilities, to new heights by giving her a Carrie Underwood song that was completely in her wheelhouse. In addition to being the only artist of her style remaining on the show, she benefited from starting the show with a song that was both upbeat and engaging. Overall she opened strong for her team and it was largely indicative of good coaching.
Laith Al-Saadi, Team Adam
“Born Under a Bad Sign” by Albert King
This singer is something special on “The Voice” as classic rock artists don’t typically make it this far in the competition, particularly ones who can take on a blues song like “Born Under a Bad Sign” with such bravado. During rehearsal, Levine instructed him to lean into that originality and show the audience something they’re not expecting. He already benefits from being the only classic rocker in Season 10, but the fact that he’s really good with the genre is just gravy. Levine has been trying to craft a diverse team and Laith was certainly a strong choice to showcase that in the top 12.
Daniel Passino, Team Pharrell
“Human Nature” by Michael Jackson
Last week, Passino showed up as a comeback artist who was previously sent home. Somehow, he made it back into the top 12. As a result, he’s got a level of fearlessness to him. It allowed him to take chances with both his song choice and the arrangement. As if Michael Jackson isn’t difficult enough, this artist arranged a slow acoustic opening that crescendoed beautifully into a pop number that, frankly, no one saw coming. While it was wonderfully done and showcased a lot more talent than some of the other artists of the night, he sounded a little rocky on the big high note that closes out the song. Still, it was one of the more entertaining showings of the night.
Emily Keener, Team Pharrell
“Lilac Wine” by Jeff Buckley
Williams thinks there’s something special in Keener, which is why he used his live save last week to keep her in the competition. She was aware that this week there were no more saves, so her coach needed to showcase that something special on Monday. Her approach was to take a song that was slow and foreboding and use it to force the audience to pay attention to her voice alone, and she performed sublimely. However, she didn’t utilize the grand, often theatrical, stage that is NBC’s “The Voice.” If you heard Keener singing in a bar or restaurant, you’d likely be thrilled, but on “The Voice,” she may need that performance value to stand out.
Nick Hagelin, Team Xtina
“Mine Would Be You” by Blake Shelton
OK, it’s always weird when an artist chooses a song by one of the season’s coaches. It makes the artist look like a teacher’s pet and the coach look like a bit of an egomaniac. However, Aguilera's comeback artist, like Passino, had previously tasted defeat. As a result, he just wanted to utilize his time on the stage the best way he could, so he threw caution to the wind. Playing his own piano, Hagelin proved again that his strength is connecting with an emotional song in a way that the audience can relate to. When it was over, even Shelton joked that he worried people at his concerts would start calling for the Nick Hagelin version of his song.
Adam Wakefield, Team Blake
“Soulshine” by the Allman Brothers
Wakefield was coming from a dark place going into this song, saying that he picked it because it reminded him of hope in a time when he was watching his late brother struggle with drug addiction. However, Shelton instructed him in rehearsal to add a bit more levity to the song once he realized the artist had such a fun and energetic voice. Onstage he sang the song almost flawlessly. As far as artists who are already pretty polished going into the live solo performances, he’s perhaps the best. He took the music and added gospel elements where the blues was making it difficult for him to express himself. With a little help from his coach, he produced a cover that likely won’t go unnoticed on the iTunes charts.
Bryan Bautista, Team Xtina
“Kiss From a Rose” by Seal
Although Bautista required a live save last week, Aguilera believes he is her most fan-beloved artist of Season 10. However, she says he simply needs to connect more with the emotions of his song and engage with his audience. Unfortunately, that seemed to get in the artist’s head and led to a bit of overperforming that looked strained at times. There was a lot of reaching out and touching the crowd’s hands, which always works in an artist’s favor, but his vocals weren’t as strong as they usually are and were by no means better than some of his competitors. In a show with high-caliber talents giving it their all, Bautista seemed to be a weak link in his team’s chain.
Owen Danoff, Team Adam
“7 Years” by Lukas Graham
Originally, Danoff wanted to play the song while strumming his bass guitar. However, Levine advised against it in favor of allowing him to use his whole body and concentrate on the song itself. While that’s typically a bad sign, it seemed to help Danoff’s performance. He rose to meet the Lukas Graham hit's powerful tone, even if his voice had trouble keeping up at times. While it wasn’t the most technically proficient performance of the night, Danoff was one of the more fun people to watch.
Alisan Porter, Team Xtina
“Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato
Despite confessing she was a little shaken by the loss of some great talent last week, Porter decided to take the big leap and take on a really heavy and powerful song. Although some of the competitors who previously intimidated her are gone, she knew she had to use her iTunes-topping performance last week to move to new heights. She took the stage and proved that she’s perhaps the most formidable female vocalist left in the competition. She wasn’t pulling any punches and clearly didn't want to lose her place at the top of the charts. If Porter continues to up her game each week, America may well keep her around.
Paxton Ingram, Team Blake
“Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez
In the past, this artist has relied heavily on performance value to get him through. Hailing from a gospel choir background, he took a different approach by slowing things down this week and forcing the audience to focus on his voice. The play worked and he proved he’s capable of working up a crowd as well as producing a subtle and nuanced performance. Although this week was just about proving a point, the artist now needs to hope he made it in a way that the American voters heard.
Hannah Huston, Team Pharrell
“Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James
This artist has been trying to take a command of her career and her performances for as long as she’s been advancing in the competition. Tonight she proved she’s not only a force to be reckoned with in terms of song choice, arrangement and vocals, but that she’s got what it takes to make it in the music business. Even host Carson Daly had to remind viewers after her stunning performance Monday night that she came to the competition as a preschool teacher from Nebraska.
Shalyah Fearing, Team Adam
“Up to the Mountain” by Kelly Clarkson
This singer captured lightning in a bottle last week with her amazing and powerful performance. However, Levine wanted to prove it wasn’t a one-time thing. In order to do that, he had to boost Fearing’s confidence in a way that allowed her to trust her gut and take creative liberties with the song. Fortunately, the strategy worked and she took the stage for another showstopper to close out the night. Perhaps no singer in the competition can perform such high-caliber songs so effortlessly. Add in the fact that she’s humble through the entire process and you’ve got a potent cocktail that’s likely in a good position to simply rake in America’s votes. Without a doubt, Fearing is among the front-runners to take home the grand prize of Season 10.