Last night Team CeeLo and Team Christina wrapped up the Live Top 20 performances. Ten more talented artists grabbed the microphone and took the stage in hopes of making it through to the Top 12... remember, only three artists from each team will move forward.
Tuesday’s show was very different from Monday’s, and I’m not sure I agree with how much the production was changed. From the opening numbers (Christina was a part of both) to the contestants’ performances... the two shows were like night and day. Monday night started off loud, flashy, and full of energy. It set the tone for the rest of the show, and most contestants used and exhibited that kind of energy in their performances.
Sure, by stripping it down, we can more easily focus on the talent of the artists, but I think it gave an unfair edge to those from Monday. I do agree that when you have the band, light shows, and dancers, it takes a little away from the actual vocals... but it makes for one heck of a show. With minimal light effects, a hidden band, and no dancers, we can see what the artist really has vocally. But was this fair? My answer is no.
Both nights should have been the same, so we could make the same type of judgement and form the same kind of opinion for each artist performing. At this stage in the competition, people are beginning to form opinions and to pick favorites... and many people are heavily influenced by the ‘show’ surrounding the vocals. What I’m saying is that a stripped down show is fine, but it should have been done for both nights then. I'm afraid this production decision may create some biased decisions.
Moving on, Team Ceelo’s five artists were given the stage first. Also, unlike Monday night, all five from one team would perform one after the other. Again... not sure I agree with that choice either.
First up last night was Amber Nicole singing “Wasting All These Tears.” Ceelo gave her a country song to perform to show how diverse she is, but I think it backfired on him and killed any chance she had of heading to the Top 12. Amber is a great vocalist, but she didn't produce a strong enough connection with the song. She did make it her own, but I didn’t really care for the arrangement she created while performing it. There were some random notes that didn’t seem to fit, and she didn’t quite hit her power note the way she should have. Amber was the first one to receive some negative feedback. This didn’t really surprise me, though. Overall, while a very talented singer, Ceelo’s song choice for her was way off base.
Jonny Gray stepped up next with “Bittersweet Symphony.” Jonny is very strong vocally, but still lacks slightly in his stage presence. The beginning was a little weak, but he managed to find his groove and did get stronger and more convincing toward the end of the song. There was no real opportunity for him to show his range or power. Again, I’m not sure about the song choice, but I also blame the scaled back and stripped down theme of the evening.
Third up last night was Tamara Chauniece singing “I Will Survive.” I think this was a great song choice for her to showcase her strengths. Unfortunately, her energy last night did not match what the song demanded. She was exceptionally strong with her vocals and nailed almost every note, but I just couldn't connect. Even though I didn’t care much for her choice of arrangement, she did perform it very well.
Kat Robichaud was the biggest surprise of the night from Team CeeLo. Kat is a rocker and has never pretended to be anything else. CeeLo gave her “She Keeps Me Warm,” because he wanted to show a different side of Kat. He wanted her to tone it down and be more tender. The song seriously limited her natural instinct to go full-throttle, but we did get to hear how much control and range she really has with her vocals. While we could see and feel her connection with the song, there were times we could see her struggling not to just let loose... you ever try to turn a tiger into a kitten? Even the coaches where a little disappointed they didn’t get to see her rock it out. Kat did, however, personally connect with the audience. Gettin down low and making eye contact, we could see that her emotion was genuine, and she even leaned over and gave a random member of the audience a hug near the end of her performance... that in itself scored huge points with me and the coaches.
Rounding out the night for Team CeeLo was Caroline Pennell. This is the only artist where the scaled back tone of the night worked in her favor. Ironically, this was really the only performance where we saw the band. The first thing I noticed was how much more confidence Caroline was showing. She has really grown since the Blinds and will only continue to grow as the show goes on. CeeLo chose “We’re Going to be Friends” for Caroline to sing, and this was the first song choice I think CeeLo got right. It’s a beautiful song and just fits perfectly with Caroline’s personality and vocal tone. As she sang, it finally hit me who she reminds me of... Allison Krauss. Caroline’s sweet and unique tone makes you stop and listen. Her personality and captivating smile adds an amazing element to the song that screams with emotion. Caroline connects so strongly with each song she sings that you can’t help but to feel what she feels. She doesn’t need to hit power notes to show how strong her voice is. She’s just herself... charismatic, soft, and tender. She makes it so easy to fall in love with her and her voice.
It was now Christina’s team to show there stuff, and we started off with Josh Logan singing “Crazy.” Christina took a chance giving him a coach’s song (CeeLo), but Josh performed it really well. He put his own personality into the song and made it his own. His vocals were solid, and he put on a nearly flawless performance.
Olivia Henken was next, and Christina thought she’d mix things up a bit. She chose “Roar” for her predominately country singer to perform... Christina was looking for a kind of pop-meets-country rendition by Olivia. Well, it worked. Olivia started her performance on the mini-stage in the middle of the audience. She looked and sounded amazing from the first note. As she moved to the main stage, her personality and energy just soared (no pun intended). While she hit every note with conviction and power, she also involved and engaged the audience perfectly. She made eye contact... she smiled... she absolutely nailed it. Her power and control came through on each note. She successfully took a pop song and re-created it into something that was only hers. One of the best performances of the night.
Following Olivia, was Stephanie Anne Johnson singing “Georgia on my Mind.” Stephanie really scaled back the performance and did miss a note in the first verse, but came back nicely. She had a very strong soulful and bluesy tone to her voice, and was very solid and powerful in her delivery. I did find, however, that it still had a rather strong ‘cruise ship’ feel to it. Maybe it was the song choice... maybe just the way she performed it... I’m not sure, but it just didn’t seem to fit The Voice stage.
Matthew Schuler took to the stage next with “Wrecking Ball.” His mellow yet powerful first verse pretty much grabbed the audience. His tone was amazing, and I loved his arrangement of the song. His passion and energy was endless. By the time he hit (and held perfectly) his power note, you knew he completely nailed it. The crowd loved it... the coaches loved it... and the girls in the audience were going crazy. It was extremely well done, and an excellent song choice for him.
Closing out the show, and the final artist of the Top 20 to perform was Jacquie Lee. It doesn’t matter that Jacquie is the youngest contestant this year in the Top 20, she is one of the most powerful singers I’ve heard. Christina chose “I Put a Spell on You,” which was the perfect song choice. Barley into the first verse, I couldn't help but notice how aged her voice was (it’s like she’s an old soul). Her voice goes way beyond her years and has so much power that it’s almost scary. Her range and pitch control is unmeasurable, and her energy is limitless. While she was singing, and nailing every note perfectly, it was the first time that I’ve seen Christina actually dancing in her chair. When Jacquie hit (and held) her huge power note, she took down the house. It was an amazing performance, and a perfect way to close the show. The crowd erupted and was the loudest they’d been all night... and honestly, her performance actually made me swear.
So, although we were given a stripped down version of performances, the final round of the Top 20 was pretty good. Team Christina killed it, while Team CeeLo (with the exception of Caroline) kind of struggled... mostly because of poor song choices. My top picks for tonight’s performances go to Olivia Henken and Jacquie Lee... followed very closely by Caroline Pennell and Matthew Schuler.
In my opinion, the Top 3 for Team Christina are blatantly obvious: Jacquie Lee, Olivia Henken, and Matthew Schuler. As for Team CeeLo, I’m a little bit more conflicted. Caroline Pennell is the obvious sure-thing. My second choice is Kat Robichaud... and if I had to choose right now, I think the third spot will go to Jonny Gray.
My Top Picks from last night are available on iTunes.
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