Recap: 'The Voice' Wednesday - The Live Playoffs, Part 2
Thanks to the election and the desire to crush 'X Factor,' 'The Voice' hits Wednesday
Once more unto the Live Playoffs breach, fans of the “The Voice”. Monday’s two-hour show featured singers from Team Adam and Team Blake, so it’s time for the remaining ten contestants to perform an awkward group number then show their stuff on the solo front. Tomorrow, a live one-hour results show will narrow the field down from 20 to 12.
Let’s see what Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green, and Blake Shelton have to say about tonight’s participants. Also, let’s see what Green is wearing. It can’t be any weirder than what he wore on Monday.
Onto the recap!
8:00 p.m. Carson Daly is so busy these days, he didn’t have time to shave. Green looks like everyone in my college dorm. Aguilera looks like a peacock that wants everyone to perform exactly like she does.
8:01 p.m. Monday Montage! Been there, done that, moving on.
8:03 p.m. Aguilera says she had her team over the night before…for a private listening session of her new album. Because of course she did. Green wants fans at home to vote tonight based on their passions, stressing that he hopes for a diverse group to push through into the next phase of the game.
8:06 p.m. After Levine and Shelton praise their respective teams, it’s time for Team Xtina and Team CeeLo to take the stage as a group to perform My Chemical Romance’s “Sing”. After Daly stressed that tonight would feature stripped-down performances to accentuate the contestants’ pipes, we’re greeted with a big stage production featuring an elevator coming out of the floor of the stage. Still, the harmonies these ten produce when singing together is pretty impressive, even if the song choice really doesn’t do anyone any favors when they sing individually.
8:13 p.m. Our first performer time tonight comes from Team Xtina in the form of Adriana Louise. Tonight, she’ll be singing Katy Perry’s “Firework”. Aguilera notes how much more confident Louise is during rehearsals than when the first met, and has little but praise to give her team member as she runs through a rather difficult song.
8:15 p.m. There’s either a vocal mix problem, or Louise is having trouble with the beginning of the song. Either way, it’s almost impossible to hear her during the first verse. As the song approaches the chorus, it looks as if it’s Louise’s problems in the lower register that undid her at the outset. Still, she ends strong, as she has little problem with the higher range of the tune. It’s better to finish strong than start strong, I suppose. But we’re two-for-two this week on less-than-inspiring opening performances.
8:18 p.m. Let’s get to the coaches’ take: Green says that he considers Louise “worthy competition” for those on his squad. Levine understands how difficult that song is to sing, and praises her skill in executing it. Shelton says that every time she performs, it’s a “big deal” for the show. Aguilera wants America to know how genuine Louise is off-camera, in addition to calling her a “total star”. My take: Louise has had a good run, but I fear it will be hard for her to get through to the next round.
8:24 p.m. Christina Milian will post bad pictures of you unless you tweet the show’s suggested hashtags. Just wanted you to know.
8:25 p.m. Let’s head over Team CeeLo, where Cody Belew will be singing George Michael’s “One More Try”. (Not “Monkey”? Damnit.) Belew relishes the chance to show he can do more than simply slap Domo’s rear end. I relish the chance to hear Green break down a great ballad for his pupil.
8:27 p.m. Even though he was a mentor for Team Blake, there’s more than a little Michael Bublé in this performance. Still, the vocal runs and inflections are pure Cody. So are the dance moves, which are a little strange given the song’s lyrics. Still, he hits a few unexpected falsetto notes in the latter part of the song that make up for his unfortunate butt wiggling. I have to think those moves were done not for America, but Green. CeeLo has a soft spot for Belew, and seemed delighted by the showmanship.
8:29 p.m. Let’s get to the coaches’ take: Levine thinks it was a brilliant song choice, and is now a believer in Belew. Shelton says that Belew is a favorite of both himself and his wife, calling tonight his best performance yet. Aguilera piles onto the love fest, also calling him one of her favorites in the show. “It’s quite a task to be choreographed and still be clear,” says Green, who is still grinning ear to ear. My take: While not as mind-blowing as just described, Belew more than held his own, and should have no trouble making into the final twelve. After that, his chances get murkier.
