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After ceding Tuesday to Election Night, Team Christina and Team Cee Lo vie in the playoffs before a rowdy audience

By Hillary Busis
Updated April 14, 2015 at 10:54 PM EDT
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The Voice
Credit: NBC
S3 E19

Every American shows national pride in a different way. Some recite all 50 states in alphabetical order after they’ve had a few microbrews; others drive across state lines just to procure fireworks for the Fourth of July; still more snap photos of their ballots after they’ve voted in a federal election, then post those pictures on the Internet, which is an incredibly stupid thing to do.

But I think we can all agree that tonight, Cee Lo Green has proven himself to be America’s greatest patriot. Look at his outfit. Look at it. That star-spangled afghan poncho is glorious and hideous, a beautiful disaster — in short, a microcosm of these United States themselves. I want to write a dissertation about it. Today, Mr. Soul Machine, you have made me proud to be an American. (Oh, and Christina — your blue dress and sparkly hair starfish were also fine.)

To the playoffs!

TEAM CHRISTINA: Adriana Louise

Teams Cee Lo and Christina shouldn’t have sung “Sing.” Their shaky, off-key group performance doesn’t bode well for what follows — and at the beginning of “Firework,” it seems like Adriana has fallen victim to whatever afflicted the group. Her low notes are nonexistent; her tempo is off. But as her voice climbs toward that cathartic chorus, Adriana starts finding her stride. By the time she’s reached her last “oh-oh-oh,” she sounds a thousand times more solid, even if her Katy Perry impression isn’t exactly breaking new ground.

Adriana almost collapses in relief when she finishes; where’s a good whipped cream-spraying bra when you need it? The coaches praise her for taking on such a tough song, but don’t have much to say about her singing itself. Instead, Cee Lo and Blake both talk about how purdy she is — which is always what a reality judge says when they don’t have any real praise to give. Then Xtina calls Adriana “sweet and genuine…” and from her, those words somehow sound like nails in a coffin.

TEAM CEE LO: Cody Belew

Cody’s friends must never know whether he’s laughing with them or at them. During the pre-song b-roll, he expresses an interest in being taken more seriously — then proves he’s totally full of it with a twitchy, goofy performance of George Michael’s “One More Try.” It’s campy enough to make Bette Davis raise an eyebrow. I sort of love the whole thing, even if Cody’s voice is all over the place — it’s like he’s imitating an imitation of a soul singer, or something. I don’t know; residual giddiness from Cee Lo’s outfit is sapping my critical reasoning skills.

The coaches eat up Cody’s performance with a collective spoon. Adam thinks Cee Lo’s song choice was “genius.” Blake says Cody is one of his wife’s favorite contestants, which makes me wonder if Miranda Lambert is actually a man in drag. Again, they’re giving plenty of praise without saying anything specific about the singing. Cody might have charisma, but that isn’t what this show is supposed to be about. Although if they did change The Voice‘s name, they’d get a perfect opportunity to bring on Charisma Carpenter as Carson’s co-host.

NEXT: De’Borah exhilarates and exhausts

TEAM CHRISTINA: De’Borah

I love the smell of synergy in the evening. De’Borah is from Chicago — and how about that, a star of NBC’s Chicago Fire happens to be in the show’s audience tonight! What are the odds? Are you tweeting this, Christina Milian? Please tell me you’re tweeting this.

Pink is one of pop’s most soulful singers, which makes her music a pretty good fit for De’Borah’s voice. While Team Xtina’s most unique snowflake avoids the melody of “Who Knew” more than she should, her tremendous energy is more than enough to carry the performance. Look, she’s doing lunges! She’s leaping across the stage! Is this what P90X looks like? I want James Brown’s towel boy to mop her brow when the song ends. Christina is right to say that nobody can command the stage like De’Borah can — if she weren’t so utterly likeable, the platform itself might object to being stomped on so harshly.

TEAM CEE LO: Diego Val

Who’s to blame for the great Diego Val travesty of ’12 — Cee Lo, for thinking that Spain-born Enrique Iglesias perfectly represents Peru-born Diego’s culture? Rocker Diego, for letting his resentment about being asked to sing “Bailamos” neuter his performance? Songwriters Paul Barry and Mark Taylor, for composing some of the dumbest lyrics in pop history? (“We take the floor/Nothing is forbidden anymore.”) Maybe this is just la tormenta perfecta. In any case, Diego’s Enrique cover falls flat, which baffles Cee Lo — he thought he was giving Diego an advantage by assigning a song in the contestant’s “native tongue.” Shh, don’t tell Cee Lo “Bailamos” was written by the same team behind Cher’s “Believe.”

