How do you cram two elimination sessions onto a broadcast of The Voice already well-crammed with features and gimmicks and Twitter, not to mention the occasional singer? Usurp the Queen, sideline the group numbers (Cee-Lo's oddly '70s, Adam's oddly Gokey), then whittle a little off every segment until there's finally enough room for Teams Christina and Blake to stand small upon the stage like the slightly incremented Idol bottom three and luxuriate in the drawn-out seconds until the inevitable. And I do mean inevitable--except for one
last-minute probably well-deliberated sympathy pang from Blake, the expendable singers were expended to little surprise.
Take Xtina's round. Never mind her pouting, tearing up, un-tearing up and lamenting the "hardest decision of her life" (exaggeration time!)--once Beverly went through thanks to America's love of shimmying, Christina's pick was decided. It wouldn't be Raquel, especially not after she cushioned her praise with "You're 16...." Not Lily, not after those dancers. But Frenchie: the belter, the second chance, the Idol screw-you incarnate.
Blake's round started with little surprise. Of course Dia was America's vote; the public loves earnest acoustic hip-hop covers, they probably crave genuine breakout moments from a show whose Moments have thus far existed solely in an NBC-approved, endlessly recapped echo chamber, and maybe ten people remember Meg & Dia. (The namedrops will continue until The Voice acknowledges this.)
Then Blake chose Xenia. Oh, Xenia. We love you, but you shouldn't be here. Blake's rationale for his save was that he felt Xenia could "grow," but it's like he's hunched over a flowerpot, hissing "Grow, my little pre-algebra blossom, grow! at the shrinking sprout inside. We've waited weeks now for this supposed growth spurt, and Jessie J songs are no fertilizer. What exactly is Blake hoping to accomplish other than delaying the inevitable? And why not give the spot to someone who's already shown growth, like Jared Blake? Think of the stare!
So that was your parceled-out despair, as Carson Daly took periodical pains to remind Xtina and Blake before the parceling. But what of the triumph? Whence this week's breakout moments? Well, two happened, thanks to a potent mix of un-snarkable talent, producers' pimping and some truly horrendous song choices for the rest of the competition.
For our take on Team Cee-Lo, click NEXT.
4. Curtis Grimes, "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer
Curtis Grimes and Robert Palmer go together like Josh Gracin and disco week, with Grimes' country-frayed voice meandering all over the place and his pelvis thrusting away any sex appeal that might've been there. The producers couldn't even muster up a continuation of the Emily storyline, resorting to vaguely sexed-up dancers, tales of an anonymous non-hookup and some creepy Christina leching (more on that later) that got bleeped out anyway.
3. Nakia, "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon
The Voice's inexplicable Kings of Leon obsession (at one point the band was supposed to be saving rock, but maybe that's Adele's job now? Oh wait...) continues with Nakia's number, conveniently slotted right at 10 p.m. so the kids wouldn't have to hear the slicked-haired one growl about "head while I'm driving." But all the holographic flames and fire-twirlers don't change the fact that Kings of Leon is still the safest of the safe song choices, even while Nakia (unwisely) dropped Caleb Followill's roars to get all earnest. All he had to do is show up and sing; unfortunately, that in fact was all he did.
2. Tori and Taylor Thompson, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by the Andrews Sisters, featuring Carson Daly and the Flag Day Glee
What's the best way to treat a duo accused of putting adorability over voice? Snip away a crucial harmony from an Andrew Sisters number and stage a sailor-suited spectacle, complete with the NKOTBSB Repertory Dancers in soldier-boy gear! And do it on a show with Christina Aguilera, too, so the spectre of Xtina's "he's a one-stop shop, make my panties drop" update would linger uncomfortably even if she hadn't namedropped "Candyman." To be fair, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" sounded better and better as the night went on, as every dud landed and its first-performance-shocker air wore off. But the tempo was too much for them, so instead of trading off harmonies, the Thompsons traded off whether the soprano or alto singer missed more notes. It was cute as bird necklaces, but cuteness alone only gets you so far.
1. Vicci Martinez, "Jolene" by Dolly Parton
Disclosure time: I was never a huge Vicci fan. Her "Rolling in the Deep" audition seemed less to us like belting and more like Vicci being involuntarily jostled through the chorus. The umpteen dozen recaps of her bounce-dancing did nothing to dispel this.
