The Voice 8 – Live Blog and Recap – Live Semi-Final Performances (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for The Voice 8, “Live Semi-Final Performances”! Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera take their teams into battle as America decides who advances to next week’s finale!
But what will the finalists sing? Check out the song spoilers with iTunes links below:
Team Pharrell Williams
Sawyer Fredericks, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri (iTunes)
Sawyer Fredericks, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield (iTunes)
Koryn Hawthorne, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” a spiritual from the 1800s (iTunes)
Koryn Hawthorne, “One” by U2 (iTunes)
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be posting results, videos, commentary, and more as the night rolls on.
Let’s get this show on the road!
-We kick things off with Carson explaining that we’ll get to see Hometown Visits tonight as the Top 5 battle it out for a spot in the finale, and even though I recap two seasons of this show per year, I STILL forget that they do Hometown Visits too. With American Idol ending next year after Season 15, I kind of hope NBC scales back on The Voice and only does one season a year, but expands it out, starting in early January, so that live shows start by early March, and we can eliminate one person a week instead of two. Part of the reason I feel like this show hasn’t made any stars yet is because this show burns through its live shows before we get a chance to really know anybody. Then the cycle starts all over again just a few months later. Winning (or even making it far) on The Voice just never feels as important or monumental as it does to achieve the same thing on other once-a-year talent shows. But I digress. We kick things off with a guest performer…
NATE RUESS PERFORMS!
-Nate performs his new single, “Nothing Without Love”, and it sounds so similar to the usual from Fun that I struggle to think of why he’s even a solo artist now, unless his bandmates were somehow stifling his creativity or something. Still, it’s a pretty song, and Nate sings it well, which is all I ask of guest performers. I mean, the pitch gets a bit iffy towards the end, but it seems more like he’s just having fun up there (no pun intended). Sure, it qualifies as filler, but I actually like it when they kick off the show with guest performers because it creates a more relaxed opening for me. I can just rant a bit without having to do a hard recap of what’s happening right away. So yeah, no complaints from me here. Yeah, I’m surprised too.
-Back from break with Adam explaining his song choice for Joshua, saying it’s a classic that fits him perfectly, and that it’s also passionate and beautiful, but also subtle in a way that fits Joshua.
JOSHUA DAVIS opens the show!
-Joshua is singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, and while this is one of those songs I should be deathly sick of hearing, considering how many of these shows I recap each year, this is one of those rare overdone songs that I still love (the other being “Alone” by Heart. Can’t get enough of it, man!). That said, Joshua seems almost too relaxed with this. I was hoping for more passion from him, like his heart is crying out to someone. I just didn’t get that sense from this performance. However, I will say that I liked the vocal quite a bit. Joshua is a really good singer, and although he’s had his missteps over the course of the season, he’s been one of the more consistent singers in the competition. Unrelated, but as the song ends, Carson notes that Joshua is the “first of six” performing tonight. Are we bringing back Kimberly Nichole? Oh, he misspoke? Drats.
-Blake really enjoyed it, as did Christina, who says it was “super lovely”. She says it feels like a lullaby, and it’s totally soothing. “You did a fantastic job,” Christina notes. Pharrell asks him how it felt, and Joshua says it was really emotional, and he felt as though he was really in it. Pharrell agrees, adding that Joshua really knows how to use his voice. Lastly, Adam says that their challenge this season has been highlighting what Joshua does best, and not competing with the giant powerhouse voices of this season. He feels this performance did exactly that. “I love listening to you sing, man,” he declares, sending the most endearing ear-to-ear smile across Joshua’s face.
-Back from break with Carson immediately correcting himself from earlier, saying it’s the Top 5, not the Top 6. Good on him. Other hosts would have just ignored they ever misspoke. Over to Pharrell, as he explains his song choice for Koryn, stating it’s a track about social injustice that is still relevant today. I’d argue it’s probably more relevant today than the era in which it was released.
KORYN HAWTHORNE is up next!
-Koryn sings “One” by U2, and this is my favorite Koryn vocal since “Make It Rain”. Seriously, there wasn’t a single bum note in this entire performance, and it actually felt like the kind of song she could release as a single for radio play. I really enjoyed this, even though there were audio issues at the start. I have no idea why this show has such issues with mic audio, but it’s one of the more tiring problems the show has on a consistent basis. Still, it wasn’t enough to dull Koryn’s strong vocal. I couldn’t have been more impressed with this.
