Bryan Keith performs on 'The Voice' (Tyler Golden/NBC )
Maybe the contestants were tired after last week's marathon of shows – five hours over three nights, during an already action-packed week – but "The Voice" delivered a few vocal stumbles Monday night as the top 12 took the stage. The evening also included some big moments. Oddly enough, both occasionally came from the very same singers.
We also learned a bit more about how the eliminations would be handled from here on in. The show has pledged to leave the fates of the contestants entirely in the hands of the voters. That's not to say there's not some fancy math in there -- contestants who do well on iTunes will get a boost – but it does mean that, aside from their mentoring and post-performance comments, the coaches will have little say in who stays and who goes.
It also means the teams will retreat into the background a bit, as eliminations will be based on the pool of contestants as a whole, with the two singers who receive the lowest number of votes – regardless of team -- sent home each week. That seems fair and will also likely ensure that, by the time the final performances roll around Dec. 17 (the season winner will be crowned Dec. 18), the best singers overall will remain in contention.
So what happened Monday night? Amanda Brown, the Team Adam singer who had entered the evening as both a crowd and coach favorite, gave an imperfect, if powerful performance of Florence + the Machine's "Spectrum," leaving the coaches confusedly complimenting her past performances, her potential, and, in the case of Blake Shelton, her Angelina Jolie-esque leg thrust. Meanwhile, Team Adam's Bryan Keith stood out with a Sinatra-smooth take on Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black." And the third member of Team Adam, Melanie Martinez, turned in her best performance since her blind auditions, singing Young the Giant's "Cough Syrup" with a bit more power than she's shown in recent weeks, while retaining her breathy quirkiness. It's unclear, though, whether the better-than-average performance will save Martinez from elimination this week.
As for Team Blake, 16-year-old Michaela Paige, saved from elimination by Shelton last week, turned in a confident take on Pink's "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)," which may have bought her a bit more time in the competition. Cassadee Pope, who filled out her back story by telling us about the father who divorced her mom when she was 11 and subsequently disappeared from her life, picked up her guitar and sang Kelly Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes" with new emotion and vulnerability. And the gifted Terry McDermott continued to prove he could rock the house with "More Than a Feeling," missing a few of the notes, but knocking the ones he did hit right out of the park. I have more than a feeling he'll be safe this week.
Team Christina's Sylvia Yacoub seemed to have bitten off more than she could chew with Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," while Dez Duron looked gorgeous as ever as he crooned "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," prompting the coaches to conclude he'd finally found his sweet spot (and me to wonder whether he might walk away with the whole thing). Adriana Louise, saved last week by Christina Aguilera, performed Carrie Underwood's "Good Girl" ably, but whether she was able to connect with the audience remains to be seen. Aguilera didn't seem too optimistic, though she promised more and better if the voters saw fit to keep Louise around. "America, I won't disappoint you," the coach vowed.
Team CeeLo, though it might not have been the strongest team to begin with, looks pretty solid now that the ranks have been thinned. Cody Belew showed again his comfort onstage with Tina Turner's "The Best," though he probably remains vulnerable to being voted off, if not this week, then soon enough thereafter. But Nicholas David brought new soul to Huey Lewis' "The Power of Love," and Trevin Hunte finally delivered on his potential with a stirring rendition of Michael Bolton's version of Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." If they keep performing well, David and Hunte probably both have a shot at a win as well.