The coaches are down to four contestants apiece, and favorites have started to emerge.
Odds are good that coaches' darling Jesse and darkhorse Lindsey will advance on Team Christina (though I'm still partial to teen rocker Ashley). While Team Blake offers more suspense, though I would guess RaeLynn and either Erin or Jordis are the most likely to move forward this week.
But tonight Christina and Blake each get their own chance to alter the competition: They both have to eliminate one contestant before voting even opens.
Oh, I love it when they force the coaches to be mean! And I'm sincerely glad these decisions aren't left entirely up to America...
Carson wants to know what the judges think of this twist. Christina is "really upset" about the Instant Elimination because everyone on her team is a winner! It's gonna be "super tough" for her to decide.
Blake didn't see the twist coming. "It's caught us all off guard a little bit, I felt like we were past that part of the show. It sucks. If I knew who to kick for this, I would kick 'em." (My guess is the producers, Blake. But if you want to sneak backstage and give Pip a swift kick, I'll support that.)
First to take the stage: Team Blake's RaeLynn doing Jason Aldean's "She's Country." Blake is excited that Texas girl RaeLynn represents a real country lifestyle. She calls herself "country to the bone." And if you're curious, she doesn't have a boyfriend. She's a self-proclaimed "heartbreaker."
Well, RaeLynn sure is sassy, stomping around on stage again and warbling in her quirky little voice. I like it, and I think Blake is determined to sell her to country fans. She could be his finalist.
What did the coaches think? Christina is "a fan." "That inspired me to want to sing country. And I don't know if I'm allowed to say it because you're a minor, but you're a badass." Cee-Lo agrees and calls it RaeLynn's best to date. "It sounded like AC/DC did a country song. It was rockin'." Adam says Blake "finally did something right, the song was perfect."
What did her coach think? Blake says "This is the most proud moment I've had this season for anybody on my team. ... You just proved to America that country can kick ass."
First up for Team Christina: Jesse Campbell. He's got more stories to share about when he was raising his daughter as a homeless single dad. Also, he'll be singing Beyonce's "Halo" for her.
He's definitely trying to be more contemporary this week. He's got suspenders and a hat! But during the performance there are pictures of his daughter projected all over the stage. Look, it's sweet and I'm sure he has overcome some major struggles in his life. He also has a nice voice. But the show constantly shoving his personal story down our throats isn't doing him any favors.
What did the coaches think? Gee, think they'll say anything bad? Cee-Lo thought it was "wonderful" and "beautifully staged." Adam, as usual, reminds us he wanted Jesse on his team. He wasn't feeling the song choice at first but then it kicked in and declares, "You're a huge, huge favorite for this thing." Blake also thought it was laidback to start but "nobody's gonna sit here and say that was anything short of a great performance."
What did his coach think? "On an emotional level you really brought it today and I thought that was beautiful that you dedicated it to your daughter," Christina says. She continues to praise his dedication to his daughter without saying a single thing about his vocal ability, stage presence, star quality or anything else relating to actual talent.
Jordis Unga is next for Team Blake. She was "terrified" to be in the bottom three the other week, but now she feels "really confident." She'll tackle Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger." Blake wants Jordis to connect with the singer-songwriter aspect of the song. The pre-performance package is very emotional, including multiple tears from Jordis -- it's basically the show's way of saying "if this doesn't endear her to America, nothing will."
This performance is a very different, softer side of Jordis. She can barely walk in her beauty pageant evening gown, but she reminds us that an important quality for any rock star is the ability to deliver a power ballad.
What did the coaches think? Christina thinks Jordis "looks lovely tonight. I like it when you show your vulnerable side." Cee-Lo agrees it was very touching and he applauds Blake's choice of song. Adam believes Jordis went the extra mile in feeling the song, "that's what people want to see, that connection, you did an amazing job"
What did her coach think? Blake, as usual, is very proud. He wants people to know there's another side to Jordis: "Jordis is a writer. This is where it started for her. It was so good, you did perfect."
