The Voice 9 – Live Blog and Recap – Live Semi-Final Performances (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for The Voice 9, “Live Semi-Final Performances”! Coaches Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams pit their teams against each other as we enter the final week of competition before the Season 9 finals!
Last week, Korin Bukowski’s luck came to an end as she went home in 10th place. Braiden Sunshine was saved by America, but will he find himself in danger once again? With a massive FIVE singers going home this week, will we even have a sing-off/Instant Save? The odds are likely that one coach could be knocked out of the competition before this week is over. Or the opposite could be true, as each coach could be represented in next week’s finals! What will happen? Gah, this is going to be madness!
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!
Let’s get this show on the road!
-Let’s go over tonight’s song spoilers!
(Click on the title to download the song on iTunes)
TEAM ADAM LEVINE
TEAM GWEN STEFANI
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON
Sounds like tonight is going to be a mixed bag from some of these choices. I can’t help but feel like Zach and Emily Ann are getting bused by those song choices (especially Zach), while Madi doing a Postmodern Jukebox style take on a song by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sounds like an attempt on trying to move in on Amy Vachal’s territory. On the subject of Amy, I’m not sure this is the time to play it safe. I love “To Make You Feel My Love”, but it’s probably the safest choice she’s had since the Live Play-Offs, and unless she reinvents it in some way, I worry she’ll be lost in the shuffle, leaving us with a quirk result in which she goes home, and some rando gets through in her place. I’m worried about Jordan for the exact same reason. I have no doubt he’ll absolutely slay his song tonight, but I would actually pay money to never have to hear “Somebody To Love” on a talent show ever again. It’s just a tired-ass choice, and I fear it might not entice viewers to purchase the single on iTunes. Granted, nothing is for certain yet, but I’m still concerned, given how pivotal this vote is, and how high the potential is for a shock result. Hell, that’s why I’m utterly baffled about Jeffery’s song choice. Really? “Believe”? Cher? NOW? Even if it was Jeffery’s suggestion, I would have vetoed it if I were Gwen. Yes, that song was a hit, but it was such a product of its time that it’s difficult for it not to sound dated. And when you’re competing against people with pandering song choices like Shelby and Braiden’s, I’m not sure Cher is what you want to bring to the party. In fact, the only person whose song choice I actually like is Barrett’s, since I think he could really have a hit on his hand with a countrified version of “Ghost”. But again, these are just pre-show opinions. Let’s see if any of the artists will leave me eating my own words. I’m sure at least some of them will.
-We open with intros for each of the coaches, as Carson quickly ushers us into the first artist of the evening…
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BARRETT BABER opens the show!
-Barrett talks about his struggle, and the tragedy he’s faced in his life in order to get to this point in his life. Blake says Barrett has flipped plenty of country songs but he’s never made a pop song into a country song. So he’ll be singing “Ghost” by Ella Henderson, and putting his own spin on it. It sounds pretty good, although I worry that if the tempo picks up, and doesn’t remain a stripped back rendition, Barrett’s tackier performing instincts will take over. And I’m not really in the mood for any over-the-top movements tonight.
-This is one of my favorite Barrett vocals, although the goofy performance style didn’t exactly do huge favors for him here. I guess some people love his intensity, and how deeply he gets lost in a song. I mean, I could imagine this is how he dances when no one is watching, so why not bring that to your stage performance? If nothing else, this is the closest it’s ever come to working, as he has a pretty cool breakdown at center stage with the circle of background singers. I’m never going to love the dancing, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t adore Barrett’s voice. This show is off to a great start.
-Pharrell thinks Barrett showed his emotions with purity, and praises him for bulldozing through the performance when his mic went out (I didn’t even notice, honestly). Gwen loves how Barrett shares his talent, and calls it a “really powerful performance.” Adam says he knew Barrett would be here at this stage in the competition, but he would never have predicted how Barrett would be here. He applauds both Barrett and Blake for taking risks. Blake feels so strongly about Barrett’s performance that he’s ready to start planning what they’re going to do for the finale next week. Don’t let hubris take hold, Blake!
