10 High (and Low) Notes From ‘The Voice’ Top 8 Performances (Guest Blog)

A Season 2 alum, I blog about the NBC talent competition every week

Ah, Thanksgiving week – turkey, stuffing and the Top 8! Now unpack your elastic waist pants, and let's talk my highlights and lowlights from this week's “The Voice” on NBC (in order of appearance).

1. Cloning babies.
Are we talking medical and scientific breakthroughs? Ethical or moral research issues? No, this is coach Christina Aguilera in response to James Wolpert's awesome performance of Queen's classic, “Somebody To Love.” It makes total sense. A group of male singers in tuxes = cloning babies. 1 + 2 = 3, right? This performance was great, but will it be enough to save James from the death slot of the night (No. 1)? I hope so.

2. We really like you underneath it all.
Tessanne Chin has already proven she's an incredible vocalist, but this week she went a step further with a fun, charismatic reggae version of “Underneath it All.” This was a brilliant move on coach Adam Levine's part. Tessanne has always been a front-runner, but because she started so strong so soon in the competition her arc could easily become static for people watching the show (i.e. the Judith Hill curse). Last night she crashed through that static with a performance that showed off her versatility and likeability in full force.

Also read: Ratings: ‘Almost Human’ Drops in Demo, NBC Takes Night With ‘The Voice,’ ‘Blacklist’

3. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Coach Cee Lo Green wrote Caroline Pennell a poem and read it on air after her lackluster performance of “Dog Days Are Over.” It was very sweet (and only a touch creepy) but didn't make up for the fact that this was the most ill-advised song choice of the night. Cee Lo – stop writing her poems and start giving her the right music! She doesn't need to do anything “left field” or over the top. She just needs a song that will let her special voice shine! How about Feist? More Ingrid Michaelson? Ben Howard? Anything but Florence and the Machine please.

4. Lies in the Sprint Skybox.
Carson Daly and Robin Thicke took some fan questions in the Sprint Skybox, and for once we got a good one (yes!). Someone asked if Robin dances in front of a mirror at home. He responded “absolutely not,” and I say LIES! Robin Thicke – we all know you dance, groom and play the piano in the mirror 24-7. Just speak your truth, my friend, because the truth will set you free. Watch his performance below.

5. What's your problem with piano, Blake??
Did a piano break up coach Blake Shelton's first serious relationship? Did it take his spot on the football team? “I Still Believe In You” was a lovely, understated production, but I'm trying to understand why Blake wouldn't let Cole Vosbury play the piano again this week? I've said it before, and I'll say it again – there is nothing sexier than a bearded man playing the piano.

Also read: ‘The Voice’ Top 10 Results: Why Every Performance Counts (Video)

6. Distress signals.
Matthew Schuler already knows how to work the stage, so why did he require choreography for his rendition of “It's Time?” The dancers were distracting, and the hand movements just took us further out of the moment. Maybe he was delivering a message to us via his hands – a distress signal saying “save me from his choreography!” I don't know, but all that extra work took a toll on his vocals. This was my least favorite performance of the night.

7. Tessanne and the Dudes.
Adam was kidding when he coined the name, but “One Day” was basically a “Tessanne and the Dudes” number, because she dominated that group performance. Her male backup singers were super cute though.

8. Biggest surprise.
This HAS to be Will Champlin with his take on “At Last.” When they announced his song choice, I responded with a “Hell no!,” because – Etta James, you guys. Then he got up there and really slayed that dragon. Will somehow managed to bring a whole new dynamic to a song that is as over-used as it is over sung, reaching for some crazy high notes that shouldn't have worked but did. Just when you thought he was done, he'd go for another and nail it again. It was amazing to watch, and it was definitely my favorite performance of the night. Watch it again above.

Also read: 12 High (and Low) Notes From ‘The Voice’ Top 10 Performances (Guest Blog)

9. Can we stop saying the word “swag” now?
Listen, Ray Boudreaux has tons of swag – he's got a strategically unbuttoned shirt and tailored suit that says “swag” all day long. Now if the word wasn't uncool already (and it was), Blake has put the final nail in its coffin by saying it multiple times on air after Ray's performance of “Gimme Some Lovin'”. RIP “swag” (we hope!).

10. You gotta meet a nice boy.
This was Adam's advice to Jacquie Lee after she powered through a wild performance of “Who's Loving You Now,” somehow managing to draw on a reserve of angst that seems well beyond her 16 years. You know what, Jacquie? Don't meet a nice boy, because what you're doing is working! If you sound like you “swallowed an old lady” (per Cee Lo), you're winning.