After Christina explains the importance of charity (and Starbucks!) to her team, they all hit the stage with the Crenshaw High School Choir. Christina's changed into her best hoochie outfit -- a push-up bodice and booty shorts -- and sends a couple of her trademark "male strippers" out to dance for Blake. In case you don't watch "Glee," Darren Criss performed "Fighter" on the show last week, which may be why Christina is trying to reclaim it here with her team as back-up singers. Jesse and Ashley get the first crack at solo moments, and they're both pretty convincing, especially Ashley. Lindsey and Chris follow, a little shakier and less comfortable in the song. (Chris also wears a leather jacket, so that doesn't help.)
Back to the performances: Ashley de le Rosa is next up for Team Christina. She didn't like being in the bottom three but Christina praises her confidence. They plan for Ashley to reinvent Jewel's "Foolish Games" as a harder rock song.
It's obvious Christina wanted Ashley to have a moment on this song, and she almost gets there. It's a big dramatic staging with Ashley starting on the floor and rising up as the song gets harder and louder. She milks the emotion a little too heavily and her tears at the end don't play entirely authentic, but I still like her.
What did the coaches think? Cee-Lo enjoyed it. "You started off kind of low and then when you got up on your feet and started to rise, to act out the character of the song, it was great." Adam thinks Cee-Lo is underselling what just happened. Again he says how surprised he is by Ashley's growth and thinks she's an "amazing choice" for Christina. Blake thinks "the smartest decision that's been made on 'The Voice' so far this year is Christina saving you."
What did her coach think? Christina thinks Ashley "truly made that song your own." She's "so excited about your potential and seeing where you go."
So it's pretty clear already that unless Lindsey tanks, Christina will cut Chris loose, right? But then what does America do...?
Next we're treated to Maroon 5's latest single "Payphone" featuring Wiz Khalifa. If this song becomes the next "Moves Like Jagger," we'll know the true power of "The Voice." The show may not have done that much for its contestants so far, but it really has given all four coaches a big boost.
Erin Willett is on deck for Team Blake. We're reminded that she lost her father during the battle rounds, and she talks about her unconventional looks. Does she fit into the music industry? Her song choice this week: Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain." (Seriously?)
I was so baffled by the stupidity of choosing yet another Adele song at this stage in the competition that I'm not sure I actually heard anything Erin did on stage. I know there was some fire falling on stage behind her. Whatever.
What did the coaches think? Christina says Erin sung her heart out. Adele has big shoes to fill but Erin made it special. Christina also loved the falling fire. Cee-Lo thinks Adele would be proud. Adam got very nervous, "very Jewish" (oh Adam) about the falling fire. He thought Erin was great but she needs to focus on phrasing because Adele has amazing phrasing.
What did her coach think? Blake was excited about Erin singing Adele and thinks she's the only one in the competition who can do it. He predicts America will agree that it was amazing.
Lindsey Pavao is next for Team Christina, and Christina informs us Lindsey is the #1 selling "Voice" artist on iTunes so far this season. Could that be because she picked exactly the right song with "Somebody That I Used To Know"? And could the sign of a relevant pop artist be savvy choice in material and not a tear-jerking backstory? Lindsey's first choice: a mash-up of Rihanna's "S&M" and "We Found Love." But that wasn't working out, so she switches to Katy Perry's "Part of Me."
Lindsey is still really savvy about song choice, but this weaksauce selection suggests she's more interested in latching on to something popular than something entirely appropriate for her. This isn't even one of Katy Perry's better songs -- which is already saying something -- but Lindsey's attempts to revamp it as something edgier don't work because the song has no edge to sharpen.
What did the coaches think? Cee-Lo enjoyed it, especially the staging. He says he's never heard the song before (or maybe he just didn't recognize it). If Adam has to be critical the pitch got away from her a bit ("I hate being the dude who says pitchy because that's really stupid"). Blake heard the pitch issues too but he's "already a fan." He downloads her songs!
