Lewis Jacobs/NBC
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Reality ,
April 10, 2012 at 03:39 PM EDT

Week 2 had its all-around advantages for everybody, including myself. There was so much going on last week, and most of it was new for all of us, so I felt a lot more at ease this week. Team Adam and Team Cee Lo had a bit of an advantage to be able to sit back last week and watch Christina and Blake’s teams perform, but with that comes a little bit more pressure. You’ve had a week on the bench, you know what to expect, so now you’ve got to go out and deliver! But I think they hit the stage knowing what the vibe was going to be like, and they took full advantage of that.

We lost four people on Tuesday, and the mood the next day was very… real, I’d say. I think it became very apparent to our contestants when they realized that four of them had just lost their roommates. When your bags are packed and you’re headed home, it all becomes very surreal. We’ve spent months on this fun, creative, collaborative television show, and once people start leaving, it starts to feel like the end of summer.

When I walked backstage earlier this week, watching some of the wardrobe fittings and talking to people and seeing how they were feeling, it was clear that the game faces are different now. It used to be high-fives in the hallways, and now it’s sweaty-palm handshakes. I saw Pip yesterday and he looked like he was cramming for finals. It feels like the Hunger Games are about to begin — everybody’s got their strategy in place, even the coaches.

In the studio, the palpable turning point of last night was Juliet Simms singing “Roxanne.” It felt like the show gained a new energy the minute she went up, and that was an hour into the show. She just blew people away in the room, and it was the performance that everybody was talking about after backstage. For all the huge production last night, it’s ironic that what seems to be the most buzzed-about performance was the one with no staging: just a woman and some smoke. I think it was a game changer for her. She did “Roxanne” in her own way, and people responded. It was a dangerous performance, everything that Adam wanted Pip to be but couldn’t get. He wanted Pip to be dangerous and to rough his song up, to make him worry about where he was going with it. That’s what Juliet did. Everybody was talking about Juliet.

Some performances last night were experiments, like Pip doing the Killers. A lot of people tweeted last night that Adam asking Pip to be dangerous was like Adam asking me to be dangerous (someone wrote). It’s just not gonna happen! But leaps of faith were taken last night, and some worked and some didn’t. Either way, it’s all part of the process to find music’s next big star. These are the conversations that are being had backstage, and I’m hearing a lot more of that now than I ever have.

Also, as we get further down the line here to picking a winner, let’s not forget the transformations that have occurred, especially for these artists’ families. There’s a family section in my eye line, to the left of my teleprompter and the main cameras, and you can see Mathai’s parents cheering, you can see Tony Lucca’s wife and their baby, Tony Vincent‘s family, Juliet’s rocker crew. Cheesa’s brother was so animated when he saw her come out, Jamar Rogers’ mother was jumping up and down like it was the fourth quarter of a basketball game. Just by looking at the friends-and-family area, you know who they represent, and it’s so much fun because those people have been along on this journey as well. Watching the live performances is like Christmas morning to these families!

NEXT: The night’s hit or miss performances, including Jamar Rogers and Erin Martin

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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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