Fourth on the line is Bria Kelly, who has been a polarizing figure this year. Some say she’s a frontrunner; others don’t see what the big deal is. I suppose I’m a member of both camps. I’m willing to believe that there’s a serious contender in Bria, but I also wouldn’t be upset if Usher manifested himself as a Teen Angel descending from the heavens and urged her to go back to high school. (This reference brought to you by the year 1978.)
I don’t really know how to feel about Bria. Her overall demeanor is that of a milk crate—functional and unassuming and dependable and hard to malign, but when it comes down to it, it’s still just a milk crate. Personality is not the plentiful resource on Planet Bria. She chooses to sing The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and it’s all over the damn place. It’s pitchy and there’s some unexpected rasp in her voice that I don’t remember ever being there before, and frankly, I don’t want to hear it again.
The judges all give her some exceptional praise, and I'm just sitting here on my couch wondering why Bria makes me feel more like an Elphaba than a Glinda, and then Blake lauds her past battles (he’s stolen everyone she’s beaten, which he says is a testament to how good Bria is) and I still don’t see it. But hey, it sounds like Bria’s going through to the live rounds regardless of my uncertainty, so I guess I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. But there is LOTS OF DOUBT. What oh what to make of this girl?! Never part of any crowd! Cause her head’s up on some cloud! No denying she’s a funny girl, that milk crate.
One more artist stands between us and the live shows, and his name is Josh Kaufman. Usher stole Josh during the second round of battles, and he picked up one hell of a great singer. Josh hasn’t been heavily featured in promos but he’s been one of my favorite talents throughout the whole season, and every time it’s his turn to sing, I get just as excited as when I’m at a bar and “When You Believe” (feat. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston) starts to play.
Josh picks “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars and he’s not ten seconds into the song when it’s already clear that he’s in the top three in this competition. He’s got an everyman appeal that will likely win over voters, and there’s an undeniable passion in his performance that makes him a genuine joy to watch and listen to. Hell, I’d pick up Josh’s album, and I haven’t picked up an album since I briefly took up scrapbooking for 18 hours last August. I have great faith in Josh and I’m willing to pin about 20% of my loyalty on him going into the live shows.
The coaches all agree that Josh is one of the best singers of the season. It’s kind of annoying that there’s nothing more interesting to say about him at this point. He’s just that good (but not too good, a la Sisaundra). I genuinely can’t wait to see what he does in the first week of the lives.
ELIMINATION TIME arrives, and it’s our last time deferring to the coaches before the decision is ours. Ah, the sweet smell of democracy is lingering! It’s tangible, wafting softly through the air like a neighbor baking brownies (the regular kind, not the Seth Rogen kind).
Usher starts things off by bringing Bria Kelly through for some inexplicable reason. Yes, I suppose she was maybe the third best performer of the night, but still. Milk crate. Second, he “gives this opportunity” to Josh Kaufman, which sounds a little more condescending than it maybe ought to have been considering that Josh is the best singer on his team. And finally, after last chance pleas that find MJ doing her best Disney princess “I’m ever so grateful” impression, Usher ignores everything wise and takes TJ along for the ride. Bye bye, Stevie Jo. I loved you so. I can’t believe Usher would do this to you, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. Usher made a horrible move letting you go.
MJ, please delete my number and don’t call me.
With that, we’re on to the live shows! Join me next Monday on Twitter as we enter the wild world of crowd-based decision-making, and stick around EW.com for my Top 12 Power List!