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‘The Voice’ Live Playoffs, Pt. 2: Near-Purrfect Performances

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

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Purrfect has been missed! (photo: NBC)

After Adam Levine and Blake Shelton's contestants competed live for the first time this past Monday, on Wednesday it was time for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green's contestants to give it a go. The result was another two hours of fantastic talent, particularly on Team Cee Lo, arguably the strongest group of Season 3. And Cee Lo's old furry friend Purrfect was even there! Maybe that's why Cee Lo was dressed in what looked like an unraveled ball of Purrfect's old string.

Here's how everyone did...

TEAM XTINA

Adriana Louise - Katy Perry's "Firework" is NOT an easy song to sing. Katy herself can't even pull it off live. It's like five octaves out of her range. But it's not entirely out of Adriana's range. Yes, Adriana got shouty in parts, and she unfortunately did not nail that all-important money note at the end, but this was still a good effort. "Beautiful voice, beautiful person...Team Cee Lo does consider you worthy competition," said Cee Lo. Adam acknowledged that "Firework" is a "bitch" to sing and said Adriana did an "incredible job." Said Blake, "It's a big deal every time you perform." Will Adriana get to perform another time? We shall see.

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De'Borah - "Who Knew," by the tough and androgynous Pink, seemed like a great song choice for this gender-bending, genre-hopping maverick--but Pink is also NOT easy to sing, and De'Borah definitely struggled vocally here, especially at the beginning of her song. But whatever she lacked in Pink-lung'd vocal power, she more than made up for with pure passion and physicality. She prowled the stage, she pounded her chest, and she was just so compelling to watch. "You've always been one of my favorites. I love the way you move. I feel your confidence, and I also feel your pain. I love you. I love what you do," said Cee Lo. "There's nothing regular about you. There's only one De'Borah. A voice is only as good as the soul that's pushing the voice, and you have all of that," said Adam. "You're just so real and so raw. No one on this whole show can work that stage the way De'Borah does it. You're the real deal," raved Christina. I agreed with everything they said. The girl's a star. I just wonder if America will "get" her.

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Devyn DeLoera - The second commercial pop girl on Team Xtina took on another very ambitious number, Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," and I think she tried too hard, or maybe she just got too intimidated by the very big song. There were moments when Devyn had a good handle on the ballad's subtle dynamic shifts and showed impressive range, but there were many other times when she seemed nervous, and by the end of her performance, she was off-the-rails shrill, screaming like some crazy horror-movie victim. It just didn't sound pretty. It was borderline unpleasant. Cee Lo said this was not her finest performance, and that he knew she was better than this--and notably, not a single person in the audience heckled or booed his comments, so everyone must have agreed. Sighed Blake, "I was looking forward to a softer performance." I guess "Bleeding Love" kind of turned into "Bleeding Ears."

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Sylvia Yacoub - Yet another Team Xtina pop girl, doing yet another Katy Perry cover. At first, I wondered why Christina didn't diversify her team a bit more. But then Sylvia, out of nowhere, totally wowed me with her stunning rendition of "The One That Got Away." I had no idea that she played piano, and I have no idea why we didn't see this side of Sylvia before. I loved seeing her in singer-songstress mode, and I wished she'd done this all along. Before this performance, I didn't even want her to get past the Battle Rounds...and now I realize, and freely admit, that I underestimated this girl. "Me being unbiased, that's probably the best performance of the night," declared Cee Lo. "There's no doubt in my mind, you definitely deserve to move forward; you have an extraordinarily powerful voice," said Adam. Christina called Sylvia a "true artist." Hopefully Sylvia is peaking at the right time, will get America's votes, and won't be Season 3's one that got away.

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Dez Duron - Team Xtina's one male contestant has stuck to blue-eyed soul this season (and last season, when he auditioned unsuccessfully), but this time he covered Hunter Hayes's country ballad "Wanted." It was a boring choice, and I didn't understand why Christina would think this was the right song for him, especially at this crucial stage of the game. I would theorize that she was trying to throw him under the bus, but she did give him an enthusiastic standing ovation after this performance, so there goes that theory. Anyway, to his credit, Dez sang the song very well, showing massive improvement since his failed Blind Audition in Season 2, but I agreed with Adam when he said he would have preferred something more along the lines of "Sara Smile." However, assuming that the shrieking ladies in Wednesday's studio audience represented a cross-section of "The Voice's" voters, Dez is going to sail straight through to the top 12. As Christina put it, he's the "full package." Ahem.

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TEAM CEE LO

Cody Belew - Cody Belew continues to be-low me away on this show. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) He sort of seemed like a novelty contestant at first, and was in fact the last contestant to squeak through in the Blind Auditions, but now he has become one of the real contenders on this show. I didn't think Cody could top his phenomenal Knockout Rounds performance of "Jolene" last week, but his rendition of George Michael's "One More Try" this week was amazing, a real tour de force--the guy sounded like, looked like, and just flat-out was a star. The crowd went absolutely bananas for him. So did the judges. "Genius choice of song, brilliant job. I'm a believer," raved Adam. "You've become one of my favorites--and one of my wife's favorites! That's your best performance yet," said Blake. "I'm so glad Cee Lo has made all the right decisions in keeping you on the show," said Christina. I am so glad too. There'd definitely be something missing from "The Voice" Season 3 without the little bit of bam-bam that Cody brings to the competition.