8:36 p.m. One of the stars of “Chicago Fire” wants you to know there’s a show called “Chicago Fire” on NBC.
8:37 p.m. With that cross-promotion over, it’s time for one of my favorite members of Team Xtina. De’Borah will be performing Pink’s “Who Knew?” That seems like a good marriage of artist and contestant. Then again, I’d probably enjoy listening to De’Borah sing the “Hot Pockets” theme.
8:39 p.m. We’re three for three in terms of slow-burning songs tonight. Given how little time these contestants have to impress America, why choose songs that start off with thirty seconds of low-range, low-intensity singing? Once freed from the band platform, De’Borah prowls the stage, bringing the audience towards her. In contrast to many contestants on this show, there’s something completely unrehearsed about her. I don’t mean that in a bad way. In fact, her unstudied style works in her favor, since there’s little doubt that she feels every moment of what she does. She hops, skips, waves her arms around, and generally does whatever she darn well pleases. At times, her instincts direct her away from the audience, which is slightly problematic. But there’s so much raw talent here that it’s not a fatal flaw by any stretch.
8:41 p.m. Let’s get to the coaches’ take: Green loves the way she moves, but above all loves the emotion in her voice. Levine says that “the voice is only as good as the soul pushing it,” calling hers one of the most impressive in the competition. Shelton notes that he would have hyperextended himself had he tried to move like that. Aguilera says, “No one can command a stage like you,” calling her the real deal. My take: She’s the real deal indeed. Of the remaining twenty contestants, she’s one of maybe five people that I would lay down some serious cash on making a hit record in the next 12 months. Someone get Timbaland to produce her, quickly.
8:47 p.m. Bouncing back to Team CeeLo, we have Diego Val now up to musical bat. He’s singing Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos”, a song I was happy to have forgotten actually exists. Val dubs himself a rock-and-roll guy, but welcomes the challenge. Green seems pleasantly surprised by the results, which makes me wonder why he chose it in the first place. To be honest? Val seems insulted by Green’s selection.
8:49 p.m. Val seems uncomfortable from the first moment, while also simultaneously bored by the entire proceedings. Then again, I haven’t gotten Val’s appeal from the blind auditions, so it’s no shock that I’m not feeling this performance either. It’s possible that he is going for a more measured sexiness in his approach to the tune, opting for a cool attitude rather than a white-hot one. Either way, with Belew, Trevin Hunte, and Nicholas David in his path towards the final 12, I don’t know what Val could have done at this stage anyways.
8:51 p.m. Let’s get to the coaches’ take: Levine notes that he wasn’t fully engaged throughout the song, even using the word “bored” at one point. I mean, I know I said it, but it’s surprising to hear actual criticism come from any coach at this point. Aguilera echoes Levine’s criticism, which forces Val to defend himself onstage. Things gets so bad that Green has defend himself against picking the song for Val. When “I don’t think it was terrible at all” is the best praise a coach can muster…that’s a bad thing. My take: Bye bye, Diego. I can now crawl out from behind my couch now, right? Lord, that was awkward.
8:58 p.m. We’re staying with Team CeeLo, and let’s hope he hasn’t given MacKenzie Bourg something like “Enter Sandman” to sing. Whew, looks like we’ve dodged that bullet. Instead, Bourg will be performing One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, which fits in with some of his earlier song choices this season. Green insists that Bourg show variation from his performance in the Knockout Rounds, lest people think he’s a one-trick pony. So…why assign him another teen pop song, Green? You can KILLING your team, man.
9:00 p.m. While the song starts off slow, Bourg’s voice is clear and resonant from the first note. To my surprise, he takes off the guitar halfway through the song, which is like Linus discarding his blanket halfway through waiting for The Great Pumpkin. It’s a fine performance, with no obvious vocal hiccups. But there’s no signature moment that will stand out in the minds of voters, either.
