‘The Voice’ Recap: Reviewing the Top 6

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Tessanne-Chin-bob-marley-redemption-songHoping to land safe and sound at next week’s all-important Semifinals, The Voice’s Top 6 were allowed two performances apiece to show America just how worthy they are. One song was selected by their respective mentor, while the other was their individually chosen “dedication song,” a “thank you” of sorts to the loved ones supporting their dreams back home. I’ll be honest, it’s going to be incredibly tough seeing one of these talented artists leave the competition tonight. Everyone left their heart on that stage — yes, Christina, everyone — so it really comes down to overall consistency. In my opinion, there’s only one good move for America to make and so I’m crossing my fingers they’ll follow through. With that said, it’s time to rank the Top 6 based on last night’s show…

6. Matthew Schuler

Song 1: “Story of My Life” – Matthew is emotionally invested but his opening verses are projected with less volume than a whisper – not good. Finally he starts to open up his instrument on the chorus, netting his talent over the anthemic hook like nobody’s business. I’m not gonna lie, this is one catchy tune and Matthew is selling it well. A rough first half is redeemed by a tremendous second. (★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdqusK1B5tU&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “When a Man Loves a Woman” – Matthew Schuler can always be counted on to give every part of his soul to a song. But the cost of such spiritual commitment is too big a price on this show, namely one’s vocal technique. Screaming, losing control over the notes and not knowing how to maneuver through a song without erupting into bombast is a huge no-no in singing competitions. What’s holding Matthew back is his lack of experience. He has the raw talent to become one of the great contemporary R&B singers of our time, but he first needs to fine-tune his unique tone. Although Schuler’s performance pleased his coach, the song noticeably swallowed him up. It felt like Schuler ran through brick wall after brick wall, marked with bruises all over by the time the performance was finished. Schuler gets extra points for that nice falsetto leading out of the chorus, but overall this legendary, tremendously challenging track showcased all of the vocal weaknesses the young singer has yet to overcome. In sum, it’s now clear to me that Matthew Schuler really should be the next to go. (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dgwkCbIgvg&feature=player_embedded

5. Cole Vosbury

Song 1: “Rich Girl” – While vocally on-point, I don’t feel the confidence emanating from Cole like I usually do. His gruff rasp jives with the aggressive lyrics, but his eyes just scream “what am I doing here?!” The song itself is a tad forgettable and more than a little repetitive. Cole still has the chops to make it into the semifinals, but I’m not sure this performance changed his standing one way or another. (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ULyJtNNCZw&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “Better Man” – I could feel the hurt in Cole’s rendition of this powerful ballad. He never turned the song into a technical display of his skills. He simply sung from the heart and buried himself deep in the track’s lyrics. Cole is as authentic as musicians get, and I very much hope he keeps showing us different sides to his artistry. I’m not sure Cole is out of danger this week, but his sincere delivery on this love song should melt hearts, and subsequently inspire those affected to vote for him en masse. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlhMF33flLg&feature=player_embedded

4. Jacquie Lee

Song 1: “Cry Baby” – A+++ for effort like I’ve never seen. It’s palpable how hungry Jacquie is for the prize. The opening note was a little shrieky and desperate – and I couldn’t really tell whether Jacquie felt the lyrics in her gut or was simply performing vocal gymnastics to show off – but all in all, Jacquie wanted to be remembered and she most likely will. This is a girl who is going places, so I only have one request: Christina, stop pimping your protégé like she’s an orphan America needs to adopt. She’s great, we get it. What we don’t need is a full speech telling us why. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtEdjNhd5yY&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “The Voice Within” – A tad indulgent perhaps, but I cannot help but be moved by Jacquie’s unyielding passion to become the music star she so noticeably idolizes. Jaqcuie doesn’t have Christina Aguilera’s command over jazzy runs and rapid-fire note changes, and thus sounds less-than-perfect when covering the identical arrangement of the original song. However, Jacquie seemed more believable here than on her former tour-de-force vocal. Experience and less copy-cat technique will help Jacquie in the long run. I still can’t envision her as the winner of The Voice…but neither can I envision her leaving the show tonight. Jacquie will most likely have one or two shows left to prove if she can come out from under Christina’s daunting shadow and assert herself as a one-of-a-kind diva. (★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42zN21bmPo&feature=player_embedded

