'The Voice' recap: Christina Aguilera makes shocking elimination
Wow. Total shocker on "The Voice's" live quarterfinals Monday night, on which Teams Blake and Christina performed. And I'm not talking about when Christina Aguilera appeared without pants to sing "Fighter" with her team and a high school choir. The last time Jesse Campbell performed on "The Voice," he was "the one to beat," according to Adam Levine, who, alas, was not his coach. And the time before that he was the one who made us love him by stutter-singing the word "b-b-b-baby" with such style in the B-b-b-battle Rounds.
This time, he was the one his coach, Aguilera, sent home. And I, for one, totally didn't see his insta-ouster coming. Campbell, who had overcome homelessness and had a lovely young daughter and a fluidly expressive voice, was one of my early favorites. Now – without the audience weighing in on his performance of "Halo," a song picked by Aguilera that was not a good fit -- he's gone, and to quote Jordis Unga, who was also sent home in a flash, "I'm sad."
Actually, what Unga said was "I'm sad, but I understand," because her coach, Blake Shelton, explained why he'd made the choice he'd made. It wasn't personal or even really much of a judgment call. Faced with making a decision he didn't want to and apparently hadn't expected to have to make, he decided to "revert to America's vote," and send home the person he'd saved from elimination two weeks before. That was a rationale we could probably all understand.
His team – sassy, boot-stompin' country girl RaeLynn; soulful belter Erin Willett; Alicia Keys' spotlight-worthy former backup singer Jermaine Paul; and vulnerable rocker Unga – had all given more or less top-notch performances Monday night, though Willett had unfortunately been saddled with an Adele song, "Set Fire to the Rain," and no one really shines like Adele when singing Adele. "You had big shoes to fill," Aguilera told her. But Willett did manage to use the song to highlight her own strengths.
RaeLynn growled and shimmied winningly on "She’s Country," which was a perfect song for her. Paul showed off his supple voice and commanding stage presence on "Against All Odds." Shelton predicted Paul would look back on the performance as a turning point in his career. And Unga – in a glamorous, form-fitting white evening gown that showed off her impressive arm tats – got vulnerable and a little bit weepy with "A Little Bit Stronger."
"I didn't see this coming tonight," he said of the judge eliminations at the outset of Monday's performance show. "This instant elimination thing has caught us all off tonight," adding that if he knew "who to kick" he "would kick 'em."
I might kick the producers for the "instant elimination" idea. At this point in the competition, "Voice" voters feel like we should have a chance to weigh in with our favorites. We should be consulted. And this immediate response on the judges' part fails to factor in our preferences.
Adam Levine, who with Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa debuted the song "Payphone" during the show, said at the outset he felt the judge-weighted elimination format was a "good" one. "Wouldn't you rather control it than everyone else?" he asked the other judges. "Maybe I'm just a control freak, but I think it's OK."
It was hard to read Levine's or the other judges' reactions when Aguilera's decided to eliminate Campbell, though they had responded more favorably to his performance Monday than Aguilera had herself. ("It really surprised me," Green later tweeted of Aguilera's choice. Levine said he was "shocked" by both choices.) She complimented the emotion Campbell, who had seemed to struggle with pitch in parts, he'd brought to the Beyonce song. Later, she praised Paul's flexibility in a way that seemed, even at the time, possibly pointed, as did, particularly in retrospect, her contention that the other three of her contestants had shown "growth" over the weeks.
Team Christina's fresh-faced Ashley De La Rosa, whom Aguilera had saved from elimination during the first live rounds and who was celebrating her 18th birthday, had moments both good and bad with "Foolish Games." But she'd wept when Aguilera had sung to her during rehearsals, called Aguilera her idol and inspiration, and apparently reminded Aguilera of herself, which is likely the highest sort of Aguilera praise.
Coffee-shop curiosity Lindsey Pavao, who sort of looks like Katy Perry, sang a Katy Perry song she had selected that Cee Lo Green said he hadn't ever heard before, "Part of Me," and showed us a fiery part of her we may not have heard before. And classically trained opera singer Chris Mann was compelled by coach Aguilera to "branch out" of his "comfort zone" with Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." "I have an excited nervousness," he said, anticipating his risk-taking performance. "It's like I'm stripping onstage … a little bit naked, but I'm pretty excited about it." Note perfect, it was nevertheless … odd.
But ultimately Aguilera, who had been persuaded into a song switch by Pavao, felt it was Campbell, whom she had pressed into singing the song she had chosen, despite his expressed discomfort, felt it was Campbell who had to go.
Two more contestants will be sent home by voters Tuesday night.
Who do you think should go? And were you surprised by Aguilera and Shelton's choices?
"American Idol" vs. "The Voice"
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— Amy Reiter