U.S. & World
Monday night's live performances on "The Voice" gave the top 10 a chance to shake up the conventional wisdom on who would be a front-runner and who an also-ran -- with some of the show's top talent faltering, and some of its underdogs delivering their best performances yet.
After a group performance of "Say It, Just Say It," Team Blake's emotive country-rock crooner Austin Jenckes was up with "Your Love" by the Outfield. "It's time for him to shock people," Blake said of his song choice for Austin, and although Austin struggled in rehearsals with a crucial key change mid-song, Blake told him after his performance that he had succeeded at "mastering the art of the slow build." Adam, though, said he had wanted the performance to have more of the epic sweep and gravelly roughness it had by the end.
Next up was Team Christina's Jacquie Lee, 16, the youngest finalist in the competition. Jacquie had proven herself as a formidable blues belter, but Christina said she wanted her to work on feeling more centered in her body, more in control of her breathing and more comfortable stripping down a performance to a vulnerable vocal. (Toward that end, they practiced yoga together.)
Jacquie took to the stage with Zedd and Foxes' "Clarity," but her efforts to strip down the song had mixed results. "You're one of the best that we have," CeeLo told her, though he admitted there were shaky moments in the song, especially early on, when the song was particularly naked.
Next up was Will Champlin, the unassuming pianist with a massive soul voice who had been unceremoniously axed from Team Adam once -- only to get snatched up by Christina, then axed from Team Christina, then brought back to Team Adam once again. Adam assigned Will the British neo-soul hit "Love Me Again" by John Newman. Will tackled it with a newfound ferocity, starting out sitting at the piano before rising to snarl into the mic when the song's tempo picked up mid-performance.
"I feel like you really came into your own in this performance," Christina told him afterward, joking that she had almost mistaken him for "Satan" thanks to his red jacket and devilish tone.
Devilish may have been the last word anybody would have used to describe the next performer, though, Team CeeLo's 17-year-old charmer Caroline Pennell. This week, Caroline knew just what song she wanted to sing: the John Denver-penned folk classic "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The wistful tune was an important one to her, she explained, not just because she loved it as a kid but also because it resonated with her as she prepared to head off to college.
"When I'm singing this song, I'm just gonna close my eyes and think about my experiences growing up and think about how collectively they've brought me here," she explained. "I think in that moment I won't be so scared."
And if she were, she didn't show it onstage. Her delicate quaver and her sweet disposition made for an unusual, haunting version of the familiar song. Adam praised her artistic approach to conveying emotion, and CeeLo said he was delighted to let Caroline forge her own musical path by picking her songs.
Next up was another of Team Blake's trio of men, bearded soul-rocker Cole Vosbury, tasked by his coach to tackle Mr. Big's "To Be With You" -- which unbeknownst to Blake was one of Cole's favorite songs. Swapping a piano for a guitar, Cole performs the song with fervor and with winsome ease, impressing his former coach CeeLo with the progress he's shown in his weeks on the show.
Following Cole was the apparently indomitable -- in voice and in spirit -- Team Adam powerhouse Tessanne Chin, who was nervous about performing a song as epic and as demanding as Gladys Knight and the Pips' "If I Were Your Woman." But the coaches praised her risky but impeccable soul performance. And even more humbling than Carson Daly's unexpected comparison of her performance to Christina Aguilera -- a compliment that appeared to surprise even Christina -- may have been the fellow Jamaican who showed up to cheer Tessanne on: Olympic champion and world-record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt.
Next, the final member of Team Blake, Louisianan Ray Boudreaux, was performing Ray LaMontagne's "The Best Thing." His smooth performance prompted rave reviews from Blake, and Christina mused on Ray's growth throughout the season -- one of the most impressive on the show, she said, citing the way he had carved an artistic identity he hadn't shown before. But what CeeLo complimented as consistency Adam cited as predictability, saying he wished Ray had come out of his comfort zone and given more on-stage.
Adam's own final team member took to the stage next, as low-key geek James Wolpert took on the Harry Nilsson torch song "Without You" -- saying he wanted the indie rocker, who had wowed the coaches with covers from the Killers to Joni Mitchell, to refresh the ballad for a new generation of fans. But while James gave a game, full-throated take on the song, he sounded run a bit ragged by the end of it and didn't connect fully with its emotion. Christina noted the issues but said she loved the performance in spite of them, however.
With that, Team Blake and Team Adam had both finished performing, while Team Christina and Team CeeLo, both down to just two members each, were finishing up the night. Team CeeLo's glam rock singer Kat Robichaud was next up, and after a surprise Twitter reprieve last week from the Instant Save, she knew she needed a knockout performance to keep her in the game. "I do not want you in the bottom three ever again," CeeLo told her.
His plan for preventing that result: An epic performance of Pat Benatar's "We Belong," replete with theatrics, back-up dancers and Kat climbing on top of the piano. After starting the song out seriously, Kat broke into her familiar, raspy territory mid-way through, channeling Bonnie Tyler and winning over the coaches, particularly Adam. "It was the perfect song," Adam told her. "Everything about it was so elegant," he said, not hesitating to speak for all the coaches and add that the performance was everything they had wanted to see from her all season.
The final performance of the night came from Team Christina's Matthew Schuler, who she wanted to stretch past his usual preferred indie-rock fare and perform a love song. Matthew was apprehensive and a bit overwhelmed by the idea of performing the song, but onstage, he had no trouble pulling off "Beneath Your Beautiful" by Labrinth and Emeli Sandé. His vocal performance built from a subdued, moody start to a wail, winning over the coaches. "This was no less than amazing, which is what you always are," Adam told him, while Matthew's own coach told him he "lights up" the room for an entire audience. "They don't even care what I have to say," she admitted. "You bring it every single time."
But Tuesday night, two of the members of the top 10 -- from any team -- will be axed from "The Voice," as the finalists are whittled down by audience votes in their struggle to win the show's title.
"The Voice" airs Mondays at 8/7c and Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.