3. Will Champlin

Song 1: “A Change is Gonna Come” – Will Champlin doesn’t make any fuss whatsoever. He comes on stage and gets the job done. This wondrous rendition of the Sam Cooke classic is so vocally superlative that I remain confused as to why Champlin isn’t a chart-topper already. The notes he holds are unreal and register deep within one’s soul. Was this song choice the most unexpected or necessary? No, maybe not, but man can Will SANG! At the end of the day, this competition is all about finding the strongest vocalist, and this performance proves beyond a shadow of a doubt Will is that person amongst the remaining contestants. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjcxKP4wJ3Q&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “Hey Brother” – It’s nice to mix things up for a change. While this may not have been Will’s best performance to date, it nevertheless left an impression. Will Champlin knows how to appeal to rock fans of every subgenre, be they indie, alternative or pop-rock enthusiasts. Champlin shirked his overachiever vocals in favor of some nitty-gritty folk sounds, and I completely dug it. The performance started off a bit shaky but then evolved into a full-blown concert number. This Average Joe on paper is churning out memorable performance after memorable performance. For the life of me, I can’t imagine Champlin finishing lower than third after continually surpassing expectations this season. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D-dAzz20vY&feature=player_embedded

2. Tessanne Chin

Song 1: “Redemption Song” – Tessanne is such a phenomenal singer, no question. But there’s something about the way she carries herself on stage that feels very old-fashioned. I wish she could focus on finding a way to make her artistry a bit more accessible. With that said, this was a stunning performance that hit zero speed bumps from a technical standpoint. Heartfelt and respectful to the great Bob Marley, Tessanne will more than likely move her home country to tears with this legendary song of Jamaican pride. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIqb9Lw1Gik&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “Unconditionally” – After that unsteady opening, I was afraid this was going to be an overcooked karaoke version of a karaoke-sounding pop hit. I was wrong. This is certainly not the sort of song I would have chosen for Tessanne, but she delivered it in such an upbeat, joyous way that I couldn’t help but smile. Her ad-libs were truly astounding, even when the production crew threatened to make her performance seem too “Miss Universe” for its own good. Tessanne is fully committed to making each performance seem as if it’s its own monumental event. For that alone, it’s nearly impossible to root against her. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4m2rhnnmr0&feature=player_embedded

1. James Wolpert

Song 1: “Fell In Love With a Girl” – This is a very weird song but I am digging it for the equally odd James Wolpert! James’ elocution on the track is so awesome that it almost feels like a throwback to the rock artists of the ‘60s. James could have pushed the “Woah, Woah, Woah” section a bit more, but no matter — this performance will go down as one of his most memorable. Finally James Wolpert gets out of his theatrical trappings and delivers a really funky, cool-as-hell performance. I’m now officially excited about James Wolpert. (★★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_VcQkdh3j8&feature=player_embedded

Song 2: “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” – What is going on with James Wolpert tonight? It’s like I’m watching a champion for the first time this entire competition. With my luck, that probably means James Wolpert’s days (possibly hours) are numbered…but HOLY COW! His Meatloaf rock ballad cover was superb from start to finish. So maybe James held back more than usual because he was sick, but no matter since his accidental “less is more” approach ended up being the key to the performance’s greatness. James’ restraint worked wonders on a song that could easily become a shouting rant; he instead turned it into a majestic, genuine outpouring of raw love. James never lost his theatrical edge throughout the performance, even when he reduced his choruses to nothing but a heartfelt plea. Sincere and astonishing, Wolpert just upped his game in a major way with Meatloaf’s showstopper. Thank you, James Wolpert. I finally get the hype surrounding your awesomeness. (★★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrWnlT8myBI&feature=player_embedded

Predicted Bottom Two: Matthew Schuler and James Wolpert

Should and Will Go Home: Matthew Schuler

That’s all for this week’s performance recap. Am I too tough on Matthew, too lenient towards my new buddy James Wolpert? Sound off in the comments!