As Carson Daly puts it, “the artists sing for their lives” on the final installation of The Voice before the Live Rounds. Apparently, this has turned into The Hunger Voice, which should be fantastic for ratings.
Even though no one technically died on Tuesday’s episode, many dreams were put out to pasture as the remaining contestants were narrowed down to the Live Round finalists. Christina Aguilera was back in true honest mode, which has been a long time coming (and is hopefully here to stay!). Even the more mild mannered coaches Adam Levine, Cee Lo and Blake Shelton were quick to offer criticism along with their eliminations, making for a truly enjoyable two hours. Well, except for those eliminated. Speaking of which…
Team Adam: Lina Gaudenzi vs. Preston Pohl
Adam matches up new steal Lina against soulful singer Preston Pohl for his first Knockout of the night. “They’re both really soulful, and I want to find out who is most unique between the two,” he says.
Lina sings Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” a true challenge for her. She delivers her strongest performance to date, and ends on a sweet, soft high note. Preston performs Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” and although the song choice is not too taxing, he elevates it with his soulful, raspy voice. Beyond that, Preston looks like he’s actually enjoying himself on stage, a nice break from the 90-second panic attacks that have been gracing the stage all week.
“Preston, as a country dude from Oklahoma, I though that was great,” Blake says.
“You have my undivided attention when you sing,” Cee Lo tells Preston.
“Lina, you just told me. You were great,” Christina says.
Although Adam notes how much growth he’s seen from Lina in the week he worked with her, he ultimately goes with his gut (a line he will repeat all night) and advances Preston.
Team Blake: E.G. Daily vs. Ray Boudreaux
Blake pairs voiceover artist E.G. Daily against soulful singer Ray Boudreaux. E.G. sings “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, and while the song choice suits her voice, she makes a handful of mistakes on stage. There are several weak moments throughout, and the nail in her Knockout coffin is a huge crack in her voice at the end. Capping off the performance, it’s hard to forget.
Ray sings Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” and cuts back on the lyrics so he can manage it without sounding rushed. He plays with the notes, makes the song his own and clearly dominates.
“There were moments where you lost control, and your voice broke and I don’t think it meant to,” Christina tells E.G.
“Ray, I love the way you perform. I think you did a great job,” Cee Lo says.
“E.G., those breaks toward the end that Christina was talking about, I can’t help it, they’re eating me alive,” her coach says. While a dramatic way to put it, it’s undeniable. Blake chooses Ray.
Team Christina: Anthony Paul vs. Jacquie Lee
Christina pairs youngsters Anthony Paul and Jacquie Lee. Anthony, an 18-year-old steal from Team Cee Lo, chooses Jason Derulo’s “The Other Side.” Christina has doubts about the pop number showcasing his voice, but tries her darndest to get it to work. Unfortunately, even Legendtina can’t elevate what turns out to be a drab and spotty pop performance. Anthony’s falsettos are full of breaks and he is flat throughout.
Sixteen-year-old Jacquie, on the other hand, dominates the Knockout with Serena Ryder’s “Stompa.” From the very first rehearsal, she’s got it down vocally, and by performance time, her stage presence has improved (though she should continue her work in that area). Her strong high notes are impressive for anyone, let alone someone who is barely of driving age.
“Anthony, you’re such a better singer than tonight’s performance,” Cee Lo tells his former team member.
“I tried to do the best I could to let you shine as a vocalist,” says Christina. “It just wasn’t the right song for you.” Christina then compares Jacquie to herself, and there’s nothing Xtina loves more than singers that sound like Xtina. Jacquie advances to the Live Rounds.
Team Cee Lo: Stephanie Anne Johnson vs. Tamara Chauniece
“I want to see who has the most power and versatility,” Cee Lo says of cruise singer Stephanie Anne Johnson, a steal from the Battle Round, and Tamara Chauniece. Stephanie sings Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” and her embellishments become excessive in the performance to the point of overshadowing her beautiful voice. For better or worse, the original song is unrecognizable. To clarify: for worse.
Tamara also chooses to get creative with her song choice, and gives Alicia Keys’ “No One” a reggae spin. It turns out to be a high risk/high reward situation, as her rendition is lively, fun and still manages to showcase her vocal chops. Even Blake is practically jumping out of his chair with excitement.
“I think you do have a lot to offer, it just felt a little too unfocused,” Adam tells Stephanie.
“Tamara, I was sold! I couldn’t shut up over here,” says Blake.
“Tamara, you blew the roof off the house,” Christina says, though she also enjoyed Stephanie’s performance. “I felt it from you, Stephanie!”
“Tam, you remind me of a younger Anita Baker,” says Cee Lo, advancing her to the Live Rounds.
