As Season 13 of The Voice has progressed — and shaped up to be one of the best seasons in the series’ history — two frontrunners have emerged: Chloe Kohanski and Addison Agen. They dominated iTunes last week, respectively in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. This week, the two talented ladies once again tried to go for the gold, covering pop classics by golden girls Debbie Harry and Britney Spears. But while Addison gave her finest performance of the season (in a season already filled with fine Addison performances), Chloe surprisingly faltered, losing some of her magic with a stiff, cheesy tribute act. Now it seems like Addison will be the “Lucky”-iest of all this season.
Here’s my full recap…
Davon Fleming (Team J.Hud)
This performance was touted as a return to Davon’s church roots, even though he hasn’t really deviated from his gospel stylings all season. Really, this was his typical gender-flip of a diva ballad. (In the past two weeks, he covered Beyoncé and Whitney Houston; this week, it was Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt.”) And by “typical,” I mean “amazing,” because Davon is just that great. Amazing is his default. However, I am worried that he has plateaued, and that “great” just won’t be good enough — especially since he sang first, in the death spot, just like last week’s shocking castoff, Janice Freeman. Davon didn’t change up “Hurt” enough, and the song was too slow and melancholy to be an attention-grabbing show-opener. I’m concerned for his chances this week.
The coaches didn’t seem worried, though. “What you do is kind of nothing short of miraculous. … You are the real deal,” Adam Levine told Davon. “If you’re not in the finals, that’s ridiculous. You are such an incredible vocalist,” asserted Blake Shelton.
Adam Cunningham (Team Adam)
After landing in the bottom two twice and controversially beating out the above-mentioned Janice in last week’s Instant Save, Adam C. must have been feeling the pressure this Monday. So, he heeded his fans’ advice to return to straight-up country (apparently his fans hated “Against All Odds” as much as I did), singing Pam Tillis’s “Maybe It Was Memphis.” It was not an especially charismatic performance, and it only solidified my opinion that Janice was totally robbed. He had a solid enough vocal and delivered in what Adam L. called the song’s “third act,” but he stared awkwardly at his boots much of the time and relied too much on his guitar. This wasn’t bad, but it was not the redemptive breakout moment he needed in a do-or-die, double-elimination week.
Blake told Cunningham that the song choice was inspired and that he did a “great job.” Levine, the king of hyperbole, claimed this was Cunningham’s “best performance of the season.” Miley Cyrus, Janice’s coach, assured Adam C. that she harbored “no hard feelings” about last week’s elimination — which was either her being a total class act, or her passive-aggressively reminding America of that scandal and thus sneakily throwing Cunningham under the bus. We shall see!
Noah Mac (Team J.Hud)
I’m a major diehard Duranie, so any time a singing show contestant takes on a Duran Duran song (and it always seems to be “Ordinary World” — except for that one time when David Cook did “Hungry Like the Wolf” and probably not coincidentally won American Idol), I’m tough to please. Please remember, Ryan Sill did “Ordinary World” on The Voice Season 7 and it was NOT GOOD. But Noah’s version was good! Seated at a piano for the first half and doing his usual dark, deconstructed thing that he does so well, Noah’s “Ordinary World” sounded like a Gothic piano version of the song, like Evanescence fronted Sam Smith or Chris Martin, or like a BBC Live Lounge cover by Harry Styles. I was digging this Wild Boy.
My only gripe was that Noah didn’t get wild enough — he is so talented and interesting, but he always holds back just a bit in the “third act,” never quite bringing his performances to their anticipated climaxes. Don’t hold back the rain, Noah! Let it rip, so you can reign over the Voice charts!
Miley was a fan of this Boy on Film, calling him “magical” and praising his “beautiful and nice and simple” approach. Jennifer Hudson said, “I felt I got to go on your journey. I was hopping on the Noah train. I got my life, watching that.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on the Noah train myself… and I hope he rides it right to the finale, on which he covers Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur.”
Shi’Ann Jones (Team J.Hud)
OK, let me act like Paula Abdul for a second and praise Shi’Ann’s super-sophisticated makeover. With her sleekly flat-ironed hair, sequined LBD, and bronzed eyeshadow, the 15-year-old baby-diva looked gorgeous, and like she’d aged a decade overnight. But her amateurish performance style was still that of a green 15-year-old. She sounded like she had a head cold throughout Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” shrilling the song through her nose. Some notes were painfully sharp. Much of this was shouty. Shi’Ann has bucked the odds and avoided the bottom two for the past couple weeks — despite being dead last on the iTunes charts — but I think this week, and this song, will finally be her undoing.
