The Voice’s Top 10 return to the stage tonight.
And, after a week in which everyone performed quite well, it’s tough to tell who’s on the hot seat.
Sure, Matthew Schuler, Jacquie Lee and Caroline Pennell might be able to survive an off week.
I doubt it. As it all plays out, I’ll be providing song by song grades as usual.
We open the night with the Top 10 singing “Just Say It.” And, hey, this is coming off better than most of the group numbers this season.
Very nice, high energy way to open the show.
And we just found out tonight’s first two performers will be Austin Jenckes and Jacquie Lee.
Austin Jenckes (Team Blake): Fans might not have liked Austin singing country — his version of “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” placed last among the Top 10 on iTunes — but they like the 25-year-old from Duvall, Wash., enough to vote him into this week’s show. He had done much better than the week before when his rendition of “She Talks to Angels” finished at 37 on iTunes, 71 spots better.
Oh, no, Blake says it’s time for Austin to shock people. Sometimes attempts to shock fizzle. So he has him performing “Your Love” by The Outfield, saying he wants Austin to deliver a breakthrough performance. Nice rasp to open the song. And I can pretty much guarantee this is going to be better than last week’s goin’ country effort. Austin also seems to be showing a touch more restraint in the early part of the performance. This song is turning out to be a very nice fit for Austin’s voice. And I like how he waited until the last 30 seconds or so to let go with that booming voice of his. Very nice start. Opening the show is a tough chore. Austin did it well. Grade: B
Jacquie Lee (Team Christina): The 16-year-old from Colt’s Neck, N.J., had the second-most-successful song on iTunes last week with “Love is Blindness.” During night two of the Top 20 round, she also wound up second on iTunes with “I Put a Spell On You.”
OK, so Christina’s coaching includes doing yoga. And they’ve decided to slow it down this week and have Jacquie Lee sing “Clarity” so she can show her vulnerable side. This will be interesting, because belting has been Jacquie’s specialty to date. They have her perched on a piano for the start of the performance. Not sure about this. It’s a little bit like declawing a tiger. Jacquie went sharp a couple of times on the first run through the chorus. The second time through went much smoother. And she got a full chorus to back her for that ending. Christina calls it “lovely” and “gorgeous.” Cee Lo and Blake picked up on the same thing, the opening was just a wee bit rough. Grade: C+
Will Champlin (Team Adam): Did you know Will is one of just four Voice artists to chart in the Top 200 on iTunes’ overall download chart each of the last three weeks? Hey, maybe Adam knew something when he kept the 30-year-old Californian over Preston Pohl a couple of weeks ago. Will closed last week’s show with “Demons” and landed at number 36 on iTunes; the week before, he actually did two spots better with “Secrets.”
Adam will have Will sing a relatively new song, John Newman’s “Love Me Again.” Will says the song is a good match for his voice; Adam says he’s hoping Will can help break the song in in the U.S. Give Adam this: He’s probably the best on this show at picking songs for his singers. And he’s picked a winner for Will. Nice catchy chorus. Now we throw in a little Cee Lo-like fire in the background. And Will gets to stroll out from behind his piano and rock out. Adam compliments Will for hanging in there despite being passed around in the competition (he was saved three times). Christina says he came into his own during that performance. Grade: B
Caroline Pennell (Team Cee Lo): Singing more up-tempo and first on a two-hour show, Caroline had her least successful performance in a while last Monday. “Wake Me Up” was 44 on iTunes when voting ended, the night’s sixth best. Her previous two songs — “The Way I Am” and “We’re Going to be Friends” — were the most successful among Voice singers who performed on the same night.
Now, the second-youngest contestant on the show, the 17-year-old from Saddle River, N.J. Hmm, she’ll be singing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” The song is Caroline’s pick. She says it’s a song she’s been singing for a long time. Hmm. Don’t love this song with Caroline. The whole thing came off as a little sleepy. That said, Caroline’s fans will likely like it a whole lot more than I did. Cee Lo sounds like he knows she’s capable of doing bigger and better. Adam, however, calls it a great performance because Caroline related it to her personal journey on The Voice. Grade: C+
Cole Vosbury (Team Blake): Cole is another one of just four Voice artists to chart in the Top 200 on iTunes’ overall download chart each of the last three weeks. He had the best-charting song (“Let Her Go”) during the knockout round, the sixth best on night one during the Top 20 show and the third best last week, when he pulled a bit of a surprise by performing the R&B song “Adorn.”
