The coaches really got it right this time. There was so much shock and awe last week — so much controversy over Jesse Campbell going home as well as RaeLynn and Jordis — that people may have been thinking, What’s going on? But it felt like there weren’t any surprises last night, which is a good thing for the show and has a stabling effect.
In regards to the beginning of the show, with Cee Lo and Christina and everyone laughing… all I can say is that it’s live TV, and it’s unexpected! The coaches all had the giggles, and I tried not to be sucked into that, but you have to just go with it, try to get beyond the moment, and wrangle those coaches in. We all can have a laugh for a second, but you can’t live in that moment, and the difficult part is pulling those coaches out, especially when they’re that giggly.
That aside, I’m proud to be captain of the ship, I really am. I’m so proud of the show, and last night reaffirmed how willingly I would take this show into a street fight with other singing competition shows. We’ve weathered some storms in the past, but I’m proud of our performances, of our level of talent, of our staging — it looked like awards-show caliber, and I am so impressed at what we do in two hours live. It’s just remarkable.
The show settled in really nicely. It was bookended by Jamar Rogers and Juliet Simms, I think for a reason, because those were two standout performances. Behind the scenes, we were a little unsure of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” for Jamar. We all look at Jamar as a real talent and a threat, but I think there was a little bit of a question mark to the song, on paper. And yet, when you saw him perform last night, he made it his own and told his story. He sang it like this is his life, and it is his time, and it became a great case of an excellent song choice by Cee Lo because it just worked. Jamar can sing the phonebook, it doesn’t matter. He hasn’t even shown us his best yet! Cee Lo sees him as a rock star, and he is, but if he’s saving a power ballad for the end, he’s going to blow people away.
I think you’re seeing a little bit of a power shift — and it’s not a knock — between Mathai and Katrina Parker. They’re both good examples of the evolution of this show, and maybe it’s like trending topics — they go up and they go down. Katrina, after doing that Christina Perri song, recaptured a lot of people’s hearts, and like Adam said, she’s a real force to be reckoned with now. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how it all goes down on Team Adam tonight. Before, if it was down to Tony Lucca, Katrina, and Mathai, I would have said for sure that Mathai was Adam’s ace in the hole, or that Tony and Mathai were his two to take to the finals. And now, I don’t know! If Tony and Adam’s gamble paid off, and America thought that the Britney Spears moment was the moment and they vote to save Tony, then that means Katrina and Mathai are both going to sing for their lives tonight, and I just don’t know who Adam is going to save. Last week, I would have bet my life it was Mathai. Tonight, I have no idea!
James Massone is a great kid. Cee Lo created this ladykiller thing for him, and he’ll probably take that and work with it off the show. I think it was a smart invention by Cee Lo. James is probably the luckiest contestant to date for making it as far as he had. He doesn’t possess the same vocal tools, let’s say, that some of the other people who have made it this far have, but he’s got swagger, and he does what he does really well. He’s made a connection with the female audience in particular, and I think he should be proud. Obviously no one wants to go home, but I think he understood that it was his time, and he was grateful.
NEXT: Tony, Pip, Juliet and Cee Lo’s ’50s throwback
Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” may have backfired on Tony Lucca last week, and I think he and Adam knew that he needed momentum this week. I think that they sat around during rehearsals all week and thought about what they could do to shock the system. With all that press about Christina’s comments about Tony being one-dimensional, and of course all of us thinking it was going to be a Mouseketeer lovefest — “Baby One More Time” was a gutsy decision. Tony is strong and he made a statement, and I love that he used his own career as an opportunity to get back at Christina for those one-dimensional comments with this tongue-in-cheek performance of the most bubble gum pop song of all time. I think it was a ballsy, standout moment that paid off. If it had bombed or if people had booed it or if Christina wasn’t into it, he might have made himself vulnerable to elimination, but the room loved it, the coaches loved it, and I thought he just killed it.
Cee Lo made a comment about how all we have are these Tinkerbell, tinny, auto-tuned female stars out there. There are few girls that sing from the gut, and he wants to nurture that and usher more of that into the music scene, and Cheesa’s certainly somebody who could fill those shoes. Cheesa’s got great vocal respect in the hallways of The Voice. From day one, Cheesa has probably had the strongest pure muscle ability in her voice. When we heard she was doing Whitney, your first thought is, oh boy, that’s always a tall order. But you realize it’s Cheesa, and she can probably do it. And she did it, and she does it well. I think most people embarrass themselves when they attempt to sing Whitney, but I think she should be proud.
Pip tried to prove a little too much a little too late. Good song choice, but playing the piano is always distracting. If you’re not touring every single night and you’re not extremely comfortable playing piano and singing at the same time, it’s a very difficult thing to do. I noticed he struggled with it a little bit. But it was a good song choice for him, and he did everything he could last night. He even lost the bowtie! Still, he’s in a tough crowd. Just look at the team he’s on. Given the strength of the performances before him, I think in that last minute you saw his life flash in front of his eyes. I will say, he was a lot of fun to have on the show, and he brought this great, youthful energy to it that we’ll miss.
What can’t you say about Juliet? Christina said it best: when she sings, she blacks out, and that’s the best compliment you can get, because it just means you’re so comfortable in your skin singing on a television show in front of 10+ million people, that you just own it and you kill it and you make it yours. When she’s on stage, she’s a force, but backstage, she’s really humble and soft-spoken. She’s been to this rodeo before. She’s had deals come and go, she’s seen the accolades, and she’s not fazed by it. Juliet’s just waiting for her time, for all the stars to line up, and for her career to really begin, because she’s fallen victim to too many false starts.
I think it’ll be interesting to take America’s temperature again. After last week being as controversial and tumultuous as it was, tonight we’ll see where the fever’s really at on The Voice. We’ll see if America picks Tony or Katrina or Mathai or Cheesa or Juliet or Jamar. People are going home, and it means that there are only two weeks left of The Voice! We’re rounding third here, and everything’s being left on the stage. You’re seeing sing-for-your-life performances every time. The show already had strong performances, but all of these eliminations and coaches’ saves are forcing people to dig deep. But overall, the winner is the viewer. Whether or not you agree with the coaches’ choices, you’re the winner because you’re getting great music on television, whether you realize it or not.
The old ’50s throwback number was a lot of fun to do. It wasn’t a direct tribute to Dick Clark, although obviously there was a lot of inspiration and a little bit of an homage there. But “Dancing in the Streets” was all Cee Lo’s idea. There was a little bit of Dick Clark, there was a little bit of Bob Barker, a little Wink Martindale. When I was doing it, shooting it in black and white, obviously with the great Mr. Clark recently passing, there was a wink in my eye of gratitude to that legacy.
(As told to Marc Snetiker)