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Barrett Baber Sings ‘Ghost’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: SHELBY BROWN is up next!
-Shelby talks about how she’s progressed since the competition began, although she still has some residual nerves, in addition to timing issues with the music. Adam helps boost her confidence by telling her some horror stories of his own nerves, starting out. She’ll be singing “Even God Must Get the Blues” by Jo Dee Messina, which she’s nervous to perform since she’s afraid not a lot of people know it. But she loves the song, and that alone encourages Adam to support her choice, saying she should make America love it too. Let’s see how she does.
-It’s a dependably good vocal from Shelby, but I feel a strange sort of disconnect with this. It’s a good song choice, and it fits her voice like a glove. But I dunno. This just felt a bit like a pageant performance, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a pejorative comparison, except that we’re in the semifinals now. And this simply didn’t feel special. Shelby is incredibly talented, but i feel like she hasn’t really challenged herself or been challenged in any significant way. I like Shelby, but this didn’t do much for me.
-Blake couldn’t spot any timing issues, thinking Shelby sang perfectly. Pharrell also didn’t understand Shelby’s uncertainty, since all he sees is confidence from her. “You did very well, to me,” he tells her. Gwen was expecting more nerves than she saw, noting that Shelby was incredibly calm and also understated. And she loves that part of Shelby’s dynamic. Adam tells Shelby she’s driven him crazy, and she responds that the feeling is mutual, prompting Blake to give her a standing ovation. But Adam wants America to understand that she deserves to be voted through to the finale, particularly after what she accomplished tonight, conquering all her demons and delivering a great performance. I’d be genuinely stunned if Shelby got through, but you never know what could happen. Without the Instant Save, Kristen Merlin would have been in the finale instead of Christina Grimmie back in Season 6 (it was Season 6, wasn’t it?).
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Shelby Brown Sings ‘Even God Must Get the Blues’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM GWEN STEFANI: JEFFERY AUSTIN is up next!
-Jeffery is going to be singing “Believe” by Cher, and he’s terrified of tackling such a massive song, particularly when this week’s cut is such a huge one. Gwen worries that this might be a bit of an overproduced track, but Jeffery is going to be doing a version closer in line to what Ella Henderson did with it for her X Factor audition, as he states he’ll be doing a version that will focus on the lyrics. So less production, far more stripped back. It already sounds great, and Gwen asserts that Jeffery definitely has fans who believe in him. Count me among them. Dude NEEDS to be in the finale.
-Call it sacrilege, but I actually liked this better than Ella Henderson’s version (and LEAGUES more than the original, but that almost goes without saying). I know I’ve called Jordan Smith the American Sam Smith of this season, but with this vocal, it really seems like Jeffery is taking up that mantle. This was a powerful, passionate, versatile performance, paticularly considering how identifiable this song is in its original version. This was a towering accomplishment of which Jeffery should be insanely proud. If this doesn’t chart in the Top 10 on iTunes tomorrow, it’ll be downright criminal.
-While Blake hopes all three of his artists make it in the finale, he also wants Jeffery to make it through. He wouldn’t be surprised if Jeffery’s song is the No. 1 most downloaded track of the week. For her part, Gwen is stunned by what Jeffery just accomplished. I’m stunned that we’re already rushing through critiques on the third performance. Not that I mind. The coaches hardly ever say anything of substance here anyway.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jeffery Austin Stuns With ‘Believe’ Cover on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
-Back from break with Eva Longoria and co-star Jencarlos Canela from Telenovela, which gets a special preview after tonight’s show. I still have no idea why the premiere entire shows and then call it a “preview”, only to get shocked later when viewers don’t tune in later when the show debuts in its regular time slot. If you’re going to premiere a show, just premiere it already. Anyway, Longoria and Canela do a comedy bit where Canela sings “Back at One” by Brian McKnight, only for Longoria to screw it all up with her cringey attempts at singing. Next.
