'The Voice' Top 8 Recap: What A Wicked Game To Play

This was a brutal results show.

Let me just preface this recap by emphatically stating that, with the possible exception of Adam Cunningham, none of the current finalists on “The Voice” Season 13 — one of the most talent-packed seasons in the series’ history — deserve to go home this soon. On Tuesday’s brutal results show, which I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed the “Red Chair Wedding,” four of the very gifted top eight will be eliminated in one fell swoop — and, for lack of a more eloquent way of wording it, that is going to suck.

On Monday’s top eight competitive show, many of the contestants delivered stellar performances — both solo and in duets — that in weaker seasons would have ensured them spots in the finale. But like I said, in Season 13, the bar and the stakes have been raised. Let’s recap.

SOLOS

Adam Cunningham (Team Adam)

The other, more famous Adam on The Voice, Mr. Levine, had finally realized that he has no business picking tunes for country singer Cunningham. Let’s face it, Adam L.’s “Against All Odds” assignment a few weeks ago sent Adam C., whom I’d once pegged as a frontrunner, on a near-unstoppable downward spiral for the rest of the season. So anyway, this week Levine let the hapless contestant choose his own song, and Adam C. played it safe and went with Lonestar’s “I’m Already There.” I suppose this was smart. Cunningham had a big moment with another Lonestar song the last time he was forced to sing for the Instant Save, and he did so well singing traditional country last week that he avoided the bottom three altogether. So I suppose this week was no time for him to take a risk and dip back into the Phil Collins songbook — especially when producers were slating him first, to all but ensure his doom.

Looking kind of like a grizzled country Santa Claus with his red velvet blazer and long beard, Adam C. delivered a merry enough rendition of a perennially popular song, and it was one of his most solid vocals of the season. It was a formula that has been working for him and has kept him in the running against all odds (heh), but it might finally be the end of the road for this cowboy.

“I’m so glad you’re choosing your own songs now,” said Blake Shelton, throwing a little shade Adam L.’s way. “Seriously, man, I can tell from seeing the package that that’s the kind of lyric that means something to you. It means something to so many people out there. Outside of that, you sang the hell out of it, dude.” Levine then laid it on even thicker and said, “Here you are, in my opinion one of the top contenders in the competition. This guy deserves to be in the finale.” I disagree. When it comes to this season’s finale, suffice to say Adam C. is not already there.

Davon Fleming (Team J.Hud)

After escaping elimination last week, Davon was determined to come back swinging this Monday — but interestingly, he actually strayed from his formula and didn’t sing a female ballad. Instead, he did John Mayer’s “Gravity,” and at first, this showboater was so uncharacteristically laid-back that I almost didn’t recognize him. Why on earth would Davon hold back at such a crucial stage in the game? Little did I know he was pacing himself, ready to let it rip in during the bluesy ballad’s big finish. Damn. Those churchy ad-libs (“Gravity, stay the hell away from me!”) were ev-er-y-thing. I am still afraid this won’t be enough to save Davon from going home this week, but I am so glad he was saved last Tuesday, so that we were able to hear this standing-ovation-earning swan song.

“I’ve always loved you. I always thought you had this ability that was kind of unlike any other ability that I’ve ever heard,” said Adam, who appreciated that fact that Davon had “scaled it back” this Monday. “That was your belief in yourself, your passion, your story, your heart. It came through tonight. I couldn’t even begin to take off my shoe, because I couldn’t move,” said a proud Jennifer Hudson.

Red Marlow (Team Blake)

If Adam Cunningham thought he had any chance of making the top four, his neon dreams must’ve been crushed once he saw his closest competitor, fellow country everyman Red, do “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill. “If I can get to the top four, this is the way to get there,” Red asserted during rehearsal, and he was right. Blake was right too when he declared, “This is the one that’ll make everyone go, ‘Red’s a freakin’ singer.’”

Dedicating the classic country weeper to an old friend who passed away 20 years ago, Red admitted he was afraid he’d “lose it” onstage, but Blake encouraged him to channel all that emotion into his performance, and Red managed to hold it together. He even seemed comfortable without his trusty guitar. (Red later revealed that this was only the second time in his entire career that he’d gone guitar-free.) I predict Red’s “Mountain” will climb the iTunes chart.