What did her coach think? Christina adores Lindsey. She also wasn't familiar with the song (not keeping on top of the competition, Christina?) but she really loves Lindsey. (In other words: see ya later, Chris.)
We've only got two more to go, but first there's a group interlude as Team Blake takes the stage to sing "Heartache Tonight" (without a high school choir or a Starbucks commercial intro). I assume the song choice is Blake's cruel little joke about the night's Instant Elimination. But he's very generous with his contestants and spreads the spotlight equally among them. They're all showcased better than anyone from Team Christina's performance.
Jermaine Paul is last up for Team Blake, and we're reminded -- again -- that he was a back-up singer for Alicia Keys. Apparently she's "always been a huge supporter." So that's nice. Jermaine will tackle Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" and Blake predicts "the moment of the night."
Just like last week, Jermaine seems out of his depth and out of touch. He's got a solid voice, but winning a competition demands more than that. Still, like half the people left on "The Voice," he cries when he mentions his family. So if that's what you look for in a singer, you've got a lot of choices.
What did the coaches think? Christina thinks Jermaine is a "phenomenal singer" and he's her favorite on Team Blake. She believes he always shows great connection with the material. Cee-Lo admits Phil Collins is one of his favorites and Jermaine put a lot of soul into it, which is good because "Phil Collins has a lot of soul for a white guy." Adam says Jermaine made the song his own and he believes Jermaine has an amazingly rich tone.
What did his coach think? Blake believes this performance was a turning point for Jermaine. "Tonight America is gonna go, oh my gosh, Jermaine is a superstar."
And the final performance of the night comes from Team Christina's opera man, Chris Mann. He'll try out Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." Chris compares it to feeling like he's stripping on stage, "a little bit naked but I'm pretty excited about it."
The performance is as awkward as you'd expect from an opera singer attempting Coldplay. It's forced and overblown start to finish. I'd love to know who's actually going to pay for this on iTunes.
What did the coaches think? Adam starts by complimenting Chris' look. But he didn't feel moved in the way he expected from an opera singer. And that's all they have time for. Sorry, Cee-Lo and Blake.
What did his coach think? Christina praises Chris for stepping out of his comfort zone. She loves that he was willing to challenge the norm. She's very complimentary but I'm pretty sure she'll be sending him home in just a few minutes...
Or maybe right after the break. Because it's already time for Christina to decide. "I truly believe in all of you..." she reads from a written statement. She's babbling and she's nervous and explaining that not everyone on her team was as open to her suggestions as others... (Hmm...) But she finally gets down to it: "Maybe I'll make some enemies ... I have to go with my gut and I have to let go of Jesse."
Is this Christina's strategy to keep both Lindsey and Ashley around for her top two? Is it even possible that Chris gets enough votes to stay around? Is that why she made him sing Coldplay? I don't know, but I'm starting to think Christina is an evil genius. Well played.
Christina didn't leave Blake much time to explain his decision. He didn't think any of his singers stumbled tonight, so he's just going to go back to what America decided and cut Jordis.
It happens so fast it doesn't even register at first. But then Jordis is very, very sad. And she swears on live TV before the rest of Team Blake surrounds her in a group hug. I'm a little sad, but I'm not swearing. I'm still kind of excited/thrilled/dazzled that Christina cut Jesse.
It'll be interesting to see the reaction to a coach giving the boot to someone the show had been pimping as an early favorite. I think if Christina wanted to get rid of her weakest link, it obviously would've been Chris. But it does feel like there was more at play here and I like that. There's no fake "American Idol" democracy at "The Voice." The coaches have a say in the outcome, as they should.
What did you think of the Instant Eliminations? Is Christina an evil genius, or just evil? And do you think everyone will stop with the Adele already if we ask them very, very nicely?
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