Song-by-song grades for the Top 12 on The Voice
Can Jacquie Lee, Matthew Schuler, James Wolpert and Tessanne Chin repeat last week’s brilliant performances?
Can Kat Robichaud and Josh Logan redeem themselves after an off week?
Will Ray Boudreaux and Will Champlin justify their coaches’ decisions to save them last week?
We’ll find out the answers to all those questions to one degree or another over the next two hours as the Top 12 on The Voice take the stage.
1. Caroline Pennell (Team Cee Lo): One of two teens left in the competition, Caroline has established herself as a fan favorite and did it again last week. Her version of “We’re Going to be Friends” landed at number 12 on iTunes, best from night two of the live round. Caroline lists the Beatles, Regina Spektor and Florence and the Machine as among her biggest musical influences.
Cee Lo tells us Caroline established herself as the contestant to beat, but he wants her to show her versatility. So he has her singing “Wake Me Up,” a little more up-tempo than what we’ve heard from the teen to this point. And Caroline sounds fine right out of the box. She’s certainly a contestant who can survive singing first on a two-hour show. Quite a bit of pressure for such a young contestant, but Caroline doesn’t seem fazed by it. Her voice did crack — unintentionally I’m pretty sure — at a couple of points. And she seemed to lose her breath near the end. But I expect her to breeze into the Top 10. Grade: B-
2. Josh Logan (Team Christina): The 33-year-old from Manchester, N.H., is the senior member of the Top 12 and needed a save from Christina to survive last week. His version of “Crazy” was sitting at 118 on iTunes when voting ended. During the most recent Voice video, he says Stevie Wonder is his biggest influence, but adds that he loves the music of Otis Redding and was also inspired by grunge rock bands during his earlier days.
Christina says it’s time for Josh to regroup, scale back and make a connection with the audience. So she has him singing the oft-performed “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Well, Josh took a less complex approach to that performance. He sounded fine, from start to finish. But did he do enough, performing second, to be remembered by the end of the night? Was that the song to provide him the moment he needed after needing a save to advance last week? I’m not sure. Josh might find himself hoping for that instant save tomorrow night. Grade: C+
3. James Wolpert (Team Adam) The 22-year-old from Lancaster is coming off the most successful performance from the live round, a version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” that cracked the Top 10 on iTunes singles chart and was sitting atop Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry on the pop chart when voting ended. James lists Jack White and Freddie Mercury of Queen as his biggest musical influences.
Adam is taking James from acoustic to rock, asking him to sing The Killers’ “Mr. Bright Side.” This is the kind of song choice that could pay off big if James can pull it off. And he’s starting off very well. And he just nailed that big note on “control.” Now he’s wading out into the crowd like a rock star — a very well-dressed rock star, of course. Dang, did you see the way he worked the stage? That’s more flair than we’ve seen from James so far this season. Well, that was the performance of the night. Of course, we’re only three in. Adam calls it a “controlled and blistering performance” and says James “turned into a rock star in front of our eyes.” Grade: A-
4. Austin Jenckes (Team Blake): The 25-year-old from Duvall, Wash., turned in another heartfelt performance with “She Talks to Angels” in the live round and was voted into the Top 12. The song wound up being fans’ fourth favorite from the first night of the lives, checking in at number 35 on iTunes when voting ended. Austin says an Atlanta-based band called Meet the Breeze is among the artists he appreciates, saying he appreciates a different type of folk and soul music than most.
This week, Blake wants to show Austin can cross over into country music. So he’s giving him Travis Tritt’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” Blake’s strategy: If Austin pulls it off, he’ll gain lots of country fans, a strategy that has worked for Blake’s contestants in the past. Remember Cassadee Pope? Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is going to work out quite as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Austin’s vocal. I’m just not sure I really liked this match of singer and song given some of Austin’s previous performances. But he gets great comments from the judges, including praise for that big note he hit near the end of the song. Grade: C+
5. Jacquie Lee (Team Christina): At 16, she’s the youngest of the Top 12. She’s also coming off one of the best performances, a rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” that closed last Tuesday’s show, earned her a fan vote into tonight’s show and wound up as the second most favorite song of the night on iTunes. Influences: She lists Bob Marley, Drake and Lil’ Wayne and laughs that folks will be surprised by those choices.
This week, Christina wants Jacquie Lee to show she can be current and relevant on the charts today. She’s giving her “Love is Blindness.” This song might be a bit mature for Jacquie Lee, and she starts off a little slow. But when this gal hits the big chorus and that voice soars … dang. It’s just remarkable to hear that big voice come out that adorable young teen. Her stage presence at age 16 is pretty remarkable, too. Not sure that quite matched last week, but it should certainly be good enough to get her into the Top 10. Christina is convinced she and Jacquie Lee can win it all. The other coaches sound pretty convinced, too. Grade: B+
6. Ray Boudreaux (Team Blake): The 25-year-old from Lafayette, La., needed a save from Blake Shelton to survive the round of 20, but his studio version of “Home” did well on iTunes, landing at number 37 overall when voting came to a close. Ray says he was raised on Louisiana “swamp pop” and that his music has also been influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding.
