After a dramatic week of performances and voting, “The Voice” Season 8 top 12 took the stage to sing in the live show. It was a night of intense competition as the finalists sang their hearts out to be one of the 10 to stick around next week.
Now that we’re at a new stage in the competition, it was time to bring in a new celebrity judge. Many of the top 12 contestants had a mini fan freak-out when they saw they’d be taken under the wing of veteran recording artist Reba McEntire. Together they arranged some of the best songs of the 2015 season. To help America vote, below is a breakdown of each performance.
Hannah Kirby (Team Blake)
Song: “Edge of 17” by Stevie Nicks
Kirby performed first, which was a strong choice because she set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the two-hour show. Her coach picked the perfect song for her strong voice and powerful stage presence. Every time she has performed in this competition, the coaches have commented on how she commands the stage with her attitude and borderline odd dance moves. Tonight was no exception as she was given a bit more stage time and production value now that she’s in the top 12. Although her performance is always her biggest asset, both Adam Levine and Blake Shelton commented on her voice tonight as well. The Stevie Nicks song put her vocals on full display and the audience liked what they heard. Overall, Kirby is one of the best performers that the competition has so far, and if she keeps picking songs that play to her voice’s strength, there’s no reason to not see her in the top 10 and beyond.
Brian Johnson (Team Adam)
Song: “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” by Sting
Rattled last week by some negative feedback online, Johnson returned to the stage as a top 12 performer with something to prove. He sang like an artist who was on the stage to take risks with brazen confidence. His song was good for him as it didn’t stretch his voice beyond its limits, allowing him to just focus on owning the stage. He took a few vocal gambles that were a pretty obvious attempt to shut down his haters. Despite a few rocky moments and some runs that weren’t as powerful as they could be, Johnson conquered the song and proved once again that he’s capable of improving his work. Even at this late stage in the competition he seems to be innovating. In the end, he wasn’t the best performer of the night, but he wasn’t the worst either.
India Carney (Team Xtina)
Song: “Take Me To Church” by Hozier
OK, Carney has the best voice in the competition. The show is called “The Voice” and if we’re judging based on singing talent alone, this young lady should just win right now. However, performance on stage is also a factor … for which she should also just win the show right now. The pop singer took a risk at a late stage in the competition by taking on a rock song. Still, you have to respect such a bold gamble so late in the game -- especially when it goes so well. Not only did she adapt to a gritty darkness that the song demands, but she did it with more passion and showmanship than anyone else in the competition could have. She’s by far the best contender to win it all this year, but there’s still stiff competition.
Mia Z (Team Pharrell)
Song: “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones
After breaking out of her shell last week, it was disappointing to see this singer underwhelm in the top 12. Now, it’s important to note that there is a drastic difference between an underwhelming performance and a bad one. Mia Z proved during the top 20 sing-off that she’s capable of some No. 1 contender singing, but this week it felt like she took a step backward. That was a good strategy when she only needed to impress one of four judges, but now she’s got to make America stand up and pay attention.
Deanna Johnson (Team Adam)
Song: “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United
There were technical problems with the microphones all night. It started with Brian Johnson’s static and continued with India Carney’s sharp “s” sounds. Unfortunately, it culminated when Deanna Johnson took the stage and the first few lines of her song were basically inaudible. For a singer who has been battling stage fright throughout the competition, this was all she needed to be undone. She already has a weak stage presence working against her and with her vocals dropping the ball tonight -- whether through her own fault or not -- she simply isn’t giving performances on the caliber of some of her competition. If anyone is an obvious choice to be one of the two going home tomorrow, she’s it.
Sawyer Fredericks (Team Pharrell)
Song: “Imagine” by John Lennon
The 16-year-old singer is nothing short of an enigma. Seeing him perform is like looking at an abstract painting that you know is beautiful but cannot, for the life of you, explain in words. He sings with a folk/Americana rub to his music and arranges some of the most intensely mellow covers in the show’s history. Tonight saw him flounder for the first time when he tried to hit a high note early on and failed. Still, all the coaches were more impressed with this moment than disappointed because the young man managed to sing his way out of the tight spot and pull off an incredible performance.
