The Voice recap: To Reba or Not to Reba

Three artists give their best performances of the season, four give their worst, and Sisaundra continues to be Sisaundra.
Ep. 19 | Aired Apr 28, 2014

VIVA MCLAUGHLIN: After giving her best performance to date, could Audra McLaughlin return to frontrunner status in the fight to the finals? (Spoiler: Yes.)

Just hearing “Up next: Bria Kelly takes on Avril Lavigne” sends shivers down my spine, likely because of the deadly combination of Bria Kelly being Bria Kelly and Avril Lavigne being whatever she is now. But maybe this is the perfect match? There’s something inherently angsty about both of them, like a Hot Topic in a mall which is going through something you totally don’t understand, ugh, God, mom.

Hilariously, Bria—now being called a “young Virginia blues singer”—is forced to read a cue card that says, “Usher brought Natural, who has produced many of Usher’s hit songs.” I feel for her. Then she starts singing, and I stop feeling for her.

Bria’s performance is exactly what you would expect of a Bria performance—it’s not quite pitchy but not quite on-key. It’s not quite pleasing but not quite screechy either. Really, I just can’t wait for it to be over. Her performance is no doubt made worse by her “yeah-ee-yeah”s and other random vocalizations that make this easily her worst of the season.

While I believe her continued presence on the show to be flat out ruining this season, I sincerely hope America takes note of this performance and the coaches’ less-than-kind hedging and just gets rid of her already. Adam and Blake basically call her out on being awful. Maybe finally we’ll be cured of this plague. Maybe.

Thankfully, Bria is followed by Delvin Choice, who is so much more promising in just about every way. He’s got some great momentum as we go into the Top 10, so Delvin just has to continue delivering the same enthusiastic, pitch-perfect performance we’ve come to expect.

The song is “Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr., a funky blues tune that is so in Delvin’s wheelhouse it’s disgusting (in the best way something can be disgusting, like too much pie or also not enough pie). Rehearsal promises a stellar stint by Delvin, and his live performance is just as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. Delvin’s real charm is in his being so comfortable with singing that he can really spend time working on stage presence. Though I don’t care for the let’s-graze-everyone’s-hand approach to crowd interaction, Delvin (who still looks like this Muppet) is so in tune with his singing persona that he’s a real treat to watch otherwise.

Will he connect with viewers more than the likes of, say, Jake or Audra? Perhaps, perhaps not. But we’ll definitely see Delvin next week.

Two more left, and we get the interesting case of the season, Kristen Merlin, who appears to have a much larger fan base than I estimated. And good for her! She deserves all the love, especially after last week’s tech mess. Next to Jake Kristen is probably second most endearing contestant of the season, and you can easily chalk that up to sheer honesty and authenticity, underneath the necessary baseline of talent.

Kristen is singing Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” which is a folk song that poses a challenge to Kristen because it’s not country. Everyone seems to be worried, but Kristen has hardly pigeonholed herself into one sound, even if she has only touched country this year. But let’s be real about this—folk can pass as country pretty easily if it needs to, much like margarine can pass for butter with the exception of a diehard few determined to blow the whistle.

I don’t think the performance is Kristen’s best (although Blake does), but Adam has a good point of commentary in that Kristen is looking more and more comfortable on stage every week. She used to appear nervous but now she seems to radiate a little more confidence, which is exactly the kind of growth a person needs in this competition. I do think there’s a chance Kristen could be in the bottom three this week, but I’d like to think that common sense would place Kat, Bria, and the inevitable Tess there instead.

Finally, the night ends with Sisaundra Lewis. Just being told that Sisaundra is closing out the evening should suggest a great performance, but at this point I don’t know what constitutes a “great performance” by Sisaundra.

Last week found Sisaundra blowing the roof off what should have been a nice group number on Team Blake, and it’s just so typical of this powerhouse singer to sing well beyond what’s required of the song. Enter Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie.” It’s certainly not the likely choice for Sisaundra; it’s a classic ‘80s rock song, and that’s not necessarily a Sisaundra specialty. But of course, she sings it to death, and the usual argument here—that she oversings to the point of annoyance—is just as evident as ever. I have to believe that Sisaundra doesn’t really care about what lyrics are in a song, as long as there are notes for her to hit and sustain and yell.

Results-wise, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t safe this week, given that (1) she’s amazing and (2) she was the final performer of the night. But I imagine we’ll lose Sisaundra in the next week or two, if only because we’re at a point where the contestant’s ability to connect is going to be more important than just the voice. We know these artists can sing now, and it’ll be all about personality as a winner draws closer and closer. Sisaundra has the pipes, but she’s still failing to establish a believable connection as a regular human being, instead of the incredibly talented diva-goddess that she is.

Who did you vote for? Sound off in the comments, tweet how much you disagree/agree with me @MarcSnetiker, and I’ll meet you back here tomorrow! Bring your Special K!

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