The Voice: Season 12, The Semifinals

Back after a week off, here’s your Semifinal recap of last night episode of The Voice. First, a bit of housekeeping. Since I last wrote a recap, singers Stephanie Rice, Lilli Passero and Mark Isaiah were all eliminated from the show.

Tonight’s show featured each of the final eight singers doing one song alone, and a second one in a duet with one of the other competitors. In a new twist, the votes will be counted for the duet performances as well. I don’t necessarily agree with this; what if one singer practically carries the other in the duet? Shouldn’t that singer get all the votes, rather than have them split between the two? It should make for an interesting vote count and elimination tonight. By the way, the field will be cut in half, leaving the remaining four singers to compete in the finals next week.

The following is not in order of appearance; I’m doing some show jumping with the videos.

Hunter Plake from Gwen Stefani’s team led things off with a rendition of U2’s “With Or Without You.” I thought Hunter performed very well; he matched the intensity of the music with his vocal delivery of the song; that is, when the music began to swell, he began to sing with more passion and emotion. His duet performance with Aliyah Moulden from Blake Shelton’s team easily showed that he was a better singer than the fifteen-year-old, in my opinion. Their cover of James Bay’s “Let It Go” was a case of Hunter doing better than Aliyah, but they would have to split the votes, which doesn’t seem fair to me. Aliyah closed the episode with a performance of MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” The youngster has been trying on ballads for size over the last few weeks, and though last week’s performance showed her connecting with the material in an emotional way, this week I think the song overwhelmed her a bit. I think the end of the line appears for Moulden this week, but who knows? She could squeak into the finals.

The first duet of the evening to air featured Chris Blue and Vanessa Ferguson, both from Alicia Keys’ team. The pair sang “If I Ain’t Got You,” by Keys. As duets go, I thought it was pretty good, even as Chris sounded a little mannered to me. Vanessa was in fine form throughout. For their solo performances, Chris sang Tamela Mann’s “Take Me To The King,” while Vanessa performed “Superstar,” made famous by The Carpenters. For vocal acrobatics, no one tops Chris of those that remain; he’s been consistently amazing with what he can do with that voice. What he showed tonight singing this gospel song was an admirable bit of restraint with his vocal instrument. He should be a shoo-in for the finals, in my opinion. Vanessa’s “Superstar” started really rough, and dragged at the beginning, but she finished way better than she started.  One thing Vanessa has been is polished, and you can see it in her performances from week to week. I don’t know if she makes it to the finals, after being in the bottom three last week, but she’s certainly in the mix.

TSoul from Team Blake was up next, singing “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin. This is one of my favorite Franklin numbers, so I was interested to see what twists and turns the vocalist would make with this song. He did not disappoint in the twist and turn department either. One thing I think TSoul has in his favor is that you can feel his emotion when he sings. What he lacks in vocal polish he more than makes up for with emotion. Whether that is good enough to get him a spot in the finals remains to be seen (I say no, particularly since he has been one of the last singers to be safe in each of the last three weeks. However, I don’t know if that’s by number of votes, or just a random announcement of which singers are safe from week to week). As for his duet with Jesse Larson from Adam Levine’s team, the less said about their performance of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” the better. What may have sounded like a great pairing in theory turned out to be a disaster to these ears. Each singer sounds better by themselves than together. Jesse’s cover of Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong” found him back on the guitar, and he gave a blistering, but brief, solo. His vocal was solid, though I’ve heard him do better. If the vocal is what the show is about, he’ll be in the mix; with Adam selling hard after losing two of his team members last week, it might be just enough to get him into the finals. I don’t think he wins if he makes it there, though—anyone remember Laith Al-Saadi from a couple seasons ago? That’s Jesse to a tee.

Brennley Brown from Stefani’s team was next to air, singing “Suds In A Bucket” by Sara Evans. The youngest singer remaining has been coming on strong in recent weeks, but this week wasn’t her best. I can’t say I remember her ever playing guitar when she performed, but doing so did her no favors. She sounded winded at the end of lines, and I think it was because of the strumming of the guitar. Once she stopped playing, the performance was better. We’ll see if she’s built up enough goodwill to make it to the finals. Her duet performance with Lauren Duski from Shelton’s team was a match made in country heaven. Singing Good Hearted Woman by Waylon Jennings, but also done by LeAnn Rimes, both singers sounded good together. To my ears, this was the best duet of the evening. I really enjoyed Duski’s solo performance of “Ghost In This House” by Shenandoah. She stands to the microphone, she sings under control and is in command of her voice at every turn. I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t make the finals, as she’s been consistently good throughout the season.

If forced to make a prediction for the final four in a season where I don’t see a clear frontrunner, I’ll go with Hunter, Chris, Lauren and one of either Vanessa, Brennley or Jesse. I think Aliyah and TSoul are on the outside looking in, but I thought both of them would have been eliminated before now. All that’s left to do is wait for the votes and watch tonight.

(photo from Creative Commons via Eva Rinaldi—available for reuse).

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