The only bad thing to say about Fredericks: He’s shown what he can do and there’s still a lot of competition left. He’ll need to pull a rabbit out of his hat and show America something new in the coming weeks if he wants to stay relevant in 2015.
Rob Taylor (Team Xtina)
Song: “I Put A Spell On You” originally performed by Jay Hawkins
The fact that this song has been covered so many times meant that Taylor could unleash his own attitude and personality on it -- which paid off a thousand times over. Taylor is one of the more versatile singers in Season 8 and that allowed him to sing this haunting melody and still make it seem fun and engaging for the rowdy crowd. He even managed to rub some high falsetto on it that got a standing ovation from the judges and a microphone distorting “woo” from his coach Christina Aguilera. Pharrell Williams said it best:
“You made the song yours, and you made the show yours.”
Keep an eye on Taylor because if he keeps this up, he’ll be a force to reckon with in the later rounds, where he’ll definitely appear because there’s no way he’s going home after that.
Corey Kent White (Team Blake)
As always, it’s hard to stack White up against the other singers in the competition since he’s the only country-leaning artist in a sea of pop vocalists and rockers. However, this week it became clear that, thanks to his classic case of the handsomes, White has a following of young voters. Still, his looks aren’t the only thing keeping him in the competition. While he may not be the perfect singer, he’s able to deliver solid performances regularly. In addition, he’s exhibited nothing but improvement in the show so far. His performance tonight was on point and he connected with the song on a deeply emotional level, which showed in his time on stage. Overall, he doesn’t yet deserve to go home, but we’re still waiting for that big moment that tells us he deserves to stay.
Koryn Hawthorne (Team Pharrell)
Song: “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
After having to be saved by her coach last week, Hawthorne came out with a vengeance singing the upbeat Kelly Clarkson hit. In rehearsal, she surprised Pharrell Williams and Reba by giving the band some direction about what she wanted for the song, and it was dead on in the performance. However, the song is fast-paced and while she put on one heck of a show, her vocals seemed rushed and she often lost her breath during the song. There’s a lot of potential in this singer, but she wasn’t at her best tonight.
Joshua Davis (Team Adam)
Song: “America” by Simon and Garfunkel
Davis took a big leap of faith in his coach tonight by abandoning his guitar for the first time on the show. As Reba mentioned, the instrument was becoming a bit like a security blanket and both she and Levine believed that Davis would shine this week on his voice alone. They were right. Davis is one of those singers who, when you see him perform, is really in his element. There’s a genuine smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he navigates the melody with ease. Unfortunately, this week his soft register made the performance a little boring and inaudible at times. Still, he’s one of the most passionate singers in the competition this year, and that’s got to count for at least a spot in the top 10.
Meghan Linsey (Team Blake)
Song: “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town
As always, Linsey relied on her experience and comfort on stage to guide her through her top 12 performance. While some of the other artists on the show had a more show-stopping week, Linsey’s true ace in the hole on Season 8 is her ability to deliver a top-notch performance every time she hits the stage. That kind of consistency is something that should be rewarded. Her rendition of the song was both powerful and entertaining. In a competition where a lot of the key players are feeling out how to be an artist, Linsey is the only one who has overcome all of that earlier in her life on a less grand stage.
Kimberly Nichole (Team Xtina)
Song: “House of the Rising Sun” by Eric Burdon and the Animals
Nichole put on, what can only be described as, a showstopper last week. Having said that, it felt a little emotionally distant and many wanted to see her control the beast that is her voice. This week, she did just that with this impeccable song choice. Odds are good her biggest competition in the show so far is India Carney. The two have an incredible command of the stage and voices that will knock your socks off. Where they differ is in their attitude. If Carney is a Disney princess, then Nichole is the star of a gritty rock 'n' roll biopic. Her intense attitude is unmatched in the competition and her voice is strong enough to take her all the way. Only one, maybe two, of the remaining top 12 are anywhere close to giving her a run for her money.
Voting for “The Voice” top 12 is now live. Tune in tomorrow night at 8 p.m. EDT for the results show.