India Carney, already rescued from the brink of elimination twice on “The Voice” thanks to the Twitter Instant Save, could not quite manage a third last-minute reprieve this week. The voters/tweeters cut her loose Tuesday, just shy of next week’s finals, instead throwing a lifeline to Koryn Hawthorne, the 17-year-old “inspirational singer” (as her coach, Pharrell Williams, keeps reminding us) who tackles everything with fierce conviction.
Hawthorne will join fellow Team Pharrell member Sawyer Fredericks as well as Team Blake’s Meghan Linsey and Team Adam’s Joshua Davis to vie for the Season 8 victory next week. It would have been sad to see Hawthorne go. She seems to have battled her way through family troubles to get here, though her mom appears tremendously supportive and her dad extremely proud. Probably plenty of us had assumed the talented teen would make it through to the finale as part of the top 3, without having to sing for the save – the last of the season.
But between performances by Walk the Moon (“Shut Up and Dance”), Williams and Snoop Dogg (“California Roll”), and both the women (“Faithfully”) and the men (“Drift Away”) in the Top 5, Carson Daly let us know that Fredericks and Linsey were officially “finalists.” Then, in a departure from the usual results protocol, he revealed that Carney was not safe and would have to sing. Sometime later, we learned Hawthorne would also have to compete for the save; Davis was declared safe and bound for the finals.
Carney brought her usual lush, open-throated tone and polished, passionate, open-armed performance style to Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side.” Aguilera, whose last hope for a win had come to rest on Carney, urged people to tweet for her, highlighting her focus and drive.
Hawthorne sang Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” with the undercurrent of pain and urgency that invariably makes her performances so arresting. Williams pleaded with anyone who has ever been discouraged from pursuing their dreams – anyone who has ever consistently been told no and didn’t have anybody in their lives to tell them yes -- to support Hawthorne, effectively turning her into a poster teen for overcoming adversity.
The graphics at the bottom of the screen indicated that Hawthorne was ahead with 52% of the vote – to Carney’s 48% -- before they were removed. Although Carney had pulled off under-the-wire wins twice before, this time, it didn’t look promising. Aguilera didn’t help Carney by making her repeat her words of tribute to her coach, making them sound kind of canned the second time around, while Hawthorne’s teary words of gratitude for Williams – “Coach P,” she called him – just served as a reminder of how young and vulnerable she was, and how much she wanted to stick around.
When Hawthorne’s name was called, I felt a rush of relief. The stakes seem higher for her than for Carney, who has attended some of the best music schools in the country and will likely forge a successful career in music regardless. Her presence will be missed in next week’s finals, but I imagine we haven’t heard the last of the immensely talented, incredibly poised India Carney.