"The Voice" trimmed itself down to a tidy hour on Monday for this season's penultimate performance show, but on Tuesday night's elimination show only one artist will head home, meaning three of the remaining four contestants – Trevin Hunte and Nicholas David, from Team CeeLo, and Cassadee Pope and Terry McDermott, from Team Blake -- will advance to next week's finals.
It was a compact, low-key affair, despite the fact that Adam Levine and Blake Shelton had dressed in suits for the occasion. Performances by Michael Buble, who'd guest-mentored for Shelton earlier in the season, and Shelton himself singing "White Christmas," backed by all 16 original members of his team, lent a chill holiday vibe, though of course the stakes for the four competing artists are as high as ever.
Each performed a coach-selected single song aiming straight for his or her sweet spot, and we were treated to some footage of them on their home turf, where each returned to greet family and appear before a crowd. It was sort of, but not quite, like those heroic homecomings "American Idol" gives its top contestants -- less hoopla, but it did add some emotional depth.
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Trevin Hunte, despite having been described all season long as a teen from Queens, revealed that he'd actually moved from New York to Georgia when he was 12. It was to the Southern state he returned, speaking at his old middle school, to which he dedicated the ballad "Wind Beneath My Wings." Levine and Christina Aguilera were excited by Hunte's song choice. Aguilera said it was a song she'd often sung as a kid, but that she'd never done it quite as well as Hunte. CeeLo Green praised his team member's increasingly "polished" and "refined" performance style, as well as his "amazingly beautiful voice."
Hunte's teammate Nicholas David next took us on a trip to visit his family in Minnesota, where he and his "girl" have just bought a house in which to raise their kids. After listening in on an ultrasound for the couple's third child and watching David receive keys to the city of Eagan at the Mall of America, we settled in to hear him sing Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful," which he dedicated to his family. It was a little disconcerting to watch him sing to the mother of his children as the camera zeroed in on her, looking panicked as their toddler began to fuss in her arms, but despite the distraction, David, who'd ditched his glasses (both pairs) and trimmed himself up a bit, sounded soulful as ever. It was not entirely clear, however, why he felt compelled to sweatily plop down in a prop rocking chair to hear the coaches deliver their praise, which was as ample as ever. Also intriguing: Green hinted at some friction over song choice. What was that about?
After a family-filled, appearance-speckled trip to Florida, Cassadee Pope stepped out to sing Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy," which suited both her fluttery and power moments. She was good, so good, in fact, that Aguilera said she sometimes sounded as if she'd been auto-tuned. Aguilera meant it as high praise. "Blake," she said, "you have a true superstar on your hands." Shelton clearly agreed, explaining that he'd picked the song for Pope because of her "ability to connect with a lyric." He added, "Nobody else who's ever been on this show can do what you just did in that moment."
Last up was Team Blake's Terry McDermott, whose homecoming footage – in which we saw him surprise his adorable son upon returning to his adopted city of New Orleans and then, in turn, get surprised by his Scottish aunt and uncle --- was particularly sweet. McDermott pretty much hit a homerun with the Beatles' "Let It Be," though the sense that he'd sent the song soaring was certainly aided by the churchy, backlighted, stained-glass production values. The coaches testified. "Thank God for you," Levine said, adding that McDermott's performance inspired him to see the best in a sometimes tough-to-take world. Shelton said McDermott had walked on "sacred ground" by singing the song, adding that he was one of "only a handful of singers in the world who should attempt" it. "In my absolute heart," he said, "I believe that that was musical perfection."
So who do you think will go home this week, and who would you like to see win this thing?