-Adam notes the history of the song, from U2’s original to Mary J. Blige’s cover, noting that it’s the most beautiful sentiment any song has ever had. He’s glad Koryn got to do it, stating he really loved it. Christina says she’s done this show for various seasons, and some people stop their growth at certain points in the season, but not Koryn. She’s as proud of Koryn as she would be if she were her own contestant. Pharrell says he’s actually learned way more from Koryn than she’s probably learned from him, since she’s 17-years-old and fearless. He says she’s the definition of an inspirational singer, and feels she’s already won this season. But he still pleads with America to vote for her regardless.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Koryn Hawthorne sings ‘One’ on The Voice 2015 Semi-Final (VIDEO)
-Back from break with Blake explaining his choice for Meghan, saying that this is a song that is so soulful that it plays right into Meghan’s emotive and expressive capabilities. I’m actually really excited for this one, in a way I haven’t been for a Meghan Linsey performance in advance.
MEGHAN LINSEY is up next!
-Meghan sings “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith, and I’m immediately taken by how amazing the staging/cinematography of this performance is. Seriously, if she didn’t have a microphone in her hand, I’d probably never know it was live, because it looks and feels so much like a music video. It’s not shot like a live performance at all, and that makes it instantly refreshing. That said, the front half of the vocal is better than the back half, since it’s far subtler. Meghan just has a habit of pushing her voice to the point where she’s almost hoarse, where it might actually be more effective to pull back and keep it in one consistent gear. But then she’d probably get critiques about it never going anywhere, so I get why she tackles each song the way she does. Ultimately, I enjoyed the performance despite its faults, owing to a smart arrangement, the visual flair, and the subtlety of her tone at the start.
-Pharrell is happy that Meghan is getting to show her artistry on The Voice, and feels she’s showing the world that many different kinds of artists and styles of music exist in Nashville right now. Adam says that Meghan has been growing consistently on the show, and notes you can’t teach people how to connect with a song. He commends her on her commitment to the moment, saying she treats each performance like it’s her last one. Blake, who gave her a standing ovation, says he gets excited each time she’s about to perform, since it’s virtually guaranteed it’s going to be something great. He notes that while Meghan is only 29-years-old, it’s like she came from a different time. She’s vintage but also current. Blake closes by stating how proud he is to be her coach, and to get to work with her.
-Back from break, with Christina explaining that she’s chosen a real “singer’s song” for India, that a vocalist needs to have power and tenderness in order to pull this one off. But she believes that India always rises to the occasion, so she has faith. Honestly, I don’t think this is a good choice for India’s voice, but this IS one of my favorite songs on Earth, so I’m stoked to hear her take on it regardless.
INDIA CARNEY is up next!
-India sings “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles, and I’m impressed with the vocal restraint, and the evenness of her tone at the start of the song. It reminds me, in a lot of ways, of Christina’s contributions to “Say Something,” which is probably the subtlest vocal Christina has ever had on one of her hits. Granted, India launches into the vocal gymnastics at the midway point, and the performance suffers a bit for it. But I will say this, it had a lot of emotion to it. More than even Joshua’s opening performance, which was proclaimed as being very emotive and passionate. The end of this performance is just gorgeous. I’ve always liked India, but I’ve never liked her more than I did in those final few moments.
-Adam says that India is like Christina in that they’ve both been given so much ability, but they know when to scale it back. He says she showed this incredible taste, allowing it to build and tell a story. He calls it really amazing. Blake, meanwhile, says he can’t say enough about how powerful that was. He notes that when she got soft at the end, that was the most powerful she’s ever been. He says he’ll be shocked if she’s not in the finale next week. Christina says there’s a lot to be said for a singer who has control, and that’s exactly what India has. She knows when to pull it back, when it push it forward, and when to deliver the emotion. Christina can’t wait to buy the track on iTunes, noting how much she loved that vocal.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: India Carney sings ‘Gravity’ on The Voice 2015 Semi-Final (VIDEO)
-Back from break with Carson pointing out Oscar winner J.K. Simmons in the audience with his family, noting that this must be making their drummer Nate nervous, since he’ll need to be on Simmons’s tempo or else. It’s a reference that probably won’t make a whole lot of sense unless you’ve seen Whiplash, but it was an amusing aside from Carson all the same. Pharrell then explains his song choice for Sawyer, saying this is a song America needs right now.
