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'The Voice' Season 9 Recap, Review: Top Nine Perform and Jordan Smith Soars

by Carolyn Menyes   Dec 7, 2015 22:19 PM EST

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The Voice season 9 has moved in to the semi-finals phase, but you wouldn't know it. Not only because the performances were varied in their quality but because there were nine singers remaining on the stage. But don't worry, all but four will be gone before tomorrow.

Of course, a big semi-finals show wouldn't be complete without some big name performances. Ellie Goulding took on "On My Mind" and was OK, and The Voice also somehow landed a performance from Blake Shelton! What!!

And, uh... where was Dolly Parton? Didn't the show announce last week that she would be the mentor for the final nine? It seems like that didn't happen, even though Emily Ann Roberts mentioned that she would still be appearing. These kids got robbed, not only is this year's elimination form totally whack, but they also lacked mentors. Womp womp.

Barrett Baber, "Ghost": Barrett Baber had great successes last week, launching into the top three on iTunes with his rooted country cover of "I'd Love to Lay You Down." After that success on the iTunes chart, Coach Blake seemingly wanted to tap into some of that Adam Levine cover magic, and Barret remade Ella Henderson's "Ghost." The song worked fairly well in this country style, though the chorus' soaring melody seemed to lend itself better to Barrett's strong, loud vocals. A major disadvantage was in the arrangement of this song - the transitions between the verses and choruses felt a little clunky, even if Barrett sounded well, in an elimination as drastic as this one, nobody feels safe, especially the first singer to go.

Shelby Brown, "Even God Must Get the Blues": Shelby Brown found her greatest success last week on The Voice, with her gospel performance of "Go Rest High on That Mountain," which she picked herself after a few misguided picks from her coach Adam. She seems to do well in this arena, and she seemed the most comfortable on stage that she has so far this season. Her high notes hit well, but while this was pretty, there was no massive sparkling oment that helped break Shelby out. I hate to keep harping on this point, but 56 percent of the contestants are going home! You need to bring you're A-plus game, not just the A game.

Jeffery Austin, "Believe": Jeffery Austin and Cher's "Believe" could have been quite disastrous, if he made the song in its original form. But, like his "Dancing on My Own" moment, he stripped the song down to its basic and raw emotions, and he emitted something really special here. His vocals were silky smooth and filled with the sort of ebbs and flows of something really heart wrenching. And, while the background performances of people walking in and out of doors was a little odd for my taste, Jeffery himself had the stage presence of a confident, assured performer. He seems destined for the finale on the merits of his own vocals and persona, let's just hope America follows through.

Braiden Sunshine, "Amazing Grace": Remember 30 Rock's fake talent show America's Kidz Got Singing, where children competed against each other by singing public domain songs? This Braiden Sunshine performance of "Amazing Grace" felt exactly like this. In the pre-performance footage, we saw that Braiden has been feeling the pressure of the competition and he was quickly losing confidence. That showed through in his performance, Braiden is usually a little fireball of energy but here he felt like a meek child. Listen, Braiden is never going to be the best singer on this show and he's made it to the semi-finals through the power of the tween vote. But, while this was OK for like a freshman at a talent show, this performance wasn't worthy of a semi-final spot on The Voice.

Zach Seabaugh, "The Climb": Zach Seabaugh has gotten through to the semi-finals on the zest of his hip-shaking performances. So, when he decided to do a cover of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and "George Strait" it by singing straight, it seemed like a risk move. And, at the end of the day, it did feel risky. Zach doesn't have the vocal projection and prowess to pull this off. He kept this pretty one note and after the second verse, this just felt like we were waiting for it all to be over. It seemed like that spark was gone. When you need a big moment to be that 44 percent who goes through to the finale, this just wasn't enough.

Madi Davis, "Big Girls Don't Cry": Madi Davis decided to do something out of her Voice element but in her comfort zone for her semi-final performance with a take on the old school hit "Big Girls Don't Cry." I also couldn't decide if the staging for this performance, set in a Parisian café of sorts with an accordion accompaniment, was adorable or totally cheesy. Maybe it was a little bit of both. For one thing, it was certainly memorable, in the middle of what was otherwise sleepy performance. The sad reality of this song is that it just doesn't go enough places, the lyrics are repetivtive as is the melody. Though Madi put this through the Postmodern Jukebox filter and made it her own quirky thing, she just didn't have enough dynamics to make this pop. She still could be a good bet for the finale though. The staging was so memorable, and she's the only person left for Team Pharrell. This could work out well.

Emily Ann Roberts, "9 to 5": Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" is a classic country song, done by none other than Miss Dolly Parton. But, Emily Ann Roberts made this song almost feel like it could almost be her own. She sounded so comfortable and confident in this performance, you could tell she had been doing this for years, and it was endearing all the while. Emily Ann's country vocal is a special and pretty one, and it once again showed through here even if she didn't have a big ol' ballad to work with. Her performance itself could have used just a little bit of work. She was having fun but still felt a little bit stiff. She could've loosened up just a little more and then this would have been perfection.

Amy Vachal, "To Make You Feel My Love": Amy Vachal has made it through to the top 9 of The Voice based on her clever folk covers of popular songs, so it was interesting that she played it so straight in the semi-finals, when so much is at stake. Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems like a lot of Amy's power in this competition has been through her downloads. You don't have a version of "Bye Bye Bye" done all folky until you have Amy's single. But, everyone has a female take on Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love..." by Adele. This was a pretty performance, but if it had been anything but second to last, it seems like she wouldn't have a snowball's chance in a competition this stiff.

Jordan Smith, "Somebody to Love": So, does The Voice just want to give Jordan Smith the season 9 trophy now? It sure seemed like it, after all of the applause and praise he garnered after his performance of Queen's "Somebody to Love." The show has been gunning for Jordan all season, he's never performed earlier than third-to-last and he's been showered with nothing but praise (not like that is unusual for this show, which never has had a bad word to say about anybody). That's not to say it isn't wholly undeserved; Jordan has a really special voice with a wide range and his story is just perfect for The Voice... bullied kid makes good with a stunning voice. This was pretty epic and a nice finale for a show that had otherwise middling performances for a semi-final.

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