The Voice

Song by song grades for the Top 8 on The Voice

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TSoul and Jesse Larson are duet partners for The Voice semifinals. (NBC Photo)

TSoul and Jesse Larson are duet partners for The Voice semifinals. (NBC Photo)

Well, I’ve seen the list of song choices for this week, and it includes some real head scratchers. Especially with so much on the line.

Tonight, we have eight singers on Season 12 of The Voice.

Twenty-five hours from now, we’ll have just four.

If you’re new to The Voice’s semifinal format, it works this way: The top three vote-getters from this round automatically make the finals; the bottom two are automatically eliminated. The three in between will sing for Season 12’s final instant save tomorrow night.

The new twist is that the duets count as votes, too. It’s unfair, but, hey, The Voice clearly doesn’t care. You can cast votes for those both through tweets and downloads. But make sure you tweet the proper hashtag. Get the names out of order, and The Voice warns that your vote won’t count.

See also:
Ranking the Top 8 on The Voice
Another questionable twist coming Monday night
Check out the social media leaders among the Top 8
iTunes rankings for the Top 8 on The Voice

And the song by song grades:

1. Hunter Plake (Team Gwen): Hey, nice that we’re re-introduced to Hunter’s wife. He’s performing U2’s “With or Without You.” Okay, this is an interesting twist. Hunter’s calling card in Season 12 has been his unique take on classic songs. Tonight, he’s doing a straight-up cover. Well, as I said in my ranking blog, he’s a contestant who can probably play it safe and still make the finals. But this strategy (and Brennley’s song tonight) is doing nothing to increase my faith in Gwen as a coach. He serves up a solid performance, even if it’s not we expect from Hunter. Grade: B

2. Chris Blue and Vanessa Ferguson: They’ll sing “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. This is a smart pairing, and they’re turning in a really solid performance. Actually, I’m liking Vanessa more on this than Chris, who seems to want to unnecessarily embellish every line he sings. But that was a very nice duet. But this is unbelievable. The Voice shares the Chris, Vanessa duet hashtag, so you can start voting for them now, but not any of the other duet pairings. Grade: B

3. TSoul (Team Blake): He’ll sing “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin. I don’t think TSoul will be voted directly into the finals. But if he can make the top six in the voting, he’ll bring his TSouldier Twitter army into play during the save phase tomorrow night. But, at least to my ears, this vocal isn’t nearly as good as last week when, as Blake said, he probably delivered his best performance of Season 12. Grade: C–

4. Brennley Brown (Team Gwen): This is one of those song choices I don’t understand. The teen will sing “Suds in the Bucket” by Sara Evans. It seems like a throw-away song selection with oh so much at stake. Maybe Brennley’s personality can come to the rescue. Well, she’s trying, but I can barely make out some of the lyrics, and the music was drowning out her voice on the chorus through much of the song. Grade: B–

5. Aliyah Moulden and Hunter Plake: Most of the duet pairings match singers from the same genre. This is the exception. That said, Aliyah stands to benefit big time, because all those Twitter votes for Hunter, a show favorite, are going to count for her too. They’ll sing James Bay’s “Let It Go.” I’m liking Aliyah’s vocal on this better than Hunter’s. I’m a little surprised at that. And their voices do not work very well together, unfortunately. Still, I won’t be surprised it that does well on iTunes. Grade: C

6. Lauren Duski (Team Blake): What I said earlier about head-scratching song choices — that doesn’t include this selection, one of the best of the night. So good, Blake might regret not saving it for the finale. Let’s keep it simple. That was superb. Simply superb. And will likely give Lauren her third bonus-earning single on iTunes. Grade: A

7. Jesse Larson and TSoul: They’ll sing “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder. Nice, upbeat performance. The vocals were fine, if not especially memorable. Of course, Lauren’s performance was a tough act to follow. Liked the dance moves, actually, more than the vocal. Grade: B–

8. Chris Blue (Team Alicia): Yeh, someone shared with Alicia how well Christian/gospel songs do on The Voice. So Chris will be singing “Take Me to the King” to show “the pure side of Chris Blue.” That’s what Alicia needed to do: Give Chris an emotional song and plant him in one spot to show off his great voice. Not sure it was quite as “moving” as The Voice seems to think, but it was one of Chris’ better performances. Grade: B+

9. Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia): Much smarter song choice for Vanessa this week after a rap tune landed her in the bottom three on Top 10 night. Vanessa turns into another fine vocal. It seemed a bit overbaked in a couple of spots, but I think she’s earned a spot in the top six and a chance for a second straight Twitter save tomorrow night. Like TSoul, I don’t think she’ll be voted straight through. Grade: B

10. Brennley Brown and Lauren Duski: Nice song choice for the country duo — “Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon Jennings. Blake must have picked it. Interesting. Lauren takes a bit more of a laid-back attitude toward the performance than Brennley, who is in full country party mode. I actually like Lauren’s take a bit better. All in all, a fun performance. Though I don’t think any of tonight’s duets were great even to merit screwing with The Voice’s voting format. Grade: B

11. Jesse Larson (Team Adam): Congrats to Jesse. He recently learned his wife is pregnant. Meanwhile, I really thought Adam and Jesse should deliver another fun, upbeat performance because of the roll he’s been on. Instead, we get Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong.” Jesse calls it his best fit yet in terms of song choice. Sorry, I miss the fun Jesse. And thought his last two performances — both Top 20 on iTunes — were better than this. Grade: B–

12. Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake): Gee, Aliyah gets the plum duet pairing. Now she gets the pimp spot in the semifinals. Is The Voice trying to get her in the finale? Nah, the show would never make decisions to try to influence the outcome. Absolutely never. She’ll take us to church too, singing MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Look, Aliyah gets a backing chorus and dancers, too. But the vocal isn’t nearly as moving as last week’s, and I have a feeling that’s what Blake was looking for again tonight. Still, he calls her the model Voice contestant because of the growth she’s shown over the course of the season. Grade: C+

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