Brace yourselves: One observer described this episode of The Voice as “maybe the best episode of The Voice we’ve ever had.” Of course, that observer was Blake Shelton, so what that really means is a night of unapologetic hyperbole from him and fellow coaches Adam Levine, Cee Lo and Christina Aguilera. Whether a disappointing frontrunner or a dark horse that finally had a big “moment,” all of the judges seemed to have the same gushing yet vague compliments ready to go for whoever happened to be on stage.
Christina, Blake and Cee Lo brought in guests to help guide the contestants — and (of course!) cross-promote upcoming NBC shows. Veteran A&R executive Ron Fair helped Team Christina, producer Scott Hendricks helped Team Blake, and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson helped Team Cee Lo… and reminded us that Smash is coming back in three short months. Speaking of which – is that the cast of Guys with Kids that host Carson Daly just noticed in the audience?
Clumsy cross-promotions and hyperbole aside, it was a night of stellar performances, kicked off by Coaches Christina and Blake making the world debut of “Just a Fool” from — did you know? — Lotus. It was a refreshingly stripped down performance from Xtina – who uncharacteristically took the stage in jeans. Blake, on the other hand, looked a little awkward up there without a guitar and a stool. Maybe he could take a cue on stage presence from a few of the Top 10 performances:
Team Christina – Sylvia Yacoub:
Sylvia returns to the keyboard for a performance of “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. We’d like independent verification that she’s actually playing the piano, as the difference is negligible when she leaves the piano to work the stage. It’s an ambitious choice, and she sounds a little flat to us, but earns praises from all of the judges. Christina tells her, “Your pipes are on fire!” and there’s a little awkward fist-pumping action as the text-to-vote information flashes in front of Sylvia.
Team Blake – Terry McDermott:
Terry McDermott surprises us all and puts his own spin on a Rihanna tune! Sigh – not really. Instead, he chooses (more) classic rock, and sings Bryan Adams‘ “Summer of ’69.” Cee Lo tells him, “You remind me of everything I genuinely love about rock and roll,” and the other judges concur. We anticipate his strong vocals and endless range will advance him to the Top 8, but if he could find a way to make “We Found Love” a rock anthem next week, it may earn him more votes than another Stones rehash.
Team Adam – Melanie Martinez:
Melanie performs “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes — acoustically (naturally). Adam wisely guides her to showcase her vocal power more, saying, “You need to surprise people… The bomb needs to go off.” She takes the stage with her guitar, and while there is no bomb, she does add a bit of dynamite to some high notes in an otherwise coffeehouse-friendly performance. Whether it’s enough of a blast to move forward or not is questionable.
Team Cee Lo – Cody Belew:
Last week Christina told Cody she wanted to see a little more “bam bam” out of his performances. Cody takes that advice to heart, making Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” more bootylicious than all the residents of the House of Dereon combined. During rehearsals, Jennifer Hudson perfectly sums up the essence of Cody, saying, “Cody’s personality is so huge that it turned out to be more memorable to me than his voice.” While Cody’s vocals are good enough to carry the fast-paced tune, it’s really his attitude, stage presence, dance moves and one-sleeved leather jacket that will get him to the next round. Coach Cee Lo catches his breath from his giddy laughter to tell Cody, “You just bring me so much joy.”
Team Adam – Bryan Keith:
For mostly accessory-related reasons (read: that stupid fedora that he, indeed, is still wearing tonight), Bryan Keith has not been our favorite. Beyond that, his stage presence lacks a certain connection with the audience, and he tends to give less-than-memorable performances. This evening’s performance of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” is no exception: The vocals are good, but not standout at this stage of the competition. The coaches all give Bryan vague compliments having to do with singing “like a man,” and “having a pair,” and Blake compares him to BFF Michael Buble. Singing like a man or not, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is Bryan’s farewell performance.
Team Adam – Amanda Brown:
After last week’s disappointing performance, Amanda has a lot to prove. Adam assigns her “Stars” by Grace Potter, saying “I believe this song is so powerful that it could catapult Amanda into the stratosphere.” We hope not — we really like Amanda and would prefer to see her stay here on earth, specifically on this stage, next week. The chances of this are looking great, because this perfect choice song has Amanda back in top form. When she starts with just a spotlight and the microphone, there’s no elaborate lighting or excessive choreography to distract us from her voice, which is flawless. It’s arguably the top performance of the night.
Team Cee Lo – Nicholas David:
Congratulations, Nicholas: you officially have a catch phrase! After exclaiming, “Holy buckets, that woman is Jennifer Hudson!” we’re sure the NBC social media team scrambled into action to make #HolyBuckets a nationwide trend. If we’re lucky, Holy Buckets merchandise will be available online after the results show. Nicholas gives another solid, soulful performance of “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. He demonstrates even more talent on the piano, which we’re convinced he is actually playing (looking at you, Sylvia). The judges get a little hyperbolic in their praise (no lie: “voice of a generation” and “musical legend” are thrown around like it ain’t no thang), but it’s mostly deserved. We just wonder if America will continue to vote for Nicholas in spite of — or maybe because of — his innate weirdness.
Team Cee Lo – Trevin Hunte:
It’s a little concerning that Trevin isn’t closing out the night. Do the producers know something about this performance that leads them to believe it won’t be the usual tears-in-our-eyes ballad we’ve grown accustomed to give living room standing ovations at the end of The Voice? They must have. Trevin curiously selects “Scream” by Usher, and it’s not a song he has the stage presence to pull off. His voice is fine, but he sounds winded and he doesn’t channel Usher. Adam tells him, “This wasn’t my favorite moment,” and while Christina counters, “I think this was my favorite moment,” it’s clear that she’s just being argumentative.
Team Blake – Cassadee Pope:
In her most emotional performance to date, Cassadee performs “Over You” by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, which is about the loss of Blake’s brother. Her performance is touching — by far her best yet. The sweet ballad complements her vocals, and leads us to believe that Cassadee should go a little more Carrie Underwood and a little less Avril Lavigne for her upcoming performances. She earns a standing ovation from Christina and Blake, the latter visibly moved by the performance. Christina gives her the highest endorsement (and self-endorsement), calling Cassadee a “lotus,” and Blake says, “You made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time.”
Team Christina – Dez Duron:
Wait. They’re closing out the night with Dez? He continues to be super pretty – and we were very intrigued when Sylvia told Christina Milian that he warms up in his towel, but he’s never really impressed us as the show closing type. Until now. Dez performs “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone, and his rat-pack inspired look and moves, Buble-sounding voice and soap opera star face end the evening on a perfect note. He took Ron Fair’s note to “sing it with your attitude and your being,” which helped him deliver his performance with the best stage presence yet. If the screaming ladies in the audience are any indication, we’re confident he’ll be in the Top 8 tomorrow night.
The results are in tomorrow night, but not before a few more all star performances. Adam and Christina take the stage (what will they sing?), along with The Rascal Flatts, Team Adam and Team Christina.
Who do you think is headed home tomorrow night? Tell us in the comments below.