TEAM CEE LO: MacKenzie Bourg

What’s that saying — “Lightning always strikes twice”? That’s what Cee Lo is banking on when he tells MacKenzie to sing the spiritual sequel to “Call Me Maybe”: One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” a fine example of Mobius pop. This performance is much more straightforward than Hipster Bieber’s take on Carly Rae; MacKenzie mostly sticks to the melody as he strums through the song’s first half, then ditches his guitar when the tempo speeds up halfway through.

It’s clear that Mac thinks of himself as more than a pop tart — but he sure plays the role of teen idol beautifully. All he needs is a tiny shot of De’Borah’s energy, and this guy could be unstoppable. Adam nails the contestant’s appeal when he compares MacKenzie to Buddy Holly — he’s toeing the line between quirky and mainstream, and for now, it’s working. Still, Christina’s on the right track when she advises Mackenzie to try a song with more depth next time. So “Gangnam Style” is out, then?

TEAM CHRISTINA: Devyn Deloera

What does it mean to show one’s vulnerability through song? Devyn seems to think the key is singing kinda quiet, then belting real loud. Either way, she gets an A for effort on Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love.” Whoa, what if someone on The X Factor is singing the very same song right now? I wouldn’t put it past that crafty Simon Cowell.

Like fellow mini-Christina Adriana, Devyn is totally fine. At this stage in the game, though, that might not be enough. Cee Lo thinks she’s better than this performance would indicate. Christina’s a lot kinder, confessing that she loved Devyn’s concluding money note. No alarms and no surprises here, folks.

NEXT: Trevin takes us home

TEAM CEE LO: Nicholas David

Nicholas is the opposite of cool. “I don’t understand the whole swagger thing,” he confesses after Cee Lo urges him to try singing with more attitude. “I feel like a grandparent, like when a grandparent asks you how to work a VCR.” How cute — he still thinks VCR jokes are relevant!

And yet it’s Nicholas’s natural dorkiness that makes his performance such a success. A cool guy could never wear a purple leisure suit while crooning Barry White’s “You are The First, The Last, My Everything” with a perfectly straight face. The whole thing is so frank, so unpretentious, and so technically well-sung that it somehow bypasses “disco nightmare” and swings all the way back to awesome. It’s incredibly cheesy, but it would stop working immediately if Nicholas displayed any self-awareness whatsoever. Even his awkward stage presence doesn’t detract from the overall package. The bottom line: Adam Levine wants to have a baby with this man. Nicholas David 2016!

TEAM CHRISTINA: Sylvia Yacoub

Again with the vulnerability! Sylvia wants us to know that she doesn’t always sing upbeat powerhouse songs; sometimes, she sings more down-tempo powerhouse songs. Whatever — it’s tough to be annoyed at someone who sounds this good. Sylvia manages to convey true emotion even when grappling with the very silly lyrics of Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away,” and she doesn’t rely on runs as much as she has in the past. I want her to keep playing the piano onstage, mostly because of the awesome moment when she doesn’t know whether to keep punching keys or pause to clutch her cheeks in angst. All the coaches agree that Sylvia should have nothing to worry about tomorrow — especially Christina, who praises her MVP so forcefully that Sylvia gets teary. Aw, don’t you love when Xtina goes all Mama Care Bear?

TEAM CHRISTINA: Dez Duron

Uh oh, Christina — have you learned nothing from Diego Val? She’s asking Dez to sing a country song called “Wanted,” even though his voice is totally twang-free. But wait: Dez takes well to the tune’s straightforward melody and generic lyrics, which mention nary a honky tonks. He’s got a strong command of the stage and a strong voice to match his Charisma Carpenter, although I won’t blame you if you spend the performance thinking about how dreamy he looks.

I feel like the coaches see dollar signs when they look at Dez. They say he’s more than a pretty face, but we all know that calling someone “the full package” is the same thing as calling them “marketable.” Prediction: Dez will do just fine when The Voice is through, win or no win.

TEAM CEE LO: Trevin Hunte

Can’t remember why Trevin became an early favorite as soon as he auditioned? Here, let him remind you with “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” That’s right: Trevin is so good that he’ll make you like a Michael Bolton song. (“Jack Sparrow” doesn’t count.) He’s so good that once he started singing, I almost forgot that Cee Lo actually said these words as he was rehearsing: “There’s something honest and vulnerable and pure about being stripped down. It’s like being naked in front of the world.”

Moments ago, the audience was squealing so loudly for Dez that Carson nearly had to turn a hose on them. Now they’re refusing to stop whooping once Trevin stops singing — causing Carson to nearly shove the guy offstage so that he can concentrate on wrapping up the show in time. Aw, does anybody else miss Steve Jones?

So there you have it. Tomorrow, these 20 singers will be whittled down to 12. Who should stay, who should go, and who wants to meet me for a private listening of Christina’s new album at Casa Aguilera? It’s the very definition of quality time!

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The Voice - Season 14

The Voice

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

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