Adam thought Shi’Ann had matured inside and out, however, calling her “the most improved player here.” Blake raved, “The character in your voice is my favorite thing about your sound and your performances. When you are on the radio — and you are going to be on the radio — you are going to jump out at people. They are going to know who you are.” Jennifer made a bold statement and compared Shi’Ann to “Beyoncé, Mariah, Rihanna” — a compliment she should have bestowed upon her other team member, Davon. She also made a comment about Shi’Ann’s “potential.” Jennifer was right about that, but this is the top 10 week, and having “potential” just isn’t enough anymore.
Chloe Kohanski (Team Blake)
Chloe has stood out this season covering strong rock heroines of the ’70s and ’80s (Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, Bonnie Tyler), so a salute to her idol Debbie Harry seemed like a perfect fit. But Blondie’s Giorgio Moroder-masterminded “Call Me” was absolutely the wrong choice; if she had to do Blondie, “In the Flesh” or “Dreaming” would have been better bets. Chloe, with her sleepy stare, throaty vocals, and dramatic delivery, always excels tackling big, emotive ballads, not uptempo disco classics that go nowhere melodically and don’t take full advantage of her vocal range. Furthermore, her dated, too-literal styling — warm leatherette halter pantsuit, feathered Farrah blowout, Studio 54 eye makeup — made this seem like a cover band performance. This wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but for the first time this season, Chloe didn’t seem imaginative. Or modern. She even seemed a little karaoke. This emotionally flat performance was a misstep, particularly following last week’s iTunes No. 1 “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but hopefully it’s one from which she can easily recover.
However, Miley, Chloe’s ex-coach, loved this, right down to the styling, raving: “The look that you just brought to this generation… the blue eyeshadow, the red lip!” Blake told Chloe, “Sis, you are a star! Period.” I agree. But I don’t think Chloe should make a habit of imitating other stars. She should be her own girl.
Keisha Renee (Team Blake)
A debate has raged all season long regarding whether Keisha, a formerly L.A.-based backup singer for Adam Lambert and Nicki Minaj who now resides in Nashville, is authentically “country” or not. (Apparently that debate has sometimes even turned to hate, with Keisha receiving nasty social media comments from what Adam dubbed “sad cowards.”) I don’t know if her performance this week of the Eric Carmen weeper “All by Myself” (as famously remade by Céline Dion) will help end that “controversy,” as it was not traditionally twangy. But here’s something on which we can all hopefully agree: Whatever genre or box or lane or category you want to force this woman into, Keisha is a phenomenal performer, vocalist, and star. Now, this is an artist who knows how to deliver in the third act! Her performance was perfectly paced, from its subdued opening to its big, big finish. The title of this song was apt, because Keisha is in a (master)class all by herself.
“What would you possibly want me to say after all of that? There isn’t much else to be said, other than congratulations on an amazing performance. Have your own moment, your own platform. You earned every bit of that,” gushed Jennifer. “I am so proud for so many reasons. It was brought to my attention there were really hateful comments pointed in your direction by some really sad cowards. And I just wanted you to know that tonight, you were speaking directly to them, letting them know that none of this affects you. I appreciate that, to see you up there strong,” said Adam. And Blake seemed proudest of all, declaring, “When we were rehearsing, I said, ‘Now is the time to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.’ So, America, please let me introduce you to Keisha.”
Ashland Craft (Team Miley)
Ashland is back, y’all! No more bad country fair performances — this was just badass country-rock. This was the feisty filly who caught my attention with “Wanted Dead or Alive” and her bluesy Blind Audition of “You Are My Sunshine.” Rocking the stage in black leather fringe and backed by a black-leather-sheathed all-female rock ‘n’ roll band, Ashland snarled her way through Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and pulled off the sort of fun, fiery performance I knew she always had in her. Yes, it was a little bit karaoke, but at least Ashland had her groove back. If she survives this week’s cut, she needs to stay in this lane. Might I suggest some Pat Benatar, Lita Ford, or Mötley Crüe for next week?
