'The Voice' recap: Eight singers step it up in the semifinals
The eight remaining contestants -– two from each of the four teams -– took the stage Monday to vie for a spot in next week's finals on "The Voice." Tonight, half of them will head home, their fates determined by a combination of coach and audience votes.
Who will make it through, and who will head home in disappointment? That's really a matter of taste and luck, I guess. As the coaches keep telling us, the surviving singers are an eclectic bunch. There's the classically trained opera guy and the quirky former barista (Christina Aguilera's team), the girl rocker and the comeback-kid wonder (Cee Lo Green's team), the former Mouseketeer and the former cubicle worker (Adam Levine's team), the backup singer stepping into a spotlight and the devoted daughter who's staking her claim to fame in her beloved father's memory (Blake Shelton's team).
Though the audience has shown a recent preference for the guys on each team, Monday's performances could prompt a recalibration. And the coaches' opinions could tip the balance either way.
Here's how the performances went down:
Tony Lucca (Team Adam): Lucca still seemed to have something to prove after last week's Aguilera-tweaking, triumphant take on Britney Spears' "… Baby One More Time." He strutted the stage singing "How You Like Me Now" with a new confidence, yet also an eager hopefulness. Green said it was a "really, really pleasant surprise." Aguilera called it "slickly done," which didn't seem like a compliment, and she snarkily suggested Lucca and Levine form a Spears' cover band. Levine, though, said it was "the perfect thing at the perfect moment" and told Lucca he'd "killed it."
Erin Willett (Team Blake): Clearly evoking memories of her father, who died during battle rounds, Willett sought an onstage "moment" with "Without You." She gave a smooth performance, and then, finishing, fought back tears. Aguilera called Willett's performance "very bold" as well as "unique and original," adding that she was "proud" of the way Willett invested emotionally on the song. Green said it sounded new and fresh. And Shelton, whose own dad recently died, said he wished he had "a tenth of the talent" Willett had, calling her singing "unbelievable" and adding that he'd "give anything to have the strength" Willett showed by holding it together emotionally while she was singing.
Jamar Rogers (Team Cee Lo): Before he took stage, we learned Rogers a) wanted his sound to be fresh and new, b) had adopted a "victor's mentality," and c) was dedicating his performance to "every person that has ever thought that they could do the unimaginable." His "If You Don't Know Me by Now" was, in fact, a) fresh and new, b) winning, c) inspiring -– really showing off Rogers' vocal and emotional range, as well as his musical vision. Levine declared himself to be a pure fan. Shelton called it "laid back" and "really good." Aguilera said it made her want to start singing. Green told Rogers the story of his life would be a bestseller because "we all want to know you a little bit more because we want to know ourselves a little better," and we also love a "success story" and a tale of "triumph." All the praise seemed to make Rogers glow and bounce.
Jermaine Paul (Team Blake): Paul tried to show a similar vulnerability with "Open Arms," but, to my ears, his performance lacked both the freshness and the raw power of Rogers' performance. Nevertheless, the judges offered enthusiastic praise. Aguilera called him "crazy talented." Green praised his "sweet sound" and consistency. Levine congratulated him on no longer sounding like a background singer. And Shelton said Paul is the man to beat.
Katrina Parker (Team Adam): Parker killed us all (softly) with her trademark round-sounding, teasingly raspy tone on "Killing Me Softly With His Song." She apparently slayed the judges too. Shelton said it was "hard to believe" Parker was sitting in a cubicle just a few months ago, and that she sounded like a seasoned singer with "thousands of shows" under her belt. Aguilera said she'd "truly fallen in love" with Parker during the competition, expressing a desire to have been her coach and telling Levine he should sway things Parker's way on his vote "because she's a star." Levine said that while Parker had been compared to many other singers, she sounded like no one so much as herself on the song, declaring himself to be "beyond happy."
Lindsey Pavao (Team Christina): Pavao wanted to prove she's "not one-dimensional," accompanying herself on guitar on "Skinny Love." "I did sign up to be Christina's last person standing," she told us. She was vocally as interesting as ever, and coached by Aguilera to be "right up on that mic," a little louder. Green said he doesn't know about skinny love and was "more into big love," but thought Pavao "played really confidently" and "did a great job." Levine toasted Pavao's "unique" quality and said she did an "incredible job." Shelton said it reminded him why he loved Pavao in the first place, calling the move "risky" but "good." Aguilera said she was pleased to have brought Pavao, as well as Mann, back to their roots, and hustled onstage to give her a hug as well.
Juliet Simms (Team Cee Lo): Having grown up loving male rock stars such as Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler, she told us, Simms has struggled to make it as a female rocker forged in their image. She seemed to pour all her frustrations into "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," and the result was electrifying. "That's as loud as it's ever been in this room ever," Carson Daly said of the audience response. Levine called it "something special" and "unbelievable," saying "all of us were totally captured in that moment." Simms, he contended, was "the one to beat tonight." Aguilera said Simms got her "feeling all feisty," adding that she sings from her heart, which is where she thinks Simms sings from too. Green told Simms she "murdered it."
We'll find out tonight who makes it through. Which contestants have your votes?
-- Amy Reiter