9:02 p.m. Let’s get to the coaches’ take: Levine compares him to Buddy Holly, and now I’m kicking myself for not recognizing that earlier. He doesn’t think Bourg will win the show, but enjoys watching this “American Idol” perform. (Jesus, what got into the coaches tonight? Levine just used a competing show to slam a contestant on his own program.) Shelton takes a more political approach, appealing to Bourg’s popularity and suggesting that song choice will make or break him down the line. Aguilera wants Bourg to branch out should there be a next performance for him, singing something with more emotional depth. Green wants to see more energy from Bourg should he continue. “I say let’s go for it, but America has to agree.” My take: Green’s last statement certainly sounded like it’s up to the audience to vote him in, since CeeLo won’t use his save on Bourg should he be part of the remaining three. But I just don’t see that happening.
9:11 p.m. Moving along, it’s our next Team Xtina contestant, Devyn DeLoera. DeLoera will be singing Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” which Aguilera picked to round out Devyn’s oeuvre on the show thus far. DeLoera doesn’t seem to want to expand beyond her normal repertoire, but there are enough powerhouse moments in this song to potentially push things back into her comfort zone. Aguilera suggests that DeLoera lock into the lyrics to help find her way emotionally into the track. Huh. Good advice from Xtina. Who knew?
9:12 p.m. The stage lights mimic the heartbeat of the song as DeLoera starts. Given how minimal the performances have been so far, it almost feels like a cheat to give DeLoera an extra boost. (But it also potentially tips us off as to whom the producers like.) DeLoera excels during the first half of the song, but oddly enough suffers when she needs to crank things up to 11. She has breath control issues, potentially stemming from trying to interact with the crowd in addition to hitting every note. Rather than stay soft, she went big. But in going big, she may be going home.
9:14 p.m. Onto the coaches’ take: Green doesn’t think this was her best performance thus far, even while he believes in her talent. Shelton was looking forward to a softer performance all around. Aguilera has much more praise for DeLoera, even while ignoring that “softer side” (that was apparently so crucial) altogether. My take: It was a perfectly fine performance, but Team Xtina also has a murderer’s row of strong singers right now. I don’t see how she moves on. More importantly? We’ve seen multiple performances tonight in which coaches put contestants behind the 8-ball due to song selection. Neither Val nor DeLoera had a shot at excelling tonight due to the songs assigned to them. (Bourg also suffered, but due to overfamiliarity with the material.)
9:20 p.m. Alright, it’s time for Team CeeLo to take the stage, with Nicholas Davis reporting for duty. He’s performing Barry White’s “You’re My First, You’re My Last, My Everything”. I’m downright GIDDY about this prospect. Green calls it a “done deal” in terms of Davis’ vocals. David balks at the idea of adding “swagger” to his performance, and I balk at it too. This show is called “The Voice”, not “The Swagger”. I understand there’s a performative element to the program at this point. But do we HAVE to have the coaches underline this aspect?
9:22 p.m. I have to think there’s someone in the front row of the audience praying the homeless dude onstage doesn’t try to approach them. Their loss. Davis’ voice isn’t flawless here, but there’s a richness that’s simply been absent thus far on the program. Judging by the vocal only, there’s no way he doesn’t make it through. But just how much does the title of the show really matter at this stage of the competition? That’s what we’ll have to find out tomorrow.
9:24 p.m. Let’s hear the coaches’ take: Levine has a hard time talking, since the crowd is cheering longer here than for anyone else tonight thus far. (Who can blame them? Monday’s show was far superior in almost every way up until this point.) When they calm down, what does Levine say? “I want to make a baby now.” (It’s praise. You have to trust me.) Shelton calls David his favorite performer on Team CeeLo. “You can really do no wrong in my book,” says Green. “And I want to take you all the way.” My take: Even if David doesn’t make the top two, Green will save him. We just learned that. Thank God. Nicholas David is one of the best things about this season of “The Voice”, and the longer he’s around, the better.
9:32 p.m. Over on Team Xtina, we learn that Sylvia Yacoub wants to go to “the other end of the spectrum” with her performance tonight. To that end, she’s chosen Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”. Yacoub shows off her piano skills as well as her vocal skills during the rehearsal. She’s impressive on both fronts. I have high hopes for this live performance.