“I have always felt you are a star. I have always been a fan. I am so happy that you found your stride. You know exactly who you are, and now that you do, can’t nobody get in your way, little sister,” said Jennifer. “I thought that was so empowering. I love you bringing rock ‘n’ roll [to] country music. That’s what you displayed tonight,” said Miley.
Brooke Simpson (Team Miley)
In this important week, Brooke was smart to go the religious route with a partially a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.” I’m not saying this was a coldly calculated move, but historically, Christian songs on The Voice have charted well — think Jordan Smith’s “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” Craig Wayne Boyd’s “The Old Rugged Cross,” Koryn Hawthorne’s “How Great Thou Art,” Paxton Ingram’s “Break Every Chain,” Christian Cuevas’s “To Worship You I Live (Away),” and Meghan Linsey’s own version of “Amazing Grace.” Brooke did a respectful and tasteful version — totally ignoring Miley’s advice to do “a Coldplay version of ‘Amazing Grace’” — and while it wasn’t particularly inventive, the classic hymn was the ideal showcase for her impressive range. The girl can sang. Why hasn’t Jennifer thrown a shoe at Brooke yet?
Jennifer may have kept her shoes on, but she loved this performance regardless, saying, “To sing from a place like that is just beyond, to touch our hearts the way you just did. … I’m just glad and grateful to be able to sit here and witness it. I am so glad to see a voice like yours get this type of platform.” Said Blake: “You just took it to the next level.” And Miley, still mourning Janice’s elimination, said, “You put a giant Band-Aid on my broken heart from last week. I told you I could not lose another one of my girls; I just love and care about my team so, so much. And I know that I am not going to have to feel that this week, because you are not going anywhere!”
Red Marlow (Team Blake)
Wisely sticking with what has been working for him — storytelling, heartfelt heartland country — Red covered Craig Morgan’s “That’s What I Love About Sunday” while sitting on a stool and strumming a guitar. Red never delivers big, buzzy moments like soulful balladeers Keisha and Davon or quirky indie kids Chloe and Noah, but he has his own quiet strength, and he’s quietly inching his way closer to the finals with his consistent, connected performances. He cracked the iTunes top 10 last week, and I expect another high charting for him with “Sunday.”
“You are just lovable. I don’t think you could do no wrong. … I don’t know much about country, Blake is teaching me, but from my idea of it, you are all of that and then some,” said Jennifer. “Why you are going to be around this show for a long time, and a long time after this show, is because of what Jennifer just said. You have that thing about you. You have the gift of telling a story,” said Blake.
Addison Agen (Team Adam)
And then, there was Addison, the ultimate storyteller of Season 13, crooning one of Britney Spears’s lesser-covered hits, “Lucky.” (Most of the time on talent shows like American Idol, The Voice, or X Factor, contestants go with the tried-and-true “Toxic” or “… Baby One More Time.”) You know, I never noticed how damn sad the “Lucky” lyrics are, even after they took on poignant new meaning after Britney’s 2007 meltdown. But Addison tapped into all of the song’s pain and heartache as she warbled, softly, “She’s so lucky, she’s a star/ But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart/ Thinking if there’s nothing missing in my life/ Then why do these tears come at night?” It was stunning. This was such a simple performance — while Chloe had pyro cannons and an army of Central Casting rockers onstage with her, and Keisha trailed a 10-foot hemline, Addison just stood in jeans and a waist-knotted Hanes tee on a bare stage, and she commanded that stage.
“There are a lot of great singers in the competition, but I will say, I truly believe you are the best artist in the competition,” proclaimed Adam, and this time his hyperbole was appropriate. “Addison, you are the real deal. You have arrived. You are inspirational to so many people out there, and I just love your fans. I love who you are. I love how you carry yourself. You are a class act. And one of the best singers I know. I love you. I really do.”
So now, it is prediction time. On Tuesday, three singers will be up for elimination, with two going home after the Instant Save sing-off. Despite her regression this week, I do believe Chloe will be safe. Instead, I predict the bottom three will be Adam Cunningham, Shi’Ann Jones, and, unfortunately, Davon Fleming — but that Davon will win the Twitter vote by a landslide. Just in case, I’ll have my #VoiceSaveDavon hashtag ready to go. See you then.