Last night started off with the Top 10 performing “Say It, Just Say It” as a group. I was impressed with how well it did come together, considering how different they all are in style and performance. Caroline is beginning to show a new and more extroverted side of herself. Her confidence has grown, and she definitely seems more comfortable and at home on the stage. Will, on the other hand, seemed off in his own world during the group performance. While everyone was moving (or dancing) along with the song, he just kind of stood his ground... barely moving. He was really stiff and one couldn’t help but notice that. Other than Will, the group was full of energy, and I really enjoyed the performance.
Moving on to the solo performances, Austin was first up last night with “Your Love.” Blake’s reasoning behind the song choice was that Austin always sings with such emotion. He wanted Austin to take this song and make people excited to it. He began his performance on the mini-circle stage among the audience and stayed there the whole time. He did really well vocally... great pitch and a steady voice, but there were a few times, however, where he backed a little too much off the microphone. Right at the end of the song, Austin pushed for his big power note but pushed himself a little too far, and you could hear the strain in his voice. Overall, it was a well done rendition, but I think it was a very poor song choice for him. Unfortunately, I don’t think it worked the way Blake expected it to, and I think that’s going to put him in the bottom three.
Jacquie took the stage next with a stripped down performance... singing “Clarity.” Christina wanted people to see another side of Jacquie, not just the power-house singer she is. She wanted Jacquie’s emotions to come through tonight. Jacquie started the song off being backed by only a piano. She was soft, but had a few issues with pitch and control in the beginning. I’m going to blame it on over-thinking in trying to keep her vocals calm and soft. By the second verse, Jacquie did bring up the power a bit, and everything came together. She amped up the power but still kept it quite (a happy medium). Her falsettos were beautiful and really did show more vulnerability and emotion than we are used to seeing from her. The run at the end of the song was amazing, but you could still see her struggling to hold back her natural power. It wasn’t one of her best (I missed the true power of Jacquie), but it was more than enough to keep her safe.
Up next was Will. Adam gave him “Love Me Again.” I’m not sure if Will was just having an off night, but the whole performance was very stiff. He started slow on the piano and slowly built up momentum in the song, but his body didn’t keep up. I’m not sure what to say about it. There were backup singers, crazy lights, and even pyrotechnics. The atmosphere on stage was electrifying, but Will just wasn’t feeling it. There were many times where his backup vocalists where moving and dancing way more than he was. Many times my focus went to them rather than him. He fell a little short on hitting his big note at the end, but otherwise he was great vocally. The song choice was perfect... it was just a very disappointing performace, and I think Will is going to find himself in the bottom three.
The angelic Caroline followed with “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” Caroline actually went to CeeLo with this song choice, and he agreed. It was a song that Caroline can relate to strongly, because of where she is in life and where she wants to go. As usual, when she began to sing, everything stopped. I do have to say, though, someone really needs to talk to the graphics department about her backgrounds. The images are... I don’t even know. I do know that they distract way too much from Caroline and don’t add anything to her performance. Anyway, Caroline took the song and made it her own unique story. She connected so strongly with the song that there were many times she just closed her eyes and let the lyrics flow through her in a way that allowed us to share in her emotions. It truly was an amazing experience to listen to her last night. We can see how much she has grown. Her confidence in herself is much stronger, and vocally, she is starting to show the power we all knew was there. She hit one big note, and the power and control seemed natural. CeeLo commented that he wants to see more of that, but every good thing comes with time. As long as she doesn’t get pushed too far too fast, she will be one to watch.
Team Blake was next up with Cole singing “To Be With You.” Originally he was going to do the song on the piano, but Blake told him that the guitar would be better... and he was right. The depth and roughness of Cole’s voice was a perfect match for this song, and the guitar seemed to amplify that. I honestly think the piano would have taken away from his vocals with this song. His pitch was almost perfect, but I was not too keen on the arrangement he chose. It was still exceptional, but there were times where it felt as though Cole took on the role of backup vocalist. But, all in all, it was amazing. Cole will easily make it to the Top 8.
Jamaican power-house Tessanne took her turn with “If I Were Your Woman.” Adam gave her this powerful soul song to show just how much range and power Tessanne has. She started off very deep and soulful, before letting her full power loose. She may have put too much out at times, as it seemed her voice was overpowering everything else. Even at the levels she hit, her control was amazing. I did notice, mostly during the beginning of the song, that for the first time, some of her accent snuck into her singing. It was actually really nice and added a personal and different element to the song. There is no doubt that she will be safe this week.
Ray came up next. Blake wanted to keep him close to home and chose “You Are The Best Thing” for him to perform. He wanted people to feel and experience what a Southern Louisiana concert would be like. I see his reasoning, but don’t agree with the timing. Ray’s rendition of the song was well executed. He started solid and didn’t falter anywhere through the song. He pitch was on, and he maintained a solid tone... even his big notes were almost perfect. Even though vocally it was great, I’m not sure America will connect with or remember the song enough to get him the votes he needs. I think, and only because of song choice, Ray will round out this week’s bottom three.
James came out on stage in a kind of tuxedo (“looking dapper” as Christina put it) and sang “Without You.” Last night, there was a depth in James’ voice that I hadn’t noticed before. As usual, he held his long notes flawlessly and effortlessly. The emotional connection to the song and with the audience was there. There’s not much to say about James besides ‘amazing.’ He had one little break in his voice on one of the power notes, but no one will even remember that as he built up to an unbelievably strong and powerful finish, with a perfectly placed rasp in his voice. I’ve said it before... James has a very solid spot waiting for him in the top three.
After last week’s Instant Save for Kat, CeeLo wanted to work with her on her stage presence. He chose “We Belong” for her to perform, but seemed to focused more on the performing than the singing. He brought in a choreographer to help teach her how to command the stage. She started the song playing the piano, and I’ve got to give props to hair and wardrobe, because she looked stunning. There were a couple of notes that fell a little flat in the beginning, but she very quickly found her grove and just rocked it from there. The choreographer helped immensely, as Kat made the stage hers... with everyone’s focus on only her. She hit her notes. She held her notes. Plain and simple... she just killed this week. The audience absolutely loved it, and CeeLo even said that it “will live forever.” I see no chance of Kat being in the bottom three this week. Well done!
Matthew Schuler closed the show with “Beneath Your Beautiful.” After charting number 1 on iTunes last week, he set the bar pretty high for himself early in the competition. He started the song in the very low register. I think it may have been too low, even for him, as there were a few breaks in his tone. Once he came up a few keys, things fell back into place. Matthew has this way of leading the energy of the song with his body and personality. Unlike many artists who follow the tempo of the song, Matthew seems to make the song follow the tempo of his body. His power is astonishing and comes with no effort whatsoever. In fact, the last half of the song was so stunning, the few faults in the beginning become meaningless. The audience went completely wild when he finished... Matthew has no worries about tonight’s eliminations.
Last night will have been the final time two of the Top 10 will take the stage to perform for your votes. There were some great performances... there were a few good performances... and there were some not-so-great ones.
After last night, I have to say that Kat showed exactly why she deserves to be in the Top 8 and is my pick for top performance of the night. Caroline showed just how much she has grown and how much more she can grow. Jacquie gave us a glimpse into the emotional and vulnerable side of herself. Cole, Tessanne, and James gave us a show of power and control... while Matthew showed us how important the connection with your audience is.
With that said, the bottom three after last night’s performances will be Austin Jenckes, Will Champlin, and Ray Boudreaux. This is a tough one to call, but I think the Instant Save will be used on Ray. Consequently, sending Austin and Will home. What do you think?
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Who caught your ear? Who’s your favorite? What do you think? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.