The Voice Semi-finals Results: Coaching is the Key to Making the Top 4

The Voice Semi-finals Results: Coaching is the Key to Making the Top 4
The Voice Semi-finals Results - the coaches

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC


Call it a late epiphany but The Voice Semi-finals Results may be more about the coaches than the singers. Singing and performance are what get you to the quarterfinals.  However, when it comes down to making it to The Voice Top Four,  it’s more about who the singer’s coach is

At the top of The Voice Semi-final Results show coaches Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine, all said things about winning not being the point – for the artists. They wanted it made clear that the game of The Voice shouldn’t be seen as a be-all end-all judgment on the talent of the performers. It’s one of the consistent things about the show that I always appreciate.

Unlike most “talent competition” shows, on The Voice the talent part ends up working more like a training ground and showcase. Despite the whole “boxing ring” idea presented, for the game part of the show the artists are more like the pieces on a checkerboard than fighters in a ring.

Yes, talent is a must, but no one walks onto the The Voice stage that doesn’t possess it. This is why winning hinges not on the artists, but on the coaches. Knowing how to play the game, popularity, plus good musical instincts all matter on the coaching side of things. They are what push an artist to the top.

The Voice Semi-finals Results: How the Top 4 Made it

The Voice Semi-finals Results

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

Even though I’m sad about the singers going home at least it’s not a completely unbelievable final four.  Yes, it’s insane that Hunter Plake is out, just like Ali Caldwell being out of the season eleven finale was a travesty.  However, I don’t think that the overall audience reaction to who made into these four slots is anywhere near the level of negativity it was last season.

The main reasons for this are two-fold.  First of all, there’s nothing one can really say about who got voted into the first three spots because everyone had a chance to vote.  Last season Ali lost in an instant save vote – which cuts out half the country in voting. ( There was actually a little petition about an recount!) Since this season Jesse is a fair match in talent to Hunter it’s not as upsetting.

It’s actually while comparing the two seasons that the light bulb turned on for me about the importance of who the coach is.

Knowing How to Play the Game

Blake and Adam are the two veteran coaches and they have the most popularity and experience.  Experience isn’t everything though. Despite this being Gwen’s third time and Alicia’s second, Alicia is definitely the better player.  She and Blake tend to go toe-to-toe in terms of strategy. This is saying a lot because Blake, more than anyone on the show, is the master game-player in terms of both strategy and music choices.  Here’s a quick example of their thinking alike.  Alicia and Blake both went for inspirational gospel music for their artists known for more up-tempo and lighthearted music. They knew that would be eaten up on the charts – and they saved it to nail in the finale.

Semi-final Coaching Errors: Gwen

In a recent interview with, Gwen admitted she finds choosing songs for her artists to be difficult.  That’s not really an issue with the other three.  Alicia has demonstrated having amazing producing skills and arranging skills as well as the kind of Gwen’s producing and arranging is about the staging and costume for a performance rather than the actual music.  Her go to line musically is, “sing it like the record,”  which is what she told Hunter to do for his version of “With or Without You” by U2.  After his elimination Hunter is quoted as saying he, “honestly just wanted to do something” for his “hero” and biggest influence, Bono.  That’s a nice save, but it rings hollow.  Being innovative and giving new life to an artist’s work is a beautiful gift.

Maybe there where copyright issues involved but in that case Gwen should have gone with another song. Generally speaking, people discovering new artists aren’t looking for the Karaoke cover version of a song.  You want the tune to be recognizable, yes, but not the same thing!  This is why the advice to “sing it like the record.” is not the best thing for generating i-tunes sales – especially for a spot in the finale. Even worse, when you have an artist like Hunter, who has proven over and over that his creativity pays off,  why would you hamstring him like that?  Her advice really sunk Hunter for that third spot.

Brennely Brown

As for what Gwen set up for Brennely Brown, that was just as bad.  Brennely is a country artist, but not that kind of country.  For one, she’s not old enough to convey the knowing wisdom that flows in “Suds in the Bucket” by Sara Evans.  The other issue is she doesn’t have that “down home” authenticity to seep into her phrases. (That “yee-haw”….)  There’s nothing worse than pretending to be more of something that you are. Gwen said she wanted country fans to know Brennely was committed to doing this country music, but this song came off as patronizing.

The sad thing is Brennely  is a bonafide country singer with a huge voice – but she’s from California, works for Disney, and is 15-years old.  Had Gwen been more in touch with the kind of country artist Brennely was she’d have had better iTunes sales. Something like, “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway” by Trisha Yearwood or some other big ballad emotional country song would have made her golden.

Of course, had Brennely made the finale it would have have meant two country singers in the finale again.  Having two of the same genre makes for a less interesting finale, so Gwen’s choice is good for the audience – and for Lauren Duski on Team Blake.  Brennely would have been up against the quieter nuances of  Lauren and possibly split the country vote.  I guess Blake lucked out.

The Popularity Factor

Vanessa Ferguson going home was tough to watch, but it was understandable.  Blake had the easier job of making 15-year-old Aliyah Moulden into a sympathetic neophyte – even though she’s as experienced as Brennely Brown.  He did it very well over the last few episodes.  For The Voice semi-finals Vanessa’s polish ended up working against her.  Being on team Blake has made a big difference for her in this competition.

