Monday night's episode of The Voice featured songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, Tom Petty, the Beatles and U2, but by morning, only two tracks had cracked the Top 10 on the iTunes chart: an obscure single by a little-known singer-songwriter from Michigan, and a Christian hymn published in 1779.
The latter was an impassioned, semi-acapella interpretation of "Amazing Grace" by Nashville soul singer Meghan Linsey, who dedicated the church staple to her mother, Roberta.
"My mom grew up in Kentucky, and she literally grew up with nothing — dirt floor, sometimes no food," Linsey recalled, choking up during rehearsal. "She worked her way through nursing school, and she's always been a fighter."
All six remaining contestants sang two songs, with one being a tribute to the moms in their respective lives, in acknowledgement of Mother's Day this weekend.
Sawyer Fredericks' earnest ode, "Shine On," had viewers Googling the unfamiliar tune, which was penned by Americana artist May Erlewine. She's part of a Michigan organization called the Earthwork Music Collective, which ironically lists Voice contestant Joshua Davis as a member. In fact, earthworksmusic.com includes a tutorial on how to vote for Davis, and reminds fans that "you can vote 41 times every week."
Erlewine tells Rolling Stone Country she received a call from The Voice to formally clear the track on Monday. Initially, she thought Davis would be the contestant performing one of her songs.
"Josh is a part of our collective, but he’s also a dear family friend," she explained. "His wife, Ann, is my best friend. Josh told us early on that he and Sawyer had been close on the show, and it was a wild coincidence that Sawyer and his family knew my music, and that it was meaningful for them."
"This song is from my childhood," says Fredericks, who hails from a farm in upstate New York. "I’ve always loved it. I know it means a lot to my mother."
Mom Kirsten elaborates, "This song is about going through kind of a dark period where we weren’t sure what we wanted in our life…we ended up selling our home in Connecticut and moving upstate, with never even having so much as a chicken."
Erlewine says she was surprised The Voice producers allowed Fredericks to cover"“an unknown song. It was kind of shocking and really exciting. It was a song that passed through me as a gift during a really challenging time in my life. It’s such an honor that it’s helped other people. It really does belong to the people. It belongs to Sawyer; it belongs to his family."
Then she added words of support for Davis. "This kind of national spotlight is a big deal that we’ve been trying to bring to the community. Music means a lot to Michigan, and it’s great to see Josh shining. I’m hoping people will go and find his music. Maybe they’ll let him do his own songs."
As for Davis, the Michigan father dedicated "In My Life" by the Beatles to his wife, Ann. The sweet, up-tempo version of the John Lennon classic prompted the studio audience to clap along — but not harmoniously, according to his protective coach, Adam Levine.
"The abysmal rhythm of the clapping that was going on was upsetting my soul," he complained before complimenting Davis, the sole member of his team left in the competition. "You're a class act. . . that performance was absolutely mesmerizing."
R&B diva Kimberly Nichole chose Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" as her tribute to her mother, while 17-year-old Koryn Hawthorne honored her mom by putting a gospel spin on "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. Classically trained chanteuse India Carney performed a rousing version of "Glory," the civil rights anthem by John Legend and Common featured in the movie, Selma.
"It's a song of hope, endurance, and most importantly, strength," Carney explained, while her mom added, "It's a song about injustices. I feel honored that she's chosen to dedicate this song to me."
Tonight, one contestant will be eliminated, as The Voice reveals its Top Five. Most in danger of going home: Hawthorne or Carney, who escaped the Instant Save axe last week by a mere two votes over country crooner Corey Kent White. The Tuesday night results program will also feature performances by four former contestants, including last year's champ, Craig Wayne Boyd. It'll mark the television debut of the Republic Nashville artist's new single, "I'm Still Here" — a song he wrote about his musical journey on The Voice.
Songs performed on the May 4th episode of The Voice:
"Glory" by John Legend and Common
"Lay Me Down" by Sam Smith
"Desire" by U2
"In My Life" by the Beatles
"Shine On" by May Erlewine
"Take Me to the River" by Al Green (Commitments version)
"Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.
"Dream On" by Aerosmith
"Steamroller Blues" by James Taylor
"Amazing Grace" by John Newton
"Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty
"Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson