‘The Voice’: Nate Ruess Performs “Nothing Without Love,” Sawyer Fredericks Sings “A Thousand Years”
As if prepping the audience for the (no lie) five-hours of season finale programming next week, The Voice gave it all they had in terms of filler during Monday’s semi-finals. Despite only having one guest performance and zero group performances, NBC managed to squeeze two full hours out of just five contestants. Sure, each contestant performed two songs, which covers about 40 minutes of the broadcast, but what on earth could they have done to fill the other hour and twenty minutes of primetime network television?
It can be thoroughly summed up in this brief list: Hometown visits, local parades, the distribution of keys to small towns, an awkward cross-promotional visit from some of the Pitch Perfect 2 cast, and – above all – Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Pharrell and Adam Levine throwing the term “journey” around in excess.
The semi-finals were, as they say, quite a journey through all that filler. The few performances that surfaced through the pre-recorded packages did impress, so here’s what you need to know – and only what you need to know – from Monday’s show:
Former advisor Nate Ruess performs “Nothing Without Love” from his forthcoming debut solo album Grand Romantic. There is a lot of skipping and dancing in his energetic performance, which is fun even without fun.
Team Adam: Joshua Davis
Coach’s Pick: Keeping with the ’90s adult contemporary theme he has mastered, Joshua Davis sings Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It’s a totally passable Top 10 performance, but a little too safe to guarantee him a coveted finals spot.
“I definitely liked it. It was super lovely,” says Christina. “I truly, truly loved it.”
“Our challenge throughout this whole thing has been highlighting what you do the best,” says Adam. “I love listening to you sing.”
Contestant’s Pick: Josh ends his evening with The Band’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” which he dedicates to everyone in his hometown of Trevor City. He makes no mistakes, but it’s hard to get too excited about his overly soothing tone.
“I didn’t know that song,” says Blake Shelton, professional musician. “Every time you do these songs I don’t know, I’m glad you do them because your version is the one that I want to know,” he adds, with – again – no basis for comparison.
“That was even better than I thought it was going to be,” says Adam. “We’re doing the right stuff, and I’m just so proud of you.”
Team Pharrell: Koryn Hawthorne
Coach’s Pick: Perhaps inspired by former coach Usher’s Season 4 duet with Michelle Chamuel – Pharrell assigns Koryn Hawthorne U2’s “One.” Her confident attitude continues to grow, but she sounds a little shakier than in past weeks. It’s nothing but praise from our dear coaches, of course.
“I’ve seen you grow leaps and bounds since the beginning,” says Christina. “I’m so proud of you as if you were on my team.”
“Coming out here every week with a song that inspires people, regardless of genre, that to me is the definition of inspirational singer,” says Pharrell.
Contestant’s Pick: Koryn really shines with Aretha Franklin’s “Mary Don’t You Weep.” Despite her young age, she sounds like a seasoned vet. All of the coaches are on their feet by the end, and clamoring to establish their fan status.
“From where you started to where you are now, never before in the history of this show have I seen such a drastic, incredible, unbelievable journey,” says Adam.
“After seeing that performance, you realize that the impossible is just a word,” says Pharrell. “You just showed everybody back home that anything is possible when you put God first.” (Or Aretha).
Team Blake: Meghan Linsey
Coach’s Pick: At some point this season, Meghan Linsey physically transformed into Christina Aguilera. Though her hair, makeup and even orange-hued skin tone is more eerily similar to Xtina’s than ever before, she lacks Christina’s powerful diva notes in her performance of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One.” Nonetheless, she gives the song her signature bluesy inflection, and even an undertone of anger.
“Every performance seems to be almost like it’s your last in your mind,” says Adam. “I just want to commend you on your commitment to the moment.”
“I get so excited anytime I know you’re about to perform, because it’s almost a guarantee that it’s going to be great,” says Blake.
Contestant’s Pick: After a quick Nashville visit and pep talk from Naomi Judd and Big & Rich, Meghan panders for the votes of country fans by singing George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey.” It’s right in her sweet spot, and a strategic voting play.
“You never cease to amaze me with your vocals,” says Christina. “You’re a showstopper.”
“You just engaged all of the country music fans out there throughout the country,” says Blake. “That is by far your most important performance on the show so far.”
Team Christina: India Carney
Coach’s Pick: According to Coach Christina, last week’s instant save survivor, India Carney, not only needs to rise to the occasion, but needs to “rise above the occasion.” To clarify: this is not a real term. In any case, she (ironically) uses “Gravity” to rise to great heights, delivering a beautiful rendition of the Sara Bareilles song.
“I can’t say enough about how powerful that was, and ironically at the end when she got soft and sang, that was the most powerful part of that performance for me,” says Blake. “I’m going to be shocked if you’re not in the finale.”
“You just consistently have this control,” says Christina. “I loved your tenderness in this particular song.”
Contestant’s Pick: India picks Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” and is more theatrical with it than she’s been all season, perhaps to fill the void left by fellow teammate Kimberly Nichole. She manages to prompt an instant download demand for a cover of a 20-year-old song about the environment, which is an impressive feat.
“Every performance of yours is awesome because it’s almost like these mini pieces of performance art,” says Adam. “I love watching you perform.”
“You were a superstar tonight, and I adore you,” says Christina.
Team Pharrell: Sawyer Fredericks
Coach’s Pick: With the help of Pharrell’s coaching, Sawyer Fredericks has captured the hearts and Twitter votes of adoring fans. The youngster transcends generations again with Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” In addition to his fantastic vocals, Sawyer has become so effortlessly cool on stage over the weeks that it’s almost legitimate how much the coaches throw around the term “true artist” in his presence.
“It’s hard to do that one justice, and man, you did it justice. You did an incredible job,” says Adam.
“The thing is that I measure Sawyer’s performances based on how they feel,” says Pharrell, who then asks for some (roaring) audience feedback to quantify that measure.
Contestant’s Pick: Sawyer jumps about five decades to close out the night with Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” and he doesn’t even sound lame singing the go-to wedding dance song of 2011. Sawyer Mania continues after another fantastic performance.
“You’re clearly the frontrunner, and there’s no question in anybody’s mind, you’re the real deal,” says Blake.
“There’s a power, and while it’s not your power, it’s something that you have access to,” says Pharrell, getting way spiritual per usual.
It seems like Sawyer is a shoo-in for the finale, but who else will join him? And which unlucky contestant will make it thisclose to the finale, only to be booted in the final moments? The answers to these burning questions come tonight, in between performances by Walk the Moon, Snoop Dog and Pharrell!