It’s the second week of the quarterfinals on The Voice, with the final four singers left on Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green‘s teams up on the chopping block. But before America can wield its mighty ax tonight, both mentors had to cut one contestant in an instant elimination. (It’s only fair, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton had to make controversial decisions last week.) You’d think that for such a serious occasion, the judges would wear their finest outfits, and Adam certainly did, donning a fine black hoodie.
The night’s guest performance was by newly reunited ’90s hip-hop group Goodie Mob, of which Cee Lo is a founding member. He and his brethen — Khujo, T-Mo and Big Gipp — took the stage in gilded gladiator armor from Mars and luminescent veneers to theatrically lip-dub their new single, “Fight to Win.” It was the best thing to happen on the show this entire season.
The rest of Team Cee Lo joined their ring leader on stage for a cute staging of the Motown classic “Dancing In The Streets.” Set inside a black and white rabbit-eared television from yesteryear, Cee Lo and his group sang it out decked in groovy ’60s polyester that put Mad Men to shame.
Adam Levine dragged his team along for a cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” with the Maroon 5 frontman on drums, Pip playing keyboard and Tony Lucca on guitar. It felt messy and piecemeal, like when all the math teachers get together to do a musical performance at a school assembly: Everyone gets a line to sing, one person inevitably shines brighter, and everyone ends up feeling really uncomfortable, but none more than the audience.
So what did tonight’s singers have in store in their solo performances?
Jamar Rogers (Team Cee Lo)
The HIV-positive survivor sang, appropriately, Bon Jovi‘s “It’s My Life” on a stage resurrected from the off-Broadway musical Stomp! Stuff was on fire! The vocal was heartfelt, and Jamar was perpetually on the verge of tears as he declared, “I ain’t gonna live forever / I just wanna live while I’m alive.” Impartial bystander Christina said after the set that Jamar is one of her favorites, despite not being on her team. Cee Lo complimented his “strong, sweet spirit.”
Jamar Rogers, “It’s My Life”
Katrina Parker (Team Adam)
Perhaps because of her womanly figure and the rasp in her voice, Adam signed her up for a big ballad, Christina Perry‘s “Jar of Hearts.” And of course she was made-up in full Adele hair and makeup, even though the show didn’t pull the trigger and make her sing something off of 21. She performs it in a purple pageant dress from the center of a neon-lit heart, missing many of the tune’s big moments and ending on a soft falsetto that felt like a cop out. Still, Adam listened with his eyes closed. Blake called it a “breakout”, Christina said it sounded hard to sing and then dropped the Adele bomb, and Cee Lo said he detected some “wilt” in her voice. Adam said it was “incredible” and that he was so proud of her, but not proud enough to wear a non-hooded shirt.
Katrina Parker, “Jar of Hearts”
Tony Lucca (Team Adam)
The 36-year-old former Mouseketeer sang a weird Eurythmics-y version of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by his former Mouseketeer buddy Britney Spears. Early on these weird Dracula Illuminati dancers appeared behind him for some Transylvanian Broadway choreography. The vocal wasn’t bad in any technical way, but as a performer he’s just not interesting. Host Carson Daly said the audience reaction was “Bieber loud,” Blake called the performance “smart” and Christina rightfully called him out for pulling the Mouseketeer card yet AGAIN.
Mathai (Team Adam)
The 18 year old expressed concern during rehearsals that she would sound too much like Nelly Furtado as she attempted the singer’s 2001 jam “I’m Like A Bird”. Truth be told, she sounded a little like Bjork. The otherwise uptempo arrangement dragged and then — what the what!? — there was a guy in silk pajamas swinging from the rafters above the stage. The staging on this show is so weird this season! Mathai, understandably, ran to the other side of the stage to avoid getting squashed. No one on the coaching panel approved of “Captain America” swinging all willy-nilly like that.
Cheesa (Team Cee Lo)
Just starting to find herself as a solo performer, CHESS-uh took on “I Have Nothing” by Cee Lo’s “fairy godmother” Whitney Houston. Cee Lo commented that the two women are cut from the same cloth, and gave his mentee a slow clap in rehearsals. Last night she sang it a la Whitney, which is French for “just like Whintey”, which is to say, the way every girl with pop-star aspirations sings it at every high school talent show ever. Only Cheesa was dressed like Cinderella in Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade. Don’t kill the messenger! But let’s be honest, a note-for-note repackaging is not the best way to carve out a niche for yourself as an artist.
Juliet Simms (Team Cee Lo)
The unbridled vocalist is given “Crying” by Aerosmith because she already dresses like Steven Tyler. They dyed her hair blond and dressed her in a set of black angel wings, which portends bad things about fate and death — symbolically, of course. She screamed her way through the song before an avalanche of white feathers fell from the ceiling. (Which portends even worse things about what they do to former contestants dressed in wings!) Blake made an awful hunting joke and Christina said she loves Juliet because she “doesn’t care.” Cee Lo said her voice is like leather and is “built to last.” Like a tire.
Pip (Team Adam)
For some reason, coach Adam thinks “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane is an unexpected choice for the bow tie-wearing soft rocker with a flair for drama. Adam puts him behind a rotating piano for the first half of the song, perhaps to hide the fact that they dressed him in white pants before Labor Day. Pip performed it in a perfectly nice way, just as nice as a Keane song can ever be. But Blake pinged him for not wearing his signature bow tie. Adam was pretty meh on it — a foreshadowing? Yes, exactly that. Adam went on to cut him in the instant eliminations.
Pip, “Somewhere Only We Know”
James Massone (Team Cee Lo)
The newly minted ladykiller covered Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” because why not make a 23 year old sing a 35-year-old song? They made him sing it from a treehouse/Romeo & Juliet balcony dressed like Danny Zuko’s little brother. And then there was a sexy sax lady spotlighted on the catwalk. None of these embellishments helped the fact that it takes more than a young voice to make exciting what was already boring elevator music. Even though the poor song choice was Cee Lo’s fault, the coach cut James from his team.
James Massone, “Just The Way You Are”
ELIMINATED: Pip (Team Adam) and James Massone (Team Cee Lo)
TONIGHT: Florence + The Machine take the stage, we get the results of America’s votes, and the bottom four singers turn in their last-chance performances.