This Monday on "The Voice," the top six contestants (two apiece on Team Cee Lo, Team Blake, and Team Adam) each performed two songs: one pick of their own, and one coach's pick. Meanwhile, the team-less Christina Aguilera just sat around, fanning herself dramatically, singing Fiona Apple songs without provocation, and picking on poor Melanie Martinez.
Oh, and Christina joined the show's obvious pet cause and pimped Cassadee Pope shamelessly--basically prematurely declaring Cassadee the Season 3 champion, while Cassadee's coach, Blake Shelton, smiled smugly. But does Cassadee really already have this competition all sewn up? There were many other stellar performances this week, so I think it's still anybody's game. Anybody, that is, besides poor Melanie Martinez. Sigh.
Here's how everyone did...
Coach's Pick: Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" - Nicholas has gone from dark horse to fan favorite this season, wowing viewers and winning votes every week. But there's still the elephant-in-the-room issue of what his relevancy would be in today's post-show pop market, so forgive me if I immediately jumped to the premature conclusion that Nicholas was being bused this week. (Sorry, but months of concurrently blogging "The X Factor," and last week's "X Factor" Vino-gate scandal in particular, have made me jaded and prone to conspiracy theories.) After all, Nicholas had to sing first in the "death spot," and he was ordered by his coach, Cee Lo Green, to do Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," the somewhat cheesy disco song that felled "American Idol's" Colton Dixon earlier this year. And the song was in a high key far outside Nicholas's deep, rumbling range. Nicholas did okay here, but aside from its '70s vibe, the song wasn't well-suited to his style, and he struggled a bit. The performance just didn't have his usual old heart and soul. Adam Levine noticed this, and mildly complained, "Some of that chorus, I wanted to hear you sing; I feel you stepped away from some of the main leads, and I was a little disappointed by that." Said Christina, "I'd still like to see you go a little more adventurous." Cee Lo insisted that he'd picked the EW&F song for Nicholas to help broaden his horizons, not to hinder him. I know Nicholas has a huge fanbase and can overcome any mild setback (SPOILER ALERT: He totally did with his second song), but I don't think this was his best moment.
Contestant's Pick: Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" - Okay, disregard the entire previous paragraph. At the very end of the episode, in the pimp spot, Nicholas got to do this, and the result was so redemptive, he could have reprised Huey Lewis's "Power Of Love" as his first song this week and it would not have mattered one bit. This was classic Nicholas David--heartfelt, soulful, pure, and positively chillbump-raising. It was, in fact, his finest performance to date. "That's one of those songs that makes everybody weep. I'm sure there's a lot of people out there weeping--in a good way," said Adam. "That was magic, and that was beautiful. Only you could do what you just did there," marveled Blake. Nicholas proved how really fundamental and unique he is to "The Voice" Season 3 with this tour de force, and reports of his busing (by me) were clearly greatly exaggerated. The only bus he'll be taking is the one to the backstage VIP entrance of the top four episode next week.
Coach's Pick: Rascal Flatts' "Stand" - Blake keeps steering his golden girl Cassadee in a country direction (perhaps a shrewd strategy, since there is no actual country singer in the competition to fill that void/hog those votes), despite Cassadee's adamantly announced intentions that she wants to be a pop/rock artist. But at least Blake lets Cassadee put her own pop/rock spin on her country covers. This week, he had her sing Rascal Flatts' "Stand" (following her group performance with the actual Flatts last week), and her version bore precious little resemblance to the twangy original. From the styling and staging--her flat-ironed, rainbow-streaked hair; the lightstick-brandishing audience; the rockin' arrangement--it came across as more Avril than Rascal, and it all sort of worked. It felt legit. Was it Cassadee's most memorable performance? No, not really--this paled in comparison to her other country cover of the season, of Blake's "Over You." But the judges still fawned for her. "I don't mind being your co-coach and co-supporter at this point. You won me over!" said the hardly unbiased Christina. "I was a fan from the beginning, then I wasn't as big a fan, and now I'm a fan again...but I kind of wanna see something more adventurous and different and bizarre from you," said Adam. I agreed with Adam--Cassadee and Blake haven't taken very many risks this season--but I doubt they're going to heed Adam's advice over the next couple of weeks. Clearly what they are doing is working--and if they keep it up, Blake (and Christina, and the show's producers) may get their way, and Cassadee might win.