Here’s where it gets mad historic: Christina steals Stephanie back to her team! Always remember where you were when this moment happened: it’s one for the books.
Team Adam: James Wolpert vs. Juhi
Adam pairs four-chair-turn earner James Wolpert against the spunky new addition to his team, Juhi. James goes all or nothing with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” which breaks octave barriers with each verse. The coaches are impressed with his soaring high notes and screams, but it’s certainly not a flawlessly executed performance.
Juhi sings Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through The Grape Vine,” mostly inspired by the CCR version. She sings it at Cee Lo, because she’s admittedly super bitter about her Battle Round rejection. She turns less vocal tricks than in past performances, highlighting that she actually does have a fantastic voice!
Christina has nothing but criticism for both (love her). “Juju, you were so carefree that it was careless,” she says, evening it out with “James, the pitch was all over the place.”
“I hate that you’re not on my team, but I’m still supporting you,” Cee Lo says, giving it to Juhi.
“Just so you guys know, James sang that song perfect in rehearsals,” Adam says, defending his top choice. Despite the flawed performance, Adam goes with his gut (again) and selects James. Poor Juhi will have to rely on her backup career of rocket science.
Team Blake: Austin Jenckes vs. Brandon Chase
For any Dawson’s Creek fans out there (and there certainly must be many), this next Knockout will be a real treat! Team Blake’s Austin Jenckes sings a DC Season 1 soundtrack favorite that has rarely been heard since. The contestant dedicates Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” to his late father, while the rest of us dedicate it to (spoiler alert) the failed romance of Joey Potter and Dawson Leery. It’s pleasant, and his delivery is sincere, but it doesn’t blow out of the water any coffee house performance circa 1998.
Brandon Chase sings Eli Young Band’s “Even if It Breaks Your Heart,” and takes the bridge of the country tune up an octave. He makes the song his own, and showcases his impressive range throughout.
“I was just looking for a little more dimension in your louds and softs,” Christina tells Austin, spreading the criticism evenly by calling Brandon pitchy.
“I was just so impressed. I was in it the whole time,” Adam tells Austin.
“Both of you did unbelievable,” their coach says, but notes pitch issues in both.
Choosing sharp over flat, he selects Austin Jenckes. It’s a real victory for Dawson’s Creek fans worldwide.
Team Cee Lo: Caroline Pennell vs. George Horga, Jr.
It’s incredibly challenging to turn a pop dance hit into a stand out performance on The Voice, as proven in this next battle. George Horga, Jr. attempts Ne-Yo’s “Because Of You,” against Caroline Pennell’s rendition of “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson.
Caroline gets a pass on staying well within her comfort zone on this one, as last week she had to apply her ethereal voice to Justin Bieber. Her performance is strong, beautiful and makes you want to buy whatever Old Navy may be selling in the ad she’s scoring. Even Christina begrudgingly likes her.
George gives a bad karaoke version of the Ne-Yo number, and manages to give it less energy than Caroline’s Anthropology anthem. It’s a blowout.
“Caroline makes me want to buy a cat and a pink blanket, and build a little fire in the house and just curl up with a cup of hot chocolate,” Blake says. He’s enamored.
“Caroline, you really draw people in with your voice,” Christina says, adding it’s “effortlessly angelic.”
Cee Lo selects “sweet” Caroline to move on to the Live Rounds.
Team Christina: Matthew Schuler vs. Will Champlin
The last performance of the Knockouts is between Team Christina’s Matthew Schuler and new addition Will Champlin. And yes, much like Vanessa Williams, The Voice has saved the best for last.
The four-chair-turn earner Matt goes out on a limb and sings Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love,” and kills it in the best possible way. It’s surprising and intense, and has Christina out of her seat jumping and cheering. Not many men are able to pull off Florence + The Machine, and Matthew Schuler can go ahead and add himself to that short list of ones who can.
Going into Will’s performance, it’s unlikely that it will be anything other than a footnote to Matthew’s showstoper. When he sings Bruno Mars’ “If I Was Your Man,” however, it becomes an even playing field. Will brings in more emotion into this performance than his past two combined, and he truly comes into his own.
“Standing ovations for the both of you,” says Cee Lo, who tells Matthew, “You did one of the most stellar performances I’ve ever seen.”
“The two of you guys were equals up there,” says Adam.
“You came out here in the Knockouts like a champ,” Christina tells Will, adding, “Matthew slayed that song.”
Christina picks Matthew. Incidentally, that’s 7 for 8 on Battle Round steals being dropped by their coaches in the Knockout round. There is, however, a happy ending for Will, who rejoins Team Adam after a steal. Can’t wait to see more from him in the Live Rounds!
So there you have it: the final 20 for Season 5 of The Voice. Study up and get your voting speed dials ready: the Live Rounds kick off next Monday!
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