The Voice recap: And Then There Were Ten
With only a few people left on each team, even frontrunners like Trevin and Amanda have to work hard to keep their lead
Did Christina Milian really just coin the term “Blaketina”? Is that a thing now?
I understand that The Voice is trying extra hard to promote Christina Aguilera’s new album, Lotus. They’re allowing her to kick off this week’s show by performing her big duet, “Just a Fool,” with fellow coach Blake Shelton. And Carson Daly is doing his best to convince us that the album is “a big hit.” (He’s being generous.) But if we’re really creating fake couples on this show, how about one that works for Cody Belew and me? Let’s call it: BelewMe.
No? Okay, let’s just forget that I said that. Are you ready to discuss the final top ten?
TEAM CHRISTINA: Sylvia Yacoub
Law school or reality TV stardom? For Sylvia, the choice is clear: she doesn’t want to waste her time studying for the bar when she can spend her days hanging out with big-time celebrities like Ron Fair and… wait a minute. Who? “He signed me to my first record contract,” Christina explains of Fair, a former A&R rep who’s now serving as a mentor on The Voice. So after getting some professional guidance from Fair, who tells her to “like, let go,” Sylvia’s ready to power through Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” Her tone is still a little too Celine Dion for me, but her talent is irrefutable. Every time I hear her take a swing at a note, I imagine that note shooting through the clouds, past a galaxy or two, until it implodes with a poof! All the coaches rave about her, but Blake delivers the best compliment, assuring her that no one will ever forget her. So true. Great job, Whatshername! (Just kidding, Sylvia! You were good!)
TEAM BLAKE: Terry McDermott
When Terry selects Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69,” he’s not messing around. Hearing him fight his way up the treble clef, country music producer Scott Hendricks exclaims, “I don’t know how anybody gets that high!” But Terry has a good explanation for hitting those notes: “A good old wedgie. That’s what you need.” (Ba dum tssssh!) Then, just to show off a little, he tears through the chorus like it’s no big thing. There’s no real suspense to this performance, because it’s not as challenging as his usual picks—seriously, try doing “Carry On, Wayward Son” on your next karaoke outing—but he’s effortlessly great, as usual. Even Carson is excited. “Classic American song!” he cheers. No one has the heart to tell Carson that Bryan Adams is Canadian.
NEXT: Team Adam grows a pair
TEAM ADAM: Melanie Martinez
Until now, I’ve been getting annoyed with Melanie’s whole Marilyn Monroe routine. Every time she does that heavy-breathing thing to another note, it’s like she’s saying, “Oops! Did I almost sing that? Silly me!” So I’m glad that Adam finally tells her that she needs more energy to pull off the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” Apparently, she needs “the bomb to go off.”
Now, I’m not sure that Melanie even has a bomb in her, because she never quite gets to the explosion part. But it’s nice to hear her put some real emotion into her performance. The praise from the coaches feels relatively tame, but Cee Lo gets a chance to spout off some good fortune-cookie wisdom. “You are the variety that is the spice of life,” he says. Yum.
TEAM CEE LO: Cody Belew
Is Jennifer Hudson’s duet with Cody Belew the best thing ever? Let’s just ask Cody. After tackling Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” with his idol, he’s ready to claim his victory. “Close the show!” he demands. “Confetti! Everybody’s done!” J-Hud, the new mentor on Team Cee Lo, confesses that she loves Cody’s personality. (Get in line, lady.) The only problem? It’s more memorable than his voice. Just look at the sassy way he struts down the stairs, decked out like a soldier from Mad Max’s leather-clad army, doing a little pump-your-rump dance that gets the crowd cheering. I love how he teases the coaches by pausing near the end of the song and announcing, “Wait! I ain’t done yet!” Obviously, he’s having fun. “Cody worked it like a true diva! Hey-ey!” gushes Christina. “You were like, ‘Wait!’ and I was like, “Oh, hey-ey!” Afterward, Cody explains his secret to Christina Milian: “It’s three parts attitude, one part hip action.” Whatever it is, it’s awesome.
TEAM ADAM: Bryan Keith
When Bryan chooses Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” Adam says the song fits him perfectly because “he embodies a New Yorker so faithfully.” And just to send that message home, a great big image of the Brooklyn Bridge lights up behind him. Then Bryan sings this ballad like a tough guy. I still love his raspy voice, and that arched-eyebrow expression on his face, which suggests that he still doesn’t quite trust you. (“You got this little smirk you do,” observes Christina, “and I like that. When I’m singing, I get serious face.”) His coach is clearly pleased. “You really did that song justice,” says Adam. “Billy Joel does sing like he has a pair, and so do you.” A pair of what, Adam? I Heart NY coffee mugs?
