The Voice Recap: I’m Not Going

Mary Sarah. Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC
The Voice
The Voice
Episode Title
Live Semi-Final Performances
Editor’s Rating

It is the beginning of the end, folks. Everyone is so good tonight! And to think that soon, half of them will be ritually sacrificed. It is a shame. They were so young.

To distract us from our impending trauma, Pink is here as an extra-special guest advisor, and she has never before seen such talent. “They’re already better than an entire awards season,” she bubbles. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is untrue, but what I admire about Pink is her profound sense of optimism. Speaking of Pink, how is everybody feeling about Carson Daly’s favorite movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass? Personally, I would classify my own feelings as “profoundly neutral.”

For first consult of the day, Pink is meeting with dream teen Shalyah Fearing, and they are both very excited about it. “AHHHH!” shrieks Shalyah, demonstrating her enthusiasm. “I’m going to punch you I love so much!” growls Pink, demonstrating hers. Shalyah is singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” by Jennifer Hudson, because she is telling us that she is not going. “You have the most beautiful voice I’ve heard in my entire life,” Pink whispers, awestruck. “I love your rasp.” This is good, because onstage, Shalyah has a lot of rasp. Too much rasp, one might say. I would prefer this performance with 38 percent less rasp. The judges, on the other hand, all seem pretty thrilled, with Shalyah’s rasp-level and in general. “You better live, Shalyah!” raves Christina. I do not know exactly what that means, but I think it is advice we can all take to heart.

Then, for a change of pace, frontrunners Adam Wakefield and Alisan Porter join forces to sing “Angel From Montgomery.” The do this very slowly. It is like gently floating through a pleasant sea of molasses. I would say that I rather enjoyed it, in a catatonic sort of way.

After his insta-save last week, Paxton needs “a challenging song to just work hard for,” so he’s doing “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by my favorite unregistered Mitt Romney supporter, Meat Loaf. An inspired song choice! It is not by Whitney Houston, and yet it somehow shows off all of Paxton’s emotional dynamics anyway. “You have the most beautiful voice in the whole world!” Pink gushes. This is what some literary scholars call “an exaggeration,” but Paxton does a really nice job with this, I think, despite the Windows 95 screen savers projected in the background. He is a mesmerizing performer, our Paxton. In that way, he is much like the screen savers.

Bluesy Michigander Laith Al-Saadi is “taking an Adele song to new heights” with his rocking rendition of “One and Only.” Laith is a little bit nervous about hitting some of the notes, but then Pink lets him in on a little industry secret she learned at the Oscars. The secret is to “clench your butt cheeks.” I would say this tip somewhat impedes my further enjoyment of this song, but Laith gives a characteristically soulful performance, punctuated with characteristically impressive guitar soloing.  Blake says it was amazing. Pharrell says Laith’s success is evidence that The Voice is a good show and America is a good country. “I would kinda be the most proud if you made it through,” says Adam.  I would also be the most proud, kinda!

Next, it is time for another randomly generated duet, so Bryan Bautista and Mary Sarah sing the Ariana Grande classic, “Break Free” (ft. Zedd). I am going to come out and say it: This is a surprisingly delightful pairing! I would not go so far as to suggest that they have chemistry, musically or otherwise, but I really love their sexy matching Hazmat suits. It is like they are in a dystopian YA fantasy movie based on a book of the same name.

Onward! Pink and Alisan Porter are super-excited to see each other, because Pink loves Curly Sue, and Alisan sang “Try” for her first Voice audition. Also, they’re both working moms! Obviously, everything is going great. No one has ever done “Desperado” by the Eagles on the show before, but Christina knows Alisan will “do it justice” and Alisan explains that she relates to the song because there was a time in her life when she wouldn’t allow herself to succeed. What if Alisan runs out of life experiences to relate to, I wonder? Is that something you also worry about? Anyway, she takes the stage under a canopy of weeping roses, and let me tell you, she is very desperado. I would not say it is not her best performance, but that is only because of all her previous performances. While we are on the subject, which Alisan Porter performance is the best Alisan Porter performance, do you think? Also, who is your favorite child?

For their inaugural duet as unlikely musical friends, Hannah Huston and Laith Al-Saadi do a zippy little take on Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood.” It is neither like thunder nor like lightning, but they are tuneful and appear to be having fun, and is that not what matters?

Before The Voice, Adam Wakefield was teaching little girls to sing Pink songs, and now here he is, working with the color herself. It is like the American dream has come true before our very eyes! Tonight, he will be singing “I’m Sorry,” by our pal and confidant, Blake Shelton, and let me tell you, Adam Wakefield has nothing to be sorry about. His interpretation is soulful, in a wrenching sort of way. As of this writing he is No. 2 on the iTunes chart, just behind Justin Timberlake singing something from the Trolls movie. “I don’t even feel like you’re competing anymore,” muses Pharrell. “I’m embarrassed that I ever sang this song,” drawls Blake. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know there was a Trolls movie, but I have faith we will both recover.

Oh, Bryan Bautista, fire of my loins! This is a heartbreaker. He’s doing Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt,” which resonates, he explains, because he hasn’t heard from his dad the whole time he’s been on The Voice. “He hasn’t been here for any part of this competition. He’s always encouraged my music career. I’m just hurt.” But the performance! The performance is a triumph. It is beautiful and haunting and musically ambitious all at once. “Every time you perform, you show a different element of yourself,” offers Christina. “That was absolutely beautiful. I want to hear it again. I’m buying it!” Stars — they’re just like us!

The final duet of the evening is Paxton and Shalyah singing “Masterpiece,” by Jessie J, and I think it is fair to say that this masterpiece is a work in progress. I am not sure what is going on with this singing part of this performance, but I find the lights very exciting!

Belle of Nashville Mary Sarah is doing Randy Travis’s country ballad “I Told You So” while perched in a gazebo. “I love traditional country,” enthuses Pink. “I miss when people just sang.” And for once, Mary Sarah does just sing, and it is truly lovely, vulnerable and pure and simple, just like she was that one time in the blinds. I even liked the gazebo! I mean, maybe. Let’s not get carried away here. “That was beautiful! I so enjoyed that!” says Christina. She sounds shocked. As a policy, Christina never says anything nice to Mary Sarah, and now look at her. I suppose Blake would say he told us so.

Closing out the semi-finals: Hannah Huston and her vulnerability! She is singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge, because “everyone can connect with the message.” But Pink wants more. “I think the best art comes from when you’re lying on the floor and your soul is dying,” she intones. This bodes well for my own artistic career. I love lying on the floor. I am now going to say something controversial: I did not connect with this performance, but then, it is possible I just do not know what happens when a man truly loves a woman. Certainly, the judges are impressed. Blake says it is her best performance of the season. Adam says she is a “weird stealth assassin.” America says she is No. 7 on iTunes.

And there you have it! Who had your favorite performance of the night? Who wore your favorite jumpsuit?