‘The Voice’ Recap: Reviewing the Top 10

Jennifer Hudson mentors Top 10 — helps them find their own “Spotlight.”

Hey, hey fans of The Voice! Welcome back to another zany and fun week of me recapping America’s #1 singing show (for now)! This week, Jennifer Hudson sat down with each of the Top 10, offering sound advice thanks to her vocal prowess and also as someone who went through a very similar process…*ahem* FOX’s American Idol. So just how helpful was this Oscar/Grammy-winning diva deluxe we affectionately call “J.Hud”? That’s where I come in, so please take the plunge below to see how each of the Top 10 performed last night, hopefully inspired by the ingenious talent we all discovered in the spring of 2004.

10. Trevin Hunte “Scream” — First Amanda, now Trevin? It seems that back-to-back weeks, the two proposed frontrunners have found themselves doing the worst of the entire group by show’s end. It’s rather disappointing on an objective front, but on a personal note I’m happy that this disastrous performance means others might jump ahead, making this a truly unpredictable season. Where do I begin with the problems of this performance? Let’s start off with the song choice, which wasn’t so much innovative as it was cockily inspired. Did Trevin really think he could balance the swag of Usher whilst maintaining his high standard of singing? Well, whether he thought so or not, the result was the weakest set of vocals we’ve heard from Trevin all season, and his energy channeled in the wrong direction. Where this should have felt youthful and exuberant, all I got was a cheap and sleazy club atmosphere. After what happened with former favorite Avery Wilson on “Yeah 3X,” you’d think Cee Lo and Trevin would have known better. Trevin’s fans will keep him safe this week, but he cannot afford any more screw ups like last night’s ear-shattering “Scream.”

Performance Review: (*1/2)

9. Terry McDermott “Summer of 69” — Is this song Terry’s way of telling us to send him back to his favorite decade via time machine? I mean, how in the world does this song push the envelope or help Terry “grow” as a singer? Listening back to last week’s performance, I think I might have been a bit too generous with my score. I won’t make the same mistake again. Even worse than his boring delivery was how weak Terry’s voice sounded all of a sudden. He was barely giving any gusto, and his on-stage energy pretty much was at an all-time low, which is saying something from Mr. Rocker. I think of the great rock contestants on past reality shows like James Durbin and Chris Daughtry, and Terry McDermott isn’t as creative or innovative as those two, making him a very boring contestant. He’s just filler if he’s not going to bring anything new to the table. I am crossing my fingers America sends him home over someone like Cody, who people stylistically might take issue with, but is undeniably entertaining and still able to show us multiple sides of his artistry. I’m sorry to bring down the hammer so hard, but I could go to the local bar and pop in some coins for Jukebox tunes if all I wanted was to hear rock track, after rock track, after rock track. I never thought I’d ever say this, but Terry is making rock seem stale and outdated. C’mon Blake, challenge the man!

Performance Review: (**)

8. Nicholas David “Lean on Me” — “Doth my eyes deceive me?” you’re all probably asking yourselves right now as you read this. No, I’m afraid they don’t. I get that Nicholas probably received the most praise from all four judges of anyone last night, but I have to call manipulation when I see it. Whenever I see the church choir come in, I think to myself, “A bit much, dontcha think?” I mean, it’s alright when Fantasia Barrino does it when we’re crowing her the winner of American Idol, because how can you not celebrate such a momentous moment without going full gospel? But besides such special occasions, it all seems a little pretentious, no? All I care about is Nicholas’ voice, and separating that choir for just a second, can you honestly argue his vocals were at a master class level? Nicholas never did anything innovative with the song, and his version was so similar to Bill Withers’ masterful original that it came across as mimicry instead of boldly envisioned. Maybe I’m just being a pessimistic turd, but this is my individual impression, and I suspect not many will agree. Nicholas David is not leaving this competition anytime soon, so I’m not going to delude myself into thinking he might.

Performance Review: (**1/2)

7. Cassadee Pope “Over You” — I hate being the bearer of bad news, but please oh please Cassadee, do not listen to Adam Levine! Cassadee is best when she’s edgy and in her comfortable punk-rocker zone. There’s a time to be vulnerable, but her performance of “Over You” felt like a tribute that a daughter would sing at their parent’s “25th Anniversary.” Blake was welling up, Christina was on the verge of tears, and all I could think was how limited this song was for Cassadee, and it exposed some vocal weaknesses I hadn’t noticed before. She was rather shaky on her lower register, and her high notes lacked the necessary strength to make those emotional lyrics soar. I mean no disrespect to Miranda or Blake in my review, but as an objective critic, I felt this was the wrong song and the wrong genre for Cassadee to sing. I know she’s at the top of iTunes, but I believe that has more to do with the narrative she evoked within that performance than the quality of her actual singing. Cassadee Pope is probably my second-favorite in the competition, but vocally “Over You” did her no favors although it was an admirable attempt.