Contestant's Pick: Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You" - Of course when Cassadee got to choose to her own song, she actually did pick an Avril tune. I wasn't that impressed with this, to be honest. She got a little shouty at the end, and I don't think she switched it up enough; it was a beyond-predictable song choice. But like I said before, being predictable has worked well for Cassadee all season. It certainly worked for the judges. Cee Lo praised Cassadee's "impeccable track record." Adam declared this his favorite performance of the night and his favorite Cassadee performance of the entire season. And Blake said, "You can't teach/coach somebody how to have a connection with a lyric; you have to be born with that. Cassadee Pope is one of those rare individuals." And so, the pimping continued unabated.
Contestant's Pick: Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman" - Aretha's mighty big boots are difficult to fill (and so are Kelly Clarkson's, since her famous "Natural Woman" performance was her game-changing moment of "American Idol" Season 1), but Amanda proved she has the voice to pull off this extremely iconic song. I found it interesting that, after weeks of picking leftfield rock songs by the likes of Grace Potter, Florence + The Machine, Aerosmith, and an '80s-power-ballad version of Adele, Amanda went with such a traditional soul song--but she seemed natural (no pun intended) doing this type of music, and this was a performance that could resonate with the regular folks in America who have no idea who Grace Potter or Florence Welch are. Amanda pretty much nailed this. "The competitor in me really wants to find something to criticize, but I can't. You're a world-class singer," raved Blake. Cee Lo's praise was a little ickier, as he flirtatiously drawled, "I love, appreciate, and adore all women. There's nothing I love more than to see a woman feel natural!" I guess that means he adored and appreciated Amanda, then? I sure did.
Coach's Pick: Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" - Taking a page from the Terry McDermott classic-rock playbook (more on Terry later) and semi-revisiting her bar-setting "Dream On" performance, Amanda went full-on rock diva for this, sheathing herself in red Loverboy leather and surrounding herself with a Rock Of Ages chorus line. But for some reason, this did not connect with me the way "Dream On" had, despite my unabashed love of hard-rock power ballads....until Amanda hit that famous money note, which probably shattered more than a few lighting fixtures in the studio. I can't really explain why I wasn't pumping my fist to this, but I will say she sounded great. "I love how you stuck to your rock roots, which is where I know your heart's at," said Christina, actually saying something nice to Amanda for once. "You're killing that outfit. You're just as passionate and fierce as ever," raved Cee Lo, no stranger to bold red clothing himself. "It was a strange choice, but it wasn't that strange, because you just go out there and kick everybody's ass and wear a bunch of leather. It suits you," said Amanda's coach, Adam, who added: "I wanted to show totally different ends of the spectrum with you. Look at your range--it's crazy!" Well, Adam definitely succeeded in that mission. Few singers could so readily tackle Aretha and Whitesnake in one night, so this evening proved that Amanda is a pro. But I am still a little worried for her. As good as this was, it still might not have been enough. I hope it was.
Contestant's Pick: Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is" - Terry knows what his fans want to hear from him--good ol'-fashioned heartland rock--and he definitely gave the people what they wanted with this Foreigner classic. A very wise choice indeed--but it didn't seem like mere strategizing or vote-pandering, because there was so much emotion to it, as he opted to do a stripped-down, piano-and-cello version (which showcased the incredible purity of his voice), and he dedicated it to his deceased mother and loving wife. I never thought this sappy ballad would ever sound fresh to my weary ears again, but Terry's tender version got rid of all the original recording's bloated pomp and circumstance and cut straight to the heart of the song. This was really special. Blake and Christina gave Terry a standing ovation, with Christina gushing, "There's no doubt Blake has the strongest team. You truly bring it home; it's so effortless, how you sing. You're really amazing." Said Adam: "You always impress us and blow us away. There's nowhere to hide on this. That's a tough one, and you slayed it." Let's hope Terry slays the votes, too.