9:33 p.m. Well hot damn. This is fabulous. On Monday, Michaela Paige made “The Leap” in terms of announcing herself as a serious contender to the throne. Tonight, Yacoub is making a similar statement, one full of assuredness that belies her young age. With just her and the piano, it is fairly magical. With the band, it feels as if it might get away from her at any moment. But she controls the chaos almost through sheer force of will. That’s the performance of the night thus far. Yacoub was leaps and bounds better than anyone thus far. That was a great moment for her and the show as a whole.
9:35 p.m. Let’s hear the coaches’ take: Green agrees with me, calling it his favorite performance of the night. Levine thinks she’ll definitely move through, and thinks her ultimate fate will come down to what songs she chooses in the final few rounds. “I really get you,” says Aguilera, “You’re a tried and true artist.” Yacoub breaks down from all the praise bestowed upon her. My take: Her emotions there carried over from the performance, which she felt as intensely as De’Borah did hers. There was a moment during the song in which Yacoub’s hands seemed to fly off the piano of their own accord, after which she seemingly had to force them back down again to continue the song. It was both a moment of stagecraft but also a great moment of emotional honesty. Can you tell I loved this? Because I did.
9:41 p.m. Continuing with Team Xtina, it’s time for Dez Duron to (hopefully) shine. He’s singing Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted”. Another bizarre song choice in a night full of them. But Aguilera thinks the ladies will eat it up.
9:43 p.m. You’d never know Duron was uncomfortable with country music if he hadn’t expressed dismay during the rehearsals. Unlike Val, Duron puts himself into every moment of the song, and throws in some great vocal runs to boot. Duron is competing for the third slot on Aguilera’s team, with De’Borah and Yacoub almost certainly taking up the other two. I’m guessing this will be good enough to earn that bronze medal.
9:46 p.m. Onto the coaches’ take: Levine praises Duron’s “razor-sharp” precision. Shelton is faux insulted that Duron not only didn’t pick him as a coach, and then performed a country song to rub salt in the wound. Aguilera gives Duron a standing ovation when it comes time to give her personal assessment. My take: OK, I guess the third position is locked down, barring some voting scenario that doesn’t involve the aforementioned other two artists. DeLoera and Louise will most likely be on the outside looking in twenty-four hours from now.
9:51 p.m. To the surprise of no one, we end tonight with the final Team CeeLo member, Trevin Hunte. Green has assigned him Michael Bolton’s “How I Am Supposed To Live Without You” as his playoff track. It will just be Hunte and a piano. I’m fine with that.
9:53 p.m. Look, what can I say about Hunte at this point? The dude’s otherworldly. It’s hard to see anyone beating Hunte…except Hunte himself. Thus far, he’s nailed every hurdle in the competition. Then again, maybe I’m an outlier here. Maybe America will vote in Diego Val over him. America would be wrong. But they could do it all the same!
9:54 p.m. No. No they won’t.
9:55 p.m. Let’s hear the coaches’ take: Shelton says, “Every time you get on the stage, you move me…You have everything it takes to win ‘The Voice’.” Aguilera thinks he hasn’t even tapped into what he can do, and hopes Green can push him to even bigger things before all is said and done. Green reiterates that Hunte can be the ultimate winner of this show. My take: He has to be the favorite at this point overall. But he’s no longer the prohibitive favorite. My hunch is that Aguilera might be onto something: People might take him for granted at some point between now and the finals if he keeps making it look this effortless. (To wit: I still say Yacoub had the defining performance tonight, due to how shocking it was.)
9:58 p.m. Who will go through? Let’s run down my current list. From Team Xtina: De’borah, Sylvia Yacoub, and Dez Duron. From Team CeeLo: Cody Belew, Nicholas David, and Trevin Hunte. I’ll repost my Monday picks as well for one-stop shopping purposes. From Team Adam: Bryan Keith, Amanda Brown, and Loren Allred. From Team Blake: Liz Davis, Michaela Paige, and Cassadee Pope. I feel very confident about those I bolded, less so about those I didn’t. If you use this list to make bets in Vegas, I will not be compensating you for your losses.
What did you think of the second live playoffs? Did the song selection throw you off as much as it did the performers? Did anyone surprise you (good or bad) tonight? Who do you expect to win “The Voice” at this point? Sound off below!