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‘The Voice’: See MaKenzie Thomas’ Stunning Cover of Mariah Carey’s ‘Vision of Love’

Thomas and Kennedy Holmes come out strong in the season 15 semi-final episode

Only eight contestants remain on Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice, and Monday night found the frontrunners squaring off for a spot in the four-singer finale that will take place next week — plus some country mash-up fun.

As always, R&B powerhouse MaKenzie Thomas turned in a captivating performance, boldly tackling a Mariah Carey tune for the second time this season. Taking on “Vision of Love,” Thomas gave the 1990 hit a gospel makeover, standing in front of a waterfall of light and earning cheers from the crowd as the song’s energy rose halfway through. Throwing in a few vocal tricks, the moment ended with fireworks and found Thomas still holding on to her final note once the band had finished, earning a rousing standing ovation. “That is what this show is all about,” remarked Kelly Clarkson, while Thomas’ coach Jennifer Hudson said simply, “You are a coach’s dream.”

Celebrating her 14th birthday, pop artist Kennedy Holmes also impressed with “This Is Me” from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman. Holmes broke down in tears while rehearsing the epic anthem, all about accepting yourself and following dreams, but was solid and soulful beyond her years once she hit the stage. A leather-jacketed group of backup singers joined her, and as the song headed for its triumphant finish, the whole studio audience somehow quick-changed into a church choir using big white T-shirts.

Of the remaining country performers, young Chevel Shepherd once again connected with a classic-sounding throwback, choosing to apply her skills to LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue.” With her pitch-perfect yodel at full power, Shepherd’s performance stayed true to the original and earned another standing ovation, causing Clarkson to admit she misses the old-school country of her childhood. “This is what I fell in love with as a little girl,” the Texas native shared.

Meanwhile, Shepherd’s biggest country competition is probably Alabama native Kirk Jay, and the 23-year-old turned his heady vocal loose on John Michael Montgomery’s “I Swear.” The emotional stunner was the perfect choice according to coach Blake Shelton, who said Jay had established himself as a “country balladeer with pop flair.” Jay may have flubbed a line or two early on, but hung in there admirably, giving the tune’s heartfelt high notes plenty of power. “The best thing about you is your distinct tone,” offered Adam Levine once the song concluded.

Levine wasn’t as vocal as usual – perhaps due to a debacle that took place during last week’s live-results episode, helping put Memphis-based pop singer Reagan Strange through to the semifinal. The awkward moment was only addressed when Houston’s DeAndre Nico offered Strange his support in a video chat, clearly hoping to bring some closure to the incident.

But the night was made unique by four mash-up performances, each with two contestants duetting on a special arrangement of two separate tracks. Shepherd and Jay’s playful pass through a combination of Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country” and Brantley Gilbert’s “Country Must Be Country Wide” landed as the rowdiest moment of the night, complete with chugging guitars and pyrotechnics. The odd couple played off each other brilliantly, giving the performance a loose, brother-sister feel as they sang part of the song arm in arm.

The field will be cut in half tonight (December 11th) as fan votes are tallied, setting lineup for the finale of Season 15 next week. Tune in at 8 p.m. ET on NBC to find out which four singers are moving on.

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