Each contestant performs twice for the right to make it to the Final Four.
Cassadee Pope of NBC's "The Voice".
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We’re down to the final six contestants on “The Voice”, and we’re at the point at which overall fan bases might start determining who stays and who goes from this point on. Those still in the competition have had ample time by now to establish a body of work by which to be judged, and there’s little stylistic overlap between the remaining competitors at this point. Unless a certain singer really goes out of his or her way to show something new tonight, we can make some strong assumptions about who will be in the Final Four.
But I’ll share those assumptions at the end of tonight’s final two-hour installment of the season. (The next two Mondays will be one-hour affairs.) With only six left, look for those still standing to make multiple appearances onstage tonight. I’d imagine we’ll see a combination of solo and group numbers to ensure we don’t witness 120 minutes of Christina Milian reading tweets.
Onto the running diary!
8:00 p.m. Nicholas David Hair Alert! And it’s…huh. Pretty normal tonight. I felt like he would have gone all Björk by this point in the competition. I feel let down.
8:01 p.m. Carson Daly lets us know that each artist will perform solo twice: one song chosen by them, and another chosen by their respective coaches.
8:02 p.m. “I don’t know what makes anyone on this show successful,” says Adam Levine, A&R Man Extraordinaire.
8:03 p.m. CeeLo Green was sick all week, so Train’s Patrick Monahan stood in for him over the past week. Look forward to multiple performances of “Hey, Soul Sister” tonight. And look forward to me punching myself in the eye multiple times tonight.
8:04 p.m. Most surprising for Christina Aguilera at this point? Cassadee Pope. I’d second that, as Pope has skyrocketed over the past few week’s into the potential driver’s seat at the best time possible.
8:05 p.m. Blake Shelton says that being a friend is the most important aspect at this point for each coach. Because God forbid they are judges that have a critical eye towards giving their protégés an edge to achieve their dreams.
8:06 p.m. First up, from Team CeeLo, it’s Nicholas David. Green has selected Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” for Mr. David. Monahan pushes David past his comfort zone into vocal ranges that he previously hasn’t explored. Hmmm. It’s a risky coaching decision. Green’s absence may be a wildcard that helps or hurts his remaining team members. Only one way to find out.
8:07 p.m. Oh boy. Nearly half of the vocal load is being carried by the backup singers. At a time when putting a focus on David himself is paramount, this seems like a really poor choice by Green. David works best in more intimate settings when the focus can be on him and him alone. Even when working with a chorus in “Lean On Me”, all eyes were on him at the piano. Here? I could barely pick him out on the busy stage. I mean, he didn’t even attempt to sing the chorus. That’s a fairly big problem, no?
8:09 p.m. Levine says that he missed David during the choruses. (Well, he didn’t sing them. So that criticism makes sense.) Shelton calls David an important part of the show overall this season, once again regretting his decision to not press his button during the blind auditions. Aguilera wants David to be more adventurous in his future performances. Green also seems perplexed that David decided to shy away from the choruses. Sigh. Had Green not been sick, this would have been dealt with in rehearsals. On the other hand…did Green NOT see the rehearsals, even on tape? That seems ridiculous.
8:15 p.m. Moving right along we visit Team Blake, where Shelton has chosen Rascall Flatt’s “Stand” for Cassadee Pope. I was surprised to see her go back into the pop-rock realm last week, given that “Over” was not only her best performance but perhaps one of the best performances delivered by anyone this season. Let’s see if lightning can strike twice in the country realm.
8:16 p.m. “Stand” doesn’t have the emotional punch of “Over”, but does have an anthemic quality that straddles the line between country and rock. When Pope gets off the stage and into the crowd, she has an effortless star quality to go with her typically strong vocals. I could see her having a career that’s somewhere in between Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and might outsell them both. She’s that strong.
8:18 p.m. Newly-confessed Cassadee fan Aguilera praises Pope’s ability to connect with her audience. Aguilera’s praise is so effusive you could easily mistake Pope for a member of Team Xtina. Levine thinks that Pope has perfected the art of the pope song, but wants to see something more “bizarre” in the future. Shelton disagrees, stating that he’s hard to improve upon perfection.
