As Team Adam and Team Blake whittle down to their final contestants, The Voice comes at you in raw, unfiltered form

By Melissa Maerz
April 14, 2015 at 10:54 PM EDT
NBC
S3 E18
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  • TV Show
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Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The Voice is live!

As Adam once explained, it’s the playoff rounds, which is “like a more serious Olympics.”

Or, as Carson puts it, “Tonight, there’s no bells and whistles. We are stripped down so that you can focus on what really matters.”

No, he isn’t talking about the presidential election. What really matters to Carson—and to this country!—is who can sing the loudest, hardest, awesomest song while Cee Lo rocks a puffy shirt that would’ve made Prince and Thomas Jefferson proud. America, heck yeah!

TEAM ADAM: Joselyn Rivera

After a joint sing-along between Team Adam and Team Blake, set to Boston’s “Piece of Mind,” Joselyn steps up to tackle Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break.” Her main obstacle? She admits that she has trouble moving around stage and singing at the same time. (Also: walking, chewing gum.) But then she gets an idea: she will stomp her way down the stairs while belting out the lyrics. Problem solved!

Joselyn’s performance is totally respectable, and she has cute bubblegum-style fashion (I like the pink streak in her hair), but for me, she’s just not distinct enough to survive. Yes, Blake loves her. (“Damnit, Joselyn,” he groans. “I still want you on my team! You look good on a stage like this! You look like a star! And I hate it! I HATE IT!”) But the most memorable thing about her performance is the way Blake reacted to it. And that can’t be good.

TEAM BLAKE: Terry McDermott

Some of Blake’s song choices make me laugh. Between Kansas’s “Carry on My Wayward Son” and Gloria Estefan’s “Conga,” it sounds like he’s inspired by whatever 8-track is playing in his truck. Still, which one of us can argue that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” hasn’t crossed his Spotify playlist lately? Plus, Blake believes that Terry can make it sound “cool” and “current.”

“There’s not much at stake, is there?” Terry jokes. “Just my family’s future. My pride.”

Luckily, everything about Terry’s performance is effortless, right down to his expertly mussed hair. His sing-screaming is so ridiculously powerful, he earns every high note. And somehow, he makes me believe that he was “born and raised in South Detroit,” even though his accent clearly suggests that he was born and raised on Haggis. There’s a confidence about him that I love. Christina praises “the precise clearness” in his tone. And Blake can’t resist delivering some of his own cornball praise: “When God was passing out the ability to rock, he gave Terry just a little bit more.” The guy has a pretty good chance of winning.

TEAM ADAM: Melanie Martinez

At this point, Melanie’s killing me with cuteness. The giant bow on her head? The polka-dots and pleated skirts? Despite her bi-colored hair (which Blake thinks is SO CRAZY!!), Melanie lacks edge, and her take on Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” proves it. She insits that she’s trying to “find the sassiness in me,” but there’s absolutely no attitude in her version. She’s way too sweet, purring her words and shimmying her shoulders. This girl couldn’t get anyone to hit the road, least of all Jack, who’s probably thinking how adorable it is that she wants to set his suitcase on fire.

Adam is loving it, closing his eyes and shaking his head to the beat. But it’s obvious that Christina, who delivers the faintest praise, isn’t impressed. On the plus side, Carson notes, “You’re so much cuter than Ray Charles.” Sadly, that’s the one and only contest she can win.

NEXT: Why burning down your husband’s house is considered patriotic

TEAM BLAKE: Liz Davis

Liz might have the best taste of all the country singers in this competition. She really knows which songs bring out the grit in her strong, Southern voice (usually, it’s the tough broad anthems), and Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” suits her nicely. Whenever I hear Liz sing, I think, “This is what Tami Taylor listens to when she wants to psych herself up.”

This time is no exception. I love the way she powers through the chorus, and I love the way she struts down the walkway when she sings. The coaches agree. Blake says he definitely picked the right country artist to bring to the final rounds. And Christina praises her “solid voice,” adding that it’s “a perfect time for that song, too.” (Note to Christina: this isn’t a song about patriotism. It’s a song about a woman who kills her abusive husband! Though, to be fair, isn’t it always a perfect time for a song about that?)

TEAM BLAKE: Cassadee Pope

I really want Cassadee to get in touch with her Inner Avril when she sings “My Happy Ending.” But sadly, no matter how many feathers she clips into her hair, I just don’t hear the “punk” part of her self-described “pop-punk” style. She gets points for effort, though. The fact that she knocks down her microphone in the middle of the performance might be cool if she didn’t a) accidentally hit herself in the mouth with it and b) continually repeat, “I hit myself! I hit myself!” to Carson right afterward. Yes, Cassadee has a great rock ‘n’ roll vibrato that will score her another Warped Tour second stage or two, but I’m not feeling her as a winner. She needs way more personality.

Of course, I might be wrong. Cassadee has Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz on her side. (He’s her mentor.) And as Blake reminds her, “You’re clearly one of the fan savers on the show. And guess who makes the decisions from here on out? The fans.” So there you go.