Coming up: Who do you think will survive Tuesday's eliminations? It airs at 9/8c on NBC. Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I'll see you next week!

Also read: 13 Highs (and Lows) From ‘The Voice’ Live Shows Week 2 (Guest Blog)

Guess what? My new Christmas single and video is out this Friday (Black Friday, y'all!). Download it and make me a happy girl! Also? If you live in LA, come see my holiday show next Tuesday, Dec. 3 at The Hotel Cafe. Christmas music is MY JAM.

Don't forget to check out my album “In & Out of the Dark,” which is now available on iTunes. For more updates, follow me on Twitter at @katrinapmusic and visit my website, www.katrinaparker.com.

  • Semi Sweet

    Oh Miss beautiful Katrina
    So rarely do I disagree agree with you that it hurts my heart to say so… but I will (hence the moniker ;) ) besides mostly you're spot on as always!
    1. James was awesome and Miss Thang just couldn't give him that – kudos to the choreographer… seriously? Just call it out Christina – he ruled and you were green!
    2.Tessanne, Ok she can sing but… I wouldn't pay for her music or to see her live and as for last night specifically… I love reggae, that was drivel. imho – overrated
    3. You know the most annoying thing about the song choice for Caroline is they asked for ideas and lots of people suggested lots of really good, well suited songs to show her subtleties but that she still has range and power… Frente! version of Bizarre Love Triangle and Bjork Oh So Quiet were a couple of the suggestions and I think would showcase her talent and still show off a little team CeeLo edge.
    4.Love his ballads… I'll say no more
    5.Spot On and Cole – damn can he sing. I am not a big country fan and he just makes you like whatever he sings!
    6. Oh Matthew… If I have nothing nice to say…
    7. Both group performances were awkward, uncomfortable and sounded terrible! The only thing remotely rescued Lego House (A lovely song btw) was how beautifully Caroline & James harmonized I wasn't sure the other two didn't just hate the song and were intentionally trying to destroy it!
    8. Will – Incredible,… I just can't even… wow
    9. Ray – yeah enough now button your shirt
    10. Jacquie – now this girl can SING and I mean really but I never feel anything from her. Christina tells her to look like she is feeling it and plot out her every move… while Christina is B most of the time when she opens her mouth to let the music out – she turns it on. Every song, every time upbeat, downtempo, sexy, fun, flirty, angry… whatever – you FEEL it. Potential but she isn't there.
    11, 12, 13 – LOVE your CD & and the halloween songs and your grace, charm & beauty Happy Thanksgiving!
    Cheers………………as always………….Semisweet!

    • Katrina Parker

      Oh darling, beyond Tessanne I don't know that we truly disagree on anything? I feel like you've just filled in the blanks on the larger issues at play in each of my points (and thank you for that!).

      Thanks also for the kind words about the CD, etc…that's music to my ears. :)

    • Katrina Parker

      PS: I know nothing about reggae, so in this area I am easy! Haaa.

  • David Perkins

    I love the piano as much as the next guy. But, sending Cole out with his gitbox to render a popular country tune was a stroke of genius! Cole soared to Number One on the iTunes Top 200 Country Songs chart (and #13 on the big chart). In doing so, he stirred the previously slumbering legions of country music fans who vote in huge numbers (See: Danielle Bradbery). I'm not a country fan, per se. (I actually prefer the ‘Hey Monday’ Cassadee Pope to the Blake-inspired Countridee Pope.) Nevertheless, if Cole stays in the country lane for the duration, it's entirely possible that will have four trophies to show off when Usher and Shakira return.

    Speaking of Usher and Shakira, I'm getting the impression that CeeLo and Christina don't want to win. Caroline has a wonderful unique quirky voice, but CeeLo hasn't chosen a wonderful unique quirky song in many weeks! Matthew went from first to worst in two weeks. Seriously, ‘Hallelujah’ charted at Number Two on iTunes two weeks ago. Today, he finished dead last of the Top 8 at #86. And, Jacquie really needs a song choice that gives the impression she swallowed a somewhat more youthful, more current older woman. She needs a chart topper!

    I see Caroline in the bottom three again. Be prepared to be shocked at who joins her. It could be Ray, Tessanne, Jacquie and/or Matthew. I'm prepared to be shocked.

