The Voice Season 21’s top eight performed Monday, with five contestants set to move on to next week’s grand finale. Since the show once again changed its rules (once again, with no explanation), doing away with team quotas — meaning that coaches are not guaranteed to be represented in the Dec. 13/14 finale — it’s likely that the series’ incumbent and winningest coach, Blake Shelton, will dominate the competition.
But Blake does have a strong team this season — accounting for three of the eight semifinalists — and two of his contestants, soul showman Paris Winningham and power-belter Wendy Moten, definitely deserve to advance. Paris was in fact at his very best this week, so much so that his cover of Teddy Pendergrass’s sexy bedroom ballad “Close the Door” had Blake, um, feeling things.
“I mean, I'm married to Gwen Stefani. But you made me feel something,” drawled Blake. “Hey, I mean, that my heart was pounding, Paris. I said it! My heart was pounding for Paris, all right?”
“Blake has said too much!” exclaimed host Carson Daly.
Actually, Blake said exactly what needed to be said. Viewers loved the funny/awkward moment, as they tweeted, “I ship Blake and Paris sorry Gwen” and “vBlake admitting he was hot for Paris is my favorite #thevoice moment in history now.” But Blake couldn’t be blamed for feeling tingly all over, after Paris delivered this ferocious, fiery vocal. Kelly Clarkson was also feeling the love, calling Paris’s performance “beautiful and raw and just perfect.”
So, Paris’s place in the final five is pretty much a lock. But who else will advance? Let’s assess the other seven performances of this highly competitive evening.
Jim & Sasha Allen, “Mrs. Robinson” (Team Ariana)
Ariana Grande made a big fuss over the fact that this Simon & Garfunkel classic had never been done on The Voice before. But frankly, I understood why no previous contestant had ever attempted it. The lightweight tune wasn’t much of a vocal showcase, especially for a duo with such underwhelming harmonies as the Allens’. I know this was supposed to be a “moment,” but it missed the mark. Family harmonies on this show are usually thrilling (see: Girl Named Tom), but this father and son have never really been in sync; Jim has always dragged Sasha down. However, John Legend thought the Allens were “so at ease and in [their] space,” and Ariana said they had “amazing musicianship and perfect harmony and amazing vocals.” Even bandleader Paul Mirkovich was singing along enthusiastically, so maybe the Allens just sounded better in the actual room than on TV.
Jershika Maple, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (Team Legend)
After Jershika landed in the bottom three last week, producers seemed to be pulling out all the stops to ensure she had some shot at the finale — giving her elaborate awards-show staging, an army of backup gospel singers, and her own glam-squad to make her look like an A-list diva. And who could blame producers for wanting Jershika to stick around? She should have never been up for elimination in the first place, and she gave another master-class performance this week. “That was like watching you at the Grammys,” Carson marveled. Ariana called this performance “so powerful and incredible,” and John called Jershika a “superstar talent.” I think if this had been the evening’s final performance, in the “pimp spot,” she’d have a decent shot (like when dark horse Hailey Mia sang last two weeks ago). But sadly, it will still be tough for Jershika, as deserving as she is, to break through without team quotas in place.
Lana Scott, “Something in the Water”/“Amazing Grace” (Team Blake)
Carrie Underwood’s faith-based ballad was way too big for Lana’s reedy, crackly voice, and it got away from her many times. Lana certainly committed and gave it her all, but this was hardly spectacular. However, none of that will likely matter. As the only country singer left in the top eight, on Team Blake, wisely doing a religious performance, Lana is all but guaranteed to advance — even if, or maybe because, tacking “Amazing Grace” onto that Carrie song was blatantly pandering. John called this performance “inspirational,” and Blake rightfully praised Lana for being “consistent all along.” It is possible that slow-and-steady could win the race here.
Hailey Mia, “Someone You Loved” (Team Kelly)
The beyond-her-years 14-year-old showcased her lovely, rounded tone and impressively heeded her coach’s advice to push her upper range, delivering a thoughtful, grounded, mature performance that could, in a slight upset, propel this dark horse to the finale. Ariana said Hailey “never sounded or looked more beautiful,” and Kelly called her “an amazing storyteller.”
Girl Named Tom, “River” (Team Kelly)
Joni Mitchell’s seasonal classic was a right-in-the-feels pick for this most wonderful time of the year, and it clearly meant a lot to Girl Named Tom, since Joni once sent the trio a care package of CDs after being impressed by their viral Joni cover video. It’s clear why this family band could catch the attention of someone even as legendary as Joni: Their harmonies here were gorgeous and goosebump-raising. Kelly even called them “the most special thing I've ever seen on this show.” It’s possible that Girl Named Tom could be the first group to make it to a Voice finale since Season 4’s Swon Brothers. They might even win!
Wendy Moten, “You’re All I Need to Get By” (Team Blake)
An old-fashioned song in Wendy's “lane” like this Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell staple could have been too safe a choice. But Wendy didn’t play it safe when it came to those vocals! Blake said she needed to “sing the roof off the place,” and that she did. This was stupendous. Ariana called the performance “the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life” (in a good way) and described Wendy’s voice as “a gift from God,” and Blake declared, “That wasn't just finale-worthy, that was literally like… music history just happened on the stage. That's historical.”
Joshua Vacanti, “Ashes” (Team Legend)
When picking an evangelical Celine Dion movie ballad co-written by one of The Voice’s most successful alumni, Season 9 winner Jordan Smith, theater kid Joshua explained how much Jordan had inspired him. It was clear that the show was setting this up to be a torch-passing moment, and… the show succeeded. This pimp-spot performance felt special, and it felt like a winning moment. Joshua was even giving some Adam Lambert vibes at times, as well as Jordan vibes. I always thought Joshua was polarizing and sometimes way too over-the-top, but this week, his power and appeal were undeniable. John called his show-closing tour de force “haunting and spiritual,” and Ariana raved, “That was stunning. … You're a vocal technician. You're brilliant.”
It should be noted that the top eight all paired up for ‘90s-themed duets, but some (Paris and Wendy’s silky-smooth “Change the World,” Sasha, Jim, and Lana’s surprisingly tight, if Lana-dominated, “Hold My Hand”) worked better than others (Joshua and Jershika’s mismatched “Hand in My Pocket,” Girl Named Tom and fourth wheel Hailey’s Wilson Phillips cover). But it’s the solos that will that will really determine the public vote. So now, it is prediction time. Who’s making the top five?
If I am being honest, probably all three of Blake’s contestants, who’ve made a clean sweep all season long, will continue that pattern and move forward. So, that leaves two open slots. Jim and Sasha have a good chance, due to the loyal Arianator voting block that’s kept them in the competition way longer than I’d expected, but I still think it’ll be Joshua and Girl Named Tom in the end. We’ll find out on Tuesday’s live result show. See you then.
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