Rock-and-roll hearts, gospel roots and R&B souls: The top 12 singers on 'The Voice" sought to show their passion and range on Monday's performance-packed show. Some returned to their sweet spots. Others stepped out of their comfort zones. It was a night defined by remarkable consistency, with no dramatic stumbles and lots of solid turns in the spotlight.
CeeLo Green assigned kittenish Caroline Pennell "Wake Me Up," by Avicii, hoping to show America she was capable of enlivening an up-tempo song with her caressingly quirky vocal style. Pennell also proved she could work the stage and look good in heels and hot pants. The coaches were pleased. Blake Shelton thought Pennell did "a great job of staying in the pocket" even amid clapping from a "studio audience that has the worst rhythm ever." Adam Levine expressed admiration for Pennell's "energy" and vocal "purity."
Team Christina Aguilera's Josh Logan had a challenge for the evening: make voters forget the overembellished version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" that landed him in his team's bottom three last week. Hoping to help Logan connect, Aguilera assigned him Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and advised him to scale back and simplify. When he did, Aguilera expressed satisfaction that Logan had "showcased" his "heart and soul." Green, who had clearly been unimpressed when Logan had done his song the previous week, commended him for being "much improved." And Shelton said that by allowing "the song to shine" Logan had become "more interesting … as an artist."
Team Adam's James Wolpert shifted away from last week's acoustic performance and returned to his indie rock persona, emphatically tackling the Killers' "Mr. Brightside." Levine gushed that Wolpert had given "the most dynamic yet controlled and blistering performance" and "just turned into a rock star in front of our very eyes." Aguilera complimented his "growth" and lack of pitchiness. And Green saw in Wolpert "a legacy of great entertainers," like David Byrne.
Shelton made a strategic move to capture the country-music-fan vote by assigning team member Austin Jenckes to sing Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to Be Alive." After Jenckes, who had heretofore been more of a singer-songwriter type, strummed and twanged his way through Tritt's song, Shelton reassured viewers he wasn't trying to mint a new country star, but rather to reveal range and heart. "You're the one guy … everybody wants to sit down and have a beer with," Shelton said. Green wasn't sure about that, but was impressed by Jenckes' country persona. Levine liked the singer's precision, and Aguilera his knack for keeping it "real."
Team Christina's 16-year-old Jacquie Lee was assigned Jack White's "Love Is Blindness." Aguilera said she wanted her "to prove to everyone that she can be current, she can be on the charts, she can take this whole competition." Lee also proved she could make her coach proud. "You set the stage on fire," Aguilera said, calling Lee a "force of nature." Levine said Lee's voice came out "like a dragon," and Green said he loved the way it made him feel. "I forget to think. I forget to clap. I get lost in it," Green said, adding, perhaps inspired by his Zorro-esque outfit, that he was going to download Lee's version of the song, "put it in my iPod and play it the next time I go horseback riding." Oh, CeeLo.
Ray Boudreaux, saved by coach Shelton last week, was tasked with showing his "softer side" with John Legend's "All of Me" because Shelton thought the key to earning the audience's favor might be "something as simple as singing about love." Shelton seemed to swoon. "I got wrapped up in that," he said, adding, "Ray is sexy." Aguilera, though, said she would refrain from judging the performance with her "lower region" and found it to have fallen short "in a couple of places," especially "pitchwise."
After a demure performance last week, Team CeeLo rocker Kat Robichaud wanted to remind viewers of her onstage dynamism and, as her coach put it, her "Kattitude." She strutted the stage, crowd-surfed (a "Voice" first, Carson Daly said) and ended with a dramatic knee drop – all the while singing AWOLNATION's "Sail" with unwavering potency. Green said she'd captured the "common denominator" of life's pain, yet also offered healing. Shelton compared Robichaud to a lion, stalking the audience like they were a "herd of antelope." Aguilera said she "loved the darkness" – and Levine was so deeply affected he later changed out of his chipper sweater and into a black leather jacket.
Air Force veteran Jonny Gray, also representing Team CeeLo, aimed to strike an emotional chord with Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise," saying he connected with the lyrics because his single mom never let on when things were tough. Green called the song "nourishment" and said singers like Gray had a higher purpose -- "not just entertain," but also "to empower and inform and uplift people." Levine complimented Gray on not worrying so much about perfection, but rather about "conveying a message."
Team Adam's Tessanne Chin vowed to pour all the passion she could muster into Emile Sande's "My Kind of Love," which she dedicated to her husband. Levine predicted a "show-stopping" performance, saying Chin's "Grammy-winning"-caliber voice had a "godliness" he compared to Aguilera's and Whitney Houston's. After Chin had performed, Levine labeled her voice "emotional and flawless." "Every time I listen to you, my mind is just blown," he said. Aguilera called Chin's voice "amazing" and "rich," saying she felt she "could do anything."
Coming from a long line of preachers, Team Christina's Matthew Schuler wanted to pay homage to his gospel roots with his take on Jeff Buckley's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which was set against a church-inspired backdrop. "All he has to do is apply his own truth to it," Aguilera said. After he'd sung, Aguilera used the adjective she has often used to describe Schuler's performances: "magical." Shelton said Schuler had taken over as the "front-runner" on Aguilera's team. And Levine said he'd overcome the skepticism he always feels when people tackle what he rightly said was "one of the best songs ever written" and become a believer. "You really helped preserve the legacy of what that song means," Levine said. "It was really beautiful."
Team Blake's bushy-bearded Cole Vosbury surprised everyone by taking on an R&B hit, Miguel's "Adorn." The unexpected song choice earned him a standing ovation from the coaches, and not only his own. "Every time Cole gets on the stage, I feel like he brings a gun to a knife fight," Shelton said, meaning the singer really went above and beyond expectations. Green, Vosbury's original coach, wanted his share of the credit. "I picked Cole in the blind auditions alone," he reminded everyone. "Nobody else turned around for Cole."
Last up was Team Adam's Will Champlin whose rendition of Imagine Dragons' "Demons," he said, spoke to his struggles trying to make it in the music industry and doubting himself, but sticking with it because he loved music too much to give it up. Levine said Champlin had evoked the passion that it took to succeed, but said he'd refrain from picking the performance apart, which sounded like faint praise.
We'll find out who will move into the Top 10 Tuesday night – as well as how this season's "Instant Save" will play out. Here's what we know about the new elimination-night twist so far:
Who do you think is in danger?
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