‘The Voice’ Recap: Quarterfinals Part 1

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The Quarterfinals kicked off last night on The Voice, and I am pleased to report that this was the best week of the live rounds thus far. Sure, no one completely knocked my socks off the way that Charlotte Sometimes (why isn’t she still around?) and Juliet Simms did the past two weeks, but as an entire body of work, most every performance from Teams Blake and Christina had me engaged in some manner. More than anything else this week,  it was Christina Aguilera who blew me away as a judge. I am sure her shocking instant elimination will have people up in arms decrying cruelty, jealousy, and who knows what other slanderous comments. Her decision proved to me that she is someone who is not phased by America, instead pushing forth the best team possible. Christina’s brutal honesty and unwavering convictions instantly shoots her up as my favorite singing show judge on television. Would I have eliminated the person Christina shockingly chose to cut? No, but I wouldn’t have anointed them an undeserving frontrunner crown either. All said, it was a great night, with two fairly correct eliminations, and a heck of a show with performances that finally entertained without looking like Barnum and Bailey stopped by. Without further ado, here is my full review disclosure…

8. Chris Mann (Team Adam) “Viva la Vida” (Coldplay) — Again, how did Chris Mann make it this far into the competition? Surely he would have unleashed his operatic voice by now, but he continues to pick songs that are far too dynamic for his specific skill-set. Once more, Mann could not connect to the lyrics he was singing, and so the whole performance felt meaningless, as if all he was doing was mumbling some gibberish instead of actual soaking into the song’s universal power. Mann’s voice was all over the place, shaky at the beginning and flat during the chorus. For me, this was Mann’s worst vocal, performance, and song choice to date, and I can’t see him making it past tonight’s result show.

Performance Review: (**)
If you choose Coldplay, you’d better know how to sing them:

7. Jordis Unga (Team Blake), “A Little Bit Stronger” (Sarah Evans) — Jordis, “the person,” I absolutely find spellbinding. You can tell she has so much passion for music, and that unfortunately may be part of her problem when she transitions to Jordis, “the singer.” That passion stymies her from refining her voice on a song. Nearly every moment of the song was off-pitch in some way or another, and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why this keeps happening for Jordis. She is a talented musician, but I have this feeling like we never truly got to see her potential on The Voice. It’s a shame, but with so little time to showcase yourself, it made sense for Blake to get rid of Jordis. Moreover, ballads, especially country ones, have nothing to do with Jordis’ edgy style, contrasting sharply and uncomfortably so. The only reason I preferred this performance to Chris Mann’s was that Jordis did show her vulnerability. Technically, this was a mess, but I wish her all the best in future musical endeavors.

Performance Review: (**)
Jordis tries so hard, but she needs a vocal coach to refine the blemishes:

6. Jesse Campbell (Team Christina), “Halo” (Beyonce) — I’m going to tread lightly here, as I feel like anything negative I say will probably incur as much wrath as Christina is likely receiving at this moment. The performance wasn’t a complete bust, but there were so many facets of manipulation in the piece, I couldn’t help but feel disturbed. Am I voting for the best singer, or am I voting for a guy’s sob story? The projected image of Jesse and his daughter on the side of the wall was utterly tactless. What am I being sold here, and if I don’t vote for Jesse, am I going straight to hell for not supporting a financially struggling man and his little girl? That’s the kind of unnecessary guilt the performance tried to lay on us, and I have to blame the producers in part for this. Turning to Jesse’s voice alone, I actually enjoyed the beginning far more than that shrill end. When Jesse began singing those first few verses, I felt like he was finally taking ownership of his modern day appeal. Then that disastrous ending occurred, with ear-shattering squeals that made me feel more in pain than legitimate sympathy. I would have eliminated Chris Mann this week had I been in Christina’s shoes, but she stuck to her guns for valid reasons. Jesse’s performance was what I’d like to describe as 1-800-OVERKILL.

Performance Review: (**1/2)
Are me and Christina going straight to hell for our negative reactions to this performance? Have a look:

5. Erin Willett (Team Blake), “Set Fire to the Rain” (Adele) — Can we please all come together and sign a petition begging singing reality show producers to never again let a contestant sing an Adele song. What do they hope to accomplish aside from sounding inferior to the original artist? Erin Willett’s version was acceptable, not memorable, but more importantly the song didn’t push her away from the pack. I thought Erin was on a hot streak in terms of the votes, but now I have a feeling she may go home tonight. Adam’s note about the phrasing was spot on. Erin delivered each note like a checkoff list, failing to add that extra layer of complexity to an overly familiar tune. Erin’s voice is solid, but I wish this performance had been a tad more evolved than its simplistic karaoke rendition.

