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‘The Voice’: Serious contenders emerge from final playoff

Three singers separate themselves from the pack in final round of 'Voice' playoffs
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Cody Powell, May 8, 2013 12:13:25 AM

Five performances into Tuesday’s second, and final, round of live playoffs on The Voice, I was ready to declare Blake Shelton and Shakira the big losers of Season 4.

I didn’t see a single star-calibre performance during the show’s first hour and change, causing me to wonder just how deep either mentor’s team could go in the competition. But before visions of both teams getting obliterated early on in the Top 12 could consume my psyche, Justin Rivers, Danielle Bradbery and Sasha Allen stepped up and delivered three exceptional performances in a row to end the night, establishing both themselves and their mentors as serious contenders for the Season 4 title.

Here’s how I saw Tuesday’s performances:

Team Blake
Danielle Bradbery
Song choice: “Maybe It Was Memphis,” Pam Tillis
Evaluation: Showed great confidence despite being the youngest singer remaining in the competition at 16. Nailed the chorus and everything around it, demonstrating surprising power at times. All Shakira could say was “holy crap,” while Adam declared her one of the best singers in the competition. I couldn’t have agreed more with both sentiments; it was as close to perfect as anyone came on the night. My only criticism is that I didn’t believe the story she was telling. If she learns to better connect with her songs moving forward, her game will reach a whole new, near-unreachable level.
Chances of going through: High

Performer: Holly Tucker
Song choice: “How Do I Live,” LeAnn Rimes
Evaluation: Was worried she didn’t fit the superstar mould, which resulted in a less-than-confident, shaky start. She cleaned things up around the chorus, and that “me” she held onto for a few seconds was great, but there were too many pitch problems for my liking. It seemed like she was trying just a bit too hard to showcase her power and range, resulting in a frantic performance. I really liked the arrangement of her final notes, though, which also came out in a sweet falsetto. Good overall, but not mind-blowing by any stretch.
Chances of going through: Low

Performer: Justin Rivers
Song choice: “Meet in the Middle,” Diamond Rio
Evaluation: Admired his decision to perform out in the middle of the crowd. I wasn’t surprised to learn that his former band was nominated for a Grammy, given the polish and energy he displayed during his performance. Like a pro, he stayed relatively on pitch throughout and had the crowd eating out of his hands from the first note. With his vocal talents and rugged good looks, he’s a serious contender for this season’s title.
Chances of going through: High

Performer: The Swon Brothers
Song choice: “Fishin’ in the Dark,” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Evaluation: The song didn’t require any vocal gymnastics, so they were able to stay on pitch throughout, and their harmonies were great. Colton definitely took Blake’s advice about having fun to heart, coming out to engage the crowd towards the end. Shakira said the performance made her feel “comfortable,” which was probably the best way to describe it. Both guys have stage experience, so they weren’t as nervous as everyone else, and the song was right in their country wheelhouse. If they want to make it all the way to the end, though, they’ll have to take bigger risks.
Chances of going through: Medium

Team Shakira
Garrett Gardner
Song choice:  “Imagine,” John Lennon
Evaluation: Needs to work on his lower register. Whenever he had to drop his voice for a low note, it would veer off-key and sometimes drop to a whisper, almost like he was running out of breath. Things significantly improved around the chorus, though, when he transitioned to his upper register and the beastly growl in his voice came out. It was a solid performance all-around and a good way to start the show. Similar to Angie Miller on Idol, he belongs behind a piano and would be well-advised to remain there.
Chances of going through: High

Performer: Karina Iglesias
Song choice: “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green
Evaluation: Displayed lots of power from top to bottom. There was, however, a Shakira-like vibration to her voice that I didn’t particularly love, and the entire performance was rather boring. I’ll forever be spoiled by Justin Guarini’s perfect rendition of the same song on Idol, which I think factored into my boredom a little bit, but the lack of “wow” moments and the uninspired arrangement were the greatest contributors.
Chances of going through: Low

Performer: Kris Thomas
Song choice: “When I Was Your Man,” Bruno Mars
Evaluation: Very capable copycat performance. He possess a great falsetto similar to Bruno, something he showed off many times throughout the performance. His voice broke a little bit when reaching for high notes during the chorus, making me question if he has enough power to win this type of competition, but the sweet little runs he followed up with made up for any shortcomings. Solid overall.
Chances of going through: Medium

Performer: Sasha Allen
Song choice: “Oh! Darling,” The Beatles
Evaluation: Not the greatest song choice, but she worked it out. Easily the most powerful performance of the night, ending the proceedings on a literal high note. While I didn’t love it as much as Shakira, who said it was one of the best performances she’d ever heard, it was certainly an excellent rendition of a ho-hum song. What I enjoyed most was the rasp that came out in her voice when she belted out the big notes, and while she approached the border between shouting and singing several times, I never felt she went over. Blake laughed at Adam for giving her up, and rightfully so; she’s a serious contender.
Chances of going through: High


The Top 12 will be revealed Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on CTV Two/NBC.

Did you see any stars in the making last night? Who do you think will make it into Blake’s and Shakira’s Top 3? Sound off on our Twitter and/or Facebook pages!

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