8:26 p.m. Let’s visit Team Adam, where Amanda Brown has selected Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. So, you know, totally easy song. Cough. Interesting to see her choose thing, given that she’s sold herself as an alternative rock artist over the past month. I guess she felt the need to expand her repertoire and remind people about her Battle Round performance with Trevin Hunte. It’s not a bad strategy, especially if she nails this onstage.
8:28 p.m. Often times, Brown has come onstage to kick butt and chew bubblegum. This is a more open, more inviting Brown who welcomes the audience onstage with her rather than push them away from it. I’d rather she did it without her backing vocal group of two dozen, but them’s the breaks at this stage of “The Voice”. Brown didn’t hit a season-high with this performance, but definitely presented a side of herself that hasn’t been seen by the voting public in a few weeks. Given how locked down most voting blocs are at this point, trying to steal some members of other audience demographics is probably a good idea.
8:29 p.m. Shelton says that he can’t find anything to criticize in that performance, calling her a “world-class performance”. Green bypasses all musical criticism and just makes sexual innuendos. (Yikes. Not a good week for Green so far.) Levine calls this her best performance since “Dream On”, clearly happy to see her reach those heights again.
8:35 p.m. Reaching into my brain and picking out what I always wanted to hear on this show but never knew I did, Team Blake’s classic rocker Terry McDermott has selected Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”. McDermott dedicates his bare-bones performance to his deceased mother. “There is nowhere to hide on this song,” says McDermott, a fact that’s tripled due to this spare arrangement.
8:38 p.m. Terry McDermott is having a moment, y’all. Each artist remaining has had at least one, and often more, to this point. But I’m not sure if McDermott has had a moment quite like this so far. He’s consistently hit doubles and occasionally even hit triples throughout the Fall, but here’s his first home run of the season. Timing-wise, he picked a heck of a time to call his shot. The best performances this season have taken familiar songs and made them feel fresh, and this easily falls under that category.
8:40 p.m. Aguilera is all about Team Blake at this point, stating that she feels Shelton has the strongest team left. After praise from both Green and Levine, Shelton says, “We did the right thing,” in terms of their arrangement. Shelton also stresses to America that while Terry makes it LOOK easy, what he just did was damn difficult. I know it was difficult, only because I could hear myself singing along and noticing that 1) I didn’t sound like him, and 2) a dozen stray cats were suddenly in my home office staring at me.
8:45 p.m. Alright, let’s see what Team CeeLo’s other remaining member, Trevin Hunte, has cooked up first tonight. Green chose Katrina And The Waves’ “Walking On Sunshine” in the name of pulling Hunte out of his comfort zone. Hunte says that he had an “instant connection” with Monahan, who helped him through the rehearsal.
8:47 p.m. Whereas Usher’s “Scream” wasn’t a strong up-tempo fit for Hunte, this is an unexpectedly strong marriage of song and artist. The arrangement doesn’t cry “early 80’s” so much as “classic Motown”. Now, maybe that aspect of the song has always been there, but it took Hunte to make that obvious to me. Monahan’s suggestion to play within the song’s open musical spaces pays off, allowing Hunte to make some vocal runs that help showcase his immense talent. That wasn’t the best performance thus far, but it was the most unexpectedly delightful. Green couldn’t be more delighted upon its completion.
8:49 p.m. Levine admitted that he didn’t understand the choice on paper, but loved its execution. Green says that seeing Hunte happy onstage has made him feel better than any medicine could. (He also admits that he never saw the staging until just now. Man, how sick WAS Green?)
8:55 p.m. Our last first-time performer comes from Team Adam, where Melanie Martinez is tackling Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. Martinez recognizes the risks, but feels like she could be the first 17-year old to make it into the Final Four. Normally I’d say staying in her comfort zone would be bad, but that zone lands her in the top ten of iTunes each week. Why change now?
8:57 p.m. She’s playing a tiny piano. She’s surrounding by instrument-wielding mannequins. It’s all so very Melanie! But what really helps makes this more than simply another performance from her comes in the power from her vocals near the end, during which she pushes past the wispiness into a place of actual power. One feels like she’s honing her persona and artistry with each week, and it’s exciting to witness.
