This week, The Voice returns to its two-hour format for the live competition rounds. Carson Daly dons a suit for this most auspicious occasion, and before the competition starts, he introduces a season recap so that we can reflect on "the emotional journey and intense rivalry that have brought us to where we are tonight." Daly continues waxing poetic, informing us that "six weeks ago, millions of Americans discovered the world's most exciting singing competition." Carson Daly has a real knack for understatements, doesn't he?
After the coaches perform a medley of Queen songs and we get a quick video of moments from past episodes, we also get to visit the "V Room" where a woman named Allison Haislip is running the social media correspondence. She is unbelievably annoying. Also, she's wearing a royal blue, one-shouldered, cropped-leg, belted jumpsuit. As Tim Gunn would say, it's a lot of look.
This week's competitors are from Team Blake and Team Christina. After the show ends, voting begins and winners will be announced next week. Two members on each team will move forward: one will be the audience's choice, the other, the judge's choice.
Team Blake: Patrick Thomas, Dia Frampton, Jared Blake, Xenia
Team Christina: Frenchie Davis, Beverly McClellan, Raquel Castro, Lily Elise
Raquel Castro kicks of the show. Is she a mini-Gloria Estefan or is it just me? She sings "Blow" by that Ke$ha girl who never takes a shower. The number is ambitious, with plenty of dancing in super-high platform heels for Raquel, who does pretty well. It's hard to believe she is the youngest competitor on The Voice; her vocals are amazing. She's styled like a disco ball--a slutty, slutty disco ball--but she looks really comfortable on the stage, with the song and the choreography.
The Coaches: Cee Lo loves her performance, and Adam compliments her ability to sing and dance at the same time. Blake--whose team is performing against Team Christina tonight--says "Dammit!" and tells Raquel she was awesome. Coach Christina loves her "attitude and sassyness."
Beverly McClellan is singing "I'm the Only One" by Melissa Etheridge, but in rehearsals she's concerned because she's got a chest cold. As soon as Beverly steps onto the stage I'm captivated--she looks gorgeous, and even though her rendition is faithful to the Etheridge original, she brings a kind of lightness to the performance that makes her fun to watch.
The Coaches: Cee Lo loves Beverly's spirit and says she's a natural. Adam calls her "the one who got away" and I agree with him--she would have made a great addition to his team. Blake is totally blown away by her talent, and adds that she looks very sexy and very hot. Christina gives her team member effusive praise for both singing and choreography.
Lily Elise is singing one of my least favorite songs ever, "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie. I really hate this song. Christina wants Lily to show vulnerability in this song during rehearsals, because she's usually so confident. As the live performance starts, I have to laugh out loud at the dancers they have behind Lily Elise; they are extremely hilarious and ridiculous. I especially like the one in a sleeveless white dress shirt with a black tie. Backup dancer formal? Eventually they disappear from the stage, so we can focus on Lily Elise's performance. This song is terrible, which makes me not like the performance and in turn, the performer. She can sing, but I can't get past the song choice.
The Coaches: Cee Lo says she has something special and that he enjoyed it, and Adam thought it was more engaging without the dancers, saying he wished she was on her own the whole time. Blake mocks the dancers--and Christina, who he knows chose them for the performance; then Blake says Lily Elise's voice always "sneaks up on him." Christina is proud of LE, explains the dancers in a convoluted way, and compliments LE's expression and emotion during the song.
Frenchie Davis will perform "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta. In rehearsals, Christina coaches Frenchie to pull back on the reins. Hello Pot, I'm your coach, The Kettle. In the live performance I think Frenchie sounds sharp in the upper register, but she has a lot of stage presence and when the tempo slows down her vocals sound tighter - I also think this song is fun and provides a great performance. I want to download this to my workout playlist like, immediately. So I do.
The Coaches: Cee Lo says Frenchie is one of his favorites, compliments her breath control and calls her "seasoned." Adam thinks she's beautiful, and says she made him love a song that he's been indifferent to in the past. Blake says she's a power singer. Christina praises Frenchie's poise, and says she had great stage presence, adding that Frenchie also has a controlled voice to go along with her range.
