'The Voice' contestants on song choices, pressure and coach swapping
They're dropping like flies on "The Voice." Tonight's second quarter-finals round will thin out the ranks of Team Adam and Team Cee-Lo until only eight singers remain for next week's semi-finals.
I talked to three quarter-finalists -- Team Adam's Pip and Mathai and Team Cee-Lo's Cheesa -- and one guaranteed semi-finalist -- Team Christina's Lindsey -- at last week's NBC summer press day to get their thoughts on where the competition is right now.
How did you all react to last week's instant elimination twist? Does it add extra pressure or make you want to be extra nice to your coach?
Pip: The show really is super unpredictable. The only thing we can really do is go out there and do our best. There's no way we can prepare for [the eliminations], there's no strategy for it. If you make it through, you make it through. At this point all of us have had such a good time and are so on the way to something bigger. People have to go one way or another.
Cheesa: Ultimately there's only one winner, so you just have to give your best performance.
Mathai: On Mondays I'm usually calm like, 'Oh, this is fun!' I love being on stage, but instant eliminations just make it more nerve-wracking. It's in the back of my mind, someone's gonna go home. It's kinda scary.
Lindsey: It didn't put pressure on me to perform or be more impressive but just to be sincere. The thing about coaches is they don't want it flashing up in the air like 'I am the grandest performer!' They want clarity and they want to connect. It's always just about reaching out to Christina and show her where I'm going and that I want to apprentice.
Lindsey, what about switching your song last week, was that an extra challenge?
Lindsey: [Changing from Rihanna to Katy Perry] was a challenge but also a gift that Christina would listen to me and say 'OK, you're not comfortable? Let's change it.' But it was literally like 'OK you have five days: iTunes recording, choreography, hair and makeup, everything!' Part of this isn't just being really vulnerable when you're singing, it's being able to roll with everything, which is a skill in and of itself that isn't really talked about enough.
It's not that I didn't want to do Rihanna. It's just that if I do, and I might given the opportunity, I want more time to work with it. I didn't want it to be slapped together like 'here's a mash-up!' I wanted it to be very seamless, and make sense.
Is there a song you've really wanted to perform but haven't been allowed to yet?
Cheesa: [Tonight] will be a song that I've told people I wanted to sing. I finally get a chance to sing a song I've been asking for. I'm very excited but I'm not gonna say what it is!
Pip: There's some stuff in the works, if I make it through maybe. There's definitely been a couple that have been a real challenge to get cleared. The show has gotten so big that people have changed their minds through the course of the season and we've got stuff cleared that wasn't cleared at the beginning.
Mathai: A lot of the songs I love are not as popular, so I've been trying to climb a little bit higher to do the bigger songs. It is about popularity, what songs are most familiar to people. Knowing that and trying to roll with that and find those types of songs have been a challenge. Like 'Black and Gold,' Sam Sparro, I want to do that song so freakin' bad!
Lindsey: Me too!
Mathai: But it won't go, it won't fly.
Cheesa: When Jermaine did Phil Collins it was one of the top sellers.
Mathai: That's the thing! I don't think it's even about popularity. If you can make it your own and sing your heart out.
Pip: But 'Against All Odds' was a really big song.
Mathai: It's not current though.
Pip: The big thing is, I know if I'm watching the show and some song comes on that I don't know and you can't relate to, it does shut you off a little bit. We're all looking for stuff people can relate to, especially in a show like this where you're getting voted on, it's super important.
Lindsey, is it part of your strategy to pick popular current hits? You've made smart picks and had success so far with Gotye and Katy Perry.
Lindsey: I don't know, I wasn't really thinking that hard about it. Recently I have been thinking about it because it is important for the audience to be able to relate to the songs instantly and not spend time figuring it out. It's all about being in the loop.
Do you all check the iTunes charts to see how you're selling?
Pip: We check other people's! I won't check mine but I'll check all of theirs.
Mathai: I try to stay out of it. I'm just gonna sing and enjoy in my head.
If you could each work with one coach who wasn't your own, who would you pick?
Cheesa: I'd go with Blake. He genuinely cares about his artists. He takes them out. You saw in the [team performance last week] he doesn't want the spotlight on him, he wants everybody else to shine.
Pip: In his group performance you could definitely see that. He let [his team] sing instead of singing it all [himself]. Honestly, I'm super happy with my coach. Sometimes at the beginning I'd think 'Did I make the right choice?' but going through these live shows and seeing how much Adam's helped me grow 120% I know I made the right choice.
Lindsey: I would say Blake. I was gonna choose Blake but then me and Christina had a music moment. It's not the obvious connection but there is one there, we have a lot in common.
Mathai: Cee-Lo. I love Adam, I wouldn't trade him for the world, but if I did it would be Cee-Lo just because he's so involved and he really makes it a point to make sure every part of his team's performance is done and ready and prepared.
Find out who survives and who gets the instant elimination boot tonight on "The Voice," 8 p.m. ET on NBC