Eight contestants and eight episodes. That’s all that’s left of this cycle of “The Voice”. Without knowing the exact numbers of how the viewing public has voted, it’s impossible to say who is in the driver’s seat at this point. Going off downloads alone, Cassadee Pope and Melanie Martinez seem primed to go deep into the competition. But who knows if people responded to the artists or the simply the songs they performed last week. Guess we’ll have a clearer sense of things after tomorrow night and two more contestants go home.

As always, I’ll be keeping a running diary of the events. I’ll keep things focused on the actual competition and less on any 50 Cent action that might be on display tonight. After all, nothing says “The Voice” like the man who gave us “In Da Club”, right? I understand artists want to use the show’s platform, and I further understand that the show is in a mutually beneficially relationship with those artists. But couldn’t those artists, I don’t know…sing? It seems like a lot to ask, I know. In any case, let’s get this show on the road!
 
8:00 p.m. “THIS IS DA CLUB! BOTTLE FULL OF BUB!” cries the new theme song. OK, not really.
 
8:01 p.m. Team CeeLo still has all three of its contestants left, which is pretty impressive. Team Xtina only has one. Team Blake and Team Adam each have two left.
 
8:03 p.m. I figured they might wait on this, but right away “The Voice” brings out 50 Cent to perform “My Life” with Adam Levine. There’s a harder rock vibe to this track that I’m used to from Mr. Curtis Jackson, and this Run-DMC vibe works in his favor. Not sure what Levine adds to this mix, other than proving that it’s harder to add a solid hook to a rap song than Justin Timberlake would have us believe. Afterwards, 50 Cent all but runs offstage, not even thanking Levine. Awkward much?
 
8:10 p.m. Christina Aguilera apparently showed up directly after rehearsals from “Grease”, judging by her outfit.
 
8:11 p.m. Terry McDermott is doing a Blake Shelton song tonight? Danger, Will Robinson!
 
8:12 p.m. Starting things off from Team Adam, it’s Amanda Brown. Uh oh. She has the first slot. That’s not a good sign!
 
8:13 p.m. Levine wants a song to reflect her newfound independence. To that end, he’s chosen Adele’s “Someone Like You”. Rather than perform the traditional arrangement, Levine suggests something in the vein of her season-best performance of “Dream On”.
 
8:14 p.m. The arrangement fits her rocker instincts, which are only rivaled in this competition by McDermott at this point. I have no idea if the First Slot Curse will continue this week, but I’d be stunned if it did. This is powerful from the first moment and should last in audience’s minds through the rest of the night. How powerful? Levine sits slackjawed throughout the entire performance. Yes, all the coaches are invested at this point. But it’s easy to see when the love is genuine, and this is one of those moments.
 
8:16 p.m. Shelton says she made “Someone Like You” an “Amanda Brown song”. Aguilera is less enthused, even while praising her performance. Green appreciates that Brown is still taking risks at this stage of the competition. Levine says that everyone is extra hard on her because the coaches expect so much from her, but believes she “knocked it out of the park” tonight.
 
8:23 p.m. Let’s move onto Team CeeLo, where Cody Belew will be performing Queen’s “Somebody To Love”. My question: why did it take this long to pair that singer with that song? Seems like the perfect song for him to perform, if not exactly sing. (C’mon: that’s an all-time difficult vocal. No offense intended to Belew, who I enjoy tremendously.)
 
8:25 p.m. Whereas last week the backing chorus served Nicholas David well, here they overwhelm Belew both visually and vocally. This is the second week in a row in which spectacle has obscured his talent rather than displayed it. Only when everything drops out and he’s allowed to hit the hardest notes can we see the man behind the staged façade. And given how beautifully he hits those notes, that makes the rest of the number that much more frustrating. Then again, I know better than to hold that against him come voting time, given that his Beyonce performance last week yielded positive responses from fans of the show.
 
8:27 p.m. Levine emphasizes Belew’s theatricality, pleading the Fifth when it comes to the vocal itself. Shelton praises the Green/Belew combination that has allowed Cody to flourish this season. (He’s right: it’s probably the best pure pairing this cycle.) Green notes that while it looks easy, he understands how much work that Belew has put forth this season. “I love our partnership. We are making quantum leaps.” I think Green just pitched a remake of the classic Scott Bakula series starring himself and Belew. It’s already my favorite show of 2013.
 
8:35 p.m. According to tweets being displayed in the Social Media Thunderdome Of Pain, we see that Dez Duron will be performing a Justin Bieber number tonight. Desperate times call for desperate measures on Team Xtina, I guess. 
 