    • Katrina Parker

      Ahh, I didn't think about the guitar = country angle? I would think it being a widely recognized country song would be enough for the country voters, piano or no, but that's a great point! If that saves Cole, I am THRILLED. :)

      Yes, this week was topsy turvy! Caroline should be a no-brainer. Her voice is current and so so special. It shouldn't be that hard to give her decent material!

      Haa, good point on Jacquie – in all honesty, she is not my cup of tea, so I tend to go too overboard compensating for that (because I know logically she is incredibly talented even if her voice isn't something I enjoy). I agree she should do something more youthful (how did you like her version of “Love is Blindness?”), but I'm still duly impressed by her angst.

      • David Perkins

        Actually, I was thinking that Jacquie should do Amy Lee, or something of that ilk. It'd be younger, but still angry and/or full of angst. ‘Going Under’ or ‘My Immortal’ are Evanescence songs Jacquie could hit out of the park. There's also plenty of angst-ridden Avril Lavigne, and a bunch of others. I just think Jacquie should do what she does best — but do it with more recent songs that might get her into the Top 10 on iTunes before it's too late.

        • David Perkins

          As a follow-up to my own comment, I think that Jacquie is scoring well with the upper half of the 18-49 demo. She'll also need the lower half to win. One of the coaches last week suggested Jacquie should belt out an Aretha Franklin classic. It would be great, for sure. But, it would appeal to the half of the demo she's already winning. No gain.

  • David Perkins

    As it turned out, I'm somewhat surprised that Matthew ended up in the Bottom 3 so quickly. He went from #2 on iTunes to #86 in just two weeks. iTunes got the Bottom 3 exactly right — for the first time this season. That's the biggest surprise so far.

  • Raine

    Posting after the fact. I am pretty satisfied with the outcome this week. Slightly disappointed that Ray did not make it through. That is more due to him being from the community in Louisiana. We were really hoping he would make it to the hometown show. He is scheduled for the first Friday in December to play Downtown Alive which is free and outdoors. NBC would have been here filming if he made it. We will be there and it would have been a fun one to experience with production present. Unfortunately I agree with so many others about him. He projects himself in a way that makes him seem a but self absorbed. The “I am Gods gift to women” complex which is a major turn off. I know he is not like that though. I think The Voice handlers and stylist tried to over do his sex appeal thus taking away from his performance making him seem annoying. I am thrilled for Cole, Jaquie and James. They kill it every time. James version of Somebody to love was breathtaking. I am a dissappointed that Caroline did mot get through but did not expect her to. That song choice was a horrible move by CeeLo. I have seen her you tube videos and can think of so many others I that could have made her stand out bit still must take into consideration that they are limited to a per approved list of song choices due to legalities.

  • CeCe1

    I swear if Will gets through one more week I'm going to stop watching. He has an interesting voice (and ok, some range) but he looks SO uncomfortable singing and on stage. I think he'd agree he's more comfortable behind a keyboard or bass. He just doesn't have the overall package, in my opinion. Neither does James. He looks like he belongs working in a bank somewhere.

    Ray and Matthew, on the other hand do. Very disappointed that we won't get to hear more of Ray's Swamp Pop chops. He's unique and has a beautiful, soulful voice. I think Matthew's a star. Period. Christina's fault for putting her choreographer into the mix with him and not helping him with song choice.

    Neither Caroline nor Jacquie are ready and Jacquie's performance was very “pitchy”. She often screams more than sings in her high register. Both show great promise, however.

    I agree with others that Tessane Chin has the best voice in the competition but I can't see her surviving as a solo act in the marketplace. I feel as though had she done this show a few years ago, maybe.

    Someone said that they don't think Cee Lo and Christina want to win. I don't think it matters one way or the other to Cee Lo but I do think Christina is trying this year and it's refreshing to see her making constructive comments for a change.

  • Jacob Elyachar

    Katrina…I love your articles, insight and time on “The Voice.” But I have to disagree with your opinion on James’ performance. While he proved himself to me (I watched it live in the audience), I thought that James CAN NEVER SING with Queen! There are only two vocalists from a Reality TV show that could master the vocal ranges performing with Queen: Adam Lambert and your fellow Season Two contestant: Tony Vincent. I think James is WAY OUT OF HIS LEAGUE! On a different note, what do you think of having someone (an executive or music manager) like Jimmy Iovine, Sharon Osbourne, LA Reid or Kara DioGuardi offering their insight on the finalists’ performances on the results night? It would be interesting to get their takes and also the coaches’ reactions if they liked or hated the performance. All the best! Jacob