The Voice live shows are, far and away, the best part of the competition. Maybe it's because it recalls the tried and true format of American Idol (with the team twist), but it's here that we really, truly get to know all of the contestants. And what a joy that is. Tonight (April 7), the singers from Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine's teams got to show off their stuff, and it was a slow start to get to the really engaging performances.
To put it simply: Team Christina is slaying it this season. Each of her five performers brought something new to the table, and it's going to be hard to see two of them go - an unfortunate side effect of the team aspect of The Voice. Meanwhile, on Team Adam, there are some major inconsistencies and some performers that... well, I don't know how they got this far.
With that being said (and keeping last night's Team Blake/Team Pharrell show-off in mind), let's rank the evening's best and worst performers, with 10 being the worst all the way to No. 1.
10. Sonic, "I'm Going Down": Sonic chose to go with the Mary J. Blige version of this classic R&B hit, and it's a song that has been in her rotation since she was just 14 years old. With that being said, she should have absolutely blown this out of the park. Unfortunately for Sonic, in the first chorus, she got a little too pitchy and it really threw me off, although that may have been an intentional vocal choice, and then it was the wrong one. It sounded really, truly sour. Even if the performance had a few bum notes, Sonic was working the stage and selling this performance with all of the passion in the world, so it kind of balanced out, but not nearly as much as the coaches said it did... That being said, this was the first time that someone really felt connected to the audience. So, it's hard to say this was truly good or truly bad. It may be enough to get Sonic through? But I'm not so sure
9. Nathan Hermida, "Chains": When your coach tells you that you get an A for effort, well, that doesn't necessarily bode well for your chances on The Voice. My grade for Nathan Hermida's performance of Nick Jonas' "Chains?" Umm... a B-. He had some flubbed notes that were a little difficult to get past. And the thing that makes a Nick Jonas tune so hard to perform and take on is that he makes the craziest falsettos and big, boastful notes sound effortless. There seemed to be a great deal of effort behind Nathan's performance and tactics here.
8. Tonya Boyd Cannon, "Take Me to the Pilot": Isn't it Pharrell's job to give people obscure, dated song choices? We can feel that influence in Team Adam's Tanya Boyd Cannon with her take on the Elton John classic "Take Me to the Pilot." Though Tanya is the confidence builder on Adam's team and she definitely brings that to the stage, she seems to lack that je ne sais quoi that makes for a stellar performance. The vocal was nearly flawless but there was just a little something that seemed to fail to connect. At this point in the competition, being able to connect to the audience is a major flaw.
7. Joshua Davis, "Budapest": Really, how much time remains until Joshua Davis takes on a Dawes song? He just looks like he is in that band. For his live show debut, Joshua and Adam settled on George Ezra's "Budapest," which fitted his performance style even if he lacks the weird depth that makes Ezra really shine as a solo performer. He has a soothing style, as Christina was so anxious to point out, and that made this song very different than its original version, which has a notable quirk to it. This was more relaxed and sweet, and it worked.
6. Rob Taylor, "Earned It": It was only really a matter of time before this PBR&B crooner took on The Weeknd, and what better way to try and win over America's vote than with this current top 10 hit? Rob Taylor edged into The Weeknd's shoes, filling in his falsetto and his throat voice with some truly beautiful soul. The only major flub is that The Weeknd makes this song feel perfectly seamless, but Rob had to put forth a little effort. Now, given, he is still an amateur at this point, but when Team Christina is so insanely strong, that could be enough to send him home.
5. Deanna Johnson, "Down to the River to Pray": When the lyrics are in the title of the song, maybe you might not want to flub them on the very first time you sing them. That was a major misstep of Deanna Johnson, but she made up for it all in the actual execution of this 150-year-old song. Her nerves were still present tonight, though they were a bit subdued, but her voice is so rich and buttery and unique that she cut through it all. She stood and sang and delivered in what was one of the most accurate and simply engaging performances of the night. Was it a show stopper, show ender? Not so much... but it worked better than it should have, and it's definitely enough to move Deanna to the top 12.
4. Lexi Davila, "All By Myself": Wow, you can tell that Christina Aguilera is Lexi Davila's coach. There was the kind of warbling and over-singing that only XTina can teach ya. That being said, I've been reviewing and recapping The Voice steadily for weeks now, and I couldn't have told you anything about Lexi until tonight. I guess she was that girl that loved Christina's music so much? Then, wow, this was a match that needed to be made. Lexi has been lying under the radar, so she needed something over the top and bold to make her stand out, and that's something that she finally got. Kudos, Lexi.
3. Brian Johnson, "At This Moment": This is one of the biggest, most heartbreaking ballads of all time, so it really couldn't have gone to many more contestants on this season of The Voice who weren't Brian Johnson. His performance was short, sweet, emotional and to the point, with little fanfare decorating his stage presence but plenty of little vocal flourishes that made what could have felt boring and dated feel very much like something from 2015. It was a great mix of what we need from this show: emotional, perfectly sung and mysteriously engaging. Grade: A.
2. India Carney, "Hurt": The singers that have winded up on Team Christina have been so incredibly obvious and so well matched with their coach. India Carney took on Christina's own song "Hurt," and while the choice sounds self-serving to Christina, well, it made a lot of sense. This song showed off so much power and control from India, and she nailed every. single. note. And that was not an easy task, because say what you will about Christina Aguilera's career, but she has one of the best voices in the history of pop music. And India stood up to that. Something tells me she won't have to be a student at UCLA for much longer.
1. Kimberly Nichole, "What's Going On?: It's a wonder that we don't hear this 4 Non Blondes song more often on singing competitions... maybe it's because it's rather difficult to sing, but it can showcase range, emotion and some real powerful vocal prowess. Those are all things that Kimberly Nichole has, so it's a wonder that Christina Aguilera got this song for her. It worked incredibly well; Kimberly was able to pack pretty much every sort of punch into this 90-second performance. The range was there, the notes were all hit and there was so much rawness and movement. Kimberly was always pretty much a breakout performer, but she solidified that here.