Melanie Martinez performs on 'The Voice' (Tyler Golden/NBC )
"The Voice's" top six tackled two songs apiece on Monday night – one tune they'd picked themselves and one selected for them by their coaches. The double performances proved to be more than just a way to fill the show's two-hour time slot now that the herd has thinned, bringing new depth and perspective and allowing us to appreciate the performers' ranges, detect flaws and sweet spots, and separate contestant from coach.
So, in addition to learning that CeeLo Green, who had been too sick to work with his contestants (Pat Monahan from Train had ably filled in) but returned for Monday's performances, doesn't have much to say when he's recovering from an illness, we also gathered that …
Nicholas David resists pushing his voice beyond his "go-to spot," which was apparent in the way he shied away from some parts of Green's pick for him, Earth Wind & Fire's "September," which was staged to evoke '70s "Soul Train," perfectly capturing the singer's winkingly retro vibe. David, whose performances bookended the night, was far more successful with his own choice, "Over the Rainbow," his mom's favorite song (aww), to which he brought a soulfulness and originality. Blake Shelton called David's take on the "Wizard of Oz" classic "magic" and "beautiful," and told him "only you could do what you just did up there."
Cassadee Pope does have a way of connecting with the audience through the stories and emotions of a song, while not missing a note. I find her voice a bit fluttery at times, but when she lets it soar on the big notes, it's solid and spot-on. Those qualities were apparent on both of Pope's songs – the Shelton-selected "Stand," by Rascal Flatts, and her own choice, Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You." They've also apparently made Pope a big fan: the teamless Christina Aguilera, who has dubbed herself Pope's "co-coach/supporter."
Amanda Brown really can do almost anything with her voice, which is what she and her coach, Adam Levine, set out to prove. We know because she showed us her soul/gospel capabilities, bringing earthy power and sparkle to Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (her pick) and then slipped into tight red leather and let her rock-and-roll side roar on Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" (Levine's choice). Shelton and Levine agreed that Brown had proved she was a "world-class singer."
Terry McDermott has a perfect ear and sense of pitch, which was evident in the song he had chosen, Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is," given an intimate, stripped-down treatment – singer, piano, cello (no, Blake, not a CeeLo)-- that we were repeatedly informed left him "nowhere to hide." Aguilera was right to wish for a little more vulnerability from McDermott on that song, but no one had any complaints about his take on Rod Stewart's "Stay With Me," Shelton's inspired choice, which allowed McDermott to show off his pure tone and veteran-rocker moves.
Trevin Hunte can work up a nervous sweat even before singing a note. For that, we can partly blame his coach, Green, who foisted the chipper, upbeat "Walking on Sunshine," by Katrina & the Waves, on Hunte, a song that fit him about as well as might, say, one of Melanie Martinez's Peter Pan-collar dresses. Still, Hunte did his best to have fun with the odd song selection and his choreographed dance moves. It wasn't until he unleashed his vocal power on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," from "Dreamgirls," though, that it became clear just how unsuitable Green's choice had been for him. But the contrast allowed the coaches to marvel at Hunte's talent in their usual over-the-top way. "That's one of the best performances I've seen on the show, seriously, maybe ever," Levine said. Aguilera, meanwhile, volunteered to personally take Hunte under her wing after the competition ends, and Green predicted – optimistically, perhaps – that his contestant had just sewn up the contest.
Melanie Martinez is compelling even when she's not on pitch. The bow-topped, cutesy-dressed, two-tone-hair-sporting (black and blue, this time) contestant nodded at rival coach CeeLo by putting her own spin on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," plinking out a few notes on a tiny piano, and later took on Levine's lighter-hearted choice, Lenka's "The Show." The coach commentary was sort of so-so, with pitch issues detected here and there and Aguilera apparently irritating Martinez and Levine by giving too much credit for Martinez's adorable production design (headless mannequins, whimsical paper cutouts) to the show's crew members. Yet even giving praise, Levine seemed almost resigned to seeing Martinez head home this week.
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