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The Voice Semi-Finals Recap: Which Acts Had It Going On — or Sounded Like They’d Soon Be Going, Going, Gone?

If you read TVLine’s fearless predictions of the The Voice’s Season 21 Final Five this weekend, you already know who I think will be competing in next week’s finals. (If you didn’t, you can catch up here.) Question Monday night was, which of the Top 8 acts actually sang like they belonged in the finals? Aand… ? Who did? Read on. You know how this works!

Jim and Sasha Allen (Team Ariana), “Mrs. Robinson” — Grade: C | In rehearsal, the father/son duo sounded like they were going to deliver a perfectly lovely cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic, which they attributed to the support of their loved ones and their coach (who apparently spent hours deliberating their song selection with them). And, in fact, the Allens started off pretty strong. Bouncy Sasha even managed to stay in place on stage (at least until he bounded off to retrieve his guitar from Ari). But then one of them went a bit iffy on their harmonies, and what was perfectly lovely became at best, eh, imperfectly lovely. Still, it was a fun, mostly painless performance. Amazing? No. Fine? Yes.

Jershika Maple (Team Legend), “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” — Grade: A | Talking through the song choice with her coach, Jershika explained that she saw the sun in the title as her dreams — if it/they went down, well, how bleak would that be? On stage, the 25-year-old Texan worked her lower register like a gym rat might their biceps. She flexed and flexed till you — or at least I — was just like, “Holy crap!” Every step of the way, she was a portrait of presence personified. There would be no checking your cellphone during this performance. Hell, there was barely even any typing of this recap during it! I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but damn. Jershika reaches parts of my soul that I would’ve sworn were long dead and buried. Freaking awesome.

Wendy Moten (Team Blake) and Paris Winningham (Team Blake), “Change the World” — Wendy’s grade: B, Paris’ grade: B+ | OK, so the contestants were all going to be paired up to duet on ‘90s songs. Got it. First were Wendy and Paris tackling Eric Clapton’s hit. Paris looked and sounded utterly at ease and in his element. And actually, Wendy looked like she was having a little fun, too. As always, she sounded terrific; not sure she’s capable of hitting a bum note. So yeah, they were pretty wonderful together, right down to the ending, during which I could’ve sworn they were taking turns trying to out-sing one another. Maybe not throw-a-shoe mind-boggling but quite good indeed.

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Lana Scott (Team Blake), “Something in the Water” — Grade: C- | After the competition’s one and only remaining country vocalist dedicated her Carrie Underwood cover to her biggest supporter, aka Mom, she picked up her mic and… aw, dang. I like Lana a lot, but she has struggled, no? And this often felt like she was one step off the notes she was going for. She sang and sang, unleashing that big pulling-taffy voice of hers, but it as frequently sounded like she was missing the mark as hitting it. Not sure if even being a country girl on Team Blake can save her this time. Pretty sure I own albums that are flatter than this.

the-voice-recap-girl-named-tom-wendy-moten-top-8-performancesHailey Mia (Team Kelly), “Someone You Loved” — Grade: B+ | The 14-year-old’s coach said in rehearsal that she was sure that this Lewis Capaldi number was going to get her to the finale. What’s more, hearing those lyrics come out of someone as young as Hailey, Kelly promised, was going to make us cry. Did it? Eh, not me. There were parts of Hailey’s performance that were spectacular and emotional; when she was on, she was on with a capital O and N. When she wasn’t, though, she tiptoed into pitchy territory. Luckily, her coach was around to remind us for the zillionth time that Hailey is only 14. A promising singer who doesn’t yet quite fully live up to that promise.

