50 Cent and Adam Levine perform on "The Voice." (Tyler Golden / NBC )
It's getting down to the nitty-gritty on "The Voice," with only a few weeks left until the Dec. 18 finale, when the Season 3 winner will be crowned. Two more singers will go home this week, and on Monday night, the top 8 took the stage, each hoping to prove he or she does not deserve to be one of them.
Maybe it was the turkey hangover or just a sense of letdown from last week's stellar performances, but Monday's show felt like a bit of a slog, though everyone seemed to give it a solid effort.
Kicking things off, Adam Levine joined 50 Cent for the energetic debut of Fiddy's "My Life." And then the remaining contestants stepped out – three from Cee Lo Green's team, two each from Levine's and Blake Shelton's teams, and just one from Christina Aguilera's sadly underappreciated bunch.
Amanda Brown of Team Adam sought to claim Adele's megahit "Someone Like You" as her own, to make it an anthem to her own quest for independence. As the coaches all acknowledged, it was risky to tackle a song so widely played and well known, but Brown is a remarkably strong and charismatic singer and her coach, at the very least, felt she'd performed it as no one ever had before. "Tonight," Levine said, "you knocked it out of the park."
Team Cee Lo's Cody Belew brought his "bam-bam" moves to Queen's "Somebody to Love," noting that Freddie Mercury had always been "a hero" to him. Backed by a robed gospel choir, he clambered onto a white grand piano and made his musical love plea, at one point dropping to his knees. As Levine obliquely noted, the song exposed some of Belew's vocal weaknesses, but his personality came through, as ever, prompting Aguilera to gush, "We need to hang out after the show."
Terry McDermott took on "Over," a song by his coach, Shelton, who generously told him he wanted "the version of this song to be your version." McDermott, whose voice had soared on a group performance of the All-American Rejects' "Move Along," sounded a little shaky on the low notes but made up for it with his precise, clear and crisp high notes and sounded, as he always does, like a veteran performer. Shelton called McDermott "the real deal," and self-effacingly told him, "You performed that song the way that I always wish I could … the way it's meant to be."
Melanie Martinez, who has apparently formed a younger sister/older brother bond with coach Levine, brought her trademark quirkiness to Alex Clare's "Too Close," accompanying herself on guitar and playing the tambourine with her feet, as she had during her blind audition. It wasn't Martinez's best performance, though Aguilera seemed to think it was. Levine, meanwhile, saw it as an act of revenge on the person Martinez is in the midst of breaking up with, saying the 17-year-old singer had successfully made her ex "feel dumb" for not being with her.
Dez Duron, the last remaining member of Team Christina, turned on the pop heartthrob charm and played to his presumably adoring female voting base with Justin Bieber's "U Smile." "Breathe, Dez. Breathe, ladies," Carson Daly said, eliciting cheers. The coaches toasted Dez's star quality, as they generally do, and Aguilera, who will be left without a horse in the race if Duron goes home, said he'd "killed it, killed it, killed it."
Coach favorite Trevin Hunte of Team Cee Lo returned to his power-ballad wheelhouse with Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All," hitting a few great notes amid some tentative ones. The coaches seemed only to hear the good ones. Levine was particularly enthusiastic: "I really hope that when I die and hopefully I go to heaven that this is heaven," he said of Hunte's performance. "I love it, it's so tranquil."
Nicholas David, who coach Green surprised with a visit from soul legend Bill Withers ("Holy buckets!" David exclaimed), has been among my own favorites, but he nearly crossed over into caricature standing at the piano in big shades singing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Shelton said what we were all thinking. "I feel like I learn something new about you all the time," he joked. "I didn't realize until this week that you're blind." But then he got serious and thanked David "for letting 'The Voice' be the stage that introduces you to the world."
Team Blake's Cassadee Pope, who made a big splash last week with her coach's hit "Over You," tried to hold onto her unexpected lead with Michelle Branch's "Are You Happy Now?" which she said was the type of song she could see herself releasing as a single. "No, I'm not happy now, because you could win this thing and I'm not happy about that," Green said. Shelton, clearly in an especially frank-talking mood, put it this way: "You just sang the crap out of that song."
As always on "The Voice" this season, the results are anyone's guess, but I'd wager that Belew and Martinez might be most vulnerable. Then again, the boost contestants get for charting on iTunes makes the outcome especially hard to predict. Who do think will go home? Who do you most want to see stick around?
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