SAWYER FREDERICKS is up next!
-Sawyer sings “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, and I really liked some of the vocal choices he made here. While the arrangement was essentially followed the original version, he tackled the melody in a different way. I’m not sure this is necessarily the type of song that allows Sawyer to showcase his vocals, but it’s showcasing his artistry in an impressive fashion, since he seems completely at home doing this sort of classic track. His voice also has a surprising amount of power to it. Singers with bigger voices have been completely swallowed by the band this season, but Sawyer never really has that problem here. Speaking of which, I really dug the jam band members sort of getting up to dance around Sawyer towards the end.
-Adam applauds Pharrell for the song choice, noting that while it’s hard to do that song justice, Sawyer just did. Blake says Adam took the words out of his mouth, prompting an argument between Adam and Blake about what Blake can say. Blake jokes that Sawyer is so good that it’s almost boring, which I don’t think he meant to sound as critical as it did. He ends by letting Sawyer know he did a great job, while Pharrell says that this is Sawyer’s time. The smile never leaves his face for the entire time he’s out there. Has any one contestant ever smiled this much?
-Back from break with the cast of Pitch Perfect 2 (Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Hailee Steinfeld) hanging out with the coaches at their chairs, taking selfies and promoting the movie, as Anna Kendrick declares it “a veritable vocal and emotional orgy.” Blake with the win, “Can I buy my ticket now?” We’ll apparently be getting a sneak peek later on in the show. But first, Hometown Visits…
JOSHUA DAVIS opens round two!
-Joshua arrives home to find that his daughter Tahlia’s school is holding a function for him. As is his local brewing company. His entire community is there, from his parents to his friends and neighbors. His former bandmate recalls how, when he first met Joshua, he said he could play guitar but wasn’t so sure about singing. But now Joshua is a Top 5 finalist on The Voice. This leads to Joshua’s big parade/concert at his local performing arts center. He’s really overwhelmed by it all, calling it a day he’ll always remember. To come home and play a sold out show at the State Theater after spending so many years playing shows where only 12 people would show up means the world to him. His wife notes that everyone here is really excited and hopeful for him, while Joshua says he’s going to keep pushing himself to make the finals. A lovely little video package.
-Joshua sings “When I Paint My Masterpiece” by The Band for his hometown dedication song. This was pretty good for an uptempo Joshua Davis performance. In fact, this almost felt like an entirely new Joshua, in the sense that his voice had WAY more power and grit to it than usual. You could argue the wisdom of this song choice, considering he’s singing to get himself into the finale, and this is a song that doesn’t leave a whole lot of openings for different vocal colors and shades. But this is a way stronger performance than I was expecting it to be when I saw what song he’d be singing. Whether or not this gets him into the finale is anyone’s guess, but I liked this better than his first performance tonight.
-Blake admits he didn’t know the song, but he’s glad Joshua keeps doing songs he hasn’t heard of, since that’s the version that sticks with him. He feels it’s clear Joshua is a songwriter, and uses his artistry to challenge is energy into each cover. Christina loves seeing Joshua bring all of his artistry together, before shouting out the Voice drummer Nate. This is the second shoutout for him tonight, so good on him. Adam then says this was even better than he thought it was going to be, before informing Blake that the song was originally by The Band. This leads to a Who’s On First? routine in which Blake says he knows, because he just heard the band play it. Cute.
-Back from break as we move on to our next hometown visit…
KORYN HAWTHORNE is up next!
-Koryn comes home and arrives at her high school, wiping away tears upon seeing how many people showed up to support her. This is a CRAZY amount of people! The principal gives a touching speech about how Koryn’s greatness is their greatness, before throwing to a video greeting from Kelly Clarkson! Koryn then delivers a performance of “Stronger,” with the entire gymnasium singing along. She gets an awesome parade, with the high school marching band playing The Voice theme. She thanks her hometown for supporting her, as Mayor Mike Piazza gives her the key to the city and declares this Koryn Hawthorne Day in Abbeyville. We then get a video message from Pharrell, asking Abbeyville to get Koryn to the finale. She then performs “Make It Rain” with her church’s choir, which is downright awesome. This was just a terrific video.