Jim and Sasha Allen (Team Ariana) and Lana Scott (Team Blake), “Hold My Hand” — Jim and Sasha’s grade: C, Lana’s grade: B- | Sasha kicked us off on the trio’s Hootie and the Blowfish duet (three-et?) in grand style — he wasn’t just his usual charismatic self, he was in fine voice, too. Dad’s vocal got a little swallowed by the band, but Lana’s cut through the noise like a blast of neon in a dark sky. In the end, this started to feel a little leaden, and Sasha let loose a bit more than was advisable for his voice. Of the threesome, Lana came off the best.

the-voice-recap-girl-named-tom-wendy-moten-top-8-performancesGirl Named Tom (Team Kelly), “River” — Grade: A+ | Kelly told the siblings in rehearsal that she was particularly psyched about their Joni Mitchell cover as she felt like it let them show off their vocals as individuals as well as as a group. And the way they joined in one by one, I could hear what she meant. At this point in the contest, I’m pretty much out of superlatives to affix to GNT. I will say, though, that it was Bekah’s voice, the sweetest this side of Sarah McLachlan’s, that made me misty-eyed Monday night. I’ve called it before, I’ll call it again: They’re my pick to win Season 21. This was magical.

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Jershika Maple (Team Legend) and Joshua Vacanti (Team Legend), “Hand in My Pocket” — Jershika’s grade: B+, Joshua’s grade: B- | After an intro package in which Joshua seemed to confuse the colorful ‘80s with the grungy ‘90s, he and Jershika took to the stage to perform an Alanis Morissette classic that… [Scratches head] Didn’t play to either of their strengths. They both gave it their all, singing emphatically in their own distinct styles, but mostly, this was a “WTF?” moment. Two contestants this good, and a better song selection couldn’t have been made? Wasted opportunity.

the-voice-recap-girl-named-tom-wendy-moten-top-8-performancesWendy Moten (Team Blake), “You’re All I Need to Get By” — Grade: A+ | In rehearsal, Wendy revealed that she was dedicating her Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell cover to her husband. Her coach just wanted to make sure that she seized the opportunity to show the audience what she can do that no one else can. On stage, she gave the kinda performance that would keep me listening to her for a full-on month. Nonstop. And while I’ve dinged Wendy in the past for not appearing to be present beneath the spotlight, here we did get flashes of personality now and then — even joy. And good Lorde, the showoffy stuff she did toward the end? Damn! Blake got his wish and then some. Wendy most certainly did remind us what she and only she is capable of.

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Girl Named Tom (Team Kelly) and Hailey Mia (Team Kelly), “Hold On” — Girl Named Tom’s grade: B, Hailey’s grade: B+ | My brain almost couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing on this team-up. It reminded me of Up With People — silly and earnest and cheesetastic. (The guys in particular seemed to know it, too.) Vocally, the Wilson Phillips cover was no one’s finest moment, but if the number was about anybody, it was Bekah and Hailey.

Paris Winningham (Team Blake), “Close the Door” — Grade: B+ | Happily, for his Top 8 performance, Paris went back to what he called his “bread and butter,” the old-soul sound embodied by this Teddy Pendergrass smash. His coach encouraged him to have some fun — as Paris interpreted it, show some teeth instead of tears. When the spotlight fell on him, he did indeed smile, setting free a vocal that went from as smooth as his velvet jacket to as sexily scratchy as sandpaper. Well, sexy sandpaper, anyway. Definitely the loosest we’ve ever seen Paris. But — and this is a big “but” — this didn’t feel like a surefire “Going to the finals” performance like Jershika, Wendy and GNT’s did.

Joshua Vacanti (Team Legend), “Ashes” — Grade: A- | Joshua was particularly excited to be singing Celine Dion’s ballad because it was co-written by Season 9 winner Jordan Smith. Naturally, Joshua also hoped to follow his footsteps into the winner’s circle. In the moment of truth, he sang like a freakin’ angel. I’m partial to his bombastic theatrical moments, but here, Joshua was almost as affecting in his controlled, borderline operatic performance. Not the most exciting number in the world, so also not Joshua’s most thrilling performance ever — but extremely good nonetheless.

So, two questions: Based on Monday’s performances alone, who would you put through to the finals? And, based on the entire season, who would you put through? Curious how much your Final Fives change on the two lists.


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