The Voice recap: All Bent Out of Shape
The Top 10 artists perform; Coach Cee Lo and Coach Christina have some unusual cross-training methods for their students
Three hours is a lot of time. In this span you could have watched Titanic, gotten a head start on roasting a mutant-sized Thanksgiving turkey, scored a 10th place slot on the Cronut line, or you could have watched Monday night’s episode of The Voice.
The reason for the show’s special marathon length escapes me, as the first hour of the show was devoted to replaying standout performances from last week’s lives, in addition to showing Carson seemingly teleport from one control room to another. Once the live show started, we were treated to an entire Top 10 group performance of “Say It, Just Say It” by The Mowgli’s, which I have to admit was really cute! It was followed by performances of the Top 10 with some special attention to the coaches’ strategies for making their students stand out. Coach Christina had Matthew Schuler and Jacquie Lee participate in yoga sessions before singing. Cee Lo gave Kat an elaborately choreographed dance routine to ensure she makes an impression on America. And Will had fire shooting from the stage during his song, because why not?
Random celebrity appearance: Sprinter Usain Bolt in the Skybox, who was rooting for a certain diva. “Tessanne is from Jamaica so that’s why I’m here,” he told Carson. “Just looking forward to giving her support.”
And the performances…
TEAM BLAKE: Austin Jenckes
The song: “Your Love” by The Outfield
The performance: Coach Blake wants this song to “show America that he has the pipes.” But don’t we already know that Austin can can outlast and out-emote his male compatriots? What I’d like to see is a softer, more melodic Austin instead of amp-turned-to-11-Austin. Tonight we got a taste of his gentler side, and a slight Tom Petty tinge, but overall, it was more of the same.
The feedback: Blake applauds his “slow build” of the song and ability to use his vocal power sparingly. Adam is in awe of his range and Christina loves how he ends the song — on a full-belting, tonsil-baring, big note.
TEAM CHRISTINA: Jacquie Lee
The song: “Clarity” by Zedd
The performance: Throughout the season, Christina has urged Jacquie to improve on her stage blocking and physical performance. Christina took matters into her own hands by making Jacquie do yoga with her. She tells Jacquie it will help her be “centered in your body” and cleanse some energies. Is this yoga routine responsible for Christina’s own Zen-like makeover? Onstage, I don’t think the stretching did much to help Jackie’s case. Her voice still sounds so young to me, and her high notes came up a bit screechy. Not her best outing and not Christina’s best song choice either. Also, it’s the night’s first appearance of the weird shadow army of background singers!
The feedback: Coach Christina was pleased with Jackie’s display of feeling — “it was so emotional and so gorgeous.” Blake said. “It’s still different to hear a broken down version of you.” He said he missed her usual powerhouse ballads, much like the judges had missed Kat’s usual kraziness when she toned herself down.
TEAM ADAM: Will Champlin
The song: “Love Me Again” by John Newman
The performance: In the green room, Will is joined by his wife Roseanne and adorable baby Harper. Adam advises him, “You just need to go for it and have a good time.” Adam’s goal is to showcase Will’s range with his song choice. Lately Will has been churning out some fantastically clutch performances, but this one was pretty average for him — nothing really stood out for me, except for his stage production. At first it was just heart monitor lines on a background before a flurry of flashy pyrotechnics.
The feedback: Adam says, “You’re an amazing story on this show because you have been passed around a lot.” Christina had some particularly spectrum-spanning commentary, first saying “you’re a good person,” calling him the full package. And then later, “I thought he was Satan for a second,” regarding his red velvet suit. Blake said, “You’re such an accurate vocalist, that’s what continues to blow me away.”
NEXT: One singer ditches tradition and chooses her own song
TEAM CEE LO: Caroline Pennell
The song: “Leaving On a Jet Plane” by John Denver
The performance: Cee Lo lets Caroline take the reins by letting her pick this song, which reminds her of summer camp and her impending college transition. I think she missed a great opportunity to show America that her voice is more than a perfect addition to a Gilmore Girls soundtrack. She sounds as butterscotch-sweet as usual, and we see her sustain a few notes to indicate that she possesses power, but it’s too similar her “The Way I Am” rendition in the knockout rounds.
The feedback: Coach Cee Lo is being way too nice. At first he says, “I’m pleased about letting go and allowing you to lead yourself,” before he mentions how the song overpowered her at points. You get the sense he respects her declaration of autonomy with picking the Denver tune, but it may not have been best-suited for her voice. Adam also lauds her song choice: “I got to see you making a statement about a lot of the things you’ve been experiencing.”
