Let’s hear it for the moms! In honor of Mother’s Day (it’s this Sunday, so you probably still have time to send a card, a gift or flowers), “The Voice” honored mothers on Monday’s Top 6 performance show.
Each member of the Top 6 performed two songs. One of the songs was dedicated to the mother in his or her life. (One contestant, Joshua Davis, paid tribute to mother of his children -- his wife, Ann.) The contestant’s mom (or wife) was also given the opportunity to sit alongside the coach as her offspring (or spouse) rehearsed and offer feedback and express how proud and grateful she was.
It was sweet and also presented a good opportunity to add depth to our perception of the contestants. After all, we’re moving swiftly along toward the semifinals and finals and any of the contestants still standing could conceivably take the win. At this point, it’s going to come down to taste and who the audience connects to, so the personal vibe and back story are almost as important as the performances themselves.
Speaking of the performances, here’s how they played out:
India Carney (Team Christina): Leading off the evening, Carney, the recipient of last week’s Twitter Instant Save (she apparently won by two votes), dedicated “Glory,” by Common and John Legend, to her mom. Carney took the song’s anthemic message about determination in the face of adversity to heart and staked a strong claim to remain in the competition. Pharrell Williams congratulated Carney on her “incredible comeback.” Adam Levine said she’d stepped up her game at just the right time. Blake Shelton credited her with singing so well during the rapped parts, he wouldn’t have even known it was a song with rap in it. Aguilera also said it was “pretty remarkable” that Carney had figured out how to do a melodic take on a rap song.
Carney’s second song, Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” was perhaps even better. Levine called it her “best performance ever on the show” and had turned her into “one of the front-runners again in this competition.” Aguilera said she had shown another side of herself and “killed it.”
Joshua Davis (Team Adam): Davis took it up-tempo with U2’s “Desire” and showed what he’d look like fronting a band. At times he seemed a bit overpowered by all the musical goings-on around him, but Williams said it had been “even more better” than Davis’ usual “best performances” because he’d looked like he was having fun. Levine said he’d looked unusually comfortable and that the pleasure he took in the music was “infectious” and reason alone for viewers to vote him through.
Davis does best singing from the heart -- just him, his guitar and a microphone -- and that’s what he attempted with the Beatles’ “In My Life,” a song he dedicated to his wife, Ann. Unfortunately, the audience gave him some additional accompaniment, clapping along, distractingly, throughout the entire song. “This song does mean something to everybody and clearly in a different tempo to everybody in this audience,” Blake Shelton quipped, agreeing with Levine that the audience members were “the worst clappers I’ve ever heard.” Still, Shelton credited Davis for his control and his confidence. Levine called Davis a “class act” and said his performance had been “absolutely mesmerizing” and “flawless.”
Koryn Hawthorne (Team Pharrell): Hawthorne brought her trademark intensity to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” lending it a soaring spiritual quality. (She had dedicated the song to her mom and all the tough stuff she had overcome.) Shelton said the teen was “either the world’s greatest actor or you are so invested in these songs it’s unbelievable,” adding that it was “fun to watch.” Williams said Hawthorne had “left the ego to the side” and let “the spirit come through,” lighting up the room. “You are truly anointed,” he said.
Hawthorne’s second song, Aerosmith’s “Dream On” was, I thought, less successful. Her decision not to reach for Steven Tyler’s high notes made her range seem comparatively narrow. Aguilera complimented her on reaching outside her comfort zone and giving an “electrifying” performance, but did express a sense of wanting more. Williams appealed to the audience. “Who in here is inspired to dream harder?” he asked, reminding people, “This is a 17-year-old.”
Kimberly Nichole (Team Christina): Nichole chose to honor her mother’s free-spiritedness with Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” an odd choice, perhaps, though no less strikingly so than her mother’s serious infatuation with Aguilera. Levine said that, even though there’s always a lot of talk about song choice being “crucial,” when the live shows roll around, “I’m starting to think that Kimberly can just sing anything” and do it in her own “amazing” way. Aguilera said she wanted the performance to evoke “freedom and exuberating joy” -- and that it had.
Clearly, Nichole was saving up her energy for her second song: Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana,” with which she wanted to showcase her rock side. She certainly showcased her ability to do a backbend and sing at the same time, amidst a stage spewing huge geysers of smoke. Williams said it was clear that Nichole was destined to sing rock 'n' roll. Aguilera told Nichole that every time she came onstage, “I know that it’s going to be electrifying and … this audience is going to be taken to another planet.” She added that Nichole was just the sort of performer “The Voice” needed. “You were truly a rock star up there,” Aguilera said.
Meghan Linsey (Team Blake): Linsey began with her “tip jar song,” James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues,” hoping to “put that period at the end of that sentence that ‘I am a soul singer,’” as Shelton put it. She killed it, as usual. “That was crazy,” Aguilera told Linsey. “You just laid your heart and soul out there on that stage.” Williams said she’d served as an example for “all those people who are being told ‘no’ every day when they want to do something that does not fit.” Shelton said a few things about Linsey singing “the crap” out of the song, adding, “if that was a ketchup packet, you stepped on it and it spewed all over everybody’s face,” before his fellow coaches came to his rescue and told him to stop talking. (I mean, really.) Williams also helped by urging “everyone in Nashville to vote for this girl right now.”
If that wasn’t enough to see Linsey through to the next round, her simple, pure take on “Amazing Grace,” part a cappella, and part accompanied by an organ, surely was. Linsey had dedicated the song to her Kentucky-raised mom, who grew up with very little, in a home with a “dirt floor” and “sometimes no food” and then “worked her way through nursing school.” After Linsey sang -- it was the final performance of the evening -- Aguilera wondered, “Did Blake just win the whole thing again? I can’t even believe it!” Shelton said that when Linsey had sung it felt like “the whole world stopped for just a moment to listen to that,” adding, “There’s a new sheriff in town on this show.”
Sawyer Fredericks (Team Pharrell): Fredericks also emerged with a solid shot at a win, starting with the song he dedicated to his mother, “Shine On,” who with his father had up and moved the family from Connecticut to a farm in upstate New York during a “dark period” in their life. His mom may not have been the only one left teary by the performance. “You’re a really special kid, Sawyer,” Levine said, adding that, while all of Fredericks’ performances were “amazing,” this one was extra-special because “it was so perfectly executed, but also extremely soulful and engaging and emotional.” Shelton called it “very simple but so real and powerful.” And Williams said he had the power to “inspire people.”
Fredericks took things more upbeat with the Commitments’ version of “Take Me to the River,” and held his own amidst the shimmying, pony tail-swinging go-go dancers with whom he shared the stage. Shelton marveled at how Fredericks didn’t even have to move. “All you have to do is stand there and sing and people can run around you and do flips and all kinds of stuff and it doesn’t matter .… It doesn’t freaking matter,” Shelton said. Williams said he actually thought Fredericks had worked the stage, sending a call out to the “ladies.” “Everyone at home … do what feels right … vote for this guy,” he said.
One singer will go home this week. We’ll learn which one soon enough.