Last week, the top 12 showed off some of the best performances on The Voice season seven thus far, with everyone from Chris Jamison to Anita Antoinette to Matt McAndrew shining bright. This week, a little bit of the fat was trimmed from the teams of Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams, and great mentors like Christina Aguilera and Diana Ross were brought in to help along the top 10... so why was everything so mediocre?
After nearly everyone was consistent just seven days ago, this week the bar was lowered, with even the best performances from Craig Wayne Boyd and Anita Antoinette missing just a little sparkle. Maybe it was the weight of the Mike Brown indictment verdict, which cut into the middle of the program, but the entire show was off its game tonight, making a clear frontrunner feel murkier than ever before.
Regardless of the total mediocrity, let's take a look at the best, the worst and just the most so-so performances of The Voice's top 10:
Craig Wayne Boyd, "I Walk the Line": In a night full of totally bland performances, leave it to Craig Wayne Boyd to still manage to bring the house down with some pure, raw talent. This week, he remade the Johnny Cash single "I Walk The Line" into a heartfelt ballad, making the signature track almost unrecognizable. This week more than ever, Craig's particular blend of rich country roots with a rock 'n' roll attitude and flair came through, making him a true standout in the competition. It's also pretty clear that he has the best pure tone to him among the top 10. During judging, Blake Shelton told Craig that they could have been in very different places had they just gotten different breaks, and it's hard to not believe the honesty in his claim.
Taylor John Williams, "Come Together": The Voice is really loving playing up how kind of creepy Taylor John Williams is, and they did it this week again by taking a haunting take on the classic Beatles single "Come Together." Taylor reached into the lowest part of his register for the verses, winding around the melody before kicking things up in the chorus. The verses seemed to be more filled with personality, blending together something a little scary with a jazzy finesse that only Taylor could really pull of in this competition, but the choruses could feel a little generic.
Anita Antoinette, "Let Her Go": You would never think that a reggae version of Passenger's "Let Her Go" would work all that well, but that was before anyone heard Anita Antoinette take it on. This reggae superstar completely overhauled this song, putting her own Caribbean twist. Each week, it's quite satisfying to see Anita get more and more loose - she's truly turning into a performer. Her vocals, unlike some of the other early performances, were more than on point, with Anita just as on point as ever. Another solid A for this frontrunner.
Ryan Sill, "Starlight": Apparently Gwen Stefani had to personally ask Muse in order to secure "Starlight" for Ryan Sill... On behalf of every viewer of the show, Matt Bellamy, I apologize. Week after week, Ryan continues to prove just why he should not to continue to be on The Voice, and this week was no exception. He couldn't come anywhere near Bellamy's vocal range, instead going for some sort of teen idol breathy angle on this otherwise beautiful song. When Ryan tried to really go for it, blasting into the chorus, he still came up short, seemingly unable to adjust the volume of his voice. Bleh on this. Can he just go home already?
Chris Jamison, "Uptown Funk": Oh, Chris Jamison... maybe you're better than the other three saved singers from the top 12, but that doesn't quite mean that you're up to snuff to tackle a Bruno Mars song, especially one as fresh as his Mark Ronson collaboration "Uptown Funk." That's not to say that Chris is a bad performer, he's perfectly adequate and has proved that in the past, but he just couldn't take on this funky number. It was particularly apparent that Chris didn't quite have the jive in him when he had to repeat "Uptown funk gonna give it to ya." Whereas Bruno Mars gives a new injection of energy into each repetition, Chris just repeated himself and repeated himself, sounding like a boring and broken record.
Matt McAndrew, "Fix You": After actually wowing me last week with his cover of Hozier's "Take Me to Church," this week Matt McAndrew retreated back to his overrated status. This week, he took on an obvious choice: Coldplay's mega-ballad "Fix You," but the song itself is what needed some fixing. The verses, which found Matt reaching into his upper register were clearly above his range and made him sound weak. Then, when he finally decided to go for it at the end of the song, Matt made up for his soft and small opening but overdoing it, launching the volume up to 11 and forgetting to not slide down on every single note. The audience and the judges seemed to love it, so I'm sure he'll get a pass on to the next week, but this was definitely not the best moment for Matt.
Damien, "You and I": Last week, Damien had one of the best performances thus far on The Voice with his soulful rendition of "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother," so it makes sense that he would look to replicate that again this week, and he's looking to do it by channeling Stevie Wonder. Damien kept things a little more subdued this week, while still showing off his warm tone and heart. Really, Damien seems like such an open and loving individual and that soul just pours into his performances.
Reagan James, "Fancy": As all four of the coaches pointed out, little 16-year-old Reagan James had a hard job tonight, rearranging Iggy Azalea's song "Fancy" into an all-sung track and performing both her part and Charli XCX's. For such a difficult task, this pint sized pop star lived up to it, with an ability to rap-sing with fire and slow it down for the verses. It was really Reagan's momentum that carried her through this tune, because even as her voice wavered and fell thin, it was clear that she knew what she was doing and was having fun while doing it. The uniqueness of this song choice, however, may put her in danger of being eliminated, as she wasn't quite able to show off the full range of her talent.
Luke Wade, "Try a Little Tenderness": Otis Redding has done well for Luke Wade before, so it makes sense that after a little flub last week on Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" that Luke Wade would go back to the familiar for a bit of recovery. On a scale of 1-10, he pulled out a solid 7, with his vocals on point and a bit of cockiness and confidence showing through in his performance. At this point, like with a lot of tonight's performers, Luke failed to really go for it, instead resting on his laurels. It's enough to solidify Luke in the middle of the pack instead of near the bottom, but if he wants to win this thing he's going to have to go the extra mile next week.
DaNica Shirey, "I Have Nothing": This week, Clive Davis met oh-so-briefly with the top 10, and DaNica Shirley had the task of covering a Whitney Houston song for him - intimating, to say the very least. Like basically every other week, DaNica was a solid performer, with straightforward and stunning vocals; she even managed a big key change like it was nothing. She's a wonderful vocalist, but DaNica has little in the way of performance. She just stands and sings, and she doesn't quite have the sparkle that someone like, say, Adele has while doing the same thing. Give it like three more weeks, and this schtick is going to get real old.