“You’re so authentic. All of us represent truth. So are you, and that’s why you didn’t have the guitar. You could put your hands like that and let us feel you,” marveled Miley Cyrus. “Out there in America, every country music fan that loves and appreciates that song realizes what you just did for country music and how you represented that song. I know Vince Gill is sitting back somewhere right now with a huge grin on his face,” said Blake.

Keisha Renee (Team Blake)

A debate has raged all season about Keisha’s country authenticity, but if her CMA-worthy, CMT-worthy, ACM-worthy… nay, Grammy-worthy performance of “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts doesn’t silence her doubters, nothing ever will. (Seriously, just her ruffly Crystal Gayle styling this week should be enough.) Yes, there were flourishes of R&B/gospel during her Monday performance, but that only helped Keisha put her own emotional stamp on the classic country smash. And her silky yet stratospheric vocals were flawless as always. This might have been enough to push her up the chart and earn her the all-important iTunes multiplier that she needs right now.

“I know that Blake is freaking out right now. This is a song I heard a million times. … You do it your way. It is the best way for you. It seems so original. I’m proud of you for how far you’ve gotten in this competition,” gushed Miley. “So I’ve known [Rascal Flatts frontman] Gary LeVox for a long time. I know he’s back home going, ‘Damn it, I should have been singing it that way!’ I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know what else you could have done tonight to get yourself in that final four,” said Blake.

Chloe Kohanski (Team Blake)

Chloe claimed she was aiming for “a ‘Landslide’ moment meets ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ moment” tonight — setting expectations sky-high by referencing her two best performances of the season. I don’t think it was totally possible for her to pull that off with Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” since last season’s indie-pop maverick (and one of the best Voice contestants of all time), Hunter Plake, had such a mgical moment with it so recently. However, assessed on its own merits, this was a compelling showcase for Chloe’s rawness and vulnerability.

Taking the stage in Dee Snider ringlets and disco-diva sequins, Chloe looked like a long-lost Wilson sister, but her fearless, stripped-down performance was more heart than Heart. Her trademark rasp, which was more pronounced this week, made the song sound pained, almost angry, as if she were voicing her frustration over not being able to find true love. You know, the sort of frustration I’ll be feeling if Chloe isn’t in the finale. But I am pretty confident that she will be, and her coach was confident this Monday as well.

“I want to go on record right now. Chloe, this is the biggest night you’ve had on this show so far,” proclaimed Blake. “That’s the best performance that you’ve had. America, listen to me: If you recorded this [episode], rewind that performance and listen to her sing it again and tell me that’s not the most iconic voice we’ve ever had on this show.”

Noah Mac (Team J.Hud)

While other contestants this week went with familiar older tunes, Noah remained true to his artistry and covered “River” by alt-rock ingénue Bishop Briggs — which he described as a “modern-day ‘Eye of the Tiger,’” i.e., his own fight song. I admire Noah for knowing who he is, especially at age 17, but I hope the quirkysong choice wasn’t too much of a risk — because I think this was his breakthrough performance. You see, my one gripe about Noah this season has been his tendency to hold back too much and not ramp up the energy in his performances, but this evening, he finally let loose. He prowled. He growled. He banged on a giant military drum. It was the most relevant and youthful solo performance of the night, and hopefully America will get it and recognize this kid’s star potential.

“You’ve brought something modern to the show that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. You’ve created an amazing story for yourself,” said Miley. “Boy, you done lost your mind on that stage! … Only someone who truly believes in themselves could give a performance like that. It felt like your show,” said Jennifer.

Addison Agen (Team Adam)

Another young Season 13 contestant who already really knows herself is 16-year-old Addison, who did something singers twice her age could never imagine and actually made Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” her own. Her fragile vocals and honest, keening delivery, exquisitely set against a tasteful string arrangement, made for a haunting performance — once again, Addison scored the performance of the night. I keep thinking she won’t be able to top herself, that she will plateau (I thought that when she did another Joni song, “A Case of You,” a few weeks back), yet she shatters my expectations week after week after week.