ELLIE GOULDING performs “On My Mind”
-Ellie performs “On My Mind”, and this is exactly as good as it was when she did it earlier this season on The X Factor, and just about everywhere else she’s ever performed it live. I’m kind of amazed I’m not sick of this song yet, considering how it basically dominates the radio in my area. But this is simply a very well-made song that’s hard for me to dislike, even in spite of its ubiquity.
TEAM GWEN STEFANI: BRAIDEN SUNSHINE is up next!
-Braiden breaks down talking about how much Gwen means to him, saying she’s been like a mom, and she’s part of the reason he doesn’t want to go home. He’ll be singing “Amazing Grace” since America saved him last week. Gwen loves his instincts in picking this song, although Braiden is a bit nervous because he feels his voice is changing. Gwen has faith in Braiden, however, saying that he’s a star, and that she simply can’t get over how young he is, and how great he is already.
-This is a pretty vocal, but thoroughly unspectacular, and it’s indicative of a problem that it’s too late to fix: we have absolutely no sense of who Braiden is as an artist. Seriously, what kind of album would he make? He’s done Michael Buble style big band numbers, classic rock tracks, modern rock rearrangements, acoustic songs, and now a gospel song that’s virtually been around since time immemorial. I have no idea who Braiden is, and I’d go as far as to argue that he’s been one of the most various artists in the history of this show, jumping all over the map. I put that mostly on Gwen, for not helping him hone his instincts. You can try everything, sure, but it has to fit into a singular vision of artistry. I like Braiden, and think he’s taken a lot of undeserved flack over this season. But this wasn’t a semifinal performance, in my opinion.
-Gwen is fighting back tears and facing away from the camera. Adam notes that Braiden came onto this show as a kid, and although he’s still a kid, he’s far more seasoned now than when he started. He adds that while he never truly pinned down one thing, he proved that he can kind of do anything. Pharrell encourages Braiden by saying he inspires all kids like him across the country to believe that they can accomplish their dreams too. Gwen thought the performance was beautiful, calling it “spiritual”. She then tells America to vote for him because he’s 15-years-old. You’re not helping, Gwen.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Braiden Sunshine Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: ZACH SEABAUGH is up next!
-After discussing how much fun he had during last week’s performance, we learn that Zach will be singing his “theme song” of sorts: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Zach talks about what it means to him, and how it represents a lot of the struggles he’s been through over the course of the competition, as well as in his personal life. He recalls first discovering the power of music after performing for the first time as a kid at a function organized by his father. Zach’s dad is on-hand to talk about how much his son has grown over the course of the competition, in a genuinely sweet little moment. We also get Blake discussing the difference between ‘George Straiting it’ and ‘Rascal Flattsing it’, as George Strait tended to just stand in front of a mic with his guitar, whereas the lead singer of Rascal Flatts works the stage. Tonight, Zach will be pulling a George Strait.
-I liked seeing Zach pull it back a bit, and just let his voice shine, just him, a microphone, and the guitar. Well…and a band that damn nearly swallows his vocal whole, in places. Still, I thought this was one of Zach’s better performances of the live shows, even though he looks like he’s in pain during most of it. Zach is a talented kid with lots of mainstream appeal, between his look and his exuberant stage presence. Still, I wouldn’t put him through to the finale, based off of this. And I say that as someone who, to his complete and utter shock, actually kind of enjoyed this.
-Gwen wishes she were in high school so she could adorn her locker with Zach Seabaugh posters, which totally isn’t creepy at all. She has a suspicious feeling that Zach could be going to the finale after that. Adam, meanwhile, is simply proud of everyone tonight, stating that each of the artists is so professional tonight, particularly Zach. Blake called that Zach’s best performance this season, as we once again skip over Pharrell completely. Poor guy looks like he wants to be there less and less with each show.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Zach Seabaugh Sings ‘The Climb’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM PHARRELL WILLIAMS: MADI DAVIS is up next!
