And so we meet again! Tonight, there are no steals. There are no saves. We are down to the top 12, and, my fellow Americans, the power is in our hands.
Mary Sarah, my No. 1 favorite Boot Barn employee, kicks things off with an “inspiring” rendition of “So Small” by Carrie Underwood, because it is “about conquering your problems” and Mary Sarah’s brother was born premature. Helpfully, Blake suggests she perform wearing a pretty dress. And let me tell you, her dress, it is real pretty. Christina says her singing was “solid,” which means she hated it, and Adam says her version of the song was “really cool” and “very unique.” In other news, does anyone need any boots? Because I know a place.
Rocking Michigander Laith Al-Saadi is doing Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign,” but for some reason he’s holding back on his characteristic roar, which is worrying to me personally. “People don’t respond quite so well sometimes to subtlety,” Adam says, advising him to growl more. All the judges seem pleased with his performance, and Pharrell, reprising his earlier passion for democracy, begs America to “vote this guy through!” As an American, I agree, but I still wish he’d have gotten crazier with it.
Daniel Passino is the last man standing on Team Pharrell, but don’t worry, because Carson Daly says he’s “finally coming into his own as an artist.” He is singing “Human Nature,” because Michael Jackson is the root of all he loves. Say what you will about Daniel Passino — and I will — he is a man with a vision. “Be-di-be-di-ooooh-dink-dink!” explains Daniel. “You’re essentially producing this song!” exclaims Pharrell, impressed. Then Daniel says that’s exactly what he wants to do when he becomes an artist, and Pharrell tells him to NEVER SAY THAT AGAIN, because he is an artist right now. It is beautiful. I have struggled with Daniel Passino, but he does a really nice job with this, and he seems to be having fun. “Very, very smooth,” Christina notes.
Folk unicorn Emily Keener prefers songs that have “deeper insight into human emotion,” so she will be doing “Lilac Wine” by Jeff Buckley. “You’re an artist,” opines Pharrell, exercising his new catchphrase. She is an artist, though. Onstage, she is strange and wise and otherworldly. “That was magical,” muses Christina. “It was amazing,” soothes Pharrell. Also, Emily is wearing earrings that are tassels. Truly, it is everything you could want from an Emily Keener performance, and more.
If there is one thing America inexplicably loves, it’s Nick Hagelin, so he’s still here and singing Blake’s “Mine Would Be You” because it reminds him of his wife. “I write her a poem every night that we’re apart,” he says, “so at least she knows — at some point during the day — I’m thinking about her.” I hope they’re all limericks. I didn’t know he played the piano, though, so that’s an exciting new development. Christina says he is a pleasure to work with, probably from all the ballet dancing, and Pharrell says he can see him on the charts with this one, which is a safe bet, because Nick Hagelin is always on the charts. I have yet to board the Nick Hagelin train, but I agree his kid is very cute.
In memory of his brother, Adam Wakefield is doing “Soulshine,” by the Allman Brothers Band. Another fact about Adam Wakefield is that he is definitely one of the best singers on this show. Blake wisely has him pull back the bluesy impulses in favor of something more gospel, and the result is soulful and gorgeous and everyone stands for him except Christina, who is probably tired. “I feel like you have 12 records out,” raves Adam Levine. “That was like, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance.” Just when it seems like things couldn’t get any better, there is a Nissan commercial featuring Jordan Smith and all is right with the world.
And then something terrible happens: Bryan Bautista, my pride and joy, does “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal, and friends, it is … not the best. It is a bold song choice, I will give him that, but I feel like he’s depending a lot on the backup vocals here? Oh, I am worried! Pharrell says it was “perfect” though, and Christina says that he is the definition of what a star should look like, so maybe America can be convinced. I hope so. In a cruel and uncertain world, I believe in Bryan Bautista.
Good lord, there are so many performance on this show! Owen Danoff has decided to sing “7 Years” by Lukas Graham, because it makes him look back on his life. Additionally, it is massively popular. Owen wants to do it playing the bass, but Adam instructs him to do it playing no instruments so he can throw his whole physical and emotional self into the singing. This turns out to be excellent advice, because Owen is very emotional, and also physical. This song creeps me out a little, what with all the childbearing, but Owen owns it. Behind him, seven gigantic birthday candles flicker literally. “We watched you completely bust out of the shell you’ve been living in for the past few months,” enthuses Adam. It is as though our little duckling is becoming a swan.
It is dumb Alisan Porter is here. It’s boring how good she is. She does “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato, and it is spectacular, because of course it is. “I’m not even sure what to say because I’ve said a lot already,” says Adam. “You’re just … everything,” observes Christina. “Aren’t you bored with being so great?” wonders Blake. If I have one quibble, it is with her white-lace jumpsuit, and frankly, I may be coming around to that, too.
Paxton Ingram is in the unfortunate position of following that, but he is nothing if not game for a challenge. He sings “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez with trademark intensity against a backdrop of projected fingerprints. Get it? I have some questions about the design concept here. Blake and Pharrell agree he should sing something “inspirational” next time, because he is a vessel that lifts people.
“Do you wanna, like, win?” Pharrell asks Hannah Huston. “Because you’re, like, calling the shots here.” She wants to win! She is calling the shots! She is not in Nebraska anymore! Watching Hannah Huston interact with Pharrell is truly the most delightful part of The Voice at this point. She’s doing Etta James’s “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” and it a truly inspired performance, with lots of growling. “I think there’s a new genre of music,” says Adam. It is called “alien soul” and you can tell because “it’s not of this earth, but it’s also rooted in something we know and understand.” Pharrell wants everyone in Nebraska to vote for her.
To close out the night, baby powerhouse Shalyah Fearing is belting “Up to the Mountain” by Kelly Clarkson, because it is a song about having faith, and that is what Shalyah needs at this point in the competition. Adam declares her an embodiment of the American dream. This is neither my favorite song nor my favorite Shalyah moment, but I have no substantive complaints. Christina praises her fearlessness and her heart, and Pharrell praises her inner barometer.
And there we are! America, I ask you: Who is going home?