Last week on The Voice, powerhouse divas dominated. This week, the script was flipped on the NBC singing competition. By the end of Monday night’s broadcast, the top two contestants on iTunes were a pair of soft-spoken males strumming acoustic guitars.
Sawyer Fredericks, the 16-year-old folk singer from upstate New York, reached Number Two on the download chart by this morning with his cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Southern rock classic "Simple Man." Joshua Davis, the Michigan dad who ended up in the bottom three last week only to be rescued via Instant Save, followed at Number Seven. Although not one of the show's more dynamic performers, Davis' beautifully understated rendition of Sting's "Fields of Gold" proved to be a savvy song choice.
Cracking the Top 10 on the iTunes chart by the end of the voting period automatically multiplies the artist's downloads by 10. Crowd favorite Kimberly Nichole got as close as Number 12 with her soulful, jazz-inflected take on Radiohead's "Creep."
To be fair, there wasn't a bad performance on Monday's Top Eight live show. Past judges CeeLo Green, Usher and Gwen Stefani returned as mentors and put their personal stamp on the evening (Shakira sent in a video message from Spain, where she's spending time with her family).
Green hadn't been back to The Voice since he vacated his red coach's chair in 2013 amid controversy over his personal life. (Last August, he was sentenced to probation and community service after pleading no contest to one felony count of furnishing ecstasy to a woman during a 2012 dinner date in Los Angeles.) But that didn't stop the "Forget You" crooner and five-time Grammy winner from being welcomed back to the set of The Voice, where he advised members of Team Blake.
"CeeLo and I have never lost contact after he left the show," Shelton told Rolling Stone Country last week. "He's just somebody that I've had a friendship with. People think Adam and I are the Odd Couple, but to me, CeeLo and I are."
Green took his guest mentorship seriously, adding a children's chorus to "We Don't Need Another Hero" for contestant Hannah Kirby, and telling Nashville soul singer Meghan Linsey, "That mixture of country twang and soul — killer combination. I want to help you really win the crowd over."
Linsey — who performed a passionate rendition of George Harrison's "Something" off the Beatles' Abbey Road — admitted Green had won her over years ago. With Shelton looking on, she confessed she often dreamed of working with Green: "One day, if I'm ever on The Voice, I would want to be on Team CeeLo."
While the former country singer put a rock spin on her song, teammate Corey Kent White put a country spin on a rock song from the Eighties. Coach Shelton gave the Oklahoma State University junior "When I See You Smile" by Bad English. "This is a classic rock song, and if it came out today, it would be considered a country song," Shelton said. "Sometimes when you do a rock record when you're a country artist, it showcases how country you are."
"The only thing that's even close to being country about it is me singing it," said White.
"I've been checking you out, man, since the beginning with the Blind Audition," Green added. "You did Zac Brown ("Chicken Fried"). Zac is a really good friend of mine. I was recently with him in Tennessee."
White's version of "When I See You Smile" pushed the Oklahoma native to display a grittier side of his vocal chops, prompting Shelton to exclaim, "That is the moment that every artist prays for on this show, and that is to break out. . .and that just happened right here."
A few days before the taping, Shelton raved about White to Rolling Stone Country. "He sounds so different than anybody else on the radio, and it doesn't hurt that apparently, he's a really good-looking dude, because every time I go on Twitter, that's all I see — these girls who want to marry Corey," he said. "If they only knew him, they would be more in love with him, because he's one of the nicest, sweetest, most genuine guys that y'all will ever be around. He doesn't have an ounce of an ego. He's just excited to be doing this."
Tonight, the Top Eight will be whittled down to the Top Six. Since Monday's show featured solid performances from all of the contestants, it's anybody’s guess who will end up singing for the save.