Coach's Pick: The Faces' "Stay With Me" - Blake did WELL by Terry this week. No busing here! What song could have been better for the shaggy Scottish rocker than Rod Stewart and the Faces' raucous rock 'n roll anthem? It was awesome to see Terry cut loose a little more than usual, but this wasn't too far outside of his wheelhouse, and it certainly wasn't outside of his range--"Stay With Me" is NOT an easy song to sing, but Terry proved long ago that he can sing anything (yes, even the phone book, I am sure), and he sang the heck out of this. Terry really brought the rawk 'n' roll here; I wanted to flick my Bic and toss a bra onstage by the song's end. I also wanted his rad leather jacket. "Terry, my man, I think you are the real thing," said Cee Lo. "You're probably the most consistent singer we've heard throughout the entire competition. You are an incredible singer, dude," said Adam. And proud coach Blake raved, "At first I thought, 'Oh my God, he's starting this song in that key?' You keep pushing it to the next level--and make it seem easy. And that's the mark of a star." Yup. A ROCK STAR. Now, as long as he can secure the all-important Hobbit vote, Terry is a shoo-in for the finale.
Coach's Pick: Katrina & The Waves' "Walking On Sunshine" - I kind of thought this was going to be a disaster, considering how badly Trevin's one uptempo performance of the season turned out, not to mention the huge potential for corniness with this peppy one-hit wonder from 1983. Was Cee Lo trying to throw Trevin under the bus too? Did he want to get rid of both of his contestants, so he could have more free time like his fellow soon-to-go-on-hiatus coach, Christina? (I'm kidding. But I couldn't help but wonder what Cee Lo was thinking here.) But you know what? I kind of liked this. The throwback Motown sound of this song worked so much better for Trevin than Usher's "Scream" did a couple weeks ago, and I got a bit of a Bruno Mars/"Runaway Baby" vibe from his upbeat performance. My one complaint was Trevin just didn't seem sunshiny enough; he needed to take a cue from "The X Factor" Season 1's Rachel Crow and smile a whole lot more, because he wasn't totally believable here. He was more tip-toeing on sunshine than walking on it. But overall, this was much better than I'd expected, and obviously much better than the judges had expected too. "That is the last song I could've ever imagined [you singing], but then you came out here and changed my mind. That is the genius of Cee Lo Green," declared Adam.
Contestant's Pick: Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going" - Once Trevin was able to select a song for himself, of course, it was back to the ballads. And what a ballad! The ballad of all ballads, really. Trevin went with one of the most ambitious (if overdone) selections in the singing-show songbook, and I have to say, the dude killed it. The shyness and tentativeness that marred his otherwise great previous performances were completely gone, and he stormed the stage in full-on Jennifer Holliday scenery-chewing mode. The audience unsurprisingly went BERZERK for this dreamboy. Cee Lo was on his feet, beaming proudly and bragging, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to have a moment of silence to mourn the loss of all the rest of the competition!" Adam interjected, "Forget about the competition--just as people enjoying an incredible, God-given, brilliant voice, that's one the best performances I've seen on the show, seriously maybe ever." Said Blake: "That was a full two-minute moment right there. It was the first time I'd seen you not ever hold back." Then Christina, fanning herself due to all the excitement, offered to take Trevin under her wing after the show and make him her protégé (or at least her backup singer)--which is more than she ever did for her own contestants, really. So I am telling you, Trevin's probably not going this week.