8:59 p.m. Aguilera enjoyed the “lullaby” effect on display during the number. Green says she and Martinez are cut from the same cloth, and appreciated the performance. While noting that she had some pitch issues, Levine also praises her overall artistry as transcending any particular vocal flubs during the number.
9:02 p.m. We’re coming around the bend and heading back home. Returning first to the stage is Terry McDermott, this time performing Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me”. Shelton thinks Terry could release a classic-rock album today and sell just as well as anything on the pop charts. I’d LOVE to believe that, but…I’m just not sure. But what do I know?
9:04 p.m. McDermott starts the number in the cheap seats, which might be a first this season for any contestant. Afterwards, he gets directly into the pit in order to croon some more. The visual imagery is obvious: “I’m a rocker of the people.” Of all the remaining artists, McDermott seems the most comfortable fronting the house band. That’s neither here nor there in terms of his vocals, but even I know “The Voice” doesn’t just come down to a contestant’s voice. Optics matter, and the optics were in his favor on this number.
9:05 p.m. Levine calls McDermott the most “consistent” performer left. (I guess he read my earlier statement about his doubles and triples! Or, not.) Shelton admitted that he felt nervous when he heard where Terry started the song, worried McDermott wouldn’t have anywhere to go vocally. But such fears went unfounded.
9:07 p.m. I do NOT look forward to predicting who will go home tomorrow. Maybe I’ll just punt that decision. We’ll see. But I will say Nicholas David needs a monster second performance.
9:10 p.m. Back in the house? Trevin Hunte! He’s singing “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", which he attributes to Jennifer Hudson. Oh my. Holy risk-taking, Batman. “I hope Jennifer Hudson never hears this. Because she’ll quit!” says Monahan.
9:12 p.m. There are times when it feels silly to even consider anyone as a potential winner of “The Voice” whose name isn’t “Trevin Hunte”. Just listening to this 18-year old destroy one of the more difficult ballads in modern music renders almost every other performance moot. I have goosebumps on my goosebumps. I think he just won this competition with this performance. (He may have won it back in the Battle Rounds, but he probably just confirmed that win right now.) If this is truly a vocal competition, well, there IS no competition. But in terms of putting that voice together with a body of work that feels commercially viable, Hunte put together a formidable one-two punch tonight that might convince those that take him for granted to actually vote for him this week.
9:14 p.m. Levine calls it one of the best performances in the history of the show. Shelton calls it a “two-minute moment,” the first time he never saw Hunte holding back this season. Aguilera felt the pain, devotion, and motivation in Hunte’s vocal, stating that she will take him on the road if he doesn’t get a record deal. Green asks for a moment of silence to mourn the loss of the other competition on the show. (He’s doing it sarcastically, but also…not.) “Thank you for blessing me today.”
9:21 p.m. Good luck following this, Amanda Brown. She’s chosen Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” to rekindle that “Dream On” vibe. It’s a safe choice, in some ways, but only because we know she’s a rocker at heart. It’s still a vocally demanding number. But man…I’m still reeling from Hunte’s performance. I wonder how many others are as well.
9:23 p.m. Little Red Riding Brown stands way, way upstage to perform the song, with a dozen back-up dancers between her in the audience. At a moment in which she needs more than ever to connect with the audience, it’s an unfortunate staging. Vocally speaking? She’s very solid. Come on: it’s Amanda Brown! We know as long as she avoids Florence + The Machine, she’s gold. I’m just worried that, like David earlier, the staging swallowed up the singer.
9:25 p.m. “I’m enjoying everybody!” says a non-committal Green after Brown’s number. Levine praises Brown’s combination tonight, going from Aretha Franklin to Whitesnake within the course of a single episode. He’s correct: those that show the most balance tonight probably have the best chance to move on. That doesn’t necessarily apply across the board (McDermott and Martinez have very solid boundaries), but it will be interesting to see what Pope and David do in their second performances.
