More shake-ups as “The Voice” pares down to four

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And then there were four: that sums up Tuesday night’s episode of “The Voice.” The show’s general tone makes its processes seem harmless. When there appears to be an endless parade of performers, or when the audience is almost overwhelmed with a montage of backstories, and of videos showing the contestants in idyllic hometown settings, the wind whipping their hair as they stare into their (hopefully) musical futures, it becomes difficult to believe that anyone will be cut from the show.

But, as a television performance show, the cutting, or culling, is exactly what takes the contestants from a horde of hopefuls down to a talented handful. That process, apparently, no matter how many times people see it, does not necessarily get old. Tuesday night’s show had a bitter tone given “The Voice’s” recent controversy.

Each time viewers get comfortable with the cast of singers, it is time to vote one, two, or four of them off. That kind of elimination keeps the show interesting, and reminds audiences that the goal is get down to one, not to get comfortable.

“The Voice” on the way to the final four

As a result of last night’s voting, Kirk Jay was the first singer to be saved. Chevel Shepherd was second, and Chris Kroeze was third. Kroeze had the No.1 streamed single on iTunes after Monday night’s performance. His version of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” apparently resonated with audiences.

The “saves” were introduced fairly early in the show. Some people who are unfamiliar with “The Voice” and its processes might be thinking, well, there were eight singers. Three are safe. That means three of the final four have already been chosen. What happens to the unfortunate five?

As it turns out, one of the five would be fortunate enough to stick around. Two singers (late in the show) would simply be sent home: no performance, not much fanfare of any kind, really, just “you had the lowest number of votes, goodbye.” Rather brutal for a show that made audiences feel good with its touting of underdogs.

The tension rose as audiences learned of three-fourths of the final four. But there was still more show left. How would the time be filled? With live performances by Michael Bublé and Hailee Steinfeld.

Once all the performances were over, the moment of truth arrived. In what seemed like swift succession, Kimberli Joye and Sarah Grace were eliminated. Now the five were down to three, but still, there was only one spot left to be filled. The last three, MaKenzie Thomas, Reagan Strange and Kennedy Holmes were allowed to sing one last time. During the commercials, voting results were shown at the bottom of the screen. For most of the time, Thomas was in the lead, which should have surprised no one. Given her performances and star-studded support, audiences should have been more surprised to see her singing in a desperate bid for the coveted spot. Holmes came in second and Strange was a distant third. Then, suddenly, right before the show came back on, Thomas was no longer in the lead. That shift served as an example of high drama on the singing show, if it ever existed. In the end, Holmes, the 13-year-old wunderkind, as she has been (rightfully) called, made the cut. Her song, LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live?” was beautifully rendered, if a touch mature for the young singer.

Back to the controversy: Strange, as audiences will remember, skipped out on singing when she was supposed to, and appeared in the studio audience in a bathrobe with her mother. Without singing, she was voted through, while her Team Adam cohort, DeAndre Nico was voted off after having performed, but getting no support from Levine, who urged people to vote for Strange. None of that helped on Tuesday night. Strange was the last member of Team Adam in the competition and she was voted off– a development that probably did not shock very many people, and one that probably pleased those who were upset by Levine’s seemingly lopsided support for Strange.

The voting didn’t seem to be just out of anger, either. Strange’s performance seemed well, difficult for her. At various times, she couldn’t be heard, or she seemed tearful or shaky. When Strange managed to hold onto big notes and project them, it seemed a triumph. But it was not nearly enough when compared to the smooth performances of Thomas and Holmes.

Maybe the powers that be at “The Voice” will address the maturity factor of some singers. Is it necessary for kids to be professional singers at 13, 14, or 15 years old? Yes, they can be dedicated to the craft. But in many cases, they are still too young for the harsh realities of full-time show business jobs. There is a lesson to be learned from Strange and the entire controversy. Audiences can only hope that executives at “The Voice” figure it out before a contestant is harmed by what happens on the show.

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