-For her hometown dedication, Koryn goes with one of the oldest song choices of the season, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” a spiritual from the 1800s. That said, it’s a pretty brilliant choice, since it sounds a bit similar to “Make It Rain,” allowing her to reprise the song without reprising it. I think this was nearly as good as “Make It Rain,” actually, as it had a more heightened sense of drama. She just digs into this vocal with all of her power, resulting in her most mature performance of the season. She just felt like a total star here. She showed sides to her vocal that I didn’t even know were there, and she absolutely deserved her standing ovation at the end. Just outstanding.
-Adam says he’s never seen a more drastic, incredible journey from a single contestant. Where Koryn started to where she is now is amazing. Christina says she’s actually scared of how good Koryn is now, and how great she’s going to be as she gets older. She also applauds Koryn’s hometown for supporting her. Lastly, Pharrell declares that he knows somebody who’s been told “no” today just watched this and was inspired. He says Koryn has proven that “impossible” is just a word, and that all things are possible when you put God first. I’m thinking Koryn might be making the finale now. If nothing else, I’d argue she deserves to, after that.
MEGHAN LINSEY is up next!
-On the car ride home, Meghan talks about how stoked she is to see her family, friends, her dogs and her boyfriend. At home, she seems more stoked to see her dogs than her parents or her boyfriend, and she even jokes about it, apologizing for showing so much favoritism to the dogs. Naomi Judd drops by for a surprise appearance at her welcome home party, noting that Meghan is “the fourth Judd” and is “born to sing”. She predicts Meghan will win The Voice. Meanwhile, Meghan’s mother fights back tears as she notes how proud she is of her daughter. This all leads to (in order) an interview at her local NBC affiliate and an appearance at her local music club/bar, The Wild Horse, where she got her start. She’s swamped by a crowd of fans, and signs practically everything put in front of her, before hitting the stage and delivering a better version of “Love Runs Out” than she did on the show. Big & Rich then drop by for a surprise performance, with the duo explaining how they go way back with Meghan, having done shows with her throughout her career. Hey, at least the show isn’t playing coy with the fact that Meghan isn’t exactly some undiscovered talent. Meghan even notes that she never dreamed she’d get this second chance. This was a really endearing video that helps show who Meghan is outside of the context of the backstory we’ve been given all season, namely that she had a record deal and a boyfriend, and lost both.
-Meghan sings “Tennessee Whiskey” by George Jones for her hometown dedication song, and I actually liked this more than her first song, believe it or not. This was smokey and bluesy, but with a soulful country quality that made this feel at-home for Meghan’s talents. She also doesn’t oversing it like the first song. It’s right in the pocket, to such a degree that it seems virtually effortless for her. Also awesome: the flaming barrels in the background. Such a cool visual to go with this solid vocal. Blake gives her a standing ovation, and shouts “YES!” enthusiastically, because of course he does.
-Christina congratulates Meghan on the stellar performance, with Blake once again shouting “YES!” as we go to Pharrell. Pharrell says the way Meghan harnesses her vocals and the story of the lyrics is perfect. Blake, meanwhile, can’t contain himself. He says that was a really special performance, noting that she engaged all the country music fans while also engaging all her new fans as well. He can’t wait to see what happens on iTunes. I’m supposing if she gets a single in the Top 10, it’s going to be this one, although I’m not only going out on a limb to say as much.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Meghan Linsey sings ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ on The Voice 2015 Semi-Final (VIDEO)
-Up next with Team Christina’s sole remaining performer, because OF COURSE SAWYER IS CLOSING THE SHOW. I mean, come on, The Voice. You know good and damn well he doesn’t need that level of pimping.
INDIA CARNEY is up next!
