Stellar performances light the way to semi-finals on “The Voice”

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It is that time of year again. America’s favorite singing competition show “The Voice” is days away from declaring a Season 15 winner. On tonight’s episode, singers delivered performances representing a variety of genres and time periods. At this point, audiences are to cast votes for their favorite performer. Tomorrow, the results of the voting will reveal who moves on and who goes home.

“The Voice:” more of the same, but also different

After 15 seasons, it would seem that audiences would be immune to what “The Voice” has to offer. And, truthfully, some are. However, the last few seasons have revealed singers and their backstories that have given even jaded audience members reasons to cheer for singers they have never heard of.

But it isn’t as though the show is coasting on whatever laurels it might have developed. “The Voice” continues to adjust its format to hopefully allow the most talented singers to get the attention they deserve. Most recently, the show upped its diversity. Singers have been judged by coaches/judges on their abilities, and not their appearance, their sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

In addition to who is represented on the show, new features like the Comeback Stage, adds to the show’s competitiveness. In short, “The Voice” of today has gone beyond what people probably expected of it years ago when Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green were first spinning chairs for singers. That is another aspect of the show – -unlike so many other performance shows, in which a panel of judges watch singers as they perform. “The Voice” judges have their backs turned, and only face forward when they have decided that a singer is worth being on the show.

Since 2011, “The Voice” has attempted to get new singers into the already-crowded music marketplace. Of late, some of the performers who were not even finalists have found success on Netflix shows and as solo performers. Ironically, “American Idol” alumna Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson are judges on “The Voice.”

Tonight’s highlights on “The Voice”

On their way to the semi-finals, members of the top ten performed for votes. Among the highlights were performances by DeAndre Nico, MaKenzie Thomas, Chevel Shepherd and Kirk Jay.

Nico performed “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars. The whole performance had a sexy, up tempo vibe. However, clarity was a problem in some of the faster sections, but overall, it sounded good. YouTube viewers were less than enthusiastic. In general, it seems that songs by Mars are a definite “no” on performance shows. The song was viewed as a risk for Nico, as he just escaped being at the bottom. His fans hope that the risk he and Coach Adam Levine took pays off.

Shepherd, the show’s 16-year-old country wonder, is still working at bringing back old-fashioned country music. Performing “If You’re Looking at Country,” Shepherd included a yodel that sent audiences and judges over the top. Online and in the studio, people are pulling for Shepherd to win. Her voice and performance aspects are even making non-country fans re-consider the genre. A strong contingent of fans are apparently pulling for Shepherd to win.

Thomas, a gospel singer, is another singer whose fans are online demanding that she win. Throughout the competition, audiences have marveled at Thomas’ takes on Samantha Sang and the BeeGees (by way of Destiny’s Child) with “Emotions,” and “How Deep Is Your Love.” Tonight, Thomas performed “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion. She was joined on stage by a choir. At least online, people are still rooting for the singer.

Jay performed “Tomorrow,” and also accompanied himself on piano. He was backed by other musicians including a guitarist that could be seen, but mostly, the stage belonged to the singer. As Levine pointed out, the performance was like being at a “Kirk Jay show” rather than a competition show performance. As a young black man performing country music, it seems that Jay is always called upon to explain why he is drawn to country. His reasons are solid enough – – but the fact that the explanation or conversation has to happen no doubt makes some people awkward. Still, his mellow, but full voice just might propel him to the semi-finals and beyond.

So, there are several potential winners, no frontrunner as of yet. In the meantime, “The Voice” sells audiences the feel good vibes of watching someone else’s dream come true. “The Voice” semi-finals air tomorrow on NBC.

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