“I really appreciate you being the flagship person on this show, first of all, for teenagers and young women, and this singer-songwriter torch you’re carrying. You’re so beyond your years, it’s unbelievable,” raved Blake. Adam was even more amazed, gushing: “Addison, you have changed the way I view the game as far as The Voice is concerned. You’re an artist. … I want to set you up as best I can for the best possible career you could ever have. … I think you’re one of the most special gifts I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Brooke Simpson (Team Miley)

After scoring a No. 2 iTunes hit last week with “Amazing Grace,” Brooke continued to shed her underdog status by belting Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully” with Steve Perry-like gusto in this week’s pimp spot. She was giving me Cassadee Pope vibes, or even Kelly Clarkson vibes. It wasn’t a particularly edge or artsy performance compared to, say, Noah’s or Chloe’s or Addison’s, but man, she did not miss a note. She proved that vocally she is at the level of fellow power-belters Davon and Keisha. And hey, isn’t this show called The Voice? Brooke’s voice on “Faithfully” might’ve been enough to propel her to the top four.

“If you are not in the finale, I don’t know what this show is. The show is about the voice. Everybody at home, everyone right here: If it’s about the voice, if it’s about finding that vocal talent, then your winner is standing right here. You need to be in that finale,” said Miley, campaigning aggressively — and effectively — for her lone surviving team member.

DUETS

Chloe Kohanski & Noah Mac

Chloe promised this pairing would be “sound mixed with vision,” which I sincerely hoped was a David Bowie reference. (Considering that the girl once wore a suit patterned with lightning bolts, I think that’s a fair assumption.) I do think, sound-wise, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” was a good fit for their voices; Noah flaunted a range I never even knew he had in him, and Chloe’s was really working that raspy Bonnie Tyler thing. However, vision-wise, I didn’t see much chemistry here. Then again, Chloe is 23 and Noah is only 17, so I suppose it would have been kind of icky if they had shared sizzling chemistry on a song associated in most viewers’ minds with a sultry music video starring Helena Christensen in a pair of Y-fronts.

Brooke Simpson & Davon Fleming

This was, absolutely, my favorite duet of the night. Brooke and Davon, a self-described Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell for the modern age, actually shared some surprisingly intense chemistry during their own sexy song, “Earned It” by the Weeknd. The two besties appeared to be have a total blast on that circular stage, singing each other’s faces off and hitting notes I didn’t even know existed. This was really the first time I’d seen Davon be current all season, too. “Earned It” only helped Brooke’s chances, and if Davon squeaks into the finale (or at least into that middle group that gets to sing for the Save), it’ll likely be because of this epic effort. He earned it.

Red Marlow & Adam Cunningham

The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” was a logical choice for the logical country pair-up of the night. Red and Adam engaged in an enjoyable and believable buddy act, but I don’t think this is a performance that will move the needle for either contestant.

Addison Agen & Keisha Renee

Two of the season’s strongest voices performed “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, and while Addison was unexpectedly upstaged by thirtysomething pro backup singer Keisha (for the first time ever this season, she showed her age), the ladies’ warm, velvety voices still blended beautifully. I already felt like I was watching the top two on finale night.

OK, as I have already repeatedly complained — complaints that have sadly fallen on the deaf ears of NBC execs and Voice producers — four of these singers should not be going home so soon. But, it is what it is. So now it’s time for my predictions… and my personal picks.

My picks for the top four, based on their overall body of work, are Addison, Chloe, Noah, and either Keisha or Davon. (Can’t I picked a top five?) However, I predict the top four will Addison, Chloe, Red, and Brooke. My brain hurts too much from dreading Tuesday’s bloodbath to get into the nitty-gritty mathematics of which contestants will make it to the top three via America’s vote, which two will land in the bottom and go straight home, and which three middle-packers will compete in an Instant Save sing-off for that fourth finale slot. It’s all too much! But I do predict that on Tuesday night, I’m going to have all my #VoiceSave Twitter hashtags in order, just in case. See you then.

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