Performance Review: (**1/2)
Not perfect, but vocally stronger than a great many singers left:

4. Lindsey Pavao (Team Christina) “Part of Me” (Katy Perry) — I was pretty surprised none of the judges knew this song considering Katy Perry is a giant star, who clearly knows a great many artists in the music industry. This was not Lindsey’s best week, but she still found a way to sound both different and superior to the original performer’s version. I love the dark and twisted spin she puts on each track, solidifying her ethereal artist persona. Lindsey could be the next Amy Lee of Evanescence if she works more on strengthening her voice. There was some noticeable wonky notes hit, but I still found myself enjoying the performance nonetheless. To me, Lindsey is on the precipice of a record deal — that is how good and marketable I find her to be. Lindsey has probably the best chance of winning from Team Christina, and I certainly would not mind that outcome.

Performance Review: (***)
Even at her worst, Lindsey is still brilliant:

3. Jermaine Paul (Team Blake), “Against All Odds” (Phil Collins) — I absolutely abhor this song. So many contestants on American Idol have kicked a once beautiful Collin’s tune into the dirt where I thought it would forever rot. Then comes Jermaine, who injects just the right of emotion and soul to make me forget all those terrible renditions that came before. Sure, maybe Jermaine had one too many inflections that weren’t necessary, but as an entire performance, I found myself moved. The way Jermaine could tap into those lyrics like he was telling his own story felt so real and genuine. You can tell the guy has years of stage experience under his belt, because I would give him an Oscar for his acting. Jermaine’s convincing emotion led me to believe that perhaps those lyrics meant something to him in relation to his own life experiences. Whatever the case may be, this was a terrific performance. I hated Jermaine’s “Living on a Prayer” last week, but found myself totally caught up in this version of a classic track. Jermaine has talent, and he is one of two individuals who has completely changed my view toward them.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
Soulful, and with deep feeling. Near perfection:

2. Ashley De La Rosa (Team Christina), “Foolish Games” ( Jewel) — Someone actually sang a Jewel song! Who knew?! The beginning started out a tad shaky, but boy did Ashley sing the living daylights out of that chorus. I was bowled over by how Ashley let the song build to such a heightened level, and then she catapulted it into the stratosphere like any vocally superlative singer should. The intro was haunting, the chorus was powerful, and the final segment was moving. I could see Ashley get so caught up in the lyric’s emotion that she almost broke apart, and I absolutely love that commitment to music. For me, Ashley did enough to land herself into the semifinals. I just hope America will get on board this time.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
Ashley, drop the “rock” act. This style is  where you need to reside in:

1. RaeLynn (Team Blake), “She’s Country” (Jason Aldean) — Between Skylar Laine and RaeLynn, I’m having second thoughts about the country genre. Shucks, maybe it ain’t so bad after all! I’m the first to admit that RaeLynn is not the best singer, but I’ll be damned if anyone can find me a better performer this season who can sell a song better than RaeLynn. Between her phrasing, unique voice, and all-around gritty attitude, I cannot get enough of this girl. I know I’m supposed to dislike her, because the internet seems to already proclaim her the next Taylor Swift (in that “girl who can’t sing” kind of way), but I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed RaeLynn both times she’s performed, with last night’s performance her best yet. Her ability to stretch the song’s chorus to an anthem-like level is marvelous. RaeLynn just made country “cool” in my eyes, and that is near impossible to do. Blake is taking this girl to the semifinals, with or without America’s support.

Performance Review: (****)
This performance was so fun, all I was missing was popcorn:

Sudden Eliminations: Jesse Campbell (Team Christina) & Jordis Unga (Team Blake)

Predicted Top Voter Earners: Lindsey Pavao (Team Christina) & RaeLynn (Team Blake)

Predicted Judges’ Picks: Ashley De La Rosa (Team Christina) & Jermaine Paul (Team Blake)

Predicted Eliminated Contestants: Chris Mann (Team Christina) & Erin Willett (Team Blake)

What do you all think, everybody? Am I the only one besides maybe iTunes and Blake Shelton that loves RaeLynn? Was Jesse Campbell’s elimination warranted or shockingly unfair? And finally, who were your favorites of the night, and can anyone from either Team Christina or Team Blake actually win this season? (Probably not, but don’t count out Lindsey Pavao) Sound off below in the comments section!