Contestant's Pick: Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" - But I am telling you, I am worried that my girl Melanie will be going home. I fear that her quirky cover of this Gnarls hit will alienate America--even though I personally dug it. The Mylar mannequins, the tiny toy piano, the new blue dye job, her whole creepy-doll stage persona...it was all kind of Lindsey Pavao, which is another way of saying it was awesome. But will viewers think it was awesome? I am not so sure. I appreciated that Melanie pushed herself vocally more than ever before, and I thought she made an admirable effort, but her voice was far from perfect--and on a show called "The Voice," that obviously could be a deal-breaker. She looked so sad and defeated the moment she was finished, as if she'd assumed she'd messed up, and she only grew more forlorn as her mixed reviews from the judges came pouring in. Christina compared Melanie unfavorably to original "Crazy" singer Cee Lo, and she reserved most of her actual praise for the prop guy, Jay Slaughter, who apparently was responsible for all those metallic mannequins. Even Melanie's own coach, Adam, admitted that there were some "pitch issues"--though he was quick to add, "Who cares?" Well, America may care. Hopefully Cee Lo's ringing endorsement--he said, "In many ways we are cut from the same cloth, honey, and I think you did a great job"--will help Melanie. She really needs all the help she can get this week.
Coach's Pick: Lenka's "The Show" - This is when I started to really worry about Melanie. Her whimsical, cute-overload number may have been the third-most-adorable thing I'd ever seen on "The Voice" (following Cee Lo's duet with Kermit and anything MacKenzie Bourg ever did), with its crude cardboard set, cartoon rainbows, and bunches of balloons--but she seemed pained throughout the performance, like the rebellious Beetlejuice daughter being forced to star in a silly school play. It seemed like she wanted the whole thing to be over with, and it certainly didn't seem like she was pleased with the song choice at all. It just wasn't dark or weird or twisted enough, and her vocals were not strong enough--a big problem on a night when really no one else majorly screwed up. Additionally, on a night when everyone else sang familiar perennial favorites by the likes of Jennifer Holliday, Whitesnake, Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, and Foreigner, covering Australian songstress Lenka may have been too much of a risk. Blake questioned the performance's cutesy, girly vibe and Melanie's connection with the song. Christina once again praised set director Jay Slaughter, then tried to make the show all about Xtina again--not an easy thing for her do these days, since she has no team left--by indulgently singing what felt like 90 seconds of a Fiona Apple song. (Then, when a miserable-looking Melanie avoided Xtina's eye contact for a moment, Christina the diva barked, "She's not even looking at me!" Awkward.) Adam insisted that the staging had been all Melanie's and his idea, but regardless of whose idea it was, it might have been an unwise move to go such a gimmicky route at this serious stage in the game.
So now it is prediction time...and as much as it greatly pains me to say it, I think my girl Melanie--who's been my favorite female contestant of Season 3 all along--will go home Tuesday night. But maybe that's not such a bad thing: Melanie seemed so dejected and squirmy this Monday, voting her off may be a way of putting her out of her teenage misery. But she's had a really good run, and when she releases music on her own terms, I will be among the first to buy her album.
But who else will go home this Tuesday? That is much harder to predict, and it once again this makes me wish that only one contestant could go home per week, the way eliminations are done on "American Idol." Two cuts a week is tough to take, especially with superb talent like this season's. Personally, I'd like to see the somewhat overrated Cassadee go home, but we all know that will never happen; Cassadee is as close to a lock that this show has. Trevin and Terry aren't totally out of danger, but Trevin's second song probably saved him, and Terry's smart, crowd-pleasing song choices probably kept him safe too. Really, it could be anyone...but I'm going to go out on a limb and say Amanda will be the other contestant to (undeservedly) get the boot this week. And I will be among the first to buy her post-"Voice" album, too.
If my prediction is correct, then that'll mean Adam Levine will have a lot more time for side pursuits like guest-starring on "American Horror Story" and campaigning against the Roxy, because he will lose both of his team members on a single night. Tune in Tuesday to find out if I'm right.
- Adam Levine slams the Roxy club
- Juliet Simms debuts new music video
- PHOTOS: Xtina's best & worst "Voice" looks