-India heads to LAX to board a plan back to New York, only to find her classmates waiting for her as she enters the airport, drawing an AMAZING reaction from her. I loved this so, so much. She then does the media rounds back home in New York before heading to the Manhattan School of Music to put on a concert for her family and friends, singing “New York State of Mind” before receiving a video message from Christina in which she reveals India will be singing the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium. “As a New Yorker, this was a complete dream come true,” she says, explaining how much it meant to see her family and friends again. This has been her first time being home since the competition began, but she feels this hometown visit is giving her the boost of confidence she needs to make it through the final stretch of the competition. Although there was no big parade, and no big hometown fanfare, this is my favorite of the hometown packages so far, as India just seemed so floored by the entire experience.
-India sings “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson for her hometown dedication, and it quickly takes on the quality of theater. Maybe it’s a little melodramatic, but I actually loved how she acted this out, adding emotion and attitude to what was a pretty damn good, controlled vocal. I even loved the wind machine blowing her flowing red dress all over creation. The falling projection screen, the strings section, the beige-suited background singers, the flashy red pyro, the vocal itself: this was the most bombastic India performance of the season, and one of the most theatrical overall. I loved it, and felt she earned her standing ovation.
-Pharrell said it looked beautiful, it felt beautiful and it sounded beautiful. Adam says each performance of India’s is awesome because each one feels like a mini-musical, noting there’s a long list of emotions that deliver an arc and a story to it all. Christina says she loves Adam’s observation, and says India really brought it all together. “You were a superstar tonight, and I adore you!” Christina declares, as India just beams. I still doubt she makes the finale, but if she doesn’t, it sure as hell won’t be for lack of trying.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: India Carney sings ‘Earth Song’ on The Voice 2015 Semi-Final (VIDEO)
SAWYER FREDERICKS closes the show, to the surprise of no one!
-Sawyer heads back to his farm, meeting with his family. The understated nature of this hometown visit is actually really charming. There’s no ton of people waiting for him at his house, no horde of screaming girls. Just his mom, dad and his brother. He even gets back to work once he’s there! Of course, he actually does get his hometown parade at the Fonda Speedway, drawing a ton of people for a mini-concert. They are all absolutely CRAZY for the kid. Sawyer says he couldn’t ask anything more from his hometown, noting that they’ve all supported him. He heads to Albany to perform his concert, and this is easily the biggest crowd any of the five finalists drew, with 3,000 fans coming out to support him. We get clips of several girls talking about why they love Sawyer, from his hair to his voice (a bunch of girls tell Sawyer to call them, in a cute segment). Sawyer is clearly blown away by the support, noting that he saw Ray Lamontagne in this venue, making it all the more surreal that he’s here. I absolutely loved this video package.
-Sawyer sings “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri for his hometown dedication. I adore the staging, with the ballerina in a giant music box. I love it so much that it’s almost kind of distracting. Thankfully for Sawyer, the camera focuses more on him than on the background, getting in close to keep the ballerina from dominating the frame. This is a beautiful arrangement, and probably the most I’ve ever liked this song. In fact, I like the arrangement more than the vocal itself, which is saying a lot, because I thought this was easily better than Sawyer’s first performance. I dug how many different shades this displayed, from tenderness to power to slight grit. He closes on the line “I am one step closer,” and I can’t think of a more poignant plea for a spot in the finale. This was a very calculated performance, and smart in that regard. After the performance, Carson shouts out the ballerina, Jessica, in a cool little moment.
-Adam says that performance could fill “any room, any size, anywhere.” Blake complains that Adam once again said everything he wanted to say. He praises Sawyer and calls him the frontrunner, adding that there’s no question in anyone’s mind that he’s the real deal. Lastly, Pharrell states that there’s a power, and while it’s not Sawyer’s power, it’s something he has access to: his generosity, his spirit, etc. I’m not sure I really understand Pharrell’s critique, but he ends by stating that Sawyer deserves to be rewarded with a spot in the finale. This seemed like a weirdly subdued critique, almost like he’s busing Sawyer in favor of Koryn. But then, my mind always goes for conspiracy theories, even where none exist. I also think Pharrell is too kindhearted to ever truly bus one of his own contestants.
-And that’s a wrap! What did you think of tonight’s show? Who were your favorites? And who’s going home tomorrow night? Sound off in the comments! Until tomorrow night’s results show, thanks for reading and hanging out! It’s been a blast! Oh, and hang tight. We’re running a bit late, but videos ARE coming!
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