‘The Voice’ Recap: Reviewing the Top 6

Don’t mess with Amanda Brown.

Hello again, fans of The Voice! I’m going to start off by being very matter-of-fact: My interest in the season has taken an extreme nosedive following the elimination of my favorite contestant, Cody Belew — AKA the most interesting and entertaining reality show talent since American Idol’s Haley Reinhart — and the unfortunate dismissal of the much-improved Dez Duron from Team Christina. I consistently find myself disappointed when America shuns the quirky, unique and diverse in favor of the same ol’ music hand-me-downs a la rocker Terry McDermott and soul singer Nicholas David. Good singers, sure, but they won’t make any waves in the music business and they lack true originality. But it is a new week, and I must keep a positive spirit if I am to carry on with the rest of the season. Chug along, I must, and with that said…here is my review session of The Voice’s Top Six…

6. Nicholas David (“September” & “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) — It saddens me deeply that Nicholas David — as kind as he is, I’m sure — is still in this competition over Cody Belew after his first performance that stands as one of the most drearily boring, ill-fitting songs of the season. Nicholas David never took “September” anywhere except to karaoke levels, mediocre even in that respect. I never sensed the passion or the enthusiasm during the performance, and it’s far too late in the game to have vocal gaffs left and right. Although “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” wasn’t technically perfect, at least Nicholas went outside of the box and transformed the song into a quintessentially “Nicholas David” performance. It was nice to see him stay at the piano and play around with the phrasing of the song, and it was apparent to all that he was emotionally invested with the Judy Garland classic. Despite his artistic growth with his last song of the evening , there’s no escaping just how truly awful “September” was. I can’t imagine Nicholas David escaping elimination after that haphazard performance.

Performance Reviews: “September” (*), “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (***)

5. Melanie Martinez (“Crazy” & “The Show”) — Melanie’s personality is adorable and her style is so fascinating to see change from week to week, but the girl has no vocal range! I legitimately enjoyed “Crazy” because of the dreamy atmosphere and way Melanie interpreted the song with such intimate intent. There was a haunting quality to the performance that worked immensely, especially seeing it on a television screen, but every time she extended her range, her notes got lost in the shuffle and her voice became no more than a whisper in the crowd. However, “Crazy” was leagues above the disastrous “The Show,” a song choice that seemed totally appropriate when considering Melanie’s age and overall artistic niche. The astonishing part was that the song never worked, and that staging was laughably bad. The dude rowing the fake cut-out boat was distracting and made the entire performance seem like one big joke. You could sense Melanie’s nerves, and even her sultry tone was overshadowed by a wonky lower register, obviously affected by all the distractions on stage thrown at her. This performance was the equivalent of Marie Osmond’s Doll Freestyle in Dancing with the Stars: Incredibly weird, and not in a good way.

Performance Reviews: “Crazy” (***), “The Show” (*1/2)

4. Terry McDermott (“I Want to Know What Love Is” & “Stay With Me”) — I’m a huge, HUGE Foreigner fan, so whenever anyone sings one of their classic rock tunes, I shake both in fear and excitement. The beginning of the performance was very insular and vocally beautiful, but as the song gradually went along, Terry lost the sensitive emotion within the lyrics and melody by an unfortunate case of over-singing. Yes, this rendition was miles better than Elise Testone’s Idol version a few months back, but Terry went overboard with his notes just a bit too much. I know he was trying to do something different with the song, but he needed to make a collect call to 1-800-DIAL-IT-BACK. Terry wasn’t as comfortable with the country song given to him by Blake, “Stay With Me” (which Skylar Laine slayed the crap out of last season on Idol), but his voice was able to do interesting things with the tune, and gave it a definitive rock sensibility. I actually thought the rendition was pretty radio friendly, but Terry’s transparent discomfort with the track held me back from fully digging the performance. Terry might be in trouble tonight if Melanie’s fan base rallies to the extreme.

