With just one week left before its inaugural season finale, “The Voice” whittled down its contestant pool to eight semi-finalists who rocked judges/coaches Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton’s worlds. Though Levine’s indirect swipe at Adam Lambert would soon raise ire among the “Idol” alum’s devout Twitter following, the show itself was all about positive vibes. The Maroon 5 frontman and Aguilera even set aside their onscreen “beef” to perform their new duet, “Moves Like Jagger.”
Here were our 8 highlights from the final 8 night, including who stole the show, who topped iTunes afterwards, and which judges did shots beforehand.
1) Vicci Martinez. Everything about Vicci is right. She toys with her image every week, she gives every song a mature delivery and she appears comfortable in whatever skin she has chosen to adopt on a given night. With a drum corps alongside her and a backstory about her late father to warm the heart, she tore through Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” with alacrity; the closing performance Tuesday was also the night’s best performance.
2) Rock star vs. intimate crooner. The singers on “The Voice” who have advanced avoided the mid-tempo territory that so much of country and adult contemporary music occupies. Not surprisingly, the final eight featured performances that could best be described as either “choreographed rock star” (Frenchie Davis, Nakia Reynoso, Beverly McClellan, Javier Colon) or “intimate and delicate” (Dia Frampton, Casey Weston, Xenia Martinez).
3) A specific range. In the short performances, the approach that generates the greatest response in the room is a song with a dynamic range, usually one that moves from soft or slow to loud and fast. Coldplay’s “Fix You” was a crowd pleaser for Javier; B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” mixed the tenderness of strings with the lyric’s sting of regret for Beverly; and the Adam Lambert hit “Whataya Want From Me” became Elton John-ish as Nakia made the leap from piano man to crowd wanderer.
4) Emotional connection. It would seem that softer songs would give singers a greater opportunity to connect on an emotional level with the audience, but that did not happen on Tuesday. Instead it was the performers’ actions that served to endear them to the crowd. Nakia acknowledged the audience with a few waves that caused a palpable rise in the room’s energy level; Vicci ran about the stage with her head lowered to make eye contact with the mosh pit crew; and Dia stopped playing her acoustic guitar to give the audience a unique rhythmic handclap on R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” that separated it from the other clap-in-time performances.
5) Javier Colon. Praised by the judges for having the best pure voice in the competition, Javier made his smartest move yet when he tossed his baseball cap into the audience. This is a man who speaks longingly about his wife and two daughters, and yet in part because of his ballcap worn cockeyed, there has been a disconnect between his seriousness and his attachment to a symbol of his youth. Here’s to hoping he remains hat-free.
6) The chart factor. After the show, Blake Shelton said he was most proud of the fact that his team members, Xenia and Dia, were consistently two of the top three sellers on iTunes, suggesting that their performances were resonating with audiences despite not being the flashiest or even the most graceful. Within an hour of the show concluding on the West Coast, Dia’s “Losing My Religion” and Javier’s “Fix Me” were the show’s biggest online hits, followed by Vicci’s “Dog Days are Over.” Older performances by Dia and Javier were outselling the rest of the field, followed closely by Xenia’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” from Tuesday night.
7) The rules. They seem to be made up as they go along, but that is most likely a case of the show being expanded to two nights per week and adjustments being made in voting periods. Still, when host Carson Daly is asked to read a considerable amount of guidelines it only serves to confuse the audience. In show’s early episodes, it felt like it took nearly two minutes to explain how the contestants would compete; now it’s a breakdown of vote tabulation rules, voting windows and show hours. Too much.
8) A country guy who doesn’t like brown liquor? The three male coaches drank shots five minutes before the show started. Blake Shelton wined after taking his slug and afterwards said he had no idea what type of alcohol was in the cup. He thought it would be tequila, a spirit Adam Levine favors, but it tasted like “Crown (Royal), and I do not care for whiskey or bourbon.”