8:36 p.m. Duron, Martinez, Pope, and McDermott take the stage to perform The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along”. Backing them are a Blue Man Group-esque percussion system. Because why not? Only Pope seems really comfortable during the group performance. To be fair, nearly every group performance this season has seem awkward and strange. I do wonder if McDermott going out of his comfort zone later in the show will betray the same stiffness on display right now. OK, I’m overthinking this. I’ll take the song’s advice and move along.
 
8:38 p.m. I assume we’ll see the other four perform in a group number later in the show. Seems only fair.
 
8:44 p.m. Alright, let’s see if Team Blake will provide another emotional performance, this time courtesy of Terry McDermott. He’ll be performing “Over”, a performance that Shelton hopes will eclipse his own. Both Shelton and McDermott feel diversification is the name of the game here. A lot of contestants are taking big risks this week, which is exciting from a viewing perspective but has to be unbearably tense for these performers.
 
8:48 p.m. Oh crap, he’s on fire! Oh wait, it’s all good. It was just an overenthusiastic smoke machine. Whew. While the song isn’t exactly as country as I expected, it’s the type of anthemic ballad that he really hasn’t done on the show to date. In past weeks, it never seemed like he was straining to hit the high notes. This week? I could see the sweat on his brow. More often than not, he made those notes. But it was a slighter weaker performance at an inopportune time.
 
8:51 p.m. Green compares McDermott to Dio, a reference I’m sure just flew over the head of 98% of the audience watching at home. Levine praises McDermott’s precision in the high range. Shelton says, “You just performed the song the way I’ve always wanted to perform,” saying that McDermott proved himself as “the real deal” with that performance. I love McDermott, but not sure this particular risk will pay off coming voting time.
 
8:55 p.m. It’s Team Adam time once again, with Melanie Martinez up to musical bat. She’s singing “One” by Metallica. Kidding! She’s singing Alex Clare’s “Too Close”. Martinez is using a recent break-up to fuel her performance this week. “You kind of Melanie-ize everything you do,” says Levine, who calls himself her big brother. Awwww.
 
8:57 p.m. A few weeks ago, I thought Martinez wasn’t long for this show. And every week since, she has kept defying expectations. Now? I wouldn’t be surprised to see her go all the way into the final episodes. She’s clearly struck a nerve, slaking the thirst of a certain portion of the audience anxious for this type of music. Her rendition of this song really ties into the current mix of bands like The Lumineers and Of Monsters And Men, which possibly explains the surprisingly mainstream appeal of her approach. It’s only surprising in that I worried that her type of individuality might not translate into a popularity contest such as this. So far, that has not been the case. Color me sold on the Melanie-zation of all she does.
 
9:00 p.m. “I hope your ex-boyfriend was watching that.” Stay classy, Carson.
 
9:01 p.m. Aguilera, being helpful, praises the set before praising Martinez. Levine pulls a Daly, saying this performance will make her ex-boyfriend feel dumb if watching from home. Levine notes that there’s great “currency” in her originality, which is the first comment from this round that was either cogent or relevant. Methinks the coaches need a break.
 
9:07 p.m. Nicholas David IS Pippi Longstocking.
 
9:09 p.m. The last member of Team Xtina, Dez Duron, is ready to defend his team’s honor. As hinted at earlier, he’ll be singing Justin Bieber’s “U Smile”. Deep breath.
 
9:11 p.m. Even though Aguilera stressed this would show a different side of Duron, this still feels like the same side of the same coin from last week. That’s not a bad thing, as his Big Band/Boy Band combination is one that works for him. But while “Feeling Good” allowed him to inject some emotion into the tune, there’s not enough meat on this musical bone to differentiate himself from the tune itself. And in a week in which many contestants have been putting their own stamps on popular songs, that might work against him.
 
9:13 p.m. Green admits that wasn’t his best performance. Levine ignores the performance in favor of praising his courage to follow his passion for music. Shelton identified the same musical groove from last week that I did. Aguilera serves as cheerleader for her last remaining contestant, even if she struggles to remember MacKenzie Bourg’s name when trying to link Duron with another artist skilled at making songs his own. (Poor MacKenzie.) I think we just saw Duron’s last solo performance, however.
 
9:21 p.m. Let’s get to Team CeeLo, where Trevin Hunte will be performing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All”. Looks like the one-week dance music experiment is over, y’all. Hunte has a lot of newfound confidence, which will either help him tremendously or be his Achilles’ heel tonight.
 
