The Voice

Song by song grades for the Top 12 on The Voice

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The song list for tonight’s show isn’t exactly original.

The good news is that with such a talented cast, The Voice’s Top 12 can pull off just about anything.

My least-favorite song choice of the night is the tune Usher has handed Bria Kelly. Adele? Again? Why?

My favorite is the song selected for Christina Grimmie. Not that she needs a moment to survive this week, but she could score one.

Anyway, it’s time to get down to the song-by-song grades. For my rankings of the Top 12, head here.

Bria Kelly1. Bria Kelly, 18, of Smithfield, Va., sang “Wild Horses” in the Team Usher playoffs. She hit number three on the iTunes’ rock chart and cracked the iTunes’ overall singles chart as well. And we’re starting off with Bria singing “Rolling in the Deep.” Bria promises she’s changed it up so it isn’t a karaoke vocal of the Adele hit. Bria starts off the live shows in great fashion. There were a couple of vocal missteps in the early part of that performance. But it was all forgotten thanks to that blazing ending. She held that one note on “all” forever. Bria admits she was “scared out of her mind” on that song. Adam gives her credit for making the song different. Shakira liked the way Bria turned “fierce.” Blake loved the “rock edge.” One thing: That guitar must be a comfort thing for Bria, because she had it the whole song but barely played it. Grade: A–

Delvin Choice2. Delvin Choice, 24, of Greenville, S.C., sang “Let’s Stay Together” in the Team Adam playoffs and reached number 11 on the iTunes’ R&B chart. Adam Levine has Delvin singing an old classic, “Unchained Melody.” Adam says his vibrato is well suited to this song. Hmm, following Bria to the stage, this could come off as a bit sleepy. And it did, but just a bit. Delvin showed off great range. I was expecting a bit bigger note there at the end. And I’m not sure that he showed the pain Adam was pushing for. But most of that is nitpicking. He did a very nice job with the song. Adam has nothing but praise for Delvin’s performance. So do the other judges, even Blake, who seemed convinced Delvin’s vocals had something to do with his hairstyle. Well, his fans are #TeamLobster, based on his hairstyle from the blind auditions. Grade: B

Dani Moz3. Dani Moz, of Delmar, N.Y., sang “Edge of Glory” in the Team Shakira playoffs and cracked the iTunes overall singles chart and the Top 50 on the site’s pop chart. She’ll sing “Just Give Me a Reason,” hoping to propel her to the next level with the pop-rock tune. Don’t know. I always worry when a signing show contestant tries to sing Pink. Well, the good news is that Dani has one heck of a powerful voice. The bad news is that except for that one huge note she was building toward near the end, that was second-rate Pink. The chorus in particular seemed a bit strained. Shakira says she “did unbelievably well.” Adam suggests it might have lacked a dynamic build-up. It lacked the emotion of “Edge of Glory” and didn’t stray much from the original. Grade: C+

Audra McLaughlin4. Audra McLaughlin, 21, of Philadelphia, sang “A Broken Wing” in the Team Blake playoffs and cracked the Top 150 on the iTunes’ country chart. Hey, I gotta root at least a little for the Pa. girl. Blake has reached way back to pluck “Angel of the Morning” from the Juice Newton songbook. I’m afraid nerves are getting to Audra, though, at least on those opening lines. I was having trouble making her out over the background music. She fortunately found her groove once the chorus kicked in. And the performance was filled with emotion. A couple of big glory notes near the end remind us again that The Voice finals are not short on powerful female singers. Usher calls it wonderful. Blake says she should give up being a medical assistant and focus on music. Grade: B–

T.J. Wilkins4. T.J. Wilkins, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif., sang “Tell Me Something Good” in the Team Usher playoffs. The song hit the Top 50 on the iTunes’ R&B chart the next day. T.J. has decided to sing “Waiting for the World to Change” by John Mayer. This will mark his first crack at a contemporary song. Well, contemporary perhaps, but not exactly current. And T.J. serves up a perfectly serviceable version of the song and shows off his showmanship by working the stage and strolling out into the audience. The performance, however, didn’t include any of the vocal fireworks we’ve seen from every other contestant. Blake calls it “incredible.” Usher calls it a “breakthrough” moment for T.J. Hmm, not so sure I’d go that far. In fact, I wouldn’t. Grade: C.

