'The Voice' Top 10 Critique Song Choices, Talk Most Stressful Moments
The top 10 finalists of "The Voice" came out with performances Monday that ranged from acceptable to polished, a sign that in its fourth season, "The Voice" may have its strongest overall class yet.
Based on Monday's show, observed live inside the studio on the Universal lot, it's hard to pick a front-runner at this juncture. Sales results at iTunes indicate four women have shot to the lead: Danielle Bradbery, Michelle Chamuel, Holly Tucker and Sarah Simmons were in the top 40 the morning after their performances.
Billboard caught up with nine of the top 10 after Monday's show to get their impression of the journey so far.
Holly Tucker ("How Great Thou Art")
The singer took a chance at exposing her gospel roots, performing the pop-oriented Carrie Underwood version of the gospel standard. Greeted with a huge ovation, the best part of her vocal was the precision, though she did over sing at times.
"I've never sung it before," she says, "but I'm glad I got to show anther side. Next time I want to do something with more energy, maybe some rock."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Just the waiting. We wait around a lot. I'm just glad that when the crowd is going wild I can block everything out and focus. That's really intense."
Judith Hill ("The Way You Make Me Feel")
It had to happen sooner rather than later - the former Michael Jackson backup singer was going to have to perform an MJ song. She slowed it down for the intro and then made it swing, building to fiery finale.
"I'm glad I was able to celebrate him," Hill said, pleased that she was able to tackle one of her favorite Jackson songs but still emotional over the performance. "I'm very sensitive about (anything Michael) but I'm glad Adam (Levine) pushed me to do it."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Trying to figure out what to do next. It's TV so it's not just the song. You have to have a fireworks moment."
The Swon Brothers ("How Country Feels")
Randy Houser is no household name to American TV audiences and the choice may be obscure to some, but the two Oklahomans demonstrated how comfortable they are with high-energy country music that's as fun as any pop hit.
"Blake was shooting out songs at us and Zach said how about 'How Country Feels' and we got an email two seconds later from Blake suggesting 'How Country Feels,'" Colton Swon explains. "It was hard being here tonight knowing (the devastation in Oklahoma). It hits you in the heart."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "We're really lucky that we have each other to lean on and snap each other out of it," Zach Swon says. "It's good to have my brother by my side."
Amber Carrington ("Breakaway")
Every once in awhile, the set designers at "The Voice" take the wow factor to significant heights and as simple as the screens filled with nature scenes may be, it gave Carrington's physically stiff performance an added visual boost. Remember how "American Idol" judges always warned singers to not true Whitney or Mariah songs? That advice may soon extend to Kelly Clarkson, whose vocal prowess has proven tough to match.
"First they gave me 'Stronger' and I tried to sing it but there were notes I couldn't hit," she says. "When I got 'Breakaway' I didn't think I could do it."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Stage presence is not my strong point. Choreography scares me so I have to find a role and pretend I am someone else. Tonight I pictured myself as a diva."
Sasha Allen ("Next to Me")
Excellent song selection, Allen seemed hesitant the first couple of lines but ultimately turned it into her uptempo breakout performance. On a night when several acts were asked to leave their comfort zones, Allen's transition stood out most. Unfortunately, she needed to shoot scenes with Shakira and was not available for an interview.
NEXT: Josiah Gets Clocked By the Judges
The judges rightly took him to task for doing a Coldplay song too much like Coldplay. Not that there was anything wrong with the performances, just that it revealed little about Josiah. Screaming females in the audience rejected the critique.
"I'm not on this show to be a Karaoke star," he says, "so I wasn't trying to be Chris Martin."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Waiting to get onstage. Usher does a great job preparing us to deal with the nerves."
Danielle Bradbery ("Heads Carolina, Tails California")
God only knows if she has any idea what she's singing about, but this 16-year-old has one of the most pleasant vocal tones of any "Voice" contestant in the show's history. She's still learning about control and setting herself up properly from one line to the next, but when she lands a held note it's - to use Adam Levine's word - "astonishing."
"That's a really fun song," she says. "Singing older songs gives me a challenge -- Bake know what's he's doing and I'm happy with anything he picks."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Getting through the songs they throw at you and getting them down. But at the end of the day, practice makes perfect."
Kris Thomas ("Adore")
A killer, contemporary song forced Thomas to do a 180 from his previous performances and try to play a wooing sex symbol. It didn't quite fit, but based on how stilted he appeared in the rehearsal clip, he came a long way in bringing it to the stage.
"Everybody was nervous tonight," Thomas says. "I'm tankful Shakira fought for me (with the other judges) and I'm thankful that she doesn't give me songs that are easy to do."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "The live playoffs. I couldn't get my nerves to calm down."
Sarah Simmons ("Mamma Knows Best")
Simmons pushed herself into a raw, theatrical space with Jesse J's hard-charging bluesy tune. Her breath control was superb and the rock 'n' roll energy compelling in the room. How it translated on TV, I'm not sure.
"It's a challenging song and I wasn't comfortable with it until I stepped onstage," she says. "I think I'm ready to bring out an instrument next time."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "The elimination rounds for sure. You just have to surrender and figure if this is not meant to be there's something else ahead."
Michelle Chamuel ("Just Give Me a Reason")
One week it's pop on the dance side, the next it's pop on the rock side. Pink seems to be her role model and once again Chamuel delivered a solid, appealing performance. She is the perfect example of how tightly bunched this competition is: I wouldn't be surprised if she departs this week or makes it to the final three.
"I take the compliments with a grain of salt," she says. "It's wonderful to hear (nice comments), but you still have to examine yourself."
The most stressful aspect of the competition so far? "Every single person deserves to be here and you have to truly accept the idea that you have to be yourself. The only way to fail is to not offer (your talents). There's a lot that goes on in your head so you have to let go and just be in the moment. There's a lot of letting go."