Cole is going to sing “To Be With You.” Blake calls it the perfect move for Cole at this point. Whoa! What happened there at that opening? Sounded like Cole dropped a couple of lines worth of lyrics while the background singers carried the song. And he seems to be doing more mumbling than singing. Interesting ending was probably the best part of the performance. Blake is standing at the end, though, apparently quite pleased with the performance and says Cole should make everyone smile. Well, everyone except Adam who says he’s still upset Cole didn’t join his team. To me, something seems out of sync. Either Cole or the background singers. Grade: C
Tessanne Chin (Team Adam): Vocally, Tessanne has been consistently strong. But her performances have been hit and miss with fans. Her knockout round song failed to crack the iTunes Top 200. The next week, her rendition of “Many Rivers to Cross” was the second favorite on night one of the live round. And, last week, her song finished eighth among the 10 contestants still on the show.
Adam says the goal for Tessanne is to establish an even closer connection to the audience. He’s giving her a powerful soul song, her first in the competition, “If I Were Your Woman.” Sometimes Voice singers are overpowered by the backing music. You never have to worry about that with Tessanne. Adam said the goal was to build over the course of the song, and Teesanne is doing that, delivering some pretty remarkable vocal moments along the way. Not to mention that fabulous glory note at the end. I’m not sure the song will be a fan favorite at the end of the night, but that was certainly the best vocal moment of the night so far. Adam said that performance solidified her presence as a major contender in Season 5. Grade: A-
Ray Boudreaux (Team Blake): The 25-year-old from Lafayette, La., has certainly been consistent in terms of chart success since the live competition began. His version of “Home” was the fifth best on the first night of the live rounds. His version of “All of Me” was fifth best among the top 12. Last week, he landed at 37 on iTunes Top 200; the week before, he landed at 38.
Ray is going to sing “You Are the Best Thing.” Blake says he wants it to come off like you’re at a concert down in Louisiana. Blake’s key advice — make sure people can make out the words through that swamp pop accent. Ray’s getting the backing of a six-piece horn section. And he’s delivering another fine vocal. Tough following Tessanne and those vocal fireworks. And I’m not sure the song will turn out to be a fan favorite. But if not, it won’t be because of anything Ray did wrong vocally. Blake calls it “awesome,” which might be a bit of an overstatement. Grade: B-
James Wolpert (Team Adam): A week after besting everyone on iTunes with an acoustic cover of a Joni Mitchell tune, the 22-year-old from Lancaster turned rocker last week. His performance of “Mr. Brightside” drew praise from the coaches and landed a decent 58th on iTunes; but only three songs from last week’s show landed lower, and two belonged to since-departed contestants — Josh Logan and Jonny Gray.
Adam is going to have James sing another intimate song — “Without You” — likely hoping to recapture the magic from the Joni Mitchell performance two weeks ago. And James sure starts off well. Talk about a crystal clear on-spot vocal. Unfortunately, the song veers a bit toward oversinging when James launches into the chorus, then seems to go slightly off course on the final chorus. But, wow, James delivered it with undeniable passion. It’ll be interesting to see if fans excuse the minor vocal missteps. Adam says James is blowing his mind with every performance. Christina likes James look, but also notes that his pitch strayed slightly near the end of the song. Grade: B-
Kat Robichaud (Team Cee Lo): OK, you have to figure Kat is on the hot seat. In spite of an impressive version of “Sail” last week, she needed the first-ever instant save to survive. Her downfall might have come a week earlier, when “She Keeps Me Warm” landed eighth among 10 songs performed on the second night of the Top 20 round.
Cee Lo says the goal is to let Kat be the rocker she is this week. She’ll sing “We Belong to the Night” by Pat Benetar. And Cee Lo is arranging a stage show because he says he never wants to see Kat in the bottom three again. She starts out at the piano, sounding very good. Interesting outfit. She has a whole host of masked dancers swarming around her. Kat’s vocal is sounding more vulnerable than normal. Very nice though. And now they lift her to the piano. And, hey, nice ending from Kat, changing up the original in an very interesting way. On a night when some of the other ladies stumbled slightly, Kat did a very nice job. Adam calls it “incredible” and calls the song choice perfect for her. Grade: B+
Matthew Schuler (Team Christina): The 20-year-old from West Chester University scored an iTunes hit with “Hallelujah,” which reached number two on iTunes’ overall chart, the best yet by a Voice artist in Season 5. The week before, his version of “Wrecking Ball” was the third most successful on iTunes of 10 night-two performances during the live playoffs. And he was one of only four contestants to chart in the Top 200 during the knockout round.
Last week, Christina served up a moment with her song choice. This week, Matthew gets to close the show. I think The Voice has found its favorite. This week, he’ll deliver a love song — “Beneath, Your Beautiful.” Actually, a bit of a rough opening, partly because the backing music is drowning out Matthew. But Matthew steps out of the music’s shadow when he hits the chorus. And he delivers the rest of the song in glorious fashion, complete with a really nice glory note there near the end. Prediction: That will be the hit song on iTunes tomorrow. You can pretty much tell by the crowd reaction. Matthew is nearly in tears, and Christina can’t get in her critique because the crowd is going so wild. Adam calls it “no less than amazing.” Grade: A-