Performance Reviews: “I Want to Know What Love Is” (**1/2), “Stay With Me” (**1/2)

3. Cassadee Pope (“Stand” & “I’m With You”) — Let’s get one thing clear right away: if this week’s top three contestants aren’t the final three of the season, I will shake my head in disgust. They are so far above the rest of the lot — vocally and in music relevance — that it would be a tragedy not to see one of these three crowned the winner of The Voice. I mean, really America! As far as Cassadee Pope is concerned (my favorite left in the competition), I cannot imagine a more chart/radio-ready female artist across the entire year of singing shows. While “Stand” was a bit too lightweight for my taste, there’s no denying that Cassadee silenced the naysayers for good about her supposed “weak range.” Bullocks, I say! The girl can project with the best of them, and while the song did her no favors in terms of memorability, it’s a great example of just how well-rounded Cassadee is. Moving on, let’s jump to her rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” possibly one of the best songs of the early 2000s. Cassadee channeled those lyric with such emotional understanding that I couldn’t help but feel like I was witnessing the second coming of Lavigne herself. Little girls are going to go crazy for her, and Cassadee’s handling of those tough vocal jumps and cartwheels was doubly impressive. Based on her consistency, her wonderfully amazing tone and mastery over contemporary music, I would vote her the winner ten times over. Please America, make this girl a star!

Performance Reviews: “Stand” (***), “I’m With You” (****)

2. Trevin Hunte (“Walking on Sunshine” & “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going”) — I’ve been really tough on Trevin ever since the live shows because I’ve been waiting to hear him return to that magic he showed us at the Blind Auditions. If you remember correctly, his “Listen” was my first (****) performance of the season, so naturally I felt like I had a lot invested in the kid. When he started to falter week in and week out, I almost lost hope. Thank goodness that Trevin is making a grand comeback at just the right time. “Walking on Sunshine” seems like such a cheesy and uninspired selection, but Trevin blew the roof off the house with his rendition of the 80s classic. He was smiling, moving about stage with a powerful purpose and those notes — good lord — those notes were phenomenal. The way his voice leaped into the air with such forcefulness was like a lion tamer snapping their whip. Every liberty taken was on the money, and the rich flavor Trevin poured over the number with his R&B tone and soul inflections was simply amazing. My only minor issue is that the song doesn’t really go anywhere in this competition, and as good as Trevin was I can’t say this performance will be placed in the history books, although it ought to. As for the Jennifer Holliday showstopper…THERE. ARE. NO. WORDS. These big numbers, where your success is solely determined by the power and control of your natural instrument, are like putty in Trevin’s hands. I don’t believe we’ve seen a male vocalist tackle this song before, and for that alone I give Trevin mad props. Heck, between “Listen” and “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” he might as well release his own Dreamgirls album and it’d be a monstrous hit on the charts. Trevin is peaking at the right time, and frontrunners Amanda Brown and Cassadee Pope need to seriously watch their backs with this comeback kid.

Performance Reviews: “Walking on Sunshine” (***1/2), “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” (****)

1. Amanda Brown (“Natural Woman” & “Here I Go Again”) — There are stars and then there are superstars. Amanda Brown is a superstar, ladies and gentlemen. Both of her performances blended so well together that even though the latter sometimes got vocally out of hand, there wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t dumbstruck by the sheer awesomeness of Amanda Brown’s energy onstage, matched by mostly perfect vocals through and through. “Natural Woman” might be the vocal of the season as far as I’m concerned. Everyone loves a tough woman who can sing that song, but what Amanda did was give it a sexiness that embraced the full aspects of womanhood. There was strength, sultriness and bouts of impeccable singing. “Here I Go Again” was balls to the wall genius in terms of creativity. There was such risk involved, especially with that crazy outfit, and for a moment I thought we were heading for a train-wreck. Aside from one or two manic moments, “Here I Go Again” was another example of Amanda Brown’s dominance in the rock genre, never for a second letting that soulful tone of hers depart. There is a fusion of styles she’s constantly incorporating into her performances that lead me to believe a future album could sound incredibly sleek and monumental, maybe even Grammy-level in quality. While I’m stylistically partial towards Cassadee, most online pundits seem to gravitate to Amanda Brown and beg America to give her the win. With performances like last night’s back-to-back showstoppers, I wouldn’t oppose such a result.

Performance Reviews: “Natural Woman” (****), “Here I Go Again” (***1/2)

Should Be in the Bottom Three: Nicholas, Terry and Melanie

Will Be in the Bottom Three: Nicholas, Terry and Melanie

Should Be Going Home: Nicholas and Terry

Will Be Going Home: Nicholas and Terry

That’s it for my The Voice recap! Tune in next week to see me discuss the final four! Please post your thoughts about last night’s episode below in the comments section!