Oh, what a night it is at The Voice! We are down to the Top 10, but more importantly, noted Voice fans Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are making a special guest appearance! Which of them is a bigger fan of The Voice, do you think? My money’s on Jill. Anyway, they’re here on official business to promote their Joining Forces initiative, because May is Military Appreciation Month. “It’s only because of our military service and sacrifice that we all have a voice,” intones philosopher-poet Carson Daly.
To honor the troops and their families, the First Lady of the United States uses her powers to introduce a special group rendition of “Home” by Dierks Bentley. It is a solid performance all around, but then I am just a sucker for overwrought displays of patriotism, especially if there is a full brass band. (There is a full brass band, in uniform, obviously.)
Daniel Passino has been feeling a little down lately, because he was in the bottom two last week and has spent the interim reading internet comments about himself. Oh, Daniel, I feel you! Also, I am concerned you are not cut out for a career in reality television. “You know how many times I’ve been in the bottom two in my whole life?” asks Pharrell. He doesn’t specify, but I am going to guess at least three. For his road to redemption, Daniel sings Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and it is a difficult experience for all of us. I would say the problem is the singing. “This does not happen overnight,” offers Adam, charitably. “It takes some people 20 years to get to the point they want to get to!” It is almost like there is hope for us all; the secret is to stay off the internet.
Teen queen Shalyah Fearing brings her mom to rehearsal because they are “always there for each other.” I really love these meet-the-moms segments! It makes me feel like I am part of the family. Shalyah is dedicating her performance of “My Kind of Love” to her because it is about someone who supports you no matter what, and Adam says this is going to be the moment where she becomes an artist. If we are being honest, this is not my favorite Shalyah performance, but she is very strong, as always. Blake praises her wildness and her edge. Pharrell praises the presence of her spirit. Who will say these things when Pharrell is gone next season? I worry.
Energized by his showing last week, Nick Hagelin is going all out with “I Can’t Help It” by Michael Jackson, because he wants America to see him “pushing [himself] out of a box.” Did you think this was a metaphor? Me too! It is not, though. Nick begins his number in an actual box and then he pushes himself out of it. As for his actual performance, I would call it a reasonable imitation of Michael Jackson. Pharrell theorizes that people respond to Nick because he represents the possibility of change and hope and second chances. Is that why America loves him so much? Because he is a surrogate for our collective dreams?
Ray of Nebraska sunshine Hannah Huston is doing the Adele classic “Rolling in the Deep,” which she acknowledges is a bold choice, because Adele is “magnificent.” Pharrell advises her to “be very suggestive” and also “very expressive” about “certain lyrics.” Taking this wisdom to heart, Hannah’s performance is indeed both expressive and suggestive, especially around certain lyrics. Why is she standing in front of a giant glowing vagina? That I cannot tell you, but I would speculate that it is “the deep.” God, I love this show. Adam says Hannah was only “99 percent amazing” because she kept swooping up into the chorus and it drove him crazy, but Pharrell counters that it was in fact “1,000 percent amazing” for reasons he does not specify. What percent amazing would you give it? I would say a solid 88.
Then my favorite roaring Michigander takes the stage and sings “The Thrill Is Gone,” by B.B. King, and let me tell you, friends: The thrill, it is still here. Laith Al-Saadi is even more phenomenal here than usual tonight. Pharrell is stunned. “AHHHHHHHHH!” screams Laith’s girlfriend from the audience. It is like she took the words out of my mouth. “That was by far the best show of musicianship I’ve ever seen on this show,” declares Adam. Blake suggests that going forward, Laith should do songs with more singing in them, but Adam counters that the guitar is part of what makes him special. I support whatever Laith decides is right for him.
After breaking all the chains last week, Paxton Ingram has a lot to live up to, so naturally, he is channeling your favorite Canadian and mine, Céline Dion. He’s doing “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” because the thing about Céline is that she “takes you on a whole journey.” And oh, what a journey it is! He does a really lovely job with this, I think, despite some note issues. “I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised,” admits Christina. “You are becoming this artist right before our very eyes, man,” beams Blake. I would also like to give a shout out here to the U.S. military. They are much better at swaying in unison than civilians. In retrospect, I suppose this is not surprising.
Mary Sarah is singing “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette, and Blake, for one, could not be prouder. “She is more of a singer than I even knew she was,” he says, awed by her youthful country glow. Her voice is clear and gentle; she will stand by her man. “That was amazing,” says Adam. “Since the blinds, I don’t think I’ve really seen anything that fit quite as well as this.” What would the world be like if Adam was her coach, one wonders. Then Blake reiterates that she is sexually attractive to many men, and we are all jolted back to the reality in which we must live.
Moving on! Resident dreamboat Bryan Bautista will “show off his versatility with a nod to his Latin roots” with “Promise,” by Romeo Santos (ft. Usher). “I didn’t know you could sing in Spanish!” exclaims Christina, who says that it is “a perfect song to showcase who you are.” It is smooth (so smooth) and sweet and only sometimes pitchy; in the audience, the military sways. “You showcase something different every single time you come out here,” raves Christina. That’s the thing about our Bryan, he’s a risk-taker. Adam and I agree this wasn’t his best, but I am going to go out on a limb and say we both enjoyed it.
This week, Alisan Porter is getting personal with Patty Griffin’s “Let Him Fly,” which she says is the “physical manifestation of the hardest time of my life.” She was at the low point of her addiction, and also in a relationship that wasn’t working, and she left, and then her beloved died, and now she is honoring this chapter of her life in song. For a change of pace, she is phenomenal. I wept. Did you weep? Adam says a true artist “uses everything in their life, good and bad, to speak through the music,” and Alisan Porter is a true artist. Ugh, tell us something we don’t know.
For the final performance of the evening, Adam Wakefield will be singing “I Got a Woman,” because he has a woman. Did we know that Adam studied jazz? I forget. In any case, he studied jazz. “It is not time to play it safe anymore,” Blake announces, which is why they are adding a brass section. I do not feel equipped to evaluate the horns, but I will tell you this: Adam Wakefield is fantastic. “You’re the next one, bro,” decrees Pharrell. “A-damn!” gushes Blake. “You literally just blowed my brains out. Blowed my brains out!” I also liked it, but less violently.
And with that, we have come to the end of our show! How did you feel about everything, and more importantly, how do you think Jill Biden felt about it?