-Madi talks about how it’s impossible not to become a better version of yourself when you have millions of people cheering you on. Particularly when one of those people is Pharrell Williams, since he loves all the intricacies and nuances of music. Madi will be singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by The Four Seasons, which has long been one of her favorite songs to sing. It sounds encouraging just from the rehearsals, although I’m worried she might end up causing a vote-split with Amy by encroaching on her territory. Still, I’m looking forward to this, because Madi’s voice is fantastic. We close out on a lovely little moment of Pharrell fanning Madi to help keep her cool. I wish we’d get more of those little moments between the coaches and contestants.
-This was a very lovely vocal, but I was bored to tears. It just sort of stayed in one gear the whole way through, and didn’t really show off the nuances and range of her voice. It’s also kind of a simplistic song to be singing for a semifinal. She was literally just singing the words “Big girls don’t cry” over and over again for the first minute. With that having been said, I can’t fault Madi’s vocal at all. She’s a hell of a singer. But I don’t know that a “pretty but bland” vocal is going to pay the bills in the semifinal, unless Madi has a huge following that can carry her through to the finale. Personally? While I really enjoy her, I can’t say I would put her through. Hopefully, Pharrell gets his mojo back as a coach in Season 10 (dude is cursed on these fall seasons).
-Carson notes that every time Madi sang the lyric “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, Madi’s father actually cried in the audience. Adam loved what Madi did with the song, and says he actually wanted to hang out in the quaint little background set, which was a porch straight out of Little House on the Prairie or something. Blake says it was too perfect to be live, and predicts that the finale will be his three acts and Madi. Pharrell was floored by the production overall, saying it was like watching an actress onstage, performing in front of an adoring audience. He points out Madi’s dad and suggests renaming the song “Big Guys Do Cry,” before pleading with America to put Madi through.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Madi Davis Sings ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
BLAKE SHELTON performs “Gonna”!
-Blake performs his new single, “Gonna”, and I actually really like this. I probably shouldn’t say “actually”, since I generally like all of Blake’s singles. But this one is likely to be stuck in my head for a while. It’s just a catchy, fun-loving country tune. That said, I love how they pan to Gwen first as soon as the song ends. Cute.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: EMILY ANN ROBERTS is up next!
-Emily is still over-the-moon about having met Brad Paisley when he performed on the show, and Brad compared her to Dolly when he first saw her. Emily couldn’t be more thrilled about this, stating that she’d gotten Dolly Parton albums for gifts. She’ll be singing “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton, and it has a lot of meaning to her, since her first working experience was working alongside her father, who’d broken his back and was told he would never work again. Yet here he is, walkin’ and workin’ just the same. In a funny moment, Emily gets jealous of all the big, fun performances Zach has gotten to have, and so she’s so excited to get an uptempo song that she asks for Zach’s help in learning dance moves. She’s got a lot of personality, and I love that it’s come out more and more with each week.
-The vocal is really good (like, REALLY good, in my opinion), but the performance is kind of lacking, for me. For about 75% of it, she wears this blank expression, so that even while she’s moving, she just looks sort of zoned out. However, she does come alive for the last quarter of the performance, with some sassy head and hip movements, and a smile or two here and there. She’s got great talent, and her stage presence has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the season, but this wasn’t as great as I thought it could have been. Then again, this is still a singing competition, and I genuinely thought it was one of the better vocals of the night overall, onstage performance notwithstanding.
-We get the usual praise from the coaches, with Blake, in particular, saying that if he were someone who ran a record company, he’d be making calls to try to sign her immediately, since she’s going to make someone a TON of money. “You have to make it to the finale,” Blake tells her. “YOU HAVE TO!” Even Emily seems a bit taken aback by the vehemence of Blake’s enthusiasm. No wonder he wins this show so often. He pours himself into his artists like crazy.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Emily Ann Roberts Sings ‘9 to 5’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
-We follow this up with a Voice fashion segment with Christina Grimmie and Matt McAndrew, of all people. I’d rather have him performing on the show, but that’s just me. #VoiceSaveMattMcAndrew
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: AMY VACHAL is up next!