Blake says he’s still convinced Ray can win the competition. He just needs to show off his softer side and sing about love. So he’ll have him sing John Legend’s “All of Me.” Blake says he just needs to find the confidence to pull it off. Hey, I like this song on Ray. Very nice opening. Not sure I loved the ending as much as the beginning. But Blake thinks he and Ray are onto something and they should keep serving up performances like that one. Christina points out that Ray’s pitch fell a bit shy of perfect in a couple of key moments. Yep. Grade: C
7. Kat Robichaud (Team Cee Lo): The 29-year-old rocker from Raleigh, N.C., has repeatedly expressed her love of glam rock, so it’s no surprise that she lists David Bowie and Queen as her biggest musical influences. Vocally, Kat says she’s inspired by Pink. Kat needed a save from Cee Lo to make the Top 12. Her version of “She Keeps Me Warm” landed at 131 on iTunes, worst among contestants who advanced from night two of the live round.
Cee Lo says he thinks Kat is the total package. After a softer performance last week, Cee Lo and Kat have decided to give fans what they want — all out rocker Kat. So she’ll be performing “Sail.” Oh, my, Kat goes crowd surfing, and doesn’t miss a beat. OK, that’s a Voice first. And that was certainly much more of what we’d expect from Kat than what we witnessed last week. Not sure that song choice was my favorite. It’ll be interesting to see how the public reacts to that. Grade: B–
8. Jonny Gray (Team Cee Lo): The 29-year-old from Austin, Texas, made the Top 12 on fan voting. His version of “Bittersweet Symphony” was sitting at number 116 among iTunes’ top 200 when voting ended. In the most recent Voice video, Jonny lists the Beatles and Dave Matthews as his biggest musical influences, saying Dave Matthews “is the reason I play acoustic guitar.”
Cee Lo doesn’t want Jonny to be predictable, so he’ll have him sing Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise.” He also wants him to make a connection with the audience. Surprised they didn’t pick something patriotic for Veterans Day. Jonny is back on acoustic guitar for this performance. After a very nice opening, Jonny seemed to waver a little the first time through the chorus. Like Jonny’s tone, but not sure that matched up to some of the vocal fireworks we’ve seen tonight. Adam compliments Jonny for not letting a few technical flaws early in the performance throw him off. Grade: C+
Tessanne Chin (Team Adam): The 28-year-old from Kingston, Jamaica, continued a string of strong performances in the live round, when her version of “Many Rivers to Cross” cracked the top 30 on iTunes. Tessanne sailed into the Top 12 on fan voting. She says her mom is her biggest musical influence because she’s the first person she heard sing. Lately, she says she’s been fascinated by the music of Emeli Sande.
Adam has Tessanne singing Emeli Sande “My Kind of Love.” Adam calls Tessanne’s voice other-wordly, comparing her with the likes of Christina Aguilera. Tessanne says she’s dedicating it to her husband, who was her best friend before he became her husband. Tessanne’s connection to the song is undeniable. On a couple of occasions, she seemed to go a tiny bit sharp, but she also displayed a huge voice and great range that should help her sail right into the Top 10. She also hit one heck of a glory note there at the end. And Adam makes a good point, complimenting the fact that Tessanne’s performance seemed a little more raw and emotional this week. Grade: B
Matthew Schuler (Team Christina): The 20-year-old from West Chester University has been one of the most consistently outstanding contestants through four rounds and did it again last week, singing Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” The song was the week’s third most popular on iTunes. He made the Top 12 on fan votes. Matthew says he grew up on gospel and R&B soul music, but also considers alternative rock and indie rock bands like Radiohead as key influences.
Matthew is going to pay tribute to his gospel roots this week. So Christina has Matthew singing “Hallelujah.” Yep, an oft-done singing show song that has worked brilliantly more than once. Christina says Matthew “is all heart. All he has to do is apply his own truth to it.” Matthew sure looks sharp for the occasion. And he turned in a simply beautiful and simple rendition of the song that was very well received by the audience. Again, Matthew is another of tonight’s singers who will breeze into the Top 10. Not sure it was technically perfect, but there was no doubting Matthew’s connection to the song. Or those brilliant glory notes. Grade: B+
Cole Vosbury (Team Blake): Yep, 22-year-old from Shreveport who sang “Movin’ On Up” for his audition is still around. In fact, he sailed into the Top 12 on fan voting after singing “Maggie May” and hitting the top 40 on iTunes overall last week. Cole says his biggest influences are country music stars Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw. He also describes himself as “a huge fan” of the Eagles.
Blake wants Cole to show he can put his stamp on any kind of song. So he’ll serve up Miguel’s “Adorn.” Cole says if he can’t pull it off it might be the end of the road, but he’s confident he can surprise some people. Blake convinces him to put aside the guitar for this performance. Thirty seconds in, I’m not sure any of this was a good idea. Is Blake trying to throw the competition? On a night of sparking performances, this isn’t going to compare well, though Cole pulled off a very nice ending on that number. Blake’s convinced it went very well, saying every time Cole performs is like “he brought a gun to a knife fight.” Grade: C
Will Champlin (Team Adam): The 30-year-old from Reseda, Calif., ranks as the surprise member of the Top 12 because he’s needed saves to survive the last three rounds and got the third last week, when Adam chose him over Grey and Preston Pohl. But Will’s version of “Secrets” last week was fans’ third favorite on iTunes among the songs performed on the first night of the live shows. He lists the Rolling Stones and Leon Russell among his influences.
Interesting. The thrice-saved Will gets to close the show, which tells us The Voice believes he can deliver something special tonight. He’ll sing “Demons,” drawing on the frustrations he’s experienced in the music industry to this point. OK, pretty early on, it becomes apparent that this will be the best Will Champlin performance to date. Yep, pretty darn pitch perfect, from beginning to end, with some nice performance flair thrown in for good measure. Add Will to a long list of contestants who should be safe tomorrow night because they were so, so solid tonight. Excellent show closer. Grade: B