NEXT: Holy buckets and other spiritual wonders
TEAM ADAM: Amanda Brown
After her flubbed Florence and the Machine cover last week, Amanda Brown really needed a Get Out of Jail Free card. And from the moment she gets to the chorus of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ “Stars,” it’s obvious that she’s earned one. There’s such a deep ache in her voice, I get choked up just listening to her. “I didn’t know that song,” admits Blake. “But I’m glad, because that performance is the way that I want to be introduced to that song. That was incredible.” I agree completely. This is by far the best performance of a song that none of the coaches has heard. And it’s also the best reason for them to school themselves on Grace Potter: Blake, Christina, and Cee Lo, cue up your Spotify playlists now.
TEAM CEE LO: Nicholas David
“Holy buckets, that woman is Jennifer Hudson!” says Nicholas after spying his team’s new mentor. And the excitement is mutual. “He sings with his soul,” raves Ms. Hudson about Nicholas. “I love it!” How could she not? When Nicholas sits down at the piano to play “Lean on Me,” he has a gospel choir behind him, and from the looks of it, not one of its members is thinking, “What’s that bearded white guy doing with a Bill Withers song?” His voice sounds so smooth and rich and easy to drink up, Christina compares it to chicken soup. “It’s almost like you’re watching a musical legend up there performing,” insists Blake. And then Cee Lo goes even more over-the-top. “Let me tell you what I heard,” he says. “I heard the voice of a generation. Let me tell you what I saw. I saw an immaculate impassioned performance. Let me tell you how it makes me feel.” And here’s where he starts to get deep: Cee Lo explains that his father died when he was very young, so Bill Withers was like a godfather in his house. “It was so sweet to me,” he says, swallowing hard. “It makes me cry.” And that’s when Nicholas comes down from the stage and hugs Cee Lo. Holy buckets, he’s good.
TEAM CEE LO: Trevin Hunte
Picking Usher’s “Scream” might be a risk for Trevin, who often goes with more traditional R&B songs. But hey, his dad took risks. The guy moved his whole family from Guyana to the United States. By comparison, singing a pop song doesn’t seem so hard. I like that Trevin’s trying something different, but I’m not wild about the performance. It sounds like he’s sliding into his notes instead of hitting them. By the time he works his way to the top of that final “yeah” ladder, it sounds like his voice is melting. But don’t tell that to the crowd: they’re screaming louder for Trevin than I’ve ever heard them scream for anyone. Apparently, when he takes risks, they pay off.
NEXT: The saddest music in the world, as selected by Blake Shelton
TEAM BLAKE: Cassadee Pope
I’m not sure how I feel about Blake selecting “Over You,” a country song that he co-wrote with his wife Miranda Lambert, for Cassadee. It’s a generous gesture: he wrote the song for his late brother, who died in an accident, and he knows it could help bring some real gravitas to Cassadee, who has always sounded a bit too much like Avril Lavigne. But it feels strange that he’s using his brother’s story to help boost his team. Good thing that Cassadee aces the performance. Her voice has so much more depth and range in country than it does in pop-punk. And when she gets misty-eyed toward the end (so many tears tonight!), it seems genuine. Blake is proud. “Cassadee, you just sang easily the most important and the most personal song that I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” he says, “but you made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time.” Uh oh, Blake. Let’s hope your wife isn’t watching.
TEAM CHRISTINA: Dez Duron
“Feeling Good” is one of my all-time favorite songs. Unfortunately, it has inspired dozens of mediocre covers. When Dez admits that he first heard it on Michael Bublé’s album, and later on Frank Sinatra’s record, I want to take his head, clamp some headphones around it, and force him to listen to Nina Simone, who belts it out like it’s meant to be done. Even Ron Fair seems to doubt Dez. “Don’t just sing the song with your mouth,” he advises. “Sing it with your attitude and your being.” The song is supposed to sound defiant, but Dez’s version is pleasant enough, a boy-band twist on a lounge-singer classic. And besides, he looks cute in his tuxedo. When the girls shriek in the audience behind him, Christina just shrugs and says, “Ladies love Dez.”
Granted, I’m no lady. But Dez isn’t my favorite tonight. Going team by team, I’d pick Sylvia (Team Christina), Terry (Team Blake), Nicholas (Team Cee Lo), and Amanda (Team Adam). But there’s still a place in my heart for Cody Belew, who gets the Mr. Congeniality award. For anyone who doesn’t love him, I just have two words for you: Hey-ey! You’ll have to answer to Christina now.