It's Judgment Day on The Voice, as the top five contestants clasp their hands together and pray they did enough to make it into the finals. On the penultimate night of performances, each contestant sang two songs – one they chose as a dedication and one their coach chose to go along with a pre-taped package of them returning to their hometowns.
It was a strange night, with almost everyone having at least one questionable performance – except the Swon Brothers. Somehow, those guys can do no wrong. They're consistently good. Not the best, but they've found a groove and they're digging in. But more on them later.
We were a little surprised with how inconsistent the song choices and performances were for everybody this far along in the competition. (Even the Swons, to some extent.) It felt like we were at the beginning stage of the show, not the end. The night lacked a definitive water-cooler moment that people would be talking about the next day.
That said, our prediction for the top three is Danielle Bradbery, Michelle Chamuel and the Swon Brothers. And here's why:
Let's start with Michelle. The Amherst, Massachusetts, native has been the underdog since the get-go, with her unorthodox looks and unusual stage presence (for this type of show, at least). Like the Swons, she's been consistently good, seemingly reaching a crescendo last week by surging ahead of the others to land at Number Four on the iTunes songs chart with Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble." This week, however, she falls behind Danielle and the Swons on the chart, probably because of song choice.
Throughout the season, Usher has consistently struggled to understand who she is as an artist, weighing her down with lots of off-the-beaten-path ballads and mid-tempo songs when she's clearly more electro-pop/rock. This week he tried to make an effort, choosing "Clarity" by Zedd. Problem is, it wasn't a great fit for her voice – and it's not a mainstream hit. So, unfortunately it was another Usher fail. She, however, saved herself by choosing Cyndi Lauper's classic "Time After Time," which she dedicated to Usher. A ballad, yes, but a hella popular one. And she added a rock flair to it, kicking things up a notch toward the end by shattering a giant clock, prompting Ush to matter-of-factly declare, "You're the winner." Still, she fell from the top of the iTunes chart, but she nabbed the show's coveted pimp spot, virtually ensuring that she'll be in the finals – barring any truly shocking upsets.
Also a lock is Danielle, who had a monopoly on that top iTunes spot until Michelle broke the streak last week. Now she's fallen behind the Swon Brothers. But the Houston girl is probably still the one to beat. Her vocals have been ridiculously spot-on all season, and her girl-next-door-meets-pageant-queen look makes her very popular with both mainstream and country-leaning viewers. Like Michelle, though, she seemed to be having an off night, hitting some sour notes for the very first time.
Coach Blake Shelton's choice of Tim McGraw's "Please Remember Me" really wasn't the best fit for her since she had to sing in her lower register. She still received wide-sweeping praise from the judges, with Usher calling her performance "amaze-balls." But it was her choice of Jessica Andrews' "Who I Am," dedicated to friends and family, that was her winner of the night.
Now let's get back to those Swon Brothers, who we think will nab the third spot in next week's finals. While they were given the normally life-threatening opening death slot, they nearly reached the top of the iTunes chart, which makes us think they're bucking the trend and sticking around. In fact, slow and steady could win the race here, as the Muskogee, Oklahoma, boys surpass all the other competition on the iTunes chart this week. Technically, they're not the best singers, but they are by far the best showmen. You can envision what it would be like seeing them in concert. They're very comfortable in who they are and what they do, and they harmonize well. Plus, White Guys With Guitars tend to go very far in these sorts of competitions.
They stepped a little bit out of their comfort zone this week by not picking typical country songs, instead leaning more toward rock with a country twist. Their choice of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," dedicated to their band members, wasn't mind-blowing but it was solidly good. And for the very first time they picked something a little more mainstream with the Loggins and Messina (or Anne Murray) tune "Danny's Song," which featured them huddled around a piano.
So, because those are our top three picks, we're assuming – or maybe just hoping – Amber and Sasha Allen will go home this week, because neither had great performances. Amber's rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework" was bad, to be blunt (even Shakira basically called it a "nightmare"), as was Sasha's take on Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Both were the artists' choice, proving they don't yet know where their vocal sweet spot is. It definitely wasn't hiding in either of these songs. On the upside, their coaches – Adam Levine and Shakira, respectively – each gave them something better to work with.
Cocky but still somehow loveable Adam picked Maroon 5's "Sad" for Texas native Amber, which was a good match for her voice and ability. If there is going to be a shocking upset that ousts Michelle from the competition, it will be Amber, as the song landed in the iTunes Top 10. Meanwhile, New York City girl Sasha wound up with Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," which riffed on her Sasha Fierce-like performance last week of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" complete with her name spelled out in giant, flashing letters. We're sure we're going to get a lot of flak for this: But if either of them beats out Michelle, it'll be a tragedy.
Who do you think is going home this week?
Previously: Holly Tucker Goes Home