Just when we thought this season of The Voice was turning into the Blake Shelton Show, Little Indie-Rocker That Could Michelle Chamuel went and showed up all his contestants combined. She even knocked long-time frontrunner Danielle Bradbery out of first place in iTunes song sales, cracking the top 10 and virtually ensuring that she isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Each of the top six performers did two songs – one they chose and one their coach chose for them, ensuring a mixed bag of results. Lucky for them, only one contestant will be going home this week, allowing five to participate in next week's semi-finals.
Based on last night's performances, Michelle has easily positioned herself for the finals – even though coach Usher still doesn't seem to understand who she is an artist. His choice of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" left us scratching our head, especially when he said he chose it to "show a different side" of her talent. First, it's a side we've seen her show a few times, so enough with the ballads already. Second, start picking more popular songs that a mainstream audience will actually know and want to buy. End rant.
While Michelle has proven she can tackle pretty much any genre, her true strong point is more uptempo, energetic fare. And she knows exactly where her sweet spot is, putting her own unique spin on her choice of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble." Taylor even made a surprise visit to rehearsal, leaving Michelle practically speechless. Having the superstar drop by was a shrewd move on Usher's part, locking in the popular vote since everything Taylor touches is gold these days. But, really, it was Michelle's performance that brought the house down, leaving the room filled with cheers so loud that former MTV TRL host Carson Daly said the noise level rivaled the back-in-the-day screams for 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. "Easily the most enthusiastic response of the night," he pointed out. And indeed, the song landed at Number Four on the iTunes songs chart, allowing Michelle to overtake top dog Danielle for the very first time this season.
It's interesting to note that both Michelle and Sasha Allen – the only two non-country artists left – both did country songs. Sasha's was Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," chosen by coach Shakira, in which she channeled her inner Beyoncé (circa Sasha Fierce) by wearing sparkly black hot pants and thigh-high boots as she strutted around the stage. While she pulled out all the stops for the over-the-top pimp spot performance, it was actually her choice of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" that was better suited for her "cinematic" voice, as Shakira called it. The slower, more soulful tune was the perfect medium to rein in her Broadway-style belting. But no matter what she did, the pimp spot basically ensured she'd be in the semi-finals.
On the flipside, Blake's Holly Tucker got saddled with the opening "death slot," the very first performance of the night that often (but not always) ends with that person being sent home. That, coupled with the fact that some of Blake's contestants have to slough off at some point and she's bringing up the rear on iTunes, probably equals a rough night for Holly when the results roll in. For us, she's always been interchangeable with Amber Carrington. However, the past two weeks she's started to set herself apart by showing a feisty attitude, but it's probably too little too late. Her renditions of Martina McBride's "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues" (Blake's choice) and Rascal Flatts' "My Wish" (her choice) were both good but lacked the extra ounce of oomph that might give her a leg up among the stiff competition.
Still, Holly's doppelganger Amber didn't really didn't win the round either – though we think she has more of a fan base. Actually, we think Amber is the most deserving of going home this week. She flubbed some words on Skid Row's "I Remember You," a mad-genius choice on coach Adam Levine's part. Vintage hair metal meets country mash-up? Sign us up. We just wish Amber had knocked it out of the park. And we're sure plenty of people think she did just that with Patsy Cline's "Crazy," which had an "airy, dreamy" quality, according to Shakira. But all we saw was a disconnect in her eyes, a blank stare that reminded us of a little girl lost in a crowd. (As a side note, did anyone else think it was a glaring oversight that the show never addressed Team Adam's decimation and his subsequent country-hating comment?)
Filling out the night were Danielle and the Swon Brothers, both from Team Blake. His "slow and steady wins the race" mentality seems to be paying off. He's solidly committed to serving country fans what they crave, saying anyone who doesn't like it is in a teeny-tiny (but admittedly vocal) minority. According to him, a mere 10 percent of viewers didn't absolutely love the fact he had the Swons sing a fun-fueled version of Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee." Said Usher dryly, "This song proves you don't have to smoke weed to have a good time, you just have to go to Oklahoma." (Their choice: "Wagon Wheel" by Darius Rucker, former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish.)
While Michelle may have overtaken Danielle this week, have no doubt that the country kewpie doll is still the one to beat. Her doe eyes and usually spot-on vocals can make even the most obscure song enjoyable. However, her precision wavered for the first time this week on Blake's pick of "Shake the Sugar Tree" by Pam Tillis, possibly because she didn't know it. But she easily redeemed herself in the self-picked "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, which really showed off her range.