-Amy got tweeted by Lance Bass last week after her performance of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”, and it’s a reminder of just how surreal this experience is. Amy is reduced to tears when talking about what a blessing this has been, and how thankful she is to have made it this far already. Adam wants to channel that emotion into her next performance, saying that while everyone will be doing knock-down, drag-out vocal numbers, this will be Amy’s chance to not do that, instead going with something more raw and emotional. To this end, she’ll be performing “To Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan, with Adam angling to make it more like a Norah Jones record. It’s a smart move. On the one hand, it’s not flashy like Amy’s previous performances have been. On the other hand, Adam is right when he says this is an opportunity for Amy to show her sincerity, and to banish the notion that she’s a one-trick pony with a gimmick. She’s a sincere singer-songwriter, and this could be her chance to really show it to America. Here’s hoping it works, because I would absolutely hate to lose her at this point.
-This is a scaled-back, low-key performance, with just Amy, her guitar, and two guitarists on either side of her. Oh, and a ceiling full of upside down umbrellas. If nothing else, it’s a striking visual. And it doesn’t distract from Amy’s wonderful vocal. I was worried this might have been too restrained, especially considering what came before for Amy. But I thought this was a gorgeous, beautifully-measured performance, and one of the strongest vocals of the night in its passion and nuance. I loved this, and I’ll be up in arms if Amy doesn’t make it to the finale, after that.
-Pharrell says Amy’s voice is made of what beautiful clouds are made of, adding it’s “beautiful and it’s light”. He states that her voice is exactly what we need in a world with so much crazy stuff happening. Adam notes how this room completely froze and stopped, as all the energy was completely focused on her. He felt her performance was raw, honest and beautiful, and Adam goes on to declare that, in his opinion, she does that better than anyone else in this competition. Poor Jordan and Shelby! (Seriously though, I wouldn’t say he’s wrong)
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: JORDAN SMITH closes the show!
-Jordan has had an amazing experience on The Voice, and has made so many friendships. But through it all, it’s still surreal, as he notes that he wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told him six months go that he’d have a song charting on iTunes. They talk about how Adele is the only thing preventing them from No. 1, and even being on the same chart with her seems to blow Jordan’s mind. Adam feels they’ve earned a week to branch out, so Jordan will be singing “Somebody to Love” by Queen, which is both daunting and a huge honor for Jordan, since he grew up idolizing Freddie Mercury. In rehearsals, Jordan performs the song so well that Adam actually renounces his Jewish faith! Well…this is certainly a Voice first.
-I never doubted that Jordan would bring down the house with this song. But I was surprised by just how much he gave to the performance aspect, from rocking out with the guitarist to interacting with the chorus and the audience, feeding off of their energy. Jordan doesn’t just have a great pop/soul voice. He’s got AMAZING rock vocals. In particular, the closing notes of the song are GLORIOUS. And the amount of fun he’s clearly having, and the joy he expresses through the song, is genuinely stirring. This might have been the performance of the season, as all four coaches are on their feet, Jordan is on his knees, and the entire crowd is going absolutely molten hot for this guy. Incredible. Just freaking incredible.
-Adam comes up onstage, hugs Jordan, and then drops the mic onstage, saying that he simply had to, as it was a total “drop the mic” moment. Adam declares he doesn’t have to say a thing, because that was the performance of the season. I’m inclined to agree.
-And that’s a wrap for tonight’s show! Based on these performances, I think the final four should be Jordan, Jeffery, Amy and Barrett. But I’m really not certain of anyone but Jordan, honestly. With FIVE people going home tomorrow, I could see some wacky results happening due to the huge influx of votes along with the messy nature of inner-team vote-splitting. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. But I’m nervous for my non-Jordan favorites, Amy and Jeffery!
But who do you think will advance to next week’s finale? Which five singers will be eliminated tomorrow night?
Until tomorrow night, thanks for reading and hanging out!