Sure, the rules of the show can be confusing — first there were revolving chairs, then a boxing ring, and now America gets to vote…kind of? — but The Voice‘s appeal certainly isn’t. Whether it’s Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and country star Blake Shelton bro-ing out, Cee Lo Green texting pal Kanye West after a stirring rendition of ”Heartless,” or diva Christina Aguilera taking her girls out for dinner, the coaches have charmed audiences to the tune of 12.3 million — and delivered NBC its first watercooler hit in, uh, a long time. But now that the field has been narrowed, we find our attention turning to the contestants. We talk to the finalists about their experiences so far on The Voice and predict, team by team, who we think will make it to the finals…and who will take home the title.
Team Cee Lo Green
Cee Lo has two contenders in Vicci and Nakia, but when it comes to the chances of Curtis and the Thompson sisters, we can’t help but say: Forget you.
Our Pick for the Final Four: Vicci Martinez
Whose jaw didn’t drop when Vicci ripped through Adele’s ”Rolling in the Deep”? Her follow-up with Pink’s ”Perfect” during the battle round was pretty, well, perfect too. ”I’m definitely more of an Adele,” the 26-year-old explains. ”I like real instruments. I like a real band behind you. I don’t need the dancers and the fire and all that stuff for me to get off on stage.”
One of several country acts, Curtis may lack the polish of, say, Patrick, but he exudes cowboy-crooner appeal. ”Just sticking true to my traditional sound would be the way to separate myself from the other country singers in this competition,” says the 25-year-old. Will the fact that he once opened for Kenny Chesney give him an advantage? ”My biggest strength,” he notes, ”is experience, and being on stage.”
We’ll let Nakia — who took a big risk by singing Cee Lo’s ”Forget You” for his audition before unexpectedly turning it out in the battle round with Ne-Yo’s ”Closer” — explain himself, since he does it so well: ”First and foremost, I’m just a big guy who likes to eat barbecue and sing,” the Austin resident, 36, says with a laugh. Those are two things we can definitely get behind.
Tori & Taylor Thompson
Sisterhood is powerful, especially when you’ve got voices like Tori and Taylor, the California pig farmers-turned-singing duo who look like CW versions of Ann and Nancy Wilson. ”We love country, but we want to have a pop-rock edge,” says Taylor, 19. As for any advantage they might have being a duo? ”No one picks on us, because we’ll just team up on them,” says 17-year-old Tori.
Team Adam Levine
Adam just may have the strongest team from top to bottom. He fought aggressively in the auditions for Jeff and Javier, both favorites to win it all.
Our Pick for the Final Four: Jeff Jenkins
Jeff won over the judges — all four of whom turned their chairs for the baby-faced 22-year-old — during the blind auditions with Rascal Flatts’ ”Bless the Broken Road.” And he continues to be at his strongest when performing songs that pack heavy emotion. ”I like inspirational music,” he explains. ”I could be singing about loss or love, but it’s just got to be something that can really be felt.” We feel you, Jeff.
After seeing Devon perform Jason Mraz’s ”I’m Yours,” we find it hard to believe that the 20-year-old premed student was set to give up on singing to become a pediatrician. Not that the earnest singer is complaining about being seen as the brainy kid. ”Because I have glasses, people think I’m a nerd,” he says. ”I’ve been called ‘nerd-rock chic,’ which is about as cool as a nerd compliment can get.”
The Connecticut native and self-described ”soul man” melted hearts during his audition with Cyndi Lauper’s ”Time After Time.” Even though Javier, 34, hasn’t taken the title (yet?), he’s receiving tons of love everywhere from the checkout lane to the Internet. ”Folks stop me in the store to take pictures with them,” he says. ”And on Twitter [my following] has blown up by 15,000 people since I started this show. It’s amazing.”
Casey, 18, isn’t ready to ship off to college just yet. Instead the guitar- strumming country crooner is busy impressing Coach Adam. But if she wants to last, Casey’s going to have to battle a foe familiar to many performers: stage fright. Apparently, defeating it is harder than imagining the audience in their undies. ”Lots of people have told me to do that,” she admits. ”But I can’t focus on that on stage.”
Team Christina Aguilera
Two of the four women to the right are already gone. We’re hoping that Beverly and Frenchie are not among them and shall live to rock another day.
Our Pick for the Final Four: Beverly McClellan
Beverly, 41, can definitely belt it, even when saddled with a cold (see: her rendition of Melissa Etheridge’s ”I’m the Only One”). And she may be the hungriest, most passionate of all the contestants. But don’t expect her to change her ways to win. ”I have the whole edgy thing going,” she says, ”and I don’t let tomorrow worry me, because I’m going to do me regardless of what happens here.”
Raquel’s dance-heavy performance of Ke$ha’s ”Blow” was all part of the 16-year-old’s master plan: She has aspirations to follow in the footsteps of idol Beyoncé as a ”triple threat” who sings, dances, and acts. First, though, she has to get her nerves in check — but Coach Christina is helping with that. ”She basically said to just sing for myself and sing from my heart,” Raquel says.
Eight years after being shamed off American Idol for racy photos, the D.C.-born diva is back where she belongs. ”What broke my heart so badly with Idol was that most people remembered me because of the controversy,” Frenchie, 32, says. ”If I had no talent, I could live with that. But I was born to sing — and, win or lose, I get to walk away and be remembered for my voice.”
Lily’s sultry cover of Alicia Keys’ ”If I Ain’t Got You” earned her a pass to the battle round. But she stumbled during the first live show, losing her breath on Fergie’s ”Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Still, she appreciates each second she’s had on the show. ”I’m lucky to be working with these people,” the 20-year-old says. ”It’s going to be a matter of what America and what these coaches are looking for the most.”
Team Blake Shelton
Early eyes were on Patrick, but Dia dominated with ”Heartless.” It would be a major shock if she were one of Team Blake’s first live-show casualties.
Our Pick to Win It All! Dia Frampton
By transforming Kanye West’s aching ”Heartless” into a folksy ballad — Cee Lo called it ”probably the greatest rendition of the song I’ve ever heard” — the unassuming 23-year-old proved she’s got both pipes and presence. Those qualities, along with her irresistible oddball appeal, make her our number-one pick. ”I’m just the singer-songwriter who is quirky,” she says. ”Love it or hate it.” We’ll go with love.
Looking for someone to fill the Daughtry/Cook/accessible-rocker singing-competition void? Then Jared is your guy. He’s got the sartorial calling card (bandanna dude!), but is his throat distinctive enough to prod America to call/text/email? ”Getting the fans to rally up and vote is a little bit of a concern because a lot of the type of fans I have aren’t necessarily reality TV voters,” says the 32-year-old.
The easy-on-the-eyes country boy — just ask a smitten Christina Aguilera! — will have to continue to show his soulful side (as seen during Lee Ann Womack’s ”I Hope You Dance”). ”[Blake] told me a couple of days ago that you really need to stop thinking about all the technical things of singing, stop listening to your voice, and focus on the words,” says Patrick, 20. ”Singing is about moving people.”
The second that 16-year-old Xenia opens her mouth, anyone within earshot is instantly captivated by her unique, breathy, jazzy tone. But will her awkward stage presence do her in? ”I’m getting more comfortable being on stage,” the admitted shy girl says. ”I have a roll-y ring, and I find that I don’t know what to do with my hands, so I just move my ring around.”