The Voice Semifinals: Hard Choices Await as More Than Four Score


…And then there were eight. But after weeks of being kind with the cuts, The Voice axe will get in some major work this week as the field gets cut in half after the latest performances. So without further adieu, let’s see how the remaining Voice competitors did in their biggest moments of the season.

The night starts with Shalyah Fearing in the dreaded opening slot. But the young Team Adam vocalist is prepared to deliver one of her best performances to date. As we enter the semifinals, Pink is on hand to lend advice to the remaining competitors. As Shalyah rehearses “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, you can see Pink rub her arms as she gets goosebumps. Pink says she loves her rasp and Adam says she needs to use it in the right places. Just like her rehearsal, she nails the live performance, as the arrangement is the perfect blend of gospel, soul and classic music. Shalyah is stunning in a black dress and white top, and there’s no holding back in her performance. After falling back in recent weeks, she makes a solid case for the Top 4.

Team Blake‘s Paxton Ingram gets the next shot, and like in recent weeks, you never know what he’s going to perform. This time out he takes on Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” a dynamic song meant to show his range. Pink says she wants to see Paxton get angry in delivering the song. As always, Paxton brought the energy and the passion to the stage and his performance was solid, but at this point in the competition, it wasn’t the bar-raising moment that some of the other vocalists had.

It’s Team Adam’s turn again, this time with Laith Al-Saadi entering the rehearsal room for tips from Pink and Adam. Realizing that he’s thrived in the classic rock genre, Laith decides to make a statement performing Adele’s “One and Only,” a modern song, that shows he’s not just resigned to playing songs from one era. As usual, he puts his own stamp on the track, giving it a bluesy, soulful spin. When Adam suggests he go wild at one point, Laith questions if he can hit a high note, but Pink suggests he clench his butt cheeks in order to do it, a tip she learned along the way. During his performance, Laith was a pro, and his guitar solo and the late arriving vocal choir only enhanced his performance. Look for Laith to be fighting it out for one of the final spots in the Top 4.

After a bit of a stumble last week while totally overpowering Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” season-long frontrunner Alisan Porter rebounded solidly this week. She chose the Eagles heart wrenching ballad “Desperado,” and Pink called her interpretation “the bees knees,” while coach Christina Aguilera requested to hear the song again. In her performance, Alisan completely connects to the song. Looking elegant in a lacy white dress amidst a candlelit stage as roses hung from the ceiling, Porter let all the emotion and tenderness of the song flow through. It would be easy to advance Alisan on what she’s done all season long, but just to make sure she advances, this performance of “Desperado” will certainly do.

Adam Wakefield has been Team Blake’s strongest performer for a majority of the season and he continued to solidify his status as one of the Alisan Porter’s biggest challenges to The Voice title. Adam went to the well of his coach, pulling out Blake Shelton’s “I’m Sorry” for his semifinal performance upon Blake’s suggestion. The coach reveals he suggested the song to Adam because it was penned by Chris Stapleton, and he feels that Stapleton is a good comparison to what Adam can do. The soulful singer performed the entirety of the song on piano after a suggestion for Blake and Pink, letting the emotion of the track pull in the audience. It wasn’t his most dynamic performance, but he definitely connected to the track and the gut wrenching feel of his final notes helped push this performance over the top.

It’s back to Team Christina. Bryan Bautista certainly made a case for the Final Four, pulling out one of his coach’s own songs. The singer reveals he has a personal connection to “Hurt” and it shows in his performance. Stylish in a black suit, Bryan opened on the piano before pulling the mic away and drawing in the crowd with his initially subtle performance. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the room, as the song built in intensity to a powerful moment before returning to the tender conclusion. The addition of a backing string section was a nice touch and one that accentuated the performance. It would not be a surprise to see the Bautista in the final four, as this was one of his best showings to date.

Mary Sarah has had an up-and-down season, but seems to have regained her footing in recent weeks. For her semifinal performance, Mary picked a great song, choosing the Randy Travis and Carrie Underwood song “I Told You So.” Blake and Pink offer a few vocal and instrumental suggestions, that only help to frame the song all the more for Mary’s voice. It’s a track that has a classic country feel, and the steel guitar and violin backing only drive home that point. Like many of the songs performed, it pulls at the heartstrings and Mary, looking beautiful in a dark red dress, completely nails the feel and emotion of the track.

Finishing out the night, Team Pharrell‘s Hannah Huston gets the prime closing spot. Some of Hannah’s biggest performances have come when she’s taken on songs that let her belt and Percy Sledge’s classic is certainly a track that shines with a big voice behind it. Pink tells her to be vulnerable and in the moment with the song. Initially starting off somewhat restrained, the arrangement begins to build as does Hannah’s intensity and at it’s most emotional is where Hannah truly shined. She’s put herself in place to fight for one of the final four spots.

It should also be noted that the night gave each vocalist a second showcase as there were four duets among the eight competitors. The best pairing turned out to be Alisan Porter and Adam Wakefield delivering a subtle and tender performance of the Bonnie Raitt / John Prine duet, “Angel From Montgomery” (seen below).  Hannah Huston and Laith Al-Saadi seemed perfectly matched too showing their bluesy sides on the Eddie Floyd favorite “Knock on Wood,” while the Bryan Bautista / Mary Sarah pairing on Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” seemed odd at the start, but worked better as it progressed. Likewise, the Paxton Ingram / Shalyah Fearing duet on Jessie J.’s “Masterpiece” was okay, but not one of the night’s bright spots.

So, how does it stand after the semifinal performances? It’s going to be a difficult choice and all the votes and downloads count. Given their excellence throughout the season and solid showings on semifinal night, Team Blake’s Adam Wakefield and Team Christina’s Alisan Porter feel like locks for the final four.

After that it gets a little tricky. Of the remaining competitors, Hannah Huston has been the most consistent all season long, closely followed by Laith Al-Saadi. But during the semifinal competition, it could be argued that Bryan Bautista and Shalyah Fearing both raised  the bar to the point where they have to be part of the conversation and arguably outshined Hannah and Laith. At this point, we’re favoring Hannah Huston and Bryan Bautista for the final two spots, but would not be surprised if either Shalyah Fearing or Laith Al-Saadi took one of the final two spots. As for Paxton Ingram, as stated, he delivered a solid performance, but at this point his fellow competitors stepped up even more.

THE VOICE -- "Live Semi Finals" Pictured: Adam Wakefield -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Live Semi Finals” Pictured: Adam Wakefield — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Be sure to tune in Tuesday night at 8PM on NBC to see which four artists advance to The Voice finals.