TEAM BLAKE: Cole Vosbury
The song: “To Be With You” by Mr. Big
The performance: Coach Blake loves Cole’s creativity and still believes he has yet to peak. In rehearsal the two debate over playing piano versus guitar, and the acoustic wins. It was a great little melody, with nice accompaniment by the shadow army of background singers, but Cole is definitely still in pre-peak zone with this performance. I still think his Jeffersons‘ theme song audition was his best showing.
The feedback: But Blake thought this was perfect — “Gosh dang it, man, you nailed it to the wall!” Adam is still sore that Cole chose Team Blake. And Cee Lo said, “I’m really happy for you, that you’ve come this far, dude.” At this point, my congenial meter has broken from all the niceness, but at least Cee Lo had a wee bit of snark for the background singers: “They look like American Horror Story: Coven here!”
TEAM ADAM: Tessanne Chin
The song: “If I Were Your Woman” by Gladys Knight
The performance: Now this is the standout performance of the night. When has Tessanne not delivered? It would be easy to become desensitized to consistent vocal greatness from her, but somehow she finds these pockets of songs to surprise and delight us. She can touch sacred diva canons anytime. Also, unusual family box guest alert: Even Tessanne is shocked by her rooting, sprinter fan, Usain Bolt.
The feedback: Adam says this was “solidifying [her] presence as a major contender.” Christina said she wants to hear her Jamaican accent come out more — after all, what else is there to critique?
TEAM BLAKE: Ray Boudreaux
The song: “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne
The performance: Coach Blake wants this to sound “like you’re at a concert down South in Louisiana.” But I think it sounded like it could be heard anywhere; there wasn’t anything distinctively Southern or “swamp-pop” about his performance. Which is not to say it was bad, it was regular ‘ol Ray, and that’s a good thing, considering last week’s slightly disastrous foray into the too-smooth world of R&B. What I missed in this song, especially in the chorus, was warmth from his voice.
The feedback: Christina praises his growth so far:“You’ve found an identity.” Adam calls him “one of the more solid vocalists in the competition.”
TEAM ADAM: James Wolpert
The song: “Without You” by Badfinger
The performance: I thought this would have been a better choice for Tessanne or even someone like Kat. It needed more of a yearning crooner quality from James, while instead he just delivered a blase rocker vibe. It came together during the second chorus, when he added his signature trill, but overall, I craved a breathier vocal. Also, what was up with the cane?
The feedback: Adam is an unconditionally loving fan: “You take a song and it goes through the James Wolpert blender and it turns into something that is so kind of intrinsically yours.” Christina says he’s “a multi-dimensional vocalist” and calls his vocals “clean” just about 90 billion times.
NEXT: How many backup dancers does it take to raise a cat?
TEAM CEE LO: Kat Robichaud
The song: “We Belong” by Pat Benatar
The performance: Cee Lo picks the perfect song for Kat. He has reason to be extra careful with his coaching, as Kat had to be instant-saved by America last week. “I do not want you in the bottom three ever again,” Cee Lo says. How does he ensure this? By raising the bar, literally. In her rehearsals, we get a glimpse of how the choreography and stage blocking comes together. Cee Lo wants her performance to be of “epic proportions,” so he proposes she end on top of the grand piano, carried by her army of male dancers, of course. Onstage, she didn’t need the theatrics. He picked the right song to showcase her raspy rocker runs and her Pink-like power vocals.
The feedback: Cee Lo said, “I think we did everything right; it’s really important to immortalize an ideal… it lives forever” (speaking in general of stage performances). Adam said “this was finally the Kat we were all waiting to see.”
TEAM CHRISTINA: Matthew Schuler
The song: “Beneath Your Beautiful” by Labrinth and Emeli Sandé
The performance: After last week’s Leonard Cohen choice, I was really expecting Christina to hit it out of the park with another brilliant pick. This choice was pretty lackluster. Her m.o. was to show a softer, more gentle side of Matthew, advising him to “be that guy that every girl wants to fall in love with” by picking a more sensuous tune. What didn’t work was Matthew’s choppy transition from very soft singing to his usual power vocal. The opening verse was a little too quiet and it made me antsy for Matthew’s usual dynamic range.
The feedback: Even so, the crowd goes wild and won’t pipe down long enough for Christina to comment, “It just lights up… They don’t even care what I have to say.” She added, “When you perform, I don’t even write notes.” Referring to Matthew’s skeptical romantic preface, Adam says, “Finding that future wife, not gonna be a problem for you, man.” Agreed.
What did you all think of Monday night’s performances? My standouts were Tessanne and Kat. For Matthew, I was wondering which song was going to make me cry next, but I was surprised that he didn’t blow me away this week. Was it the poor song choice? The lack of his indie-rock safety net? Pre-eliminations, can you guys predict who’ll be in the bottom three? Sound off in the comments!