The Voice Recap: Let’s Give It Up for Pharrell

Adam Wakefield. Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC
The Voice
The Voice
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Tonight, we begin on a somber note: The stage is silent. The light is purple. In tribute to Prince, each of the judges gets a moment to reflect on his legacy. “The whole world felt his presence, always,” says Adam. “There was nothing manufactured about what he did and what he stood for,” offers Christina. Blake wears a tasteful purple pocket square. I am not one to quibble with a Prince tribute, but I was sort of hoping for some kind of group musical number? Alas, it is not to be. Rules are rules, and the group musical number is on Tuesday.

First up: teen dream Shalyah Fearing, with Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” which Adam says is a great choice because it is both unexpected and inspirational. Shalyah relates to this song because life is a mountain, but she is going to climb it. The big revelation for me in this performance is that I still really don’t get skirts with high-low hemlines. Otherwise, it is a solid performance that did not speak to me. Blake says the song was very true to her story, and Christina concurs that it is indeed “ironic to this moment.” “I love you,” says Adam. Shalyah says she loves him, too. It is very beautiful, and somewhere above all of us, an angel gets its wings.

Daniel Passino really wants to amp up his vulnerability, so he is doing a deeply sensitive rendition of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. “He’s doing a lot of emoting,” whispers Pharrell. When was the last time you saw such emoting, I wonder? I bet never. I would not call this an understated performance, and Daniel keeps grasping the hands of his fans, like he is Jesus and they are the lepers. Vocally, though, he has tremendous control and unsettling smoothness. Pharrell tells Daniel that he is a great singer, and Christina tells Daniel that Pharrell is a great coach. “It’s great that you have him on your side and he keeps pushing you,” she says. “Congrats for Pharrell.” I also agree that Pharrell is great and I would vote for him.

Speaking of Pharrell’s greatness: Last week, he advised Paxton Ingram to sing something “inspirational” because Paxton’s calling is to uplift people through song, so this week Paxton is doing “Break Every Chain,” by Tasha Cobbs. In general, I am uncomfortable with inspiration of all kinds, but I will come out and say it: Paxton is in his element here, and he is spectacular. He breaks so many chains. “We’ve heard Paxton the singer, the artist, but this is the first time I feel like you’ve opened your heart up,” marvels Blake, inspired. Paxton glows. As a wise woman once said, “congrats for Pharrell.”

Oh, Owen, my chicklet! This is a rough one. He will be doing “Fire and Rain,” by James Taylor, because his childhood friend was killed while serving in the Marines. Adam instructs him to emote more and “give it some intensity.” I worry that “intensity” is not really working for our Owen, though, and the whole performance comes off to me as just a touch forced. You know who sings this song very well? James Taylor. Christina tells him he is simple and strong, yet vulnerable, and Adam raves that he and Owen have a lot in common. Ah, the highest praise of all!

Mary Sarah is doing “Johnny and June,” by Heidi Newfield, a song Pharrell and I have never heard before. Blake promises it will resonate with “the young females out there,” and Mary Sarah says that she hopes to have unconditional love someday. Honestly, I rather like this whole number, but then I am a young female, so I suppose I would. You know who does not like it? Christina. What did Mary Sarah do to her, do you think? Pharrell, on the other hand, is a big fan of both her singing and her dress, which he announces is “distracting” in a “really pleasant way.” Generously changing the tenor of the gross conversation, Blake asks Mary Sarah if she yodels. (She does not.)

Will this be the night Alisan Porter’s empire of winning comes crashing down? Nope! There is nothing new to say about Alisan Porter. She is fabulous as ever. Her interpretation of Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me Baby” is enormous and soulful and wrenching; there are no words, because we have said them all. “You just don’t see that much growth in your performances, because where is there to go anymore?” wonders Blake. Adam reiterates that she is going to win The Voice. For variety, she should probably sing something stripped down next week. I’d ask Pharrell.

My personal hero Bryan Bautista is dedicating his performance of Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are” to his little sister, because he wants her to know that she is perfect just the way she is. I might argue that this number showcases neither his voice nor his charm, but on the bright side, there is a brass section. It is all very empowering and I hope he can go back to doing sex songs now.

Surprise! Adam Wakefield has brought his mother to come meet Blake Shelton! Marsha lives in Scotland, where she got a PhD in social policy and now helps the Scottish government bring gender equality to the nation. I love them both. Anyway, Adam is doing “Lights” by Journey, because he’s ready to burst out of his “safe place.” The twist is that he is still fantastic. “Man, whaaaaat? Dude, okay, whaaaaaaaat?” opines Pharrell. There is a bright future ahead, both for Adam and for Scottish equality.

I am now going to say something, and I think we should all be sitting down for this: Nick Hagelin’s performance of “Your Body Is a Wonderland” is an utter delight. He is joyful and gentle and tonally solid, and I don’t even care that he is surrounded by giant projections of Ferris wheels. Blake agrees that it is one of his best performances yet, and Christina praises him for being fundamentally lovable. Also, Nick Hagelin is wearing what I believe to be a leather tunic. This is neither here nor there, but I think it is worth noting.

America’s favorite preschool teacher Hannah Huston will be singing Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which is what she sang back at her first-ever gig way back in 2013. “I really want to deliver a tender moment,” says Hannah. And her moment, it is so tender. What song choice! What feeling! She is emotive and restrained all at once. Truly, it is everything I want in a song of suffering. I am concerned Pharrell is not going to be the one to tell her to stop doing all the hand stuff, though. I really think it would be better if she stopped doing the hand stuff. Also, I think it would be better if this show had a different set designer.

Last but not least is Laith Al-Saadi, who seems stunned that he is still here. “I don’t think I’m necessarily what America would be looking for, typically,” he observes. “I am … not the prettiest looking, and I certainly am not the youngest.” And yet, this one time, America has come through for us both! For a change of pace, Laith will be soulfully roaring “Make It Rain,” by Ed Sheeran, which “has all the components of old-school blues,” but is contemporary. It is inspired. Say what you will, the man makes it rain. “You were A-MAZ-ING!” screams Adam. Pharrell thinks you should buy his albums.

And there you have it, folks. What a show it was! I loved everyone, except the ones I didn’t. Who deserves to go home, do you think? How is your yodeling?