But thanks to either Stockholm Syndrome, the night's general malaise or a genuine breakthrough, "Jolene" gave me chills twice: first during the hushed opening notes, then after Vicci's out-of-nowhere register shift. The song was Vicci's own choice (so all you commenters wondering why an out lesbian is singing "please don't take my man" can redirect your blame), and quite savvy; it gave Idol's Brooke White a moment, after all, and her seething-to-a-boil performance finally made me see what the rest of the coaches were on with their "explosive" comments.
SHOULD GO HOME: Curtis Grimes and anyone who isn't Vicci Martinez.
WILL GO HOME: Curtis Grimes and someone who isn't Vicci Martinez. It all comes down to whether America (or Cee Lo) values cuteness or growliness. This is a referendum!
For our take on Team Adam (spoiler: it ain't pretty), as well as Christina's creeping, click NEXT.
4. Jeff Jenkins, "Jesus, Take The Wheel" by Carrie Underwood
There is no excuse for covering "Jesus, Take The Wheel" outside a megachurch, no matter what your story. There's just as little excuse to fill your audience with replicas of the American Idol SwayBots. The end.
3. Devon Barley, "Stop And Stare" by OneRepublic
It speaks to the quality of the night that Devon Barley isn't in last place; any spark that might've been wrangled from Ryan Tedder's pile of ashes was smothered by the bare stage and long, empty notes. How does he sound fifty times more animated when not singing than when he's on stage?
2. Casey Weston, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall
Behold: the one KT Tunstall song that a) everyone knows, and b) doesn't contain the pesky word "hell"! (Although Nakia kind of rendered that moot.) All you really need for a passable "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" is an OK mid-range and a smattering of attitude, but there's not much one can do to make it great. Casey tried, rasping ridges all through her voice, but it's not her style, and it strained. And whose idea was the pink sparkly-mosaic cocktail dress?
1. Javier Colon, "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan
The one truly revelatory song choice of the night. Sarah McLachlan's drowsy, wandering voice and Javier's male-isma don't have much in common on paper, but as soon as the song was announced, I already knew I'd be sold, despite the fact that I found Javier massively overrated before this and still kinda do.
Was "Angel" really in need of endless vocal runs? No, but they worked in context. Was the performance probably a huge misinterpretation of McLachlan's song (it's not a straight love song, and while we're at it, "Possession" isn't either)? Probably, but damn if it didn't sound lovely. Has Javier's nigh-inevitable win been signposted by NBC since day one, this week with Cee Lo's "you epitomize this show" comment? Sure, but this is The Voice. He has a voice. At least the producers got that part right.
SHOULD GO HOME: Jeff Jenkins and Devon Barley.
WILL GO HOME: Jeff Jenkins and Devon Barley. I cannot conceive of a single scenario where anyone else could possibly be eliminated, and I'd like to think I have imagination.
BONUS: THE CREEPY CHRISTINA QUOTE TOP 4!
The Voice is supposed to be as much about the coaches as the singers, so it's little surprise that they're constantly sniping on stage and online like they're RPG characters dropping tidbits of dialogue. Say a compliment about your team! Now jostle a random coach!
But Christina took things to a decidedly off-color level this week. Not that women can't make sexual comments, but there's something uncomfortably shady about Xtina's, as if someone in the process either didn't want to say or hear those things. Behold, the list:
4. "There's some sexual stuff going on over there!"
Re: Curtis Grimes' performance. It gets a pass, I guess, because Grimes and producers were at least trying for "sexual stuff." As for whatever else she said, that's for the censors to know and for us to be grateful.
3. "I just wanted to reach into you and grab that tiger in there."
Casey Weston's performance. Probably more unfortunate phrasing than anything, but...
2. "I liked when you got down on your knees with the candlestick."
Vicci Martinez' performance. A little out of context, but the other coaches had pretty much the same reaction I did.
1. "All I saw were legs coming at me, and it was beautiful and luscious."
Re: the Andrews Sisters Extravaganza, and re: a duo of really young singers, one of whom is actually underage. The voice of The Voice, folks.