“No more steals, no more saves—just REBA.” That wasn’t the official tagline of the Top 12 Performances, but it could have been. Other options: “Peace, Love, and Reba”; “ain’t no party like a Reba part ‘cuz a Reba party don’t stop”; “your mom loves Reba McEntire, and so do you, because she’s freakin’ Reba McEntire and she’s the best” At a point where everything the superstar coaches have to say starts to blend together, it’s nice to bring one of the biggest cultural icons of multiple generations into the mix to shoot the artists straight about what it takes to give a captivating performance and make a cover your own.
We’ve reached the time in the season where the coaches are both out of compliments and still not down to really criticize anyone, so they just end up being speechless or saying that they’ve run out of ways to tell everyone how they’re the future of music, a one in a billion vocal talent, etc. And while this season is especially worthy of much of that positive praise, it was good to have our girl Reba around to shoot the contestants straight in rehearsals. My personal favorite: “I didn’t understand anything you were saying,” “Shouldn’t you smile?” and “You didn’t have a good time doing that, did ya?”
Oddly, on a night that seems so important—even though I swear Carson has told me that the power is shifting over to America eight different times at this point—the performances overall took a small dip, mostly in the way of a few baffling song choices. But the episode was also especially back-loaded, so where it started off a little generic, by the last two chart-worthy numbers, I was throwing my body around the living room in excitement…
TEAM BLAKE: Hannah Kirby, “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks
Adam pointed out that it’s easy to overlook Hannah’s vocal talent because of her dynamic performance style, but tonight, I felt like the very good vocal was getting overshadowed by Hannah being slightly overwhelmed by the larger production of the numbers in the Top 12. The song was a good fit for Hannah’s voice, but when you strip it down to an iTunes single, it wasn’t a cover worth buying if you already have the original.
TEAM ADAM: Brian Johnson, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” by Sting
Adam basically told Brian that Sting songs are nearly impossible to sing and then said, “Here, sing this Sting song.” But Brian actually sounded quite good on the cover (I also really liked his look tonight) and the coaches all say that you can sit back and relax when Brian comes onstage. It’s true that he’s a consistent singer, but with his proclivity for soft rock, I’m just not sure where he fits into the current music landscape as a recording artist.
TEAM CHRISTINA: India Carney, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier
After a big moment for India last week, this wasn’t as strong of a follow-up as it could have been. Christina wanted her to get gritty and “a little evil” with Hozier’s eerie hit, and while India threw a lot of passion at the performance, there were a few too many smiles to quantify it as gritty. India has a dramatic, stylized approach to performing that always makes her interesting to watch, but in combing that with letting loose toward the end of the song, she lost her vocal in a noticeable way.
TEAM PHARRELL: Mia Z, “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones
Mia Z, she of the whistle notes and freakish teenage poise, is the one Reba told she couldn’t understand anything she was saying. And Reba was right (duh). As much as Mia embodies what she’s singing, you often can’t understand her—I think someone needs to tell her to move the mic away from her mouth just a centimeter. But still, Mia has such presence on stage and a serious arsenal of range that she can pull out effortlessly. Pharrell likes that this week she set goals for herself and met them in every way in her performance.
TEAM ADAM: Deanna Johnson, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United
I’m not afraid to say that Adam totally biffed it on the song choices tonight. It’s one thing to have an artist sing a certain genre of song because it would suit their voice perfectly, but Adam had Deanna go from a gospel song last week to a contemporary Christian song this week that didn’t particularly suit her unique tone, and when she showed reservations about singing two religious songs back-to-back he told her no one really listens to the lyrics if you’re living the performance… or something. Is it so much to ask to just give this girl a Florence and the Machine song and see how she does?
NEXT: Don’t change the channel until the rock ballerina sings…