"The Voice" tore a page from "American Idol's" classic playbook this week, sending each of the final four contestants on homecoming trips filled with ticker-tape parades, family reunions, emotional visits to old stomping grounds, and heroes' welcomes. Seriously, I half-expected to hear Phillip Phillips's "Home" playing in the background at times.
But the episode also took cues from "Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family Christmas," with all 16 Team Blake members reuniting for a "White Christmas" singalong (hi, Suzanna Choffel!!!), and both of Blake's remaining contestants, Cassadee Pope and Terry McDermott, getting prime placement and closing the show. Meanwhile, poor Team Cee Lo contestants Trevin Hunte and Nicholas David were forced to sing first. Immediately I started conspiracy-theorizing, wondering if NBC execs wanted to ensure a Blake victory, so he doesn't get disgruntled and take a lengthy hiatus (like Cee Lo is soon planning to do). But then again, it's not like the producers needed to get into such shenanigans anyway: Cassadee and Terry are as close to shoo-ins as this season has.
Anyhoo, here's how this ultimate Team Cee Lo/Team Blake showdown went down:
Oh gawd. No. Not "Wind Beneath My Wings." Again? The sappy Bette Midler ballad has been done to death on singing shows--already twice just this "X Factor" season, in fact, by Freddie Combs and CeCe Frey. And besides, as well as Trevin sang it, we didn't need to hear it again, especially since Trevin didn't really bring anything new to the song. The angel-robed choir, the old-fashioned arrangement, the Jacob Lusk suit...nothing about this seemed appropriate for an 18-year-old (remember, Trevin is only 18), and none of it dispelled my season-long doubts regarding Trevin's relevance in the current pop marketplace. Yes, his vocal was strong, if imperfect--but would "Voice" fans really buy an entire album of ballads from this kid? I say no, but the judges seemed to think the answer to that musical question was a resounding YES. "I said out loud the other day that Trevin should do 'Wind Beneath My Wings'!" exclaimed an elated (if misguided) Adam Levine. Christina Aguilera (who, like Adam, no longer has a team) tried to make the show all about her again, using most of her critique time to talk about how she used to sing this song at a bunch of talent shows and weddings when she was 7 years old (UM, WHO CARES?), but she did finally get around to saying, "But I never sang it as crazy-great as that; you took it to a whole other level." Cee Lo said some of his usual babblespeak about journeys or blessings or whatever; I kind of red-zoned him out. This was a nice performance by Trevin, but it was not his best, and with him singing in the "death spot" at the start of the show, I wondered if he'd soon be facing a permanent homecoming--once he got voted off in fourth place.
At first when Nicholas emerged onstage without his signature spectacles, I was a little put off by his makeover. But soon I understood why he wasn't wearing his glasses: He didn't need them, because he was standing right on the edge of the stage, only a few feet away from his family sitting in the audience, and he was singing "You Are So Beautiful" right to them. No long-distance vision was necessary. This could have been corny--and okay, maybe it was, just a little--but it was so obviously from the heart, I couldn't help but root for the guy. Nicholas poured his entire self into that song; it didn't feel contrived, or like a pandering move for votes, but like the real deal. "That is just all I ever care about with any kind of singing. You're one of the most soulful people I've ever met. I am fan of what you do musically, but it transcends that--I like you," said Adam. I like Nicholas too. I hope this was enough to get him through, because "The Voice" would lose a lot of heart and soul if he wasn't part of next week's finale.
Once again, Blake tried to steer this punk-pop princess (whose old crony Pete Wentz was in the audience, cheering her on) down a country road, by having her sing Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy." Looking like she was ready for the CMAs red carpet wearing a lady-like French twist and floor-length pageant gown, Cassadee didn't seem very pop, or punk, but she was quite princessy. I was a little bored, to be honest (sorry to sound like "The X Factor's" Demi Lovato), and I thought she got a little shouty in parts (as she often does), but she did make a pretty convincing country star, and she should still consider taking the Nashville route after this show, no matter what happens. "The reason Cassadee has done a handful of country songs is she has an ability to connect with a lyric like nobody else on this show," said Blake. Well, yes and no--I don't think Cassadee connects more than, say, Nicholas does. But she is probably the most marketable, commercial contestant left in this game, and that counts for something.
So basically, Terry just won this, right? He got the most moving homecoming package (his relatives from Scotland flew all the way to his adopted city of New Orleans to surprise him, and the look on his Hobbit-like face was priceless); he got the pimp spot; and he sang the most beloved and famous song of the night, "LET IT BE." You know, by a little band called the Beatles. And he sang it flawlessly, of course. "That's sacred ground, and there's only a handful of singers in the world who should attempt that song, and you're one of them," said Blake, who called this performance "musical perfection." Said an unusually warm and fuzzy Adam: "Thank God for you. You're so wonderful. There's so much wrong with the world, and to have things like this that inspire us is really important. I know it's just a silly TV show, but that's pretty damn great." You know, despite all my earlier complaints/fears that "The Voice's" powers-that-be were pushing Cassadee way too hard all season, this week it seemed like Terry was the one who got all the advantages. And hey, I wasn't complaining. He deserved the star treatment. His "Let It Be" performance really felt like a coronation song--perhaps foreshadowing his victory next week.
So now, it is prediction time. Only one contestant will go home Tuesday night, and while this may be THE closest reality race I've witnessed in years--seriously, all four have a chance, all four are very different, and all four are very worthy--I have a feeling Trevin will be the one to get cut. He was disadvantaged by a bad spot and (in my opinion) a bad song choice, and I just don't think he is as ready for prime time as the three other older, more seasoned singers. That doesn't mean Trevin doesn't have a future in music; it just means he may not have a future on "The Voice," after this week.
Tune in Tuesday to find out if I'm right--and to see Season 2 finalists Juliet Simms, Chris Mann, and RaeLynn return to "The Voice" and prove that winning this show doesn't always matter anyway.
- Blake Shelton's funny Christmas skit
- Kelly Clarkson's Blake Shelton sing-off
- Cee Lo Green's Christmas special