9:31 p.m. Alright, Melanie Martinez, what does Levine have in store for you? A more light-hearted number in the form of Lenka’s “The Show”. “It’s OK to be seventeen once in a while!” says Levine, noting that many of her recent performances have been somber in tone.
9:32 p.m. The staging is whimsical in that Dmitri Martin sort of way. I understand why Levine chose this, but Lord in heaven Martinez looks incredibly uncomfortable in the middle of the most expensive sixth-grade play ever staged. Her nerves seem to get the better of her at times, especially when she fights cardboard props in order to be seen by the audience. I’m guessing this won’t ultimately hurt her, as she has an incredible reservoir of fan support at this point. But that was a bad time to have her worst performance in quite some time.
9:34 p.m. Shelton didn’t feel the connection between Martinez and the song. (He’s 100% correct.) Aguilera will seemingly never be happy with a Martinez performance, suggesting she do more throw-back numbers in future weeks. Levine loves the marriage of lyric to performer, saying that he’s delighted that she’s still in the competition. He manages to avoid any dissection of her actual performance while doing so. Hmmm.
9:42 p.m. Alright, we’re nearing the end here, so let’s get back to Cassadee Pope. She’s chosen Avril Lavinge’s “I’m With You”. Has she not sung this before? I feel like she has. But maybe that’s because this feels like a song she’s already done a half-dozen times already. I have no doubt it will be great. But it won’t be unexpected.
9:44 p.m. The best Pope performances allow her to put a personal stamp on a particular track. Here, she is simply executing (albeit at an extremely high level) what Lavinge already did. This isn’t to dismiss Pope’s vocal prowess. But I do wonder how much fans will vote for “artistry” over “execution” over the next three weeks. I wouldn’t harp on this, except we’ve seen her artistry on display on occasion this season. If she didn’t have any, she wouldn’t be here at this point. But she may need to rethink things over the final two weeks, assuming she’s there. (And I do.)
9:46 p.m. Levine thought the song lent itself to both the performer and “The Voice” as a whole. Shelton does the hard sell on Cassadee, stating that she has the ability to both tell a story as well as sing majestically. He calls her a “phenomenon”. Until this week, I would agree. But I wonder if the sameness of what’s she’s done will either ride her to the finals or be her undoing when all is said and done.
9:51 p.m. And we’re bookending tonight’s show with Nicholas David! Let’s hope he closes better than he started. David has chosen “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Now THIS is more like it! The challenge here: making it his own, while not burying the original, beloved melody.
9:53 p.m. I’m not sure any remaining contestant has been harmed as much by his/her coach as David. “September” and “The Power Of Love” darn near crippled David’s chances in the competition, but then holy hell Nicholas busts out this creative, spiritually uplifting cover of this classic tune and I wonder how anyone could NOT vote for the guy. But if nothing else, David got to sing his mother’s favorite song as his potentially final song on the show. That’s a mighty fine way to go.
9:56 p.m. Levine says that he’s always curious about what David will do each week, which defines him as a fan of Nicholas’ music. Shelton calls it “magic” and “beautiful”, saying only David could have done what he just did. Green dubs himself a “true supporter” of David, even while admitting this was the first time he heard David sing it. (OK, now I feel like we need to launch a medical investigation here. What happened to Green? Someone get “The Mob Doctor” on this. What? Wrong network? Oh. Nevermind.)
9:58 p.m. Ugh. I hate making predictions. But lest I sound like one of the coaches on this show, overpraising all involved, I’ll go out on a limb and predict Amanda Brown and Terry McDermott will be going home. Pope and Martinez have too much clout on iTunes, Hunte has too much power to ignore, and I’ll wager David’s final performance saved him another week. Brown wasn’t bad but didn’t have a stand-out week, and I’m still wary of America’s tolerance for Rod Stewart and Foreigner. But in the end, this is once again Hunte’s show to lose. Whoever moves on has to go through him at this stage. But since I’ve enjoyed Brown and McDermott since the blinds, it gives me no pleasure to make this particular prediction.
What did you think of tonight’s performances? Who had the best one-two punch? Who do you think will be going home? Did Green’s absence during rehearsals help or hurt his team members? Sound off below!
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