Performance Review: (***)

6. Sylvia Yacoub “Girl on Fire” — I love Sylvia, I really do, but I have to be completely honest here: something was amiss in this performance. I believe Sylvia tried so hard to be vocally strong and creatively brilliant that the performance came off more artificial than it intended to. There’s a fine line between passion and desperation, and I believe Sylvia slightly walked onto the wrong side. That being said, I love her voice and her piano section was indeed memorable. When she rose up and strutted around the stage, I lost a bit of that intimacy and as a result lost a bit of my beloved Sylvia as well. The problem was that you could see Sylvia, the girl, trying to be a woman, and in that respect maybe my favorite firecracker vocalist needs a bit more time to grow and really harness her incredible talent, which she undeniably has in spades. I think last night might have been her swan song, but you cannot deny that she fought tooth and nail each and every round. I simply preferred her two prior outings to “Girl on Fire.” I’m still a huge fan, but going first and not really making much of an impression might hurt Sylvia tonight.

Performance Review: (***)

5. Bryan Keith “New York State of Mind” — Bryan is technically very good, not quite great but always solid and consistent. I believe that will keep him around for awhile, but if he doesn’t get out of his laid-back, bluesy/soul vibe, he could receive an earlier exit than anyone foresaw. Bryan’s version of “New York State of Mind” was 1/5th the rendition that Erika Van Pelt’s was last season on Idol, but it still was one of the cleaner vocals of the evening. Midway it got a little sleepy, but I could tell Bryan was pushing himself both vocally and emotionally near the final few bars of the song. I’m still waiting for that breakout moment from Bryan Keith, and time’s running out for him to show us it. He’s dropping in the fan polls lately, and really needs to start sounding like a singer from 2012.

Performance Review: (***)

4. Dez Duron “Feeling Good” — It seems that someone took my Michael Buble comparisons to heart. Considering Dez sang my least favorite song on the planet, I believe he did a pretty marvelous job. Granted, once he jumped into the chorus he seemed just a wee bit out of breath, trying to catch up with the song and not having the wonderful confidence he exuded in those near-perfect opening verses. The first few notes of that song were so on the money, they would have flooded a bank. Dez got the style so right, so respectfully that I have a new-found respect for him as an artist. I just wish that last half wasn’t so inconsistently delivered, but alas…mistakes do happen. Here’s hoping Dez continues to exceed our expectations!

Performance Review: (***)

3. Amanda Brown “Stars” — Amanda Brown still has an air of being above it all, but with performances as magnificent as these, who cares? It’s always a huge risk singing a song that no one has heard before, but by doing so you are stripped down to basics and must be judged on the power of your own individual abilities. I was proud Amanda was able to turn a relatively unknown song into such a timeless tune. I almost love the song as much as I do Amanda, but all the credit has to go to this fabulous singer that can comfortably place herself alongside the great vocalists of today. I felt the emotion, I was in awe of Amanda’s voice, and I too love her diversity. That being said, Christina makes a valid point that somewhere down the line, Amanda needs to figure out the type of artist she is and stick to it. Still, what a performance!

Performance Review: (***1/2)

2. Cody Belew “Crazy In Love” — Cody Belew is the single greatest, most entertaining reality show contestant since American Idol’s Haley Reinhart. I never know what he has in store for us, but I always know it’s going to be innovative, boundary-pushing and never at the cost of his goodness-graciously amazing vocals. America is either going to love his uniqueness or hate him, but his sheer confidence and joy makes me smile every time. How can it not? Sure, “Crazy in Love” might not be the best vocal we’ve heard from Bam Bam, but I daresay that was one of the most memorable, refreshingly shocking performances I’ve ever seen on The Voice. If Cody goes home tomorrow, it’s because people cannot handle uniqueness, difference, and a person so comfortable in their own skin that he makes us all seem like one giant conglomeration of introverts. That last bit where Cody faked us out that he was done performing? Bah-RILLIANT.

Performance Review: (***1/2)

1. Melanie Martinez “Seven Nation Army” — I thought I had thrown in the towel when it came to Melanie Martinez. I was ready to make her write sentences on the chalkboard in Bart Simpson fashion, but oh no — Melanie Martinez wasn’t gonna give up on me, no siree! Most people who read my articles last season know that Jamar Roger’s version of this very song might be my favorite audition moment in any singing show. I believe I’ve re-watched that blind audition at least fifty times if not more so. So for me to praise Melanie Martinez for performing that exact same song means I saw something special here, and I most certainly did. I am so happy she brought back her soft voice that we can just dive into like it’s a pool of Miracle Whip. Not letting the music overpower her one-of-a-kind tone, Melanie delivered arguably the most concentrated and genuine bundle of emotion of the evening. I felt she knew exactly what she was singing about, but transformed that song to her own style without so much as a hitch. Creatively, this was ingenious; vocally, this was the Melanie Martinez I remembered from the Blind Audition. Thanks for coming back, and I do believe it’s good enough to stick around for another week. Melanie is officially back in my good graces, so bravo!

Performance Review: (***1/2)

Should Be in the Bottom Four: Nicholas, Trevin, Terry, Bryan

Will Be in the Bottom Four: Cody, Sylvia, Terry and Trevin

Should Be Going Home: Terry and Nicholas

Will Be Going Home: Sylvia and Cody (and there goes two of my three favorites — ugh!)

That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed my colorful commentary! Like me, do you think it’s crazy how some of these bland singers like Terry, Nicholas and Bryan will probably make it further than unique personalities/vocalists like Cody and Sylvia? America is nothing but predictable in their love of the ordinary…bah humbug! Let’s hope my predictions are dead wrong! Until next time, hasta la vista!