Jared Blake chooses the Kings of Leon hit "Use Somebody," because he likes that it represents his personality, which he sees as a mix of rock and country. In an individual interview Coach Blake thinks this split personality is a hindrance to Jared's progress. When the live performance begins, Jared is center stage with his guitar and a sparkly black headband. Sexy! His vocals are great and eventually he abandons the guitar--tossing it dramatically offstage--and then works the crowd.
The Coaches: Christina compliments Jared's stage presence. Cee Lo says Jared definitely deserves to be in the competition. Adam compliments the song choice, calling it "perfect" and saying it allowed him to connect with JB emotionally. Blake loved the performance, declaring Jared firmly in the "rock" category.
Dia Frampton is going to perform "Heartless" by Kanye West. In rehearsals she confesses that she is experiencing nerves as the competition moves forward. Blake suggests that she play piano during the performance as an outlet for her nervous energy. Dia has got an amazing voice and she plays piano well, but this is definitely a low-key (zing!) performance, compared to some of the others. She doesn't look thrilled when the performance is over, but Blake gives her a standing ovation.
The Coaches: Christina kicks off her evaluation by calling Dia cuddly, and asking her to cuddle on the couch and watch a movie with her; Christina then says Dia showed fight. Cee Lo liked the song, calling it "the greatest rendition of the song I've ever heard." Adam says it was the "most refreshing, unique thing I've seen on the show so far," and Dia's coach Blake calls this his favorite moment of The Voice, because "America got to see Dia Frampton do what Dia Frampton does."
Xenia is going to perform "Price Tag: by Jessie J. I kind of like this song after seeing Jessie J perform on SNL, and I'm interested in how Xenia is going to work this pop tune. They've got a choreographer working to loosen Xenia up, and Xenia looks very uncomfortable but her voice is so distinctive and beautiful that I know even if her performance isn't great, her vocals will be. When Xenia does get on stage she sounds amazing but her choreography looks a bit stiff; she obviously doesn't feel comfortable. As I suspected the performance isn't as strong as some of the other competitors', but frankly her voice is so original I don't think it matters.
The Coaches: Blake seems happy, and I'm guessing there has been a lot of improvement since rehearsals. Christina says Xenia has become a favorite of hers, and she loves to hear the maturity in Xenia's voice when she opens it up. Cee Lo loved the innocence of her performance. Adam compliments Xenia, saying she had fun which is the most important thing. Blake is happy and proud, and says America is watching a star being born and that her sound is unrivaled.
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Patrick Thomas chooses "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack, and dedicates the song to the most important woman in his life: his sister. PT explains that his sister has always felt like she was in his shadow because she also wants to be a singer. I find it hilarious that he's singing a song dancing to encourage his sister to sing. Yes, I understand it's a metaphor, but it's still funny. PT has a wonderful voice: clear, strong, controlled, and even though I'm not much for contemporary country (or this song in particular) it's easy to appreciate his talent.
The Coaches: Christina says Patrick could teach Blake a few things, and she reiterates that she would like him to remove his pants--several times; it's uncomfortable. Cee Lo says PT is a "consummate professional" and a real contender to win the show. Adam says it was classy, sophisticated, understated and he loved it. Coach Blake says PT makes him look smart for choosing him, and then calls PT a pro, complimenting his class, and goes further, telling PT he makes Nashville proud.
There are a few things I skipped in this recap--specifically, the teams having a meal with their coaches, the teams performing with their coaches and a few stops into the social media hub that The Voice calls the "V Room." We learn nothing in any of these segments and I ended up fast-forwarding through them because they went beyond mind-numbing territory and into headache-causing territory (yes, the show is live, but I watched on a delay via my DVR recording so I could skip commercials). Christina performed "Lady Marmelade" with her team, which was impressive, but it was All About Christina; Team Blake's rendition of Maroon 5's "This Love" was a lot better, with Coach Blake letting his team take center stage in the performance and only coming in for the last few verses.
Next week we'll see performances from Teams Adam and Cee Lo, and we'll find out which two performers from Teams Christina and Blake will continue on to the next round. To watch episodes online go to NBC The Voice online.