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Diego Val - I like Diego, but I was disappointed that Cee Lo had him perform Enrique Iglesias's "Bailamos." Yes, Diego sings in Spanish sometimes, but I always saw him as more of a rocker, not a Latin-pop crooner. This was dull, and Diego's vocal wasn't so impressive either. Why didn't Cee Lo let Diego put a Latin-rock spin on a more out-of-the-box song? Well, I will say that Diego looked like a Latin-lover heartthrob, and he was definitely speaking the language of love, judging by the female squeals I heard from the studio audience. (Host Carson Daly amusingly called him "the Peruvian Magic Mike"). Blake said, "There's a coolness about you that's real," but Adam observed, "It seemed like at times you weren't fully engaged in it 100 percent." Christina concurred, saying, "I felt you weren't into the actual song choice." Diego then admitted that he prefers to perform his own material, not cover songs--a limitation that will doom him on a show that, well, requires him to sing other artists' tunes week after week. Cee Lo tried to explain that he'd given Diego a Spanish-language song because he thought it would help Diego feel comfortable, in a "safe place," but it was clearly a tactic that backfired. When a contestant's own coach is saying stuff like "I don't think it was terrible at all"--which is what Cee Lo diplomatically told Diego on Wednesday--that's a pretty bad sign.

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MacKenzie Bourg - One Direction may be performing on "The X Factor's" results show this Thursday, but "The Voice" had MacKenzie covering "What Makes You Beautiful" this Wednesday, and Mac showed nearly as much teen-dream heartthrob potential as all five of those cute 1D boys. (Adam called him "friggin' adorable," and Christina said he was a "little charmer.") And the fact that he was playing a guitar again--reminding all those girlies out there that he's a bona fide "WGWG"--certainly didn't hurt. I think this kid could be a superstar, whether or not he wins this show. Adam questioned whether MacKenzie could win, but then interestingly called him "an American idol" (ha!) and likened him to Buddy Holly. Blake and Christina advised MacKenzie to cover more risky, unexpected, vulnerable songs in the future, but I think this was THE perfect song choice for him at this point in the competition.

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Nicholas David - Ohhhhh yeaaaaah. This throwback crooner did a bit of Barry White--"You're The First, The Last, My Everything"--and his voice was everything. I think I underestimated this contestant before, as well. I just loved how he truly sounded like he should have been performing on "Solid Gold" or "Soul Train," not "The Voice"--and yet he didn't come across like the singer of some shlocky '70s-song cover band. There was something so cool and fresh about hearing someone so earnestly and unironically do music like this in 2012, and somehow he didn't sound cheesy, which is what usually happens when talent show contestants cover songs from the disco era. The crowd loved this performance so much, the judges had trouble quieting everyone down in order to give their critiques. But when the judges finally did speak, Adam said he wanted to make a baby after hearing Nicholas's cover of Barry's "baby-making music" classic. And Cee Lo told him, "You really can do no wrong in my book. I really think you deserve to go all the way." Blake made the best point of all when he said, "It blows my mind, because you're not supposed to look like that and sound like this. Thank God for 'The Voice'!" It's true. This show, like any other talent show, has its share of pretty contestants with typical pop-star looks, but contestants like Nicholas David are supposed to be what "The Voice" is all about.

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Trevin Hunte - Trevin has been (understandably) pimped since the beginning of this season--remember, he's the guy who beat out Amanda Brown in the Battle Rounds--so it was no surprise that he got the "pimp spot" this week. At first I was worried that he would not be able to live up to his former glories, especially when he fiddled with his earpiece at the start of his performance, apparently suffering from some technical difficulties and getting a bit behind the beat. But that was a VERY temporary setback before he belted out Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" just about flawlessly. He took "The Voice" to church and beyond. Blake gushed, "Every time you get on the stage, you move me. You have everything it takes to win 'The Voice.' Congratulations." Said Christina, "I feel like you haven't even tapped into what you're truly capable of doing." Cee Lo said, "Nobody's going to argue against the fact that you could win this."

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So on Thursday's results show, the top two vote-getters from each team will automatically advance to the top 12, then each coach will choose a third contestant to go through. For Team Xtina, I'm predicting that heartthrob Dez and dark horse Sylvia will get the votes, with Christina saving De'Borah. For Team Cee Lo, it's a tougher call. I think Diego is doomed and clearly out of the running, but Cody, MacKenzie, Nicholas, and Trevin all are extremely worthy. Trevin is a shoo-in for one of the top spots, but after that, I have no idea how things will pan out. I'll truly be sad to see Cody, MacKenzie, or Nicholas go (can't we have a top 13 with an extra wild-card contestant, like "The X Factor" did this week?), but on the bright side, the three who ultimately do make it through will comprise a VERY strong team for Cee Lo. I still believe that this is the season that Cee Lo could finally win.

Tune in Thursday to find out which contestants from all four teams make the top 12 cut! See you then.

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