By Carson Daly
April 10, 2012 at 03:39 PM EDT
Lewis Jacobs/NBC
  • TV Show

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

Lewis Jacobs/NBC

A few thoughts on the performances last night: A lot of people seemed to be talking about Jamar Rogers. Jamar was another standout in the room, and not just because he had people on stilts behind him. That was one performance people were really buzzing about. It was a great way to close the show, and everyone left the studio with great energy because of it.

Cee Lo is positioning James Massone as this lady-killer, and it’s incredibly smart. He gave James this crooning song to sing, and it worked — it felt like a TRL moment from 1999. Maybe it’s because One Direction was just on SNL, or because I’m playing The Wanted on my Top 40 show, but in terms of boy bands, we’re seeing this resurgence, and it’s happening, whether you like it or not! I saw that with James’s interactions with all those teenage girls screaming for him. The leaves and the little park bench was a nice backdrop for James to play around in, and it wasn’t distracting; it was a good example of how staging really benefited an artist last night.

Karla Davis is a country singer, so for her to try and get through “Airplanes,” which is really a rap song, was a difficult task for her to do. She did a nice job with it, but I don’t think that highlighted her true abilities.

Is Erin Martin going to win a Grammy for her performance? No, but Erin has come a long way and she should be very proud and stoked to have made it this far. And it’s in America’s hands now! They might pass on her, or they just might put her through — you don’t know!

You’ve also got Tony Lucca’s performance of “In Your Eyes.” Some of Christina’s remarks to her former Mouseketeer partner, calling him one dimensional, raised a lot of eyebrows in the room, but at this point, it’s all about what tickles your fancy. Everybody notices different things, and everyone has a different taste.

Let me also throw this out there: I’ve never heard the coaches talk so openly about whoever wins this being somebody that can really fit into the landscape of what’s happening right now in music. There’s a sense of the totality of artistry, and you’re hearing that in the way Adam talked about positioning Mathai, or why Cee Lo picked “Roxanne” for Juliet. Before it was just helping them get through the battle rounds, but now we’re getting close to what they do with real A&R at a label. What’s your image? How are we going to market you? Who are you going to appeal to? They’re asking these questions, and there’s this sense of pride for these coaches as they work with the artists to answer them.

Tonight we’ve got our second round of live eliminations. Let’s see if America gets it right!

Follow @carsonjdaly on Twitter!

(As told to Marc Snetiker)

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