Alicia has a middle-of-the road kind of popularity.   For instance, she had enough pull to get Vanessa to the semi-finals over two singers from team Adam.  In general though she may not be as popular as the two guys.

What’s more important about Alicia is that she isn’t a polarizing force. The only other female coach that hasn’t suffered due to popularity issues has been Shakira.   Coach Miley Cyrus and original Voice coach Christina Aguilara all have inspired strong feelings of both love and hate.  Although it wasn’t always the case it appears that this season Gwen has created the same reaction.

The Gender Factor

Is it sexism by the viewers that causes this?   Yes, although it’s not the only factor.  All three women have been hit many times with the label “diva” in the tabloids,  a term which has come to have sexist connotations. (Tabloids have little to do with accuracy, but everything to do with what they think will sell.) Viewers  who dislike these coaches often seem to hold negative views of  these women.  They do so regardless of what kind of job these women are doing on the show.

The closer it gets to a finale the harder it gets for artists on these coaches’ teams to make the cut. Take for instance Christina Aguilara.  Rolling Stone magazine ranked her on their list of “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”  You would think that would make it easy to attract people to her team, but early on that was not the case.  Then there’s the fact that Christina’s been eliminated from the finale twice in her five times as coach. Adam has been twice in twelve seasons.  She’s also won the show only once, and it was in season 10.  (She’s the first woman to do so.)

Miley Cyrus didn’t have problems getting people to join her team.  The problems she faced were all about the viewers.  When she was first announced as a new coach for The Voice  it wasn’t met well by many people. Some who hated the controversial singer vowed to not watch the show at all.  Frankly, most people, myself included, had doubts about her as a coach.

Those doubts turned out to be unfounded.  Instead, she turned out to be one of the best coaches The Voice has brought on – and clothing-wise she’s been the most covered up of woman coaches.  Nevertheless, her team was eliminated from the finale four.  This was despite her singer Ali arguably having the best vocals and performance of both the semifinal and for the instant save.

As mentioned before, Gwen’s coaching for the semi-finals did her little favors for her team. However, both of her singers were favorites, certainly more that team Adam’s Jesse had been. Hunter hit the iTunes top ten several times and hit number one twice.  Brennely also made the top ten once, and just missed it a couple more.

Even with Gwen’s poor choices no one expected that both singers would be out – but they are.  I’d like to say it’s because Gwen had two artists and Adam just had one.   Since it was the reverse last season with Adam and Miley that theory doesn’t hold up.  What does fit is that Adam was the more popular coach.

On to The Voice Season 12 Finale – Winner Predictions!

What’s done is done.  We have The Voice Semi-finals Results and Monday the top four will compete in The Voice Season 12 Finale!  Because of the way the finale rules are there are a couple of things that are certain.   As much as Adam has talked about how cool it would be if Jesse won, it’s not going to happen.  Neither Jesse or Aliyah could rack up enough iTunes sales from their Monday performances to catch up to the past numbers of Lauren or Chris.  In fact, it’s unlikely that Chris will either.

Even though Chris’s performances on Youtube are often double the views of everyone else, it’s Lauren that got three songs to chart at number one on itunes.   Chris did chart two songs in the semi-final.   That still puts Lauren ahead by one iTunes top 10 charting song  which gives her a one-up in the times five bonus multipliers.

The official rules for The Voice say that for the finale all of the past iTunes sales from the top 12 going forward – including any bonuses – are added to a singer’s overnight voting tally for finale.   The only singer that had a real chance of catching up with Lauren in that regard was Hunter.  For this to balance out in the finale Chris would have to chart at number one.   Lauren also would have to not chart top in the top ten.  Like I said, it seems pretty unlikely for Chris to win.

It’s not impossible though.  For one, we don’t know the numbers for how much anyone is winning by in the overnight votes.  The iTunes charts don’t give out the actual number of iTunes downloads either.  Then there’s the Apple music streaming voting.  Each singer gets up to ten streams of any of their music to count as votes for the finale tally.  (As such you might want to sign up for that Apple Music free trial.) Another way to add votes is if you didn’t buy a singer’s song before.   You can buy it during the finale and it will count as a vote.  In other words, there are a few factors to give Chris Blue fans some hope.

The Wrap Up

It’s easy to imagine all four artists that were eliminated will do well once the show is over.  Blake could take TSoul on tour with him and make him the next Darius Rucker.  Brennely is already hooked into the Disney family with her role on Sofia The First, and according to her website she’s a lead in a Dreamworks (owned by Disney) animation project.  Between his voice and producing skills, Hunter’s going to be snatched up.

With Vanessa I’m hoping Alicia will be taking another page from Blake and taking Vanessa (and last year’s third place winner We’ McDonald) on the road with her.  The r&b/hip-hop scene that Alicia is most involved with is similar to country music in that it’s a community of people that know each other.  Alicia could really help these two become established there.  It’s something that we didn’t really see Usher or Pharrell do, but Alicia has often seemed more invested in her team.

Maybe it’s the pull of investment in the artists on her teams that has her bowing out of The Voice?   That’s the saddest part about The Voice season 12 wrapping up. Alicia says this is her last time coaching!

Since it is Alicia’s last time, wouldn’t it be nice if she left with a win?  The odds are against it though.  It looks like Blake, who is the show’s favorite coach, is about to pick up yet another win.  Of course, in life the odds have been beaten before!

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