9:23 p.m. He hasn’t even started singing and he’s already sweating. Impressive! Even more impressive is his control in the early parts of the song. It would be easy to manipulate the early bars in order to showcase his big voice, but he’s patient and lets the song unfold naturally at its own dramatic pace. Whereas Belew felt dominated by the chorus, Hunte keeps them in the background where they should be. He’s done better this season, but even 85% Hunte is better than just about anyone else in this competition.
 
9:25 p.m. Levine hopes he just got a preview of what he’ll see when he reaches the pearly gates. Shelton says that Hunte is the guy everyone else has to figure out how to beat. “I’m certain that Miss Whitney would be proud,” says Green, calling himself “indebted” to Hunte for their time together thus far and praising him humility to this point.
 
9:33 p.m. The good news: McDermott just got surprised onstage by his wife and son. The bad news: he also found out his son has been selected to participate in the next iteration of The Hunger Games should Daddy get voted out this week.
 
9:35 p.m. Team CeeLo and Amanda Brown team up to sing Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”. The show helpfully imported the set from “Rent” for this performance. Brown and Belew harmonize as well as anyone on the show this season, I’ll give them that. And seeing her and Hunte face to face for the first time since “Vision Of Love” brings back fond memories of that Battle Rounds highlight performance. It’s much more fun to think about that then to watch this, however.
 
9:41 p.m. In the penultimate performance slot tonight, we have Team CeeLo’s final performance, Nicholas David. He’s performing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which seems like a perfect choice for him. Halfway through rehearsals, who shows up but frickin’ Bill Withers himself. I might be smiling as much as David right now. Withers even chimes in with some constructive vocal criticism as well. It’s a lovely little moment with a true musical legend.
 
9:43 p.m. David is rockin’ a Sly Stone vibe standing behind a keyboard centerstage. Just as I constantly marvel at Martinez’s success on the show, so too do I applaud the viewers of the show for keeping David in the show this long. This is classic music performed classically, but that’s hardly a guarantee for success in shows like this. So let’s hope we get some more time with this man, his beard, and his braids.
 
9:45 p.m. Levine is mock-offended that David gets to sing every song on Adam’s bucket list each week on the show. After a lame joke about David’s sunglasses, Shelton thanks David for making “The Voice” the platform to introduce himself to America. Green links David’s performance to the essential message of music as a healing entity.
 
9:47 p.m. The format for this cycle of eliminating contestants regardless of team affiliation has worked out in the show’s favor, as it has allowed coaches to cultivate teams without worry of late-round cannibalization. The three remaining Team CeeLo members all deserve to be here, and hopefully this is a rule that will carry through into future cycles.
 
9:52 p.m. We’re ending the night on Team Blake, with newly-christened #1 iTunes artist Cassadee Pope ending the show. She’s performing Michelle Branch’s “Are You Happy Now?”, which is definitely a return to her wheelhouse. That’s too bad, since she seemed to find something special inside her performance last week. Pope calls Shelton her “crazy uncle” that she can lean on. While Shelton is slightly upset she’s not staying in the country vein, he does praise her ability to tell a story within each song.
 
9:54 p.m. Look, we know Pope can do this song in her sleep. That shouldn’t be a slam, but it appears that “The Voice” has a clear goal in mind with Pope going forth. Whereas other artists seem to following their own respective muses, it feels like Pope’s ambitions are being either augmented or influenced by the show itself. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but also feels like a slight step back from someone that revealed new sides to her last week. That seems to be the overall theme tonight: about half the contestants stuck their neck out, while the other half retreated to where it was safe.
 
9:56 p.m. “To answer your question, you could win this thing. So no, I’m not happy now,” says Green. Levine talks more about the smoke machine and how he hates The Roxy than Pope’s performance. Shelton says that while last week was about Pope laying her heart out, this week was about proving her vocal talent above all else.
 
9:57 p.m. Weird trend tonight: whenever a single coach got skipped over for comment, it was Aguilera. Odd.
 
9:58 p.m. OK, prediction time: I feel pretty safe about predicting Dez Duron’s departure. He had a subpar vocal at a bad time. I feel depressed about Terry McDermott’s potential departure. But I just don’t see that performance standing out against the others on display tonight. Those are the two I see departing tomorrow night. The only other one in danger is Cody Belew. I’d be downright shocked to see any of the other five leave.
 
Who had the best performance tonight? Who do you think will go home tomorrow? Sound off below!