TEAM ADAM: Brian Keith

Brian Keith gets a lot of mileage out of playing the Sensitive Fedora Guy, and his decision to sing the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” feels like a stroke of genius. Let this be a message to you ladies: Brian Keith doesn’t want the world to see him, ’cause he doesn’t know if they’d understand, but he wants you to know who he is! You, and only you! [Cue the screams]

Throughout his performance, he’s got the smoldering-voice-beneath-the-smoky-eyeliner thing down. The verses might be a little too low for him, but once the chorus comes along, he brings real pathos to it. Christina says it’s the most passionate she’s ever seen him, and I agree. Apparently, so does Adam. “I love you!” he tells Brian. “I love you too!” Brian replies. You know they’re dying to give each other a massive bro hug, complete with a slap on the back.

TEAM BLAKE: Michaela Paige

Until now, Michaela “Last of the Mohawk-ans” Paige might’ve said that her biggest asset was her hair. Blake can’t stop mentioning it. “This right here?” he says, making a gesture that looks like he’s miming a giant unicorn horn. “It’s all about being who you are.” But to me, her voice reveals way more about who she is. Barreling through Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks,” she’s part high-school musical and part glam-rock superstar, snarling her way through the word whispeeeeer with just the right amount of moxie. Cee Lo insists that she has the best performance of the night. And Blake keeps raving about how she makes every song her own, because she’s just so different. You’d think he’d never seen a teenage girl with a foot-high fauxhawk before.

NEXT: The Voice en Español

TEAM BLAKE: Julio Cesar Castillo

Let’s get this out of the way: Julio is singing “El Rey,” and he’s singing it in Spanish. So Blake keeps having to explain that most of America won’t understand what he’s saying. (Maybe he could get could get El Bloombito to translate?) And Blake also thinks that Julio should work extra hard to speak the international language of emotions in his music. “I want you to think about the saddest thing that’s ever happened to you!” he insists. “When they don’t know what you’re singing about, you have to think of a better way to make a connection!”

But who cares what words Julio is singing when he sounds so amazing? The guy can extend a note with as much passionate intensity as a soccer fan who’s shouting “goooooooooooaaaaaaaaallllll!” He just closes his eyes, opens his mouth, and releases the notes like a billion, trillion velvet turtledoves. There’s so much romance in his voice, and so much emotion, and so much, for lack of a better word, awesomeness. Thank you, Blake, for having the good sense to not make this mariachi maestro suffer through another English-language pop song. Julio gets the first standing ovation of the night.

Also, Julio must be far more famous than English-language viewers realize, because Lou Diamond Phillips is there cheering for him. (“Lou Diamond Phillips in the house!” Carson exclaims, pumping his fist in the air. “Awesome!”) Even Christina is wild about Julio. “I know you made all the Latino people out there so proud,” she gushes. “The richness of your vibrato is just…” [She mimes eating something delicious.] “MMMM!” And who can argue with mmmm? Certainly not Blake.

TEAM ADAM: Loren Allred

Adam says that “Lauren has been the biggest surprise” in this competition. But for me, the biggest surprise is that she’s still in this competition. I keep forgetting who she is! Of course, it doesn’t help that she sings a really smooth version of Lisa Stansfield’s jazzy, snoozy “All Around the World” and… zzzzz…. zzzzzzzz. Sorry. I pretty much slept through the whole thing until the last note rocketed up out of nowhere and woke me up.

Adam’s final comments about that final high note are telling: “Next time, hopefully there will be a next time, I want to hear more of that,” he says. Hopefully there will be a next time? Not exactly a sign of confidence.

TEAM ADAM: Amanda Brown

Does Amanda Brown hit every high note in Aerosmith’s “Dream On”? That depends. Does anyone ever hit every high note in Aerosmith’s “Dream On”? Is it even possible to hit those high notes, or is it only to scream them? (That’s what Steven Tyler did in the original, after all, and that’s basically what Amanda does here, too.)

This isn’t so much a performance as a vocal long-jump, but Amanda really goes for the gold here, powering across wide expanses until she finally reaches notes so high, a dog would need a hearing aid to notice them. She’s also pretty great at doing a mean catwalk power-strut toward the coaches while dragging her microphone behind her. Take note, Joselyn: this is how you walk and sing at the same time!

Everyone’s really excited about Amanda. “Get it, girl! Get it!” Christina cheers, and Adam calls it “the actual best performance of the night.” Maybe it doesn’t matter whether Amanda is singing or screaming. Whatever she’s doing, she’s scary good.

Tonight, Amanda gets every one of my Team Adam votes. For Team Blake, I think Terry will probably be the last man standing, but now Julio’s giving him some major competition. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see Team Cee Lo’s and Team Christina’s picks. Until then, I’ll let you focus on what really matters: the election. I’m voting for Lou Diamond Phillips. Fist pump!

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