Christina Grimmie6. Christina Grimmie, 20, of Marleton, N.J., sang “I Won’t Give Up” in the Team Adam playoffs; it wound up being the most successful of the 25 playoff songs, cracking the Top 50 on iTunes and the Top 20 on iTunes pop chart. Her song: “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry. This should be interesting. Blake calls her 100 percent proof that dynamite comes in small packages. Blake calls her the artist to beat on Team Adam. Shakira says she nailed it. Adam says he’s surprised by what she’s capable of. Personally, my favorite part of the performance might have been the happy jig Christina did after nailing the number. Oh, yeah, she pretty much nailed it. I’m surprised she could continue singing after that first big note she held forever. My only complaint: One of two of those notes bordered on shouting. Barring a major stumble, we’ll be seeing Christina in the finals. Oh, and that will likely be the most successful song on iTunes tomorrow. Grade: B+

Sisaundra Lewis7. Sisaundra Lewis, 44, of Orlando, Fla., sang “New York State of Mind” in the Team Blake playoffs and cracked the Top 20 on iTunes’ R&B chart. She’ll sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Blake likes the song choice because it will give Sisaundra a chance to show a little restraint and finesse. Well, perhaps a little more finesse. But that ending was big and bold and incredible and confirmed again that Sisaundra has the best voice on the voice. Adam says he liked the “restraint” most during that performance and the fact that the vocal seemed more controlled. It probably helped that she wasn’t in a battle situation. Get used to performances like those, folks. Sisaundra is another of the contestants who should be in this for the long haul. Usher wonders: “Does it get any better than this?” Grade: A

Kristen Merlin8. Kristen Merlin, 29, of Hanson, Mass., sang “Two Black Cadillacs” in the Team Shakira playoffs. The song hit the Top 70 on the iTunes’ country chart the next day. Talk about a tall order. Kristen gets to follow Christina and Sisaundra — two of the show favorites — to the stage. She’ll sing “Stay,” which is a Sugarland song she has an acoustic cover of on YouTube. Kristen gets to deliver a heartfelt ballad and delivers it very well. Far better than I expected. Then her mic cut out on the live show and we missed several lines of the song before someone rushed on stage to deliver her a new mic. Kristen wins the perseverance award of the evening. In fact, her perseverance earns her a standing ovation from the coaches. Shakira calls it “so heartfelt, so moving.” Honestly, I think we might have been robbed of one of the night’s best performances because of that mic mishap. Grade: B+

Kat Perkins9. Kat Perkins, 33, of Minneapolis, Minn., sang “Open Arms” in the Team Adam playoffs. Her cover hit number one on the iTunes’ rock chart and cracked the Top 125 on iTunes’ overall chart. Kat calls Heart her favorite band, and she’s going to sing “Magic Man.” Kat opens the song amid the audience. And the band starts the song too loud. But Kat delivers a straightforward, fine cover of the song, filled with power vocals. She shows plenty of stage presence, too. Blake just can’t get over that “the rock” star was a nanny. Usher notes that dealing with children can build up a lot of aggression, and it has to come out sometime. He calls Kat’s voice “dope.” Grade: B

Jake Worthington 10. Jake Worthington, 17, of LaPorte, Texas, sang “Anywhere With You” during the Team Blake playoffs and cracked the Top 75 on the iTunes’ country chart. He’ll sing “Anymore” by Travis Tritt. Blake predicts the ladies will love it. Well, Jake delivered one of the most heartfelt performances of the night. The second half of that was fabulous, filled with power I didn’t know Jake had and emotion that was refreshing. The only problem was, the first half wasn’t fabulous, and the first four or five lines were either affected by pitch or nerves. But Shakira is right when she calls him one of the show’s “most endearing” contestants. Blake says Jake nailed it. Grade: B

Tess Boyer11. Tess Boyer, of St. Louis, Mo., sang “Human” in the Team Shakira playoffs and cracked the iTunes overall singles chart and the Top 50 on the site’s pop chart. She’s going to sing “I’ll be There for You” by Bon Jovi, which strikes me as a strange song choice. Of course, Tess was a country singer at one point, and there’s a touch of country in a lot of Bon Jovi songs. OK, Tess showed off a powerful voice. But part of that sounded more like shouting than singing, and I didn’t love the song for her. Still, Blake predicts she’s the artist on Team Shakira to beat. Usher likes the progress she’s made in the competition. And Shakira says she nailed it. If she stays another week, a better song choice would help, Shakira. Grade: C+

Josh Kaufman12. Josh Kaufman, 38, of Indianapolis, Ind., sang “It Will Rain” in the Team Usher playoffs. The song hit the Top 50 on iTunes’ pop chart and the overall singles chart as well. Josh will be singing “Stay With Me.” Check out the staging Josh gets for the night’s final number. Not to mention the assistance of a host of background singers. Personally, I found the background distracting. Which is a shame, because Josh just delivered a really, really nice vocal. Wow, and what range. Vocally, he’s probably the best male in the competition. Adam calls himself “so stupid” for letting Josh leave his team. And Blake calls Josh the guy to beat on Team Usher. Grade: A–


The bottom three: Audra McLaughlin, Dani Moz, T.J. Wilkins

Most successful songs on iTunes: “Dark Horse” by Christina Grimmie; “Stay with Me” by Josh Kaufman

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