Contestants on "The Voice," from left: Cassadee Pope, Terry… (Tyler Golden/NBC )
"This may be the best episode of 'The Voice' we've ever had," Blake Shelton said somewhere in the middle of Monday night's "The Voice," in which the top 10 performed. But there's no "may be" about it. It was one heck of an episode, with each and every singer bringing his or her A-game -- not a single real stumble, making this contest anyone's to win.
Regardless, two contestants -- those with the fewest votes -- will head home Tuesday night. It's as unclear as ever which two they will be.
Sylvia Yacoub, of Team Christina, started the night off strong with Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire." She strutted around the stage in her silver leather mini-dress, and immediately set the bar high with her remarkable power and control. Adam Levine called the performance by far Yacoub's most "polished" and "refined."
Terry McDermott, of Team Blake, looked like a seasoned rock 'n' roll veteran as he tackled Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69," as if he'd been performing in front of screaming stadium crowds all his life. "You remind me of everything I genuinely love about rock and roll," CeeLo Green told him.
Team Adam's Melanie Martinez, who started the evening looking like a long-shot, proved her quirky-breathy voice, while not the loudest, was worth listening to, delivering a version of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" that was truly all her own -- right down to the surreal photos she used as a projected backdrop and the photographic print on her Peter-Pan-collar dress. Shelton said Martinez, who accompanied herself on guitar, was the competing artist he'd most like to work with, and Green called the performance one of the coolest things to happen on the show all season.
Like Martinez, Team CeeLo's Cody Belew seemed to feel that, as a long-shot contender, he might as well step out (in an asymmetrical leather jacket-vest, no less) and let the world know who he really is while he still has the spotlight. He entertained the audience with more than a little of his trademark "bam-bam" while singing Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" -- chucking his mic at the end and busting some serious hip moves. Christina Aguilera said he'd worked it "like a true diva," a high compliment coming from her. Green said Belew's "positive energy" would encourage others to be themselves.
Bryan Keith, of Team Adam, yanked the Hurricane Sandy heartstrings with Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." The song showcased Keith's gritty-silky voice, but may have hewed too close to Joel's original. The judges didn't seem to mind, though. Green said Keith had sung it "like a man's man" and complimented Keith on having the "pair" the song required.
Another Team Adam singer, Amanda Brown, may well have returned to front-runner status with her soulful, soaring take on Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' "Stars" -- a song Levine said he heard while appearing on Jay Leno's show and thought would be perfect for Brown. Shelton said he, like many viewers, hadn't heard the song before, but was glad of that "because that performance is the way that I would want to be introduced to that song." Ditto.
Brown's beautiful performance was a hard act to follow, but Nicholas David managed it with Bill Withers' classic "Lean on Me." David sat at the piano in his plaid pants, hipster glasses and Jesus hair, unleashing his remarkably rich vocals as a robed gospel choir swarmed the stage, adding extra uplift. He sounded, at times, a bit like Aaron Neville -- the sort of voice you just want to listen to. Green heaped on the praise and ended up in tears, but Shelton put it best by putting it simply: Watching David, he said, "it's almost like you're watching a musical legend perform."
Also determined to let us know who he was: Trevin Hunte, who convinced his skeptical coach, Green, and guest mentor, Jennifer Hudson, that switching up his vibe and singing Usher's "Scream" would be a good idea -- or at least one worth going along with. Poor kid was sick of ballads and wanted to remind us he was only 18. It was the happiest and most confident Hunte had looked performing on the show so far, but the other coaches were split on whether the change-up was a good move. (Aguilera, yea; Levine, nay.) The audience may be similarly of two minds.
In an unexpectedly moving moment, Cassadee Pope sang "Over You," a deeply personal song co-written by her coach, Shelton, with wife Miranda Lambert about his brother, who died in a car accident when Shelton was only 14. It was far and away Pope's best performance on the show to date, and while all the coaches were impressed, using words like "flawless" and "special," Shelton was over the moon: "Cassadee, you just sang easily the most important and the most personal song that I've ever been a part of writing in my life. But you made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time, and words can't express what that means. Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at an artist standing up here."
Finally, Team Christina's Dez Duron tried to meet Aguilera's challenge to "dig deeper" and connect better with the classic "Feeling Good." "Don't just sing the song with your mouth," Aguilera's guest mentor, industry exec Ron Fair, told Duron. Shelton credited Duron and his coach with finally figuring out where the pretty singer "fit in musically."
Who